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Job Magician Why Cell Phones are Bad News for
Job Hunters
  • Cell phones usually make you sound terrible to an employer – keep your employment phone calls on landlines.

Garble … voice emerging from the end of a long tunnel … static … click … “Can you hear me? … Hello … are you still there?”

Does this sound like you’re calling your credit card customer service department – the one they’ve outsourced to India?

That’s how you sound to your prospective employer, on your cell phone.

Cell phone technology has come a long way, and they’re great for calling your husband when he’s in the supermarket so you can tell him to pick up a couple of loaves of garlic bread, but they’re not up to the standards that senior executives use when they’re placing a sales call to someone they don’t know.  And that’s what job hunting is – you’re doing sales prospecting, or even being interviewed – by phone.  And, having been on the far end of many a cell phone far too many times, I can tell you that most of the time the job hunter simply doesn’t come across as well when they’re not on a landline.

Then there's the people who take calls on their cell phones anywhere - in heavy traffic with their kids screaming, in the sporting goods department at Wal-Mart, on a street corner with the wind howling. Great first impression they make to an executive who's thinking about paying them over $100K per year. I even had a candidate tell me that he was in the middle of teaching a college class and couldn't talk at that time - how'd you like to be one of his students, if he takes cell phone calls in the middle of classes? If you were the hiring manager, would you consider hiring him?

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How you sound on a telephone is crucial – you may not get a second chance if you sound like a poor communicator when someone calls the first time.  The person on the receiving end can’t tell if you sound timid and mousy because you were distracted while driving, couldn’t hear you because of background noise or because you are simply timid and mousy. I recently interviewed a candidate and found myself repeating myself over and over again.  I wondered whether the candidate merely couldn't hear me, or was kind of dense.  I certainly questioned his business sense, because he had no landline at all, and said that his cell phone often had weak connections in his home.

I’ve heard all the arguments.  It’s my only phone (cheapo – c’mon), everyone uses them (General Electric still has landlines at all of their offices, last time I heard), and on and on.  Let the candidates who are so perfect that the employer will give them the benefit of the doubt (how often is that you?) use cell phones. 

By the way, VOIP (voice over internet protocol) phone lines also sound awful – don’t use one, even if it’ll save you $30 a month. Your next job will pay you enough to make up for the additional cost.

If you get a call on your cell phone, tell the employer that you’re on your cell, and that she may have trouble hearing you. Then keep the conversation brief, and do what you can to set up a landline conversation as soon as possible.




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