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How to Tell if a Phone Interview Went Well

While It’s difficult to tell if any job interview went well, it’s particularly difficult for a phone interview. Unlike an in-person interview, where you can use facial expressions and body language to give you at least some inkling as to if the interview went well, all you have for a phone interview is the words spoken and the tone in which they are spoken.

However, there are some cues and keywords that can help you conclude as to whether or not your phone interview went well.

As a Hiring Manager, I’ve done a lot of phone interviews over the years. Here’s a list of the indicators that your phone interview with me went well, followed by a list of things that may mean it didn’t go so well.

Indicators That Your Phone Interview Went Well

While these are not absolute guarantees that your interview went well, the presence of more than one should leave you with a good feeling about how well you did.

I tell you what the next steps are

This is the number one indicator that your interview went well. Telling you what the next steps are is pretty much telling you that there will be a next step for you. In other words, you will most likely have another interview scheduled. Congratulations, you made it to the next round!

I specifically tell you that the interview went well

Usually, if I’m pleased with the interview, I want the candidate to know it and will tell them. I usually follow this up by telling them what the next step will be. After all, I want them to have a good impression of the company and myself, just as they want me to have a good impression of them. And I want them to know that there will be a next step.

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I ask if You’re Available Right Away

If you did well on the interview, I’ll want to be know how soon I can get you if you’re hired. This definitely means you made a good impression.

I ask you to send me additional information, especially if I ask for references.

This pretty much means you are being seriously considered. While it’s unusual to ask for references during a phone interview (because phone interviews are typically first interviews or qualifying interviews), it happens. When it does, you did seriously well on your phone interview.

I ask you progressively more complex questions

This is a sign that I believe you’re a strong candidate and want to delve deeper into your background and experience to find out how strong. If my questions don’t get beyond general questions about education and experience, it likely means I think you’re either under or overqualified. This will likely be a short interview.

I ask you a lot of follow up questions about your skills and experience

This means I believe you have the right skills and experience and want to know more to determine how competitive you may be with other candidates.

I use future-thinking comments

If I make comments such as “When you join the team,…”, “As an employee, you will….”, or “When you start with us, ….”. These types of comments mean that I’m already thinking of you as being hired.

I start making small talk

After asking my routine questions, if I start making small talk it means that I’m bonding with you and see you as more than just another applicant.

I tell you that you asked good questions

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This indicates I felt you did your homework about the position, which is something so many applicants fail to do.

I ask about your salary expectations

Yes, this can be an awkward question to answer, but it does indicate that you’re definitely in the running.

I ask if you have any other job offers

If you did well, I’ll want to know how fast I’ll need to act with things like scheduling a second interview.

The interview went longer than expected

Phone interviews are shorter than in-person interviews because they are typically first interviews and used primarily to screen for qualifications. If your phone interview goes longer than about 30 minutes, that’s a sign that I was impressed and want to know more about you.

I start selling you on the job and the company

Just as you try to sell yourself to me, If I think you’re a strong candidate I’ll want you to feel good about the job and the company.

The interview felt more like a conversation

If we’ve established good rapport, it will take on more of a conversational tone than a formal interview. This is particularly true if we’ve had some laughs. A bit of humor is almost a sure sign that the interview went well (assuming you are also well qualified!).

Indicators That Your Phone Interview Didn’t Go So Well

Sometimes there’s just no changing the fact that your phone interview did not go well. Worse yet, you’ll likely never know why. It’s just one of those things you may encounter in your job search.

It happens. Don’t beat yourself up over it and try to learn from it.

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Right away after the call, debrief yourself. Were there questions you stumbled on? Were there ones you weren’t able to answer at all? Did you have difficulty finding the right words to describe your skills, experience, and accomplishments? Were questions asked that you did not expect and therefore did a poor job of answering?

Be sure to write your thoughts down. Then work on improving each thing that you felt didn’t go well. This is how you’ll improve for the next interview.

Now, let’s take a look at those things that indicate your phone interview didn’t go as well as you would have liked. Any single one of these can kill your phone interview. If you experience several, write that job off and go on to the next one, using what you learned to improve.

I end the interview with just a thank you

If I make no mention of further steps or that there will even be any further communication, that’s a red flag that you’re phone interview didn’t go well. This isn’t an absolute – there’s still a chance you may hear back, but it’s a small one.

I end the call after only asking a couple of questions

This means I immediately picked up on something that was a deal killer. Typically, it’s because you’re either grossly underqualified or way overqualified. Either way, there’s no sense in continuing the conversation.

Sometimes, not often, it’s because something you said was way out of line. I once had an applicant ask me what my qualifications were for interviewing him, right after I asked the first question. I’m guessing he thought it would make him look confident and in charge of the interview. I politely said I had everything I needed and ended the call.

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“What we’re really looking for is….”

If I say this, or something similar to it, it will probably be early in the interview. Sometimes right after I ask you to tell me something about yourself. It means that I don’t believe you’re a good fit for the job.

It’s not necessarily a negative reflection on you, your experience, or your qualifications. Rather, it’s simply an acknowledgment that they don’t mesh well with this particular position.

I say “We’ll be in touch”, but don’t say when

This is a polite way to say thanks but no thanks. If I’m going to consider you further, I’ll specifically give a time frame in which I’ll be in touch.

You’re silent for long periods after more than one question

A short silence is okay if it’s a tricky question that requires some thought. However, if you’re silent for long periods after questions such as “Why did you leave your last job”, “What are you looking for”, or “What are your greatest strengths”, these are pretty much show stoppers.

The mood of the call turns negative

This is a subjective “gut feeling” sort of thing. If you sense a change in my attitude, such as saying negative things about your answers or your background, it means I’m not pleased with what I’m hearing.

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