is “use a land line” outdated advice for phone interviews?

Somehow, yesterday’s post about giving feedback to your interviewer has turned into a debate in the comments on whether it’s reasonable to advise candidates to use a land line for phone interviews.

In the past, I’ve been a firm advocate for using a land line when you’re doing a phone interview. The sound quality is often clearer and there’s way less risk of a dropped call. But I’m wondering how realistic this advice is these days, when so many people don’t have a land line at all.

Practically speaking, if you only have a cell phone, I’m not sure what your options would be. You might have no options.

Are those of us telling people they need to use a land line living in another time? (My hunch: Yes. I think I’m changing my position on this.)

{ 166 comments… read them below }

  1. Susan*

    Since experiencing a layoff, I had to cut all necessary costs, and that included an expensive landline (when cell plans are much cheaper). The alternative would be to use a pay phone (not that I could find one…perhaps at the police station? I can’t remember the last time I have actually seen one) at which there would of course be excessive background noise and disruptions. Cell-phone wise, I take interview calls in my closed car in the garage to avoid any household or background noise. For those who are currently working and job-seeking, obviously they could not take the call during work hours on a company phone, so their alternatives are quite limited. Perhaps there should be a return of enclosed phone booths. Disclosing to a HR or hiring manager that you don’t have a landline (for financial reasons) is shooting yourself in the foot, so I think interviewers should allow for any potential technical glitches (which does not include typing, eating, screaming kids, barking dogs, driving, or watching TV in the background).

  2. Justin*

    The best thing about doing phone interviews with a cell phone is using my hands-free headset and leisurely walking around the house as I talk. I don’t own a corded or cordless phone anymore, but the last cordless phone I used would never work for an interview.
    If I lived in an area with bad coverage, my strategy would be horrifying. But, it may also force me to have a landline.

    1. fposte*

      I think that’s a good point, too–a lot of people who do have landlines have cordless phones, and many of them have sound quality issues as well.

  3. Quix*

    If you have good reception in your house, how would anyone know you’re on a cellphone unless you told them?

    Sure if you’re out in the boonies with poor reception, you might need a landline, but in the majority of the country I’d say just use a cellphone and don’t mention it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not so much about mentioning it or not, but rather about the fact that the sound quality can be lesser; sometimes (but not always) you can tell someone is on a cell phone because the sound quality suffers.

  4. Anonymous*

    Having a cell phone only, over a land line, has become a necessity. Yes, it’s out-dated to expect people to only use land lines.

  5. James*

    It’s definitely outdated to request a land line for a phone interview. I honestly can’t think of anyone I know who actively uses a land line phone (except for my father who lives outside of a small town in the country). I always make sure I’m in my car with the windows up, no radio, and parked somewhere quiet so as not to have any background noise.

    Also, along with the land line, requiring faxed resumes is outdated. I have run across several advertisements in the local paper requesting applicants to fax in their resume. I realize that this might weed out candidates who aren’t as serious about the position, but it costs money for me to fax my resume to each of those places, and just isn’t really necessary in this day and age.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I can’t really understand why anyone has a fax machine at this point, and I’d assume an employer requesting that applications be submitted by fax has a culture that is a bit behind the times.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        The culture where I live is WAY beyond “a bit behind the times”. I’m surprised they don’t demand resumes be written by scribes in calligraphy.

        1. Jamie*

          In my illustrious former career as a temp I was sent on a short term assignment and had to type labels on an electric typewriter.

          I had no idea what I was doing and went through almost an entire box of Avery labels with my mistakes.

          There was much clucking about my incompetence – I think I would have preferred scribes and calligraphy.

          1. Anonymous*

            This made me laugh! When I was a student, I had a job in the library where I was asked to type up serials labels on a typewriter. I had never even seen a typewriter before. Needless to say, I quickly found a new work study job where I was able to learn more modern/relevant skills!

      2. Nethwen*

        You think requesting a fax is behind the times? I see many places where the only option for submitting applications is by postal mail. These paces also consistently list some version of “must be comfortable with emerging technology” as part of the job description. The contrast confuses me.

        I try to convince myself that the human resources staff at these places get headaches from looking at a computer screen and that’s why they request paper copies, but there are so many of these places, it’s hard for me to believe that is truly the case. It’s frustrating to have to pay to apply when a free way is readily available.

