5 Phone Interview Mistakes You Must Avoid

By Jason Bay [08.01.13]

 [This post was reprinted from Game Industry Career Guide, a resource for graduating students just starting their careers in the game industry.]

The phone interview is your first and best chance to make a strong personal impression. Think of it as a "movie trailer" for your career, rather than the feature film: You want to mention the coolest things you've done, but only at a very high level. And you want to build a ton of interest and excitement in the short time you have.

Unfortunately, because they're so short - usually only 20 to 30 minutes - there's no time to recover if you stumble. Avoid these top 5 mistakes that will cause hiring managers to give you two thumbs down during your phone interview.

Mistake #1: Poor, uhh, Communication Skills. And Stuff.

One of the key things a hiring manager looks for is good communication skills. Can you explain yourself clearly? Can you make your points effectively? Can you speak concisely?

Good verbal communication is super important in team-based, highly-collaborative game studios. If you can't communicate well in person, it's hard to work efficiently with a team. During your phone interview, you can demonstrate good communication skills by keeping these things in mind:

Mistake #2: Drowning Them in Detail

You've done a lot of things in your schooling or your career that you're proud of, and you want to share every exciting detail with your interviewer, right? Wrong. You only have 20-30 minutes, so if you go into too much detail then you'll run out of time. Not a good first impression.

Remember to think of the phone screen as the "movie trailer" for your career, rather than the feature film. As tempting as it may be, do not go into detail unless the interviewer specifically asks you to do so. Save the exciting details for the feature film: the on-site interview.

Mistake #3: Poor Attentio... Squirrel!

During the years that I've been giving phone interviews, I've been shocked at how distracted people can get. I've had people stop in the middle of interviews to let their cats in, tend to their crying babies, and even put their phones down while they merged onto the freeway!

Your brief time on the interview is too precious to waste. Focus your attention by making sure your environment is 100% distraction-free:

Mistake #4: Missing or Unfocused Sales Pitch

Any interview is your chance to give your sales pitch to a potential employer, and the phone interview is no exception. The last thing you want is to hang up the phone with a sense that you didn't convince them you're amazing and would be a great fit for their company!

You may not get through all of your points, especially if the hiring manager isn't a great interviewer and ends up doing most of the talking. But do your best to keep the conversation moving forward, and you'll do a lot better than if you were just winging it.

Mistake #5: Clueless About the Company

Fact: Companies want to hire people who are fans. Not just people who want a job or who are passionate about making games - people who want a job at this company and are passionate about making games at this company.

You must convey your deep interest in their company in particular. So do your research. You have to know a lot about their company. You have to care about their games. You have to know what makes them special, and how you can personally contribute to make them even more special.

Sound hard? It's a lot of work, but you can do it. You'll get better with practice. Nothing will guarantee two thumbs up like a well-produced and well-acted "movie trailer for You".

Image: ponsulak/freedigitalphotos.net

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