Interviewing: Cell Phone Protocol


July 30, 2016

Should you bring your cell phone to an interview? The answer is NO. There is only one acceptable place for a cell phone during an interview – Nowhere in sight! Perhaps a part of you might say to yourself that the interviewers have cell phones too, and perhaps some are even sitting right out in plain sight where you are interviewing, so what could be the problem with having yours? The reason is that as a guest to the interview, it is considered professional to be fully focused on the company and its people. A professional presence is not just recommended or expected, but unquestionably demanded if you are to have any chance at getting the job.

Any type of rudeness such as interacting with your cell phone is expressly prohibited if you want to make a good impression. This also means it needs to be powered down completely, not just switched to vibration mode. If it is being heard, then that is considered a form of engagement and the annoying buzzing that ultimately ensues from the vibration is just as disrupting as a full volume Beyoncé ringtone!

This expectation does not apply to the interviewer though. If your interviewer stops the meeting and takes a call during your one-on-one interview time, the way to handle the situation is not to cross your arms and sigh deeply so she/he gets the hint that they are committing rudeness. Nor is it appropriate to stare at them as though you are trying to listen hard to their conversation or get their attention.

Sitting quietly without fidgeting, averting your eyes from theirs as a mark of courtesy, having a pleasant expression on your face, and waiting patiently is the correct course of action. Remember that you don’t know what is happening right at that moment in another part of the company or what this interviewer is ultimately responsible for – he/she may have a very good reason, so don’t let it affect your attitude. The polite thing to do is to overlook what you think is rude with the understanding that you don’t know them well enough to determine if they are truly being rude, or simply juggling their responsibilities during a hectic day.

You may also think it wouldn’t hurt to use your cell phone while being asked to wait between interview stages, or while in reception, but again, the answer is no. Instead, you will find it more productive to spend your time watching how the staff behave and getting to know the workplace vibe, or even chatting with other interviewees – you never know what you may learn; the results of these actions will help you acclimate to your surroundings and ultimately perform better once you are in the interview – and isn’t that really the point?

Please keep in mind that when you engage with your phone, you disengage with everything else and in doing so you limit your exposure to the clues you will need to succeed. This prime example of unacceptable interview behavior should be one of your most important protocols.