          1. Jamie*

            If a company has a faxserver you can send a fax via email – and you don’t need any special software on your computer – the email addy is a variation of the fax number.

            If companies insist on getting faxes they should do this, imo, since it’s becoming less likely by the minute that people have fax machines.

      3. Mike C.*

        They’re useful in certain regulated industries when you need to send signed certificates and other paperwork.

        Of course we could switch to an all digital system, but that might cost money…

  6. Jennifer*

    When I was sending out resumes, I was in the process of moving out of my university apartment into my parents’ house. My apartment did not have a landline – my parents’ house does. Due to all the moving around I was doing, and because my landline is shared by three other family members whose message-taking and message-relaying abilities are sometimes sketchy, I use my mobile number on my resume. I have only ever had one problem with reception, and the employer scheduling our interview kindly asked me if I could call her back on a landline. (Luckily, said call was when I was at my parents’ – I don’t know what I would have done if I had been in my old apartment.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I can think of a couple of times when I asked a candidate if they could call me back from a landline because the reception was bad. Once the person was able to, and once the person said they didn’t have access to one. I’ll admit, I was mildly annoyed; the reception was REALLY bad and made it hard to have a natural conversation.

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        You’re much more flexible then me. I wouldn’t be asking them to call me back on a landline.

        1. Anonymous*

          You would pass over a potentially great candidate because the person only had access to a cell phone? This seems like one of those “any excuse to weed someone out” practices.

          1. Wilton Businessman*

            If the reception is bad and I can’t hear them or we get dropped, yup, they miss out.

        2. Emily*


          I’m not sure whether I’m glad I’ve read this discussion because it’s never occurred to me not to use my cell phone or if I wish I’d never seen it because it never would have occurred to me not to use my cell phone.

          I haven’t had a landline of my own in six years. My last was the one in my sophomore dorm room the year before my college finally gave up on building that phone service into the annual housing fee. More than a cost-saving measure, I’ve gone without because I haven’t needed one and/or to avoid adding another utilities account to manage and share among roommates.

          I do happen to be living with my parents again now, but I’m not sure how long they will maintain their landline; it’s primary purpose is leaving cutesy voicemails for the dogs when they’re home alone for an extended period of time and hanging up on telemarketers. In fact, the telemarketers, political calls, etc. have gotten so bad that my father has had a screening feature activated. If an anonymous or unrecognized number calls, it treats the caller as though they’re calling collect. You can adjust the restrictions to a certain extent, from only accepting calls from numbers that you’ve specified in the caller ID to accepting any call unless the number is “Unlisted,” but I have to record my name and wait for the system to “announce” me and for Mom or Dad to approve me if I call home from my office, so it’s reasonable to assume that other companies have “hidden” numbers, and I also think it’s unreasonable even to hope that a hiring manager would jump through those kinds of hoops to reach me. It’s more than mildly annoying—I don’t even call the house anymore!

          My brother “calls” home primarily through FaceTime, and though I would never want to video chat with a potential employer (unless that was their preferred method and not simply for lack of a more mainstream means of communication), I wonder if Google Voice is still too nontraditional to be an alternative. I don’t have enough experience with it to gauge its quality or dependability.

          1. Jamie*

            I don’t know about Google Voice specifically – but I will advise that anyone using an internet based calling application make sure it has full duplex capabilities and not half-duplex.

            Full duplex – when working correctly – functions like a regular call…you and the other party can hear each other simultaneously. Half duplex cuts the other side off when one is transmitting – so one party has to stop speaking completely before the other begins or it will be choppy and words lost in transmission.

            Full duplex = telephone
            Half duplex = Walkie talkie

        3. Jennifer*

          I was really glad that my interviewer did ask me to call back on a landline – from my side, I could hear her perfectly fine and would not have known that reception was bad unless she said something.

          I make a concerted effort to be in a quiet place with good reception on my cell phone, but knowing that sometimes phones just interact strangely, wherever I move I guess I should try to either have a landline or know someone who does.

  7. bob*

    No it’s not reasonable because many households like mine have dropped their landlines completely and just don’t need one.

    If it’s reasonable to ask candidates to use a land line then it should be reasonable to ask hiring companies to NOT use those damn conference room Polycom speaker phones that sound like everyone is 50 feet away and have a 2 second lag time so we end talking over each other. Damn I hate those phones!!

