Skip to main content
Updated:
Original:

How to Maintain Proper Phone Etiquette While Job Hunting

David has over 15 years supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge in how to handle personnel issues across many areas.

Oftentimes, prospective employers' first impressions are based on a phone call. Make yours count!

Oftentimes, prospective employers' first impressions are based on a phone call. Make yours count!

Maintaining proper phone etiquette while job hunting is crucial if you want to be successful in finding a job. You don't have the advantage of a face-to-face interview with the person at first, so you can't rely on body language to get you through a phone interview. All you have is your words.

When you are job hunting, you may need to answer your phone at any time, requiring you to display a professional tone in all contacts you make.

With today's technology, we almost always have our phones on us. This means that you can be anywhere in the world and receive a call from a prospective employer, which presents risks to those that are job hunting—risks that you should be aware of and prepare for.

After all, your future career can depend on that one phone call. Botching a phone call with a potential employer could result in your contact getting a bad impression, which could carry over to you not getting the job. This article discusses job-hunting phone call best practices and provides tips for both outgoing and incoming calls.

Contents

  • Tips for Maintaining a Controlled Environment While on a Phone Call About a Job
  • Phone Etiquette When Receiving a Call About a Job
  • Example Phone Call From a Prospective Employer
  • Video: The Art of the Phone Interview
  • Phone Etiquette When Making a Call About a Job
  • Example Phone Call to a Prospective Employer
  • Video: How to Ace a Telephone Interview
  • My Experiences in Phone Etiquette While Job Hunting
  • Phone Etiquette Quiz

Tips for Maintaining a Controlled Environment While on a Phone Call About a Job

One of the most important things when on a phone call about a job is maintaining a controlled environment around you. There are two reasons for this. First, you must be able to hear the person clearly when they speak to you. Second, the person you are speaking to must not hear anything that would detract them from hiring you.

Follow the tips below when setting up a controlled environment:

  • If possible, don't use your cell phone. Cell phones are prone to cutting out at the worst possible times. You may miss key words when talking to the person, or they may misunderstand you. Or worse, the call could drop and the person may not make another attempt to contact you. So use a land-line phone.
  • If you have to use your cell phone, find a quiet spot to use it. Duck away in a room not being used to hold your conversation. Or shut your office door. The quieter it is around you, the more productive the conversation will be.
  • If the environment around you is not quiet, let the phone call go to voicemail. As much as you want to answer that call, let the person leave a message and then call them back as soon as possible. Most employers know someone can't be available 24/7, so it would be acceptable for you to call them back when you are in a better place to speak to them. Just ensure your voice-mail message is professional.
  • Leave your personal life out of the conversation. Ask your children to be quiet before the phone call, don't discuss details of your recent vacation, etc. This is a professional phone call with someone you may hardly know at all. So your personal life will not be relevant to the conversation. Keep the conversation controlled to the matter at hand.
  • Have a pen and paper ready to take down information. You never known if you will have to take down a name, address, date, or time for an interview. Nothing is worse than someone saying they need to find a pen and paper in the middle of the conversation. It shows a lack of preparedness.
Always have a pen and notepad ready to take down important information.

Always have a pen and notepad ready to take down important information.

Phone Etiquette When Receiving a Call About a Job

A potential employer can call you at any time about a possible job with their organization. They may be calling you to set up an interview, or even to give you the interview over the phone, so you have to be prepared for anything.

  • Add the employer's phone number to your cell phone contacts. If you have a special ring or image come up when a certain phone number is calling, you may have some warning that it's about a job. This may not work if the organization has multiple phone lines and they call from a different number.
  • Answer the phone the same way for all calls. Even if it's friends or family calling you, having the same greeting will get you in the habit of saying it. An improper greeting would be something like "What's up?" Instead, a proper greeting would be "Hello" or "Johnson Residence."
  • Use words that clearly and succinctly say what you are meaning. For example, when answering in the affirmative, you should say "Yes". When answering in the negative, say "No." You don't want to say things like "I guess" or "I'm not sure."
  • Don't use 'slang' words. Avoid the use of any words that are used in casual conversation. If you are offered an interview, don't say "Cool." Instead, say something like "Thank you for the opportunity."
  • Repeat critical information. If you set up an interview, repeat the location, date, time, and any other relevant information back to the person. This is so you can ensure you both are on the same page and that you are taking the conversation seriously.
  • End the phone call professionally. A proper end to a phone call will be "Goodbye". You should not say things like "See ya" or "Laters."

Example Phone Call From a Prospective Employer

Applicant: "Johnson Residence."

Employer: "May I speak to Tom Johnson?"

Applicant: "This is Tom Johnson. Can I help you?"

Employer: "Yes, this is Jane Doe of Acme Products. I would like to schedule an interview for the management position you applied for. Would you be available next Thursday at 3:00 PM?"

Applicant: "Yes, I would."

Employer: "Great. Do you know where we are located?"

Applicant: "123 Main Street. What is the next major cross-street?"

