For such a short conversation, phone interviews are a surprisingly wide-open opportunity for screw-ups.  Why is that?  Partly, it’s because in a phone interview, the interviewer is really looking for mistakes.  Telephone interviews are a screening process—a way to weed out too many candidates.  So they’re looking for reasons to mark you off the list.   Here are the biggest ways to make that happen:

Failing to Prepare for the Interview
Yes, phone interviews are the prelude to the big event—the face-to-face interview.  But that’s no reason not to take it very seriously.  If you don’t do well here, there is no big event.  Spend as much time as you can preparing for this conversation—research the company, research the interviewer, practice answering common interview questions, and make a list of questions to ask.  Failing to prepare for this interview practically guarantees you won’t get to the next one.

Allowing Your Environment to Be Noisy
This telephone interview is so important, you don’t want any distractions that will keep you from being your best and making a good impression.  The easiest thing that you can control to make that happen is the noise factor.  Choose a quiet place to have this conversation, and do not allow anything or anyone to disrupt you.

Talking on a Cell Phone with Poor Reception
Do you really want half of your conversation to be, “Can you hear me now?”  Choose a landline whenever possible.  If you must use a cell phone, be absolutely certain that you have crystal-clear reception before your call.

Bringing Up Any Concerns You Have About This Job
Even if you have valid concerns about commute time, health benefits, or the company itself, the telephone interview is not the time to bring it up.  Any negativity on your part puts a damper on the whole conversation.  Even if it turns out that there’s no problem at all and it will all work out wonderfully, they will feel differently about you if you bring up potential problems this early in the process.  Just wait.

Talking About Money
In general, it’s always too early to talk about money until you have an offer in your hand—they’ve decided they want you, and price is a secondary consideration.  I know it doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s the ideal.  The farther you can put off that money question, the better.  That means that the phone interview is way, way, way too early to be talking about money.  You should never bring it up yourself, and if they bring it up, your goal is to deflect. 

Author's Bio: 

Peggy McKee is a career coach and the CEO of Career Confidential, a website dedicated to helping job seekers get the jobs you want fast. Learn more on the Career Confidential website => 

Find more phone interview tips in our blog series, Phone Interviews: The 37 Most Essential and Extraordinary Tips That Will Get You To the Face-to-Face =>