  8. Julie*

    I think more reasonable advice would be to tell candidates that if they ARE using a cell phone, they be sure they’re somewhere quiet, with good reception (ideally somewhere they’ve scouted previous to the call), and no distractions. This is all more-or-less a given when using a land-line, but it needs to be spelled out for cell phones.

    Another option, for people who don’t have cell phones but who DO have laptops and wifi access, is to use a VoIP service like Skype or Google Talk. Calling from Skype to any US- or Canada-based phone number (land-line or cell) is about $3 a month. For Google Talk, I think it’s free. With a good headset, the quality is actually quite good, potentially as good as a land-line.

    1. Julie*

      Er… the first sentence of the second paragraph should read, “For people who don’t have land-lines…”

      1. Anonymous*

        I would think if you have to give cell phone usage instructions to a candidate, that should put them out of the running automatically. That’s like having to be told on the airplane how to fasten your seatbelt.

        1. Julie*

          Sorry, I was unclear. When I meant “advice,” I meant the sort of thing AAM is doing, not necessarily the person arranging the interview. I agree that the interviewer should not need to give instructions to the candidate on how to use his cell phone properly. In the same way, an interviewer should not need to give advice on what to wear for an interview, but that AAM or similar sites might want to discuss it.

    2. Jamie*

      I’m surprised more companies haven’t moved toward Skype (and similar) to replace phone interviews.

      Webcams being so inexpensive now – I think we’ll be seeing more and more of this in the next five years. Video conferences are more then a phone interview/less than meeting in person…and while you can’t do it in your pajamas like you can with the phone, you only have to be in interview dress from the waist up.

      I wonder how long until AAM is getting questions about the fairness of replacing phone interviews with web-meetings?

      Gotta love technology – at least I do since without it I’m out of a job.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I will resist any such development with all my soul! I typically conduct phone interviews (on the employer side) from my couch in outfits that are in no way fit to be seen by others. If the candidate could see me, all credibility I had would be zapped away immediately by my gross, unwashed hair and head-to-toe fleece outfit.

        1. Lynda*

          Okay, now that visual image is stuck in my head. And I pictured you in a superhero costume, perhaps with simple black pumps!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            No, no — picture me in head-to-toe fleece (at least in the winter). When I was coming up with the logo for my site, I seriously considered having it be me on my couch in fleece. Friends talked me out of it.

            1. Susan*

              That is a riot! Now I’m thinking about Jamie’s comment about webcam interviews…imagine if the interviewer asked you to retrieve something and you had to move or get up, and were only dressed professionally from the waist up, and in your pj’s on the bottom!

            2. Anonymous*

              I imagine you in a Snuggie! I have to admit that a Snuggie on clearance was a purchase that I made when I was unemployed and job searching from my couch most mornings.

          2. Dan Ruiz*

            LOL! Me too!

            I was thinking the red and black (capeless) uniform of the Incredibles; with an “AAM” logo on the chest.

        2. Wilton Businessman*

          Exactly. If I’m calling you at 9PM, I’m probably in sweats and a grungy t-shirt.

  9. Melissa*

    Ugh, I am feeling old this morning! Not only do we still have a dedicated land line, we also have a land line that still works when the electricity goes out (a corded phone that plugs into the wall). We have this mostly because my husband’s employer must be able to get in touch with him 24/7 and we have to allow for all scenarios (uncharged cell phone, power outage, etc.). And I still send faxes! Call me crazy, but the phone works just fine! :)

  10. Anonymous*

    Yes, you live in another time :-) But it’s a nicer way of saying “Make sure you have 4 or 5 bars on your cell phone!”

    Having lost my job twice in the past 3 years, I have done all of my phone interviews on the phone. I always do make sure to be in whatever part of my house has 5 bars of service as well as the least amount of grass-cutting neighbors. It seems to fair well with interviewers, as I’ve never had a dropped call or had an interviewer question the phone clarity.

  11. Autumn*

    I’m not sure what the current percentage of adults in the US without a landline is, but I can guarantee that it will only rise over the next few years. As a fairly recent college graduate (2010) I can say with confidence that I do not know a single peer who has a personal landline. Not one. For those who live close to (or at) home, I suppose they could use their parent’s landline; for the rest of us, we are simply attached to our cell phones. The only landline that I have access to is my work phone, which I would not use if I were job searching, for obvious reasons.

