5 Things You Should Never Say During a Phone Interview

The first impression that you make on a potential employer may be your last one -- if the impression you leave is negative. That's why it's important to be prepared for an initial phone screening, which many companies use as a prelude to their formal interview process. Both recruiters and hiring managers may rely on telephone interviews to weed out job applicants and narrow the field to invite for in-person interviews.

To help improve your chances of making it past the phone-screen stage and advance to the next round of your job search, it's as important to understand what to avoid as what to do. That's because choosing the wrong approach, attitude or actions -- the "three A's" of interviewing -- can ensure that you never get the chance to show the rest of the hiring team why you're the best person for the job. And when it comes to phone interviews, your words are all you have to convey the three A's.

With that reality in mind, here are five things never to say during a phone interview if you want to get called back.

1. A grouchy "hello." During a job search, it's a smart best practice to answer any call received with a professional tone. While your phone screen may be scheduled for a particular date and time, you might be caught off guard by an unexpected job-related call, perhaps to confirm information or reschedule your call. "All recruiters and hiring managers have experienced the suspicious or defensive 'hello,' which melts away to a sweeter tone once the caller identifies themselves as a potential employer," says Michele Mavi, director of internal recruiting and content development at Atrium Staffing, a talent solutions firm focused on workforce management for midsize and Fortune 500 companies. "Regardless of how great the call may have ended up being, that first impression is rarely forgotten."

2. Complex, rambling answers. While you may be eager to prove your value in relation to specifics about the job, it's important to avoid going overboard in your responses at this stage. Unlike in-person interviews, most phone screens simply serve as a "check the box" function, says Monique A. Honaman, CEO and partner at ISHR Group, which provides leadership assessment, development and coaching services to Fortune 500 companies globally. "The interviewers are trying to determine if the candidate meets certain criteria and can carry on a conversation," says Honaman. "The phone interviewer likely isn't going to get into a really deep dive on your expertise, but rather is more likely to qualify you under that high-level screen." Honaman emphasizes that if you ramble on or get too complex in your answers, you limit the amount of time the interviewer has to ascertain your credentials against the screen.

3. "Which job is this for?" It's common to apply to multiple positions during a job search, which may make it challenging to initially determine which job an employer or recruiter is calling you about. Nevertheless, this is no excuse for sounding uninformed about a job in which you've expressed interest. To stay on top of your applications and avoid having to ask callers which opportunity they are referring to, you need to prepare in advance and stay organized in your search. "Asking, 'What company is this for again?' at any time is not OK," says Ali Mercier, marketing content and hiring manager at The Leadership Program, an urban organization that helps build strong leaders in classrooms and communities. "Keep track of where you are applying -- use a spreadsheet if it's too many places -- and you'll never be caught off guard."

4. "Tell me about the company." It's often stated that interviews are a time for the applicant to "interview" the company as well. However, the phone screen is not the time to do your preliminary corporate information-gathering. In fact, asking the hiring manager to tell you more about the company at this stage can label you as someone who failed to do their own research. "Never ask the interviewer to tell you about the company," says Tiffany Bryant, vice president of agency operations at Sterling Communications, a Silicon Valley-based public relations firm. "Demonstrate that you've done your homework with smart questions like, 'I notice that your customers range from startups to Fortune 500 companies. How is your sales team organized to service such a wide range of customer needs?'"

5. "How many holidays are there?" and "Can I work from home?" You'll no doubt have many questions in the early stage of your job search. But no matter how curious you are about how much a job pays, benefits it might offer and whether it allows flexibility to work from home, save those questions for a later round. Being self-focused rather than company-focused during a telephone pre-screen is a poor strategy, says Fred Cooper, managing partner at Compass HR Consulting, a full-service human resources and management consulting company. "Early questions about salary, benefits, vacation accruals and usage, how many paid holidays there are, et cetera, can all be deal breakers if asked at the wrong time," says Cooper. "Making the discussions more about what the company can do for you than what you'll bring to the company may make for a short call."