Handling Unexpected Phone Interviews

Many recruiters use phone interviews as a way to screen applicants before inviting top candidates in for face-to-face interviews. Ideally, the phone interview will be scheduled in advance, allowing you time to prepare by finding a suitable environment, reviewing your resume and the job description and getting into the proper interview mindset. However, a recruiter may call with the intention of conducting an on-the-spot phone interview, giving you no or little time to prepare. Often they do this with the goal of assessing your ability to handle unexpected or impromptu situations. To maintain some control over your interview environment and your nerves, there are a few options you can consider: answering the call or allowing it to go to voicemail.

Option A: Answer the phone call

Situation 1: You are at home and answer the call

Following introductions, politely ask if the recruiter is willing to call you back in five to ten minutes to allow you time to find a quiet space in your house in which to conduct the interview. This also gives you a few minutes to review the job description (keep your applications handy) and company, collect your resume and situate yourself at a clear desk or table in a quiet place.

Situation 2: You are not at home and answer the call

Following introductions; express your excitement and interest in conducting a phone interview. Then politely explain to the recruiter that you are currently in a meeting, at a family commitment, driving down the road, or otherwise occupied at the moment and cannot immediately begin the interview. Give the recruiter several options (preferably later that day) that you will be available, letting them know you appreciate their flexibility. Make sure you write down the date and time of the interview.

Option B: Allow the phone call to go to voicemail

If you do not recognize the number of the caller, think it might be a recruiter and know that you are not prepared to conduct an interview at that moment, the most advantageous option for you is to let the call go to voicemail. Make sure your voicemail message is basic and professional and includes your name and number. Return the recruiter’s phone call as soon as possible, but be prepared in case they want to begin the interview immediately. Set up your quiet spot, notify roommates not to disturb you, review the job description and company information and have your resume out.

Unexpected phone interviews can be very stressful, but knowing you have some control over the situation can help you be more prepared, calm and confident. Just remember to always respect the recruiter’s time by calling back or re-scheduling the interview time promptly, be professional and polite and don’t take advantage of the situation.

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