    However, I completely agree that as we become more and more relient upon cell phones, job searchers must take additional measures to ensure that phone interviews are free from background noise, static, etc.

    1. Liz in a library*

      I agree. I am 25, and I don’t have a single friend with a landline. In fact, the only people I can think of with landlines are my parents, my 85 year old grandmother, and my next door neighbor who is an emergency worker and is pretty much always on call.

      1. Anonymous*

        Amen to that! I don’t know anyone who has a landline other than one elderly relative.

          1. Anonymous*

            I don’t believe it. Where do you live where people in their 20s have land lines? I can’t even imagine one of my friends or coworkers having a land line. That would be pretty strange and they would never hear the end of it.

  12. Anonymous*

    I don’t really like using my cell phone, and there is no way I could ever use it as the main line at my home. I know full well there is a dead spot in my kitchen – it picks and chooses sometimes when it will actually give me more than 1 bar.

    Until this country’s cell phone providers can show you map where their services reach every area of the nation, I wouldn’t fully trust them (I’m sure you’ve seen Verizon and AT&T’s coverage maps). And believe it or not, my cell phone works much better in Europe, whose cell phones are far better than what we have here.

    Right now, if employers are going to call cell phones, then they have to expect that sometimes stuff happens, like a dropped call. They don’t know if someone has a junk old phone from 2005 or an iPhone.

      1. Dan Ruiz*

        I thought dropped calls had more to do with the network than the actual phone one is using.

        I’ve had just as many dropped calls on my iphone as with my previous phones.


        1. Jamie*

          You can drop because of the network, but also the phone itself. Some are better than others because of the internal antenna design.

          When the IPhone 4 first came out there were huge problems because when in a case the antenna was blocked – causing for spotty connections – in a way that was never an issue with previous version.

          This has since been corrected – but in general both the device and the network could cause connection issues.

      2. Anonymous*

        I was referring to the fact that when an employer calls, s/he doesn’t know what kind of phone you’re using – if it’s an old cell phone that’ll most likely drop dead in two seconds or a more modern phone that actually can keep up with the call.

      3. Anonymous*

        My old iphone never dropped a call. Come to think of it, neither has my android. Maybe I just have good luck.

  13. Long Time Admin*

    If I’m being judged solely on the land line/cell phone issue, then I don’t want this job. I call from inside my (parked) car so there will be no distracting noise on my end, I have my resume and notes ready, and I’ve done tongue twisters so that my speech is clear.

  14. LK*

    Like Jennifer, the last time I had access to a landline was 5 years ago after graduating from from college while living at my parents house for a few months. It might not be ideal for job hunting, but it’s just the reality of how things are changing.

    I only ever had one interview call drop, and that was 5 years ago while at my parent’s house… I called them back on the landline immediately.

  15. KellyK*

    I think the exact advice is outdated, but the point behind it is not. A phone interview needs to happen over a good connection, with minimal background noise. If a landline gets you that, great. If a cell with five bars in a closed car gets you that, also great. If Skype does it for you, again, great.

    I may live in the Dark Ages with you. I have a cell phone, but the reception at my house is awful. My “land line” is actually with Vonage, so if the net connection is slow for whatever reason, there will be irritating dead spots. (I can hear the other person but they can’t hear me, or I hear every other word so I can’t actually tell what they said.) It doesn’t happen often, fortunately.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have a cell and a landline and I vastly prefer my landline. It’s just clearer sound quality. I wonder if people said this sort of thing about their mimeographs too.

      1. Andrew*

        For those of us old enough to have been in elementary school in the 1960’s there was nothing better than the smell of freshly mimeographed ink on paper.

