The Phone Interview

Today’s Specials

I speak to many restaurant managers who have not interviewed with a hiring company in many years.  A lot has happened in the course of those years.  Many have held tightly to the job they have in a struggling economy–and it is easy to hide under a rock as the rest of the world continues to move at the speed of light.  Many candidates do not know how to navigate the first step in the interview process–the phone interview.  Here are some basic do’s and don’t’s that can move you into the hired or declined category quickly.

Rule 1: Do NOT schedule the phone screen for the morning after you close your restaurant.

This seems obvious, but it is surprising the amount of people who do not realize how much brain power a phone interview can use!  Many people also underestimate the power of an energetic voice on the phone as well.  Remember, the interviewer is considering trusting you with a million dollar (oftentimes multi-million dollar) business.  If you sound like you are dying on the phone, you are at a deficit.

Rule 2.  Do NOT miss the call.  

This seems obvious as well.  However, many candidates do not consider things like poor cell service or dead batteries.  The interviewer has set aside valuable time for you, the best way to be grateful for their time is to ensure that you are in a clear cell service place; ensure that your battery is charged and ignore any calls that come in at the scheduled time (in fact, 5 minutes BEFORE the scheduled time).  When you miss the call you get put on a long list of things that the interviewer has to do; you are already at a deficit.  

Rule 3.  Do NOT have an inappropriate ring back number or answering machine message.

This should have been rule number 1.  There are few things that will make an interviewer hang up the phone more than a blaring, inappropriate ring back sound.  You are being judged by this (incidentally, this is true about your email address too).  Additionally, your message should be appropriate for that of a job seeker.  If it is rude or unprofessional, you are at a deficit.  

Rule 4.  Listen more than you speak.  Do not interrupt.

Let the interviewer drive the conversation.  Answer questions succinctly.  Remember, your goal is to get past the phone interview and to a face to face interview.  If the interviewer can not get a word in edgewise, you go to the bottom of the list, and you guessed it, at a deficit.

Rule 5.  Wait for the face to face interview for salary, benefits and hours questions.

Wait to get through their process before you ask these questions.  Even if you were recruited by a third party recruiting company, you still have to compete for the job.  There is a proper time and place for these questions.  The phone screen is not that place.  If you are all about getting at double digit percentage wage, the hiring company will go with a candidate that is not.  If you are as good as you say you are, these things will take care of themselves.  If you are all about the money, guess what?  You are at a deficit.

What SHOULD you do?  I am glad you asked.


It won’t take you long.  Research the company.  Jot down what you do on a daily basis at your restaurant.  Be prepared to answer all the normal interview questions.  If you are prepared, it tells the interviewer that you are interested in the opportunity and you are at an advantage.

Rule 2: Be Grateful

It doesn’t take much.  Thank the interviewer for their time.  Time is money, and they have decided to spend theirs on you.  A grateful heart transcends industries, religions, and technology.  Be grateful.  Everybody likes to be thanked for their time.  When you do this, you are at an advantage.

Rule 3: Follow Up

It will separate you from the masses.  Follow up with either the company interviewing you or the company that recruited you.  The more you are in the story the more all involved want you to become the main character.  When you are professionally persistent, you are at an advantage.

So, are you at a deficit or an advantage?

Phone screens are important and there are things that you can do to derail an opportunity for your career.  More importantly, there are things you can do to set yourself apart.  Pay attention to the later.