Wow! Just conducted the worst phone interview in my career…to date. So bad that I took a second and asked myself if it was better to just end it, or to give the candidate some free career searching advice. I hate giving unsolicited advice,  so I did ask him if he was interested in hearing some constructive criticism that may help him get further with future employers than he was getting with me. He somewhat reluctantly acquiesced.

Here’s what I told him:

  • When on a phone interview, try to sound friendly and enthusiastic. Avoid monotone voice and one word answers (it sounds surly to the interviewer). For example called me, without an appointment, didn’t tell me his full name, and mumbled so much I had to ask him to repeat himself four time.
  • When asked why you are interested in the job, avoid answers like “I’m unemployed now, so anything is better than nothing.”
  • Avoid whining (seriously, whining) about how hard it’s been on you being let go from your previous roles.
  • Do not say things like “I’m a XXX pro-advisor, so doing all that is no problem. It’s easy.
  • When I tell you that providing exceptional and professional customer service is a requirement, do not argue with me that it’s not, and that the requirement is being accurate and if I want good customer service, I need to provide you an allowance to take clients out to lunch, and that’s why the clients at your last job never liked you, because the last place wouldn’t do this for you.
  • Avoid assuming a job requirement that is not in the job description (professional designation for a role that doesn’t require one) and go on a long tangent about how hard the designation is to obtain, but that that is your sole focus in life and all you really want to accomplish so you will never, ever, have to look for work again.

What it boils down to, I told the candidate, is this:

  • Apply for roles and companies you’re interested in and convey that interest to the people you talk to.
  • Read the requirements, and if you possess them, have examples in mind of how you do. If you don’t think the requirements are important, this might not be the best role. They are important to the employer, and you are not likely to talk them out of it on your initial phone screen.
  • Focus on what you can do for them first, and don’t spend an inordinate amount of time talking about outside commitments…ON THE FIRST CALL.
  • Yes, employment is a two-way street, and yes, your needs as an employee are important. But first impressions count a lot and if you alienate your phone interviewer by being rude, uncommunicative, dismissive, and complain-y, you’ll never get the chance to showcase your skills.

You may be wondering what the client’s response was…guess! Leave a comment below and I’ll tell you if you’re right!

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Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at

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