  16. Nichole*

    I know from experience that sometimes you don’t have a choice on phone intervierwing conditions. I applied for a company a few times (I live in a small city with a few specific BFD employers in the field I was in, and they have…er, had, a reputation for being a good place to work) and noticed that they have a habit of surprising you with the phone interview. Their call always meant diving into a quiet room while silently gesturing to my kids to get-out-stay-out-and-shut-up-right-now-! and trying to figure out exactly what the purpose of the interview was. If I was lucky, they would call while I was at work and I could call back later more prepared. The last time they called me, it was to interview me for a position I hadn’t applied for and wasn’t interested in (it was on a shift that wouldn’t work for me, this was after I had told them I wasn’t available for that shift in an in person interview a few months earlier and on the previous applications they had pulled my information from). I’m pretty sure I burned that bridge when I stopped the interviewer to ask what position it was for and proceeded to turn it down, but I stopped her in the middle of a speech about the company’s history that I’d heard three times before, and it was the first time I’d gotten a word in edgewise since “hello.” It turns out that all of this was a sign of deeper disorganization within the company. I would have loved to have gotten one in particular of the jobs I interviewed for, but I chalk it up to a bullet dodged. The company is currently being sued by the family of a client and have lost their community favorite status after a several years of allegations of misconduct and poor employment practices. If nothing else, the experience taught me to recognize some red flags and gave me practice with interviewing under pressure!

  17. Anonymous*

    Yes, “use a land line for interviews” is out dated advice. The last time I had a land line in my name was back in 2001. I’ve lived places with access to a land line, but it was never my primary number.

    Cell phone quality is actually quite good. I’ve done numerous interviews on my (now) five-year-old phone, and the quality is always satisfactory.

    As someone else said, if I’m being judged solely on this issue (which presumably has absolutely nothing to do with my ability to do the job) then pass.

  18. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Okay, given the enormous tide here, I’m convinced that I need to stop recommending landlines when I’m writing about phone interviews (or at least acknowledge that they might not be an option). (And I am also convinced that I’m really old.)

    That said, for those of you on the “landlines are ridiculous advice!” side of this (which is, um, all of you), DO you think about sound quality and take steps to go somewhere where the sound clarity will be as sharp as possible? And more to the point, do you think it’s reasonable for an interviewer to be annoyed if the sound quality sucks? (I think it IS reasonable to be annoyed by that and am wondering if you’re going to shoot me down there too.)

    1. Jamie*

      Absolutely – I think scouting out a place where you know the reception and connection will be good is as crucial as any other part of interview prep.

      And I am among the ancients who still has a land line, also. Although these comments got me thinking about it and I can’t remember the last time I used it for anything. I can’t come up with one valid reason for why I still have one, except inertia and how weird it would feel not to have one.

    2. Jenna*

      I think that it’s reasonable to be annoyed if the quality sucks, cause you would hope this is something they had taken into account. I wouldn’t say it’s interview-ending worthy, but a polite “I’m so sorry, it seems there’s a bad connection, would it be possible to call me back from a quieter/better signal/whatever area?” will tell you a lot. If they are embarrassed and apologetic, you know you are just dealing with a little tech glitch that can be remedied. If they act otherwise (annoyed, huffy, etc.), you’ve just learned a whole lot about that person and what they’re like to deal with.

      The one or two phone interviews I’ve ever done I thoroughly checked the area I planned to be when I took the call. I’ve not had a complaint or problem with call quality yet, so it seems to work. I can (second, third, fourth) the parked car in a quiet area advice.

      I also don’t have the choice of a landline. The only one I have access to is at work, where I would feel particularly weird and disloyal using a company resource for an interview for another job. My boyfriend and I don’t have a landline in our apartment because it’s a redundant expense for us. We just don’t need 3 different (and pricey) ways of making a phone call. And in the off chance that my phone is dead or out of service or something, anyone I know who would need to get ahold of me in an emergency situation has his number as well and would call him to get in touch if they couldn’t reach my cell.

    3. Dean*

      I wouldn’t go so far as saying using a land line is “ridiculous.” As you’ve pointed out, the point is for the candidate to take all reasonable steps to ensure the phone interview goes well (finding a quiet place, relatively good signal etc.) I don’t think anyone would prefer a candidate call from a pay-phone on a busy street/airport/bar just because it’s a land-line and not a cell.

      The backlash was against interviewers who will not make a reasonable allowance for something like a dropped call. It can happen even in the best of circumstances, and I don’t think a call back is unreasonable.

    4. SME*

      Totally reasonable to be annoyed. I would just suggest tempering that irritation with the possibility that the candidate might have done everything right in an attempt to prepare for the call, and technology still just periodically stinks.

