Ask Amy: Job interviews by phone are not an easy call

Amy Dickinson
Tribune Content Agency
The Providence Journal

Dear Amy,

I'm about to have my second phone interview.

Pre-pandemic, when interviews were in person, I took great pride in showing off my good people skills and confident demeanor. I enjoyed courteously greeting my interviewers, flashing a big smile, and delivering a solid handshake. I spent many years in customer service, so I know how to smile over the phone, but how do I compensate for all the other stuff?

Do you have any advice for tackling phone interviews?

— Living the New Normal

My own experience with job hunting is that the in-person interview was receding long before the pandemic hit. Depending on the career, typically job candidates are expected to take online personality tests, write essays describing the color of their parachute, and then go through at least two phone interviews — before graduating to a Skype call. And yes, it can be very challenging to hit all the right notes when you can't rely on facial expressions and body language.

My advice is that you do your homework, researching the company you wish to join and the job description of the position. Understand and write down key metrics applicable to the job. Connect with the interviewer (if possible) on LinkedIn or other social media.

Have your résumé printed out and in front of you. Bring notes to the call.

Start by listening — the person interviewing you will set the stage. Keep any personal anecdotes short.

Relate specific positive job experiences that will enhance your application ("I dealt with a version of that at my previous company. Here's what we did ...").

Be prepared to discuss (sigh) your greatest weakness or most regrettable failure. (Note: "I care too much and work too hard" is not an answer.)

Ask an industry-specific question based on your research (or on something the interviewer has told you).

Connect any outside applicable experiences that may be interesting, memorable or quirky. (I used to be a lounge singer — and no matter my professional qualifications, this is what interviewers are always most curious about.)

End the call on a positive note: "It has really been a pleasure to talk to you. What are the next steps in the process?"

Wait a couple of hours and send a (short) "thank you" email, referencing back to at least one detail from the interview. Express your sincere enthusiasm for the position. End with "I look forward to hearing from you."

And then — the waiting begins.

Past rejection overshadows her fairy tale

Dear Amy,

I am currently engaged to a man I would call my Prince Charming.

I love him. When I see him, I get that happy-girl crush all over again.

The problem is, I'm scared of getting married.

Before him, I was previously engaged and got dumped four months before our wedding.

I do want to get married to him, but I'm scared that I will be reliving the whole thing over again.

Also, we don't live together, as I am also scared about moving in together due to what happened before him. What should I do?

— Worried

I hope you can understand that as long as you let your previous experience control you, you are basically letting your ex live your life for you.

The idea is to learn from your experiences and mistakes, without having to relive them on a loop. For now, take marriage off the table — removing the pressure that seems to be weighing you down.

Being left is definitely personally traumatic (been there, got the T-shirt). Counseling would help you to own your fears, without making your fiance pay.

It is a true fact that no one is guaranteed a fairy tale, but the way toward a happy ending commences one step at a time. You could perhaps make some progress if you agreed to stay with your fiance for a two-week trial (having an end-date for cohabitation might make the first step easier).

Ex’s texts aren’t necessarily a problem

Dear Amy,

"Untexted in Texas" said that her husband texted an old friend from high school many times a day.

My ex-wife texts me frequently, even though she's happily remarried to someone else. We've known each other for almost 40 years, and she cares how I'm doing, especially since I live alone.

If "Untexted" has a good relationship with her husband, she should trust him until he gives her a reason to not trust him. If she doesn't have a good relationship, she should work on that first.

— Texted

"Untexted’s husband gave her a good reason not to trust him, by being secretive about his texting habit.

Write to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068, or email