Is a candidate expected to research the company before a telephone interview?

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Q:  I interviewed for a new job in March.  I was turned down because the feedback was “lack of preparation, specifically had not researched the company.”  Is there an expectation that I will have researched the company, even for a phone interview?  I knew I needed to research the company but thought I would have time before the interview with the hiring manager.  Please advise.

A: Most employers expect a candidate (a strong one) to research the company at a high-level, before the first interview.  Telephone interviews are increasingly important.  A candidate’s performance during a telephone interview can advance the candidate to the next step in the process.  Here are some of my recommendations regarding telephone interviews:

  1. Be prepared. Ensure that you are in a place where you will have a good connection (especially if using a cell phone).  You should also make sure you are in quiet place, free of distractions.  If possible, also be able to take notes and view your calendar.  Driving during a telephone interview is not ideal.
  2. Be prepared (again). Know the company.  Research the company before the call.  You should know what the company does.  You are not responsible for learning every detail about the company but you should understand what the company does, their location and maybe even a bit about their competitors.  Most companies have websites, which will provide much of the information you need.  You should have reviewed the company online and maybe even checked LinkedIn profiles and Glassdoor.
  3. Your resume. You should have a copy in front of you and be able to review it with the hiring manager (hence the “no driving” rule mentioned above).
  4. Be on time. Be ready for the call.  If you don’t know how long the call will be, assume it will be 45 minutes.  Don’t call in late or get stuck on another call when the caller reaches out to you.
  5. Thank the interviewer! Yes, even for a telephone interview, differentiate yourself from other candidates.  Demonstrate that you have good professional manners.  Jot a quick thank-you email after the call.

What happens if you are running late because of a client call?  Or you are forced to drive during a call? Explain your situation, don’t ignore it or pretend it didn’t happen.  Offer a quick explanation like “I am sorry.  Our client call was supposed to end at 10:00am and that is why I scheduled our call for 10:30am.  I thought I had built in enough time in case it went beyond the expected end time.”

A phone interview can be a “make it or break” step.  It can help you land a face-to-face interview.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.