Read More From Toughnickel

Employer: "It's 1st Avenue."

Applicant: "Thank you. Just to confirm, the interview will be next Thursday at 3:00 PM, at 123 Main Street, correct?"

Employer: "Yes, that is correct."

Applicant: "Thank you. I will be there then."

Employer: "Goodbye."

Applicant: "Goodbye."

Video: The Art of the Phone Interview

Phone Etiquette When Making a Call About a Job

Sometimes, you may need to return a phone call about a job. You may receive a notice to call someone to arrange an interview, or you may simply want to inquire about a job. The above tips should still be followed, but there are a few additional things to keep in mind when handling outgoing calls about jobs:

  • When you call the number, listen to who answers the phone. This makes a big difference. If you reach the person you want to speak with, you will say "Hello Mr. Johnson, this is John Doe and I am returning your phone call about the sales position." Or you may reach a secretary. In that case, you can say, "This is John Doe. I am returning Mr. Johnson's phone call in regards to the sales position. If he is available, may I speak to him, please?"
  • Be prepared to leave your contact information if the person you wish to speak to is not available. Since you are calling the workplace, the person may be tied up. So be prepared to offer your full name, a contact number, and what it is in regards to. Also, find out when the person may be available to return your phone call, so you can be prepared.
  • Don't miss that return phone call! You don't want to play phone tag with your possible future employer. It may seem like you are not reliable if you have to return multiple messages left for you. If you know when the person is due to call, make yourself available for the call.

Example Phone Call to a Prospective Employer

Secretary: "Acme Products."

Applicant: "Hello, this is Tom Johnson. I am returning the phone call I received from Mrs. Jane Doe about the management position. If she is available, may I speak to her please?"

Secretary: "I'm sorry, she isn't available, but can I take a message?"

Applicant: "Yes, please have her call me back at 987-654-3210. I would like to schedule an interview for that management position. Do you know when she may be available to return my phone call?"

Secretary: "She will be available in two hours."

Applicant: "Thank you very much. Goodbye."

Secretary: "Goodbye."

Video: How to Ace a Telephone Interview

My Experiences in Phone Etiquette While Job Hunting

Below are a few of my own stories on maintaining proper phone etiquette while job hunting:

  • I received a call for an interview for a promotion. However, I was on vacation in Las Vegas at the time. I never heard my phone ring since I was in a busy part of Las Vegas. The phone call went to my voice-mail and the person left a message. I attempted to find a quiet spot to call the person back, since I didn't want to lose this opportunity for an interview. I did find a somewhat quiet corner, but it was still too loud. In the end, I decided to wait until I got back to my hotel room to call the person back and make arrangements to hold the interview. I didn't advise them I was on vacation, and they picked a date for an interview after I would have returned.
  • I received another call for an interview for a promotion. This time, I was home sick with the stomach flu. When the person called I made no mention I was sick. I sucked it up as best I could, and made arrangements for the interview.
  • I worked one job as an interviewer. I would call other people, interview them, and determine if they could have the job. The job I was interviewing others for involved a lot of walking. One person I called said he didn't want to walk at all, which is what you don't want to say if you want a job. Another person advised me that her boyfriend was moving in with her, and it would be a bad time to start a job. Someone's personal life shouldn't come up in the course of a phone conversation about a potential job.

Phone Etiquette Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. You are in a supermarket. Your phone rings from a prospective employeer. What do you do?
    • I answer the phone and shop while making arrangements for an interview.
    • I stop in place and focus on the conversation to get an interview set up.
    • I let the call go to voicemail and return it once I am in better location.
  2. You are making arrangements for an interview, but think you misheard the address. What do you do?
    • You will Google them and find the address that way. You don't want to have to make the person repeat themselves.
    • You hope the person will repeat the address.
    • You ask for the address again.
  3. You are incredibly sick, but you have been called for a phone interview. How do you handle it?
    • You advise the person you are sick, but want to proceed with the interview.
    • You proceed with the interview like normal.
    • You advise the person you are sick, and ask to make arrangements to have the interview at a different time.
  4. You are asked if you will do shift work during a phone interview. You don't want to, but you will. How do you respond?
    • You state that you will work shift work.
    • You say you don't want to work shift work, but you will if necessary.
    • I guess.
  5. After an interview, the company gives you a call back to advise you that you didn't get the job. What do you say?
    • Whatever.
    • Thanks.
    • Thank you for giving me the opportunity.

Answer Key

  1. I let the call go to voicemail and return it once I am in better location.
  2. You ask for the address again.
  3. You proceed with the interview like normal.
  4. You state that you will work shift work.
  5. Thank you for giving me the opportunity.

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 1 correct answer: Read this article again to learn proper etiquette on the phone when job hunting.

If you got between 2 and 3 correct answers: You may blow your chances at getting the job. Try again.

If you got 4 correct answers: Not bad. Let's hope you interview better in person.

If you got 5 correct answers: You got the job!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 David Livermore

Related Articles