To cellphone or not to cellphone

Rules for cellphone use during an interview

Paula S. Katz | May 5, 2015

Even peeking at your cellphone during an onsite job visit is likely to raise a huge red flag for employers.

“The interview may be a short one if you’re checking e-mails,” says Steve Look, executive vice president of recruiting, The Medicus Firm, Dallas. “It shows a lack of engagement and is considered pretty rude.”

Even though everyone today is plugged in and cellphones are ubiquitous, trying to multitask with them during an interview “is disrespectful,” says Regina Levison, vice president, client development, Jordan Search Consultants, St. Louis.

Regardless of the situation during what is often a two-day visit—whether at a table of people interviewing you, at a desk, or in a restaurant—you’re being evaluated during every step of the process, Ms. Levison notes. And if your phone is ringing during any part of it, or if everyone can hear it vibrating or notice you glance down to check a text or e-mail, you’re sending the message that you’re not fully into the process. That holds true even if someone from the employer uses his or her cellphone during your visit.

At a minimum, turn your phone off or at least to silent mode, Mr. Look says. “Or treat it like when you’re going to church: Leave it in the car and don’t even have with you,” he advises.

If you’re expecting an urgent call—Ms. Levison narrows this to a family member in the hospital or in an accident (a call group should be handling your patients)—let those involved in the interview know up-front. Start by emphasizing how important the interview is to you: “Say, ‘This is an important interview for me and I want to share all the information you need from me and learn about the opportunity from you,’ ” she says. Then let them know you may be expecting a call and explain why it’s important.

To avoid having a spouse or significant other who’s not accompanying you interrupt via cellphone, be sure to share an itinerary as well as the name and contact information for the person at the site handling your visit. Leave a copy of that information with your office manager as well if your job search is not confidential.

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