Are spontaneous phone interviews professional?

Friday November 27 2020
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Caroline Mboijana

By Caroline Mboijana

Dear Caroline, 
I have been applying for jobs and weeks back, I received a call that I thought was about a possible interview. It turns out the spur of the moment call was the interview. I have done phone interviews before but they have all been communicated prior. Is it possible and professional for me to ask them if we can reschedule so I can prepare? Is it normal for companies to conduct such interviews?

Phone interviews are common method during the selection process and are ordinarily one of the first assessments one will encounter. Note the submission of an application form is also a considered an assessment. When a company opts to conduct telephone interviews, they are likely trying to reduce or manage the number of applications that are received. While this method has its limitations, it also has some advantages. 

It allows the recruiting organisation to manage time and costs, it enables reach, i.e. you can interview a large number of people who may not necessarily be in the same geographical and it’s also used to assess telephone manners / etiquette etc.  While these are the merits, there are disadvantages, the lack of face to face interaction which can have an impact on both parties.

 The merits of face to face is the ability to read body language which can benefit participants guiding them to rectify errors made.  In many cases applicants are informed about the type of interviews they’ll participate in, with at least 4-7 working days’ notice.  

It’s difficult to advise on whether you should request to have an interview postponed. Your decision is dependent on  a few factors,  your readiness to participate and of course this is  influenced by the depth of the questions  being asked or you may not be in a place where you can actually have the call in private. My advice is as soon as you think it is an interview, ask the interviewer if the call can be re-scheduled to a later and more convenient time. If the interviewer is sounding hesitant you may want to ask about the questions and what information they are trying to collect through the discussions. 

This will help you decide if you can answer them well. It is important to make sure that by asking for a re-schedule its not perceived that you don’t want to participate. You would rather have a telephone interview as opposed to no interview.

Caroline Mboijana,
Managing Director,
The Leadership Team (U)