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Examples of Proper Business Etiquette and Grammar For Telephone Interviews

by Ruth Mayhew

Just because you're in a position to conduct interviews, doesn't mean you won't slip at times and leave the applicant with more questions than you had for him. Proper business etiquette is appropriate at all times, especially when you don't have the benefit of making an impression face-to-face. Part of your job is to sell the applicant on the position -- provided you believe he's qualified -- and move the selection process forward without wondering if you were clear about the role and the company's expectations.

Calling the Applicant

When you're a recruiter or hiring manager, you'll likely have several phone calls to make as you when you schedule 20- to 30-minute conversations about one job. It's helpful to create a script so that you give every applicant the same introduction, describe the job in the same manner and ask identical questions. This will make your job so much easier and it will eliminate potential bias if you're the kind of interviewer who tends to wander off track during an interview. When you call, announce yourself and ask to speak to the applicant by name, as in "Hello, I'm Mary Smith with Acme Chemical. May I speak to John Doe, please?"

No Answer? Leave Voice Mail or Email

Nowadays, listening to someone's cellphone greeting only to hear, "This mailbox is full, please try your call again later," can be frustrating. But don't disqualify the applicant simply because you can't leave a voice message. Send an email, and if you must mention that you attempted to reach him by phone, explain why. In your email, you could write, "Dear Mr. Doe, You submitted an application for the administrative assistant role with Acme Chemical. I called to talk to you about the position, but was unable to leave a voice message for you. If you are still interested in the position, please call or email me. Looking forward to hearing from you."

Don't Dispense With Formality

You're the ambassador for your organization and you should, therefore, come across to applicants as the consummate professional. If your workplace culture is relatively casual, wait until you meet the applicant in person before you exhibit a relaxed demeanor. Once you schedule the interview, confirm it with an email or electronic meeting scheduler, such as an Outlook calendar. Before you send an electronic invite, however, ask the applicant if an invite would help him confirm the date and time for his records.

Refrain From Colloquialisms

Avoid using cliches or trite phrases, parables or proverbs, such as "the early bird gets the worm," in an attempt to break the ice or become too familiar with the applicant. Speak properly and intelligently about the job, ask well-thought-out questions and at the end of the phone interview, express your appreciation for the applicant's time. If you want the applicant to address you by your first name, use your full name when you introduce yourself. Otherwise, if you say, "This is Mrs. Smith from Acme Chemical," the applicant won't have a choice but to refer to you in an overly formal manner. The key is to make the applicant feel comfortable enough talking to you that he's able to clearly articulate his interest in the job, and his experience and qualifications.

Talk About the Next Steps

As you draw the interview to a close, keep an even tone so as not to give the applicant false hope if he didn't pass the first round of interview questions. On the other hand, don't be reluctant to express enthusiasm about inviting him to meet with you in person. Explain your company's selection process and tell the applicant when he can expect to hear from you about the outcome of the phone interview.

Conduct Follow Up ... Soon

Importantly, communicate with applicants and don't leave them hanging. The biggest complaints of some job seekers is that they don't hear a word after they take the time to apply for a position. Even if the applicant isn't going to be invited for a second-round interview, send a brief email that explains that you've narrowed your choices to a few candidates who more closely meet the qualifications. If you have the time, be open to providing unsuccessful applicants with feedback on how they might improve their interviewing skills or position themselves as better candidates for future roles.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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