Yes, I’m talking to you, presumably capable and qualified job seeker. You submitted a resume for a position for which you are at a fit. You were contacted for a phone interview. (yay!) The phone interview is scheduled. Just a formality, right? You are already wondering whether you should take your suit for a run through the dry cleaner.

You might or might not be surprised at how many phone interviews are the period at the end of the sentence of your hopes for a particular job. Think about it this way. When someone reviews your resume, they are deciding whether you have the minimum requirements for the job. In other words, can you do the job? If you make it to the next round, very often a phone conversation of some sort, you can assume that the answer is a tentative yes. It is at this point those opportunities for screwing up start to pop up. Here are the top three traps:

Not treating the phone interview like a real interview     

It is not something to be done while you are driving, while your kids and pets are close by, while you are multi tasking, or while you are distracted or could be distracted in any way. A recruiter once told me about a conversation he had with a candidate who was very clearly, shall we say, in a state with his pants around his ankles.  Needless to say, that was their last conversation. You must prepare and show up as if you are speaking to the CEO, every time.

Making It All About You 

The interviewer set up the call, it is his to run. Recently, a friend told me that he had five phone interviews set up, and was excited about the candidates, all of whom seemed well qualified for the opportunity. When I asked him how they went, he said he was only bring one in for a face-to-face meeting. He proceeded to tell me that each person “peed on his shoes” in some way.  One started the call with a list of what she needed in the way of pay and benefits, and said that they shouldn’t continue the call unless those were to be met. Another, speaking about her last employer said ” I know you’re a man, but that place was an old boys’ club. Women could’t get anywhere.” Although that may be very true, that is not the time or the place to share that view. Another was obviously emailing during the conversation. Three out of the four showed no interest in what the interviewer’s needs were, or how he or she could contribute. One had clearly  misrepresented himself on his resume.

Not Following Up  

I can’t stress this enough. You must send a thank you note for a phone interview. You must ask what the next steps are, or when you can expect to hear  back so you know when to follow up. And yes, if you hear nothing back,. you must follow up appropriately. As an example, if you are told that a decision on the next round will be made by Friday, it is perfectly reasonable to call that following Monday, re-express your interest and ask if they need any other info from you. Do not sound frustrated or desperate. Positive, upbeat and interested are obviously the way to go.

A phone call is an opportunity to get invited to the next step. Prepare, show up and engage as if it is the final step. Use good judgment in what you say and what you do. Listen, ask questions and show sincere interest in learning as much as you can about the role. If it is not for you, say so. Who knows? Maybe something that is better suited for you will show up at that organization and you will be remembered positively.