Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Your Cell Phone Can Ruin An Interview

MSN Careers never fails to hit the nail on the head.

Should You Leave Your Cell at Home During an Interview?
By Kaitlin Madden, writer

True story:

After a move to a new city, I finally land a job interview after weeks of sending out résumés. The company offers good pay and great benefits -- not to mention that the job is right up my alley and right down the street from my apartment.

The interview is humming along nicely, when "BLEEP BLEEP BLEEEEP! ... BLEEP BLEEP BLEEEEP!" My interviewer is mid-question when she jumps out of her skin at the sound of my cell phone loudly ringing from my purse. I could have sworn I'd shut it off.

I spend the next 20 seconds rifling through my bag to find the offending device and another 10 seconds powering it off. As I apologize and refocus my attention on the interviewer, I can tell our whole vibe is off balance. She is clearly annoyed and I feel like a fool (both of which are total confidence killers). In case I left any doubt in your mind, I was not called back for a second interview.

Lesson learned: Don't let your cell phone get the best of you.

"In many cases, attitude trumps aptitude when it comes to candidate selection. Bringing a cell phone with you says a lot about your attitude," says Laurent Duperval, president of Duperval Consulting in Montreal. "It sends the message that your focus will not be on your job. If I, as an interviewer, can't get your full attention for a few minutes, what will it be like once you have the job? "

Chris Laggini, vice president of human resources for information-technology service provider DLT Solutions, echoes Duperval's sentiment, saying, "Bringing or using a cell phone or BlackBerry during an interview would only indicate to the interviewer a general lack of respect and good judgment, and would indicate that they would exhibit the same behavior during working hours if they were to be hired."

Laggini adds that the only acceptable reason for bringing a cell phone to an interview is if you need to be connected to receive an emergency call of some kind. In that case, he suggests that you discuss the matter with the interviewer beforehand.

So what's the best way to make sure your phone doesn't interrupt your interview? Leave it at home or in your car. That way, you'll be assured that your phone won't disrupt your interview.

If you have other obligations that day and can't leave your phone at home, or if you take public transportation and can't leave it in the car, at least make sure you turn your phone off before going into the interview. Sue Thompson, a career consultant and founder of Set Life Free Seminars, provides the following advice to her clients: "Become proficient with your phone's voice mail setup so you are able to quickly record a new voice mail [greeting] as you go into a meeting or interview, something along the lines of, 'I'm about to go into a meeting. I will return your call by 4 p.m.' Then turn it off."

Despite our best intentions, though, sometimes -- like in my own interview -- plans go awry. Should your cell phone unexpectedly ring in the middle of your conversation, Duperval advises that you apologize and quickly silence the phone or turn it off. "Most phones have a button that allows you to send the caller to voice mail or to silence the phone immediately. As long as you don't answer the phone or say, 'Oh! I have to take this,' the interviewer should understand," he says.

Kaitlin Madden is a writer and blogger for and its job blog, "The Work Buzz." She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.