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Mary Pomerantz

Job Interview Tip #1: Cellphone Etiquette

Mary Pomerantz

Ms. Pomerantz is the CEO of TPG Staffing LLC and has over 35 years’ experience in recruiting top talent for some of the largest companies in the world and start-ups alike. She earned a BS from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master’s in Human Resource Management from Rutgers University. She also has senior HR credentials, including both SPHR and SHRM-SCP certifications.

photo of young woman at job interview using her cellphone

For many people, cell phones have become an indispensable tool that they keep with them at all times and interact with seemingly whenever they have a free moment. The allure of a cell phone is obvious; they provide instant communication, information, and entertainment that is easily accessible. We use them to schedule our days, record information, get directions, and, in general, keep connected to the world around us. However, being constantly buried in your phone also serves to transmit a message to those around you in the “real world” as well: that you are not completely engaged with or connected to the physical reality around you. If you are looking to be hired, then job interview tip #1 has to be don’t look, text, or talk on your cell phone if you are trying to make a good impression on the interviewer.

illustrated pie chart showing how young people are almost never separated from their cell phones

Don’t Even Think of Answering it

It may seem like common sense to not answer your phone or text during a job interview, but based on reports from HR professionals in the field, some candidates will actually do this in the middle of a job interview. Needless to say, this creates a terrible first impression on the interviewer, and they will, rightly, view the job candidate as someone who does not take the position seriously and would likely exhibit the same sort of behavior while on the job. This kind of extreme disregard for cell phone etiquette during a job interview is just the most glaring example of how a cell phone can negatively impact your chances to land the position for which you are interviewing.

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What’s That Buzzing?

Even setting a phone to silent mode and ignoring the occasional buzzes from your phone during an interview can end up making a negative first impression. In the quiet environment where most interviews are conducted, “silent” is often not as silent as you think, and your interviewer may actually still hear your phone’s notifications. If there is a string of these during the interview, it can be disruptive, and lead the interviewer to believe if you are hired you might be constantly on your phone. You may even be distracted enough from being able to carefully listen to the interviewer’s questions you are being asked. The most basic job interview tip is to turn your cellphone completely off.

Waiting for the Interview

Many times when you arrive for an interview, you may have to wait in a reception area for quite some time before being called into the interview itself. During this period, it may be tempting to respond to texts or simply catch up on news or Facebook posts. However, even in the period spent waiting to be interviewed, it’s not good cell phone etiquette to spend this time on your phone. HR professional, Isabella York points out in her blog titled Your Cell Phone Can Ruin Your Interview that the “seemingly oblivious receptionist at the front desk could be eavesdropping on you or secretly eying you from a distance” while you are waiting for your interview to commence. Spending this time on your phone can leave a bad impression that may eventually filter back to the hiring manager and hurt your chances of receiving a job offer. Remember this job interview tip while you are waiting to be interviewed, spend your time composing your thoughts and thinking through how you will respond to various interview questions. [1]

clip art of young job applicant waiting to be interviewed
clip art of a notepad for taking notes

Taking Notes During the Interview

It’s always a great idea to take notes during an interview to show that you are engaged and interested. But, using your phone to do so might give the exact opposite impression. You may know that you are listening intently and taking notes, but the interviewer may interpret your actions differently. Some people immediately feel they are being ignored when the person they are speaking to pulls out their phone, and this kind of visceral reaction may taint their entire interaction with you. Our next job interview tip is to put your phone aside during the interview and take your notes using a pen and paper; you can always transfer your notes later to your phone. Don’t potentially put your employment status at risk to save a few minutes transcribing your notes.

Calls Can Wait Until You’re Off the Property

You never know who might overhear your phone conversation when you are on a company’s property. Ducking into an empty hallway, the parking lot, or a bathroom to take a call can easily be overheard by a company employee, potentially ruining the impression you made in the interview. Calling the babysitter? — It might seem like your child care coverage might be an issue. Arguing with your friend, family member, or partner? — Perhaps you’ve got anger management issues that could impact your work. Planning the evening’s night out? — Someone may think you’re a problem drinker. You never know when a third party may overhear your personal conversation and draw all sorts of negative conclusions from it; so don’t have phone conversations until you have completely left the location of your interview. It’s that simple.

clip art of a stick figure person running towards the exit
clip art of an opened safe with a cellphone inside of it

Practice Makes Perfect

Let’s face it; many of us have a serious cell phone usage habit. And, like any habit, it can become a totally unconscious behavior. To make sure you avoid pulling out your cell phone during or while waiting for a job interview, you may actually want to practice being without it. This is really one of the only ways to break the habit of immediately reaching for your phone in a variety of “triggering” situations. Before an upcoming interview, you can practice turning your phone off or leaving it in your home or car for periods of time to reduce your “hard-wired” responses that make you unconsciously fidget with it in certain situations. This kind of practice can ensure that you don’t inadvertently sabotage your job interview when the day and time for it arrives.

A Little Cell Phone Etiquette Goes a Long Way

Following these simple job interview tips can help you avoid turning off potential employers with cell phone-related behaviors, improving your odds of landing the position you seek. Some of them may seem obvious or even overly cautious, but why would you risk losing a job offer over something so silly? If you have an interview approaching, turn off your phone in advance and don’t turn it back on until you’ve completely left the property. It’s the best way to ensure that you are judged upon your skills and experience in the interview process — and get a leg up on the competition.

clip art of a hand giving the thumbs up gesture

Recognize we are all human, and all humans make mistakes. If we can recognize when we have made a mistake, we have the opportunity not to keep making the same mistake over and over again in the future.


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