Email and Phone Interview Etiquette 101


While that final onsite interview may be the most exciting part of the interview process (besides getting an offer, of course!), you first need to crush your phone interviews and display professionalism through email communication to get there. While we could spend time going over common grammatical errors or how to craft the perfect email signature, we’re going to start with the basics.

Email etiquette is extremely important, as your communication via email is oftentimes the first impression that a recruiter or hiring manager may have of you. This means that even the smallest errors can easily tarnish your reputation as a working professional. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you are communicating with a company via email during the interview process:

  • Email is not texting. Use complete sentences and proper punctuation. Create new paragraphs for different action items or thought processes. This is not a time to use emojis, abbreviations or slang language. Also, make sure you proofread and triple check for mistakes before sending! Nothing immediately lowers your credibility quite like a grammatical error.

  • Be on your best behavior. Manners are important! Be gracious for the company’s time, maintain a positive attitude and express patience and understanding when asking questions. Say “thank you” more than you think is necessary (say, twice in one email, perhaps). In place of the rigid and standard “best” sign-offs, don’t hesitate to use a light and more personalized sign-off message when appropriate. For example, if it’s Friday, you could say “Have a great weekend” and then sign your name. If a holiday is approaching, you could personalize your sign-off with “Have a great Fourth of July” for example.

  • You’re not messaging on AIM anymore. Still have a silly middle school email address? Are you a few years out of college but still using your school email address? Get rid of it!

  • This isn’t a time to test the waters. No one can see your expression through a computer screen. They can’t tell if you’re joking or using a fake serious tone. Read your email aloud to a friend to see if anything comes off the wrong way or makes you or the other person uncomfortable.

  • Proceed with caution. If you have even a slight hesitation about a word, phrase or anything else in your email, do not say it. It’s always better to err on the side of caution than say something that you will regret later or may be offensive to someone else.

It is important to handle your phone interview conversations with as much professional polish as your written communication.

Before joining Will Reed, I was in a frontline sales position for a few years. In this role, we sold to customers entirely over the phone and through email. Our management regularly encouraged us to “sell with a smile” and “smile through the phone” in order to communicate emotion (e.g. excitement, enthusiasm, interest and empathy). Not being able to see someone’s mannerisms in person can make selling to him/her very challenging. Because of that, most managers told us that selling over the phone is actually more challenging than selling to someone face-to-face!

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you are communicating via phone during an interview process:

  • Sell with a smile. Customers, recruiters and hiring managers (in addition to friends, family and anyone else!) can tell when the person on the other end of the line is distracted, uninterested or tired. Because the interviewer can’t see your face or analyze your body language, they are fully relying on your tone of voice to get a sense of your personality. Maintain high energy throughout your entire call. This is easy to do when you have a smile on your face (and maybe after doing a few jumping jacks to get your blood flowing!).

  • Think of an interview as a performance. Besides putting on a smile, be sure to have your vocal chords warmed up too! Focus on speaking clearly and articulately while also having proper inflection in your voice so you don’t come across as monotone. Channel your inner actor/actress.

  • Ask thoughtful questions. We are in the age of constant multitasking. Now it is more important than ever to show that you are engaged and paying attention throughout the phone call. Be sure to have thoughtful questions (ones that can’t be found by just Googling the company!) prepared for your interviewer. Asking questions shows that you’re truly interested and excited about the opportunity.

  • Start strong. Be sure to always answer the phone professionally. Nothing starts a phone interview off on the wrong foot like answering the phone too casually or sounding like you forgot about a scheduled call. A simple and professional way to answer the phone: “Hello, this is (“your name”).

  • Analyze your surroundings. While an interviewer can’t see you or your surroundings, it is wise to set yourself up for success by taking your phone interview in a quiet environment. You want the interviewer to be able to hear your list of achievements clearly - not department store music playing in the background! Be sure to stay away from large groups, as well as dogs, kids, construction or anything else that could potentially be noisy. Not only is this helpful for your interviewer, but it also will allow you to focus more.

Now that you’ve mastered the art of email communication and phone interviewing, it is time to start brushing up on those in-person interviewing skills. If you want to look a little more in depth on how to properly communicate via email, read a post from our CEO on email street smarts.