      1. ImpassionedPlatypi*

        I second SME, with the caveat that if the phone call was not pre-arranged then the interviewer or HR person shouldn’t be annoyed at all. I’ve been in situations where my first contact from a company I’d applied to was a phone call instead of an email, even though my email is on my resume and in most cases I’m emailing that resume to the employers. And some of those initial contacts were basically unscheduled phone interviews.

        1. Susan*

          I’ll agree with Impassioned and SME here regarding being annoyed but tempering it with reason. This whole stream has made me re-think actually getting a landline for the sole purpose of interviewing (I do agree the sound quality is better as well as the reliability), but it’s such a Catch-22 because this is when I need to be the most frugal!

          One option I have used is the MagicJack, which allows you to use a real phone, but it plugs into your pc for its signal (great deal, only $20/year unlimited local, long distance and overseas calling). The only reason I don’t list/use it consistently is because (due to limited nationwide use so far), the area code doesn’t match my current location. I wouldn’t want employers thinking I would have a relo requirement.

    5. GeekChic*

      Guess I’m old with you! I don’t have a cell – and never have (and I’m in IT!). No cell phone has ever been cheaper than the current package I get with my landline provider (I check every year). Plus I find the sound quality stinks when friends call me on their various cell phones. Then again, the part of Canada where I live has some interesting geography to contend with.

      I think your concerns are reasonable. But I also think cell phones aren’t that great.

    6. Jennifer*

      Knowing that I’ve been annoyed by the sound quality of an interviewer’s phone, I think it’s very reasonable. One time an interviewer called me from his car, and it was clear he was using speakerphone through his car (where my sound reverberated through his speakers) because it was REALLY difficult for me to hear him. He said that he was calling just to talk quickly about the position because he was driving to a meeting, and that we would talk more after setting up a time for an interview, but he just wanted to call to make sure I was still interested. I appreciated the sentiment, but it was almost a waste because the sound quality was very muffled and I kept having to say, “I’m sorry, could you say that again?”

      I’ve also done a few interviews where I was on speakerphone (where it is sometimes difficult to differentiate voices of multiple interviewers or will often have a lot of background noise, but it was better than speakerphone in a car). I could hear them most of the time just fine, and I was invited to ask for clarification or to repeat the question if something happened.

      ALSO, I’ve done the interview via Skype. This was actually sort of nice, because we could read each others’ conversational clues, and they could see me nodding in approval at something they said (and vice versa). And we had a better time understanding each others’ humor and demeanor, since we could see each other. The only weird thing about it is eye contact. If you’re looking at the interviewer’s video, you’re not really making eye contact with the camera. I would alternate between using peripheral vision to look at the interviewer’s video and my web cam, and when I was answering a question I’d look directly into the camera. (However, I don’t know if this was effective or just creepy. Apparently I was the runner-up for the job, so maybe it was fine?)

      I think it’s very important to scout out a quiet place which has good reception, and if possible to have a back-up plan if something goes wrong.

    7. Kat*

      Definitely. I would never do an interview where outside sound will be a hinderance (coffee shops, parks, my house (I have a yappy dog). Usually it’s in my car or the yappy dog is outside enjoying the sun.

      I don’t think I’ve ever had many issues where I live with my cell phone quality or calls dropping. Maybe about 10 years ago, but, especially since I have a tower right near me, any calls on my phone have been fine. It would be totally reasonable to be annoyed by bad quality cell services or even background noise. True story, I was talking to a guy once who always wore the bluetooth headphones. Not only could I hear him, I also heard his television and kids as if they were on the line too. I’d much rather you hold your actual cell phone because I find those headphones don’t muffle the background noise.

    8. Slaten*

      Most people know their phones and whether their cell phone works better or their land line. I myself would never use my cell phone at home for a phone interview. My cell just doesn’t have a good signal where I live. However, I wouldn’t hesitate to use that same cell phone at my current work location for an interview.

    9. violet*

      You can make phone calls through Gmail, actually, and the quality is nearly always as good or better than a landline (presuming you have a high-speed Internet connection). You can use any microphone or headset that you can connect to your computer.

      As another nice point, I believe calls are free within the U.S. If they aren’t, they’re very cheap.

      1. mouse*

        Yes, calls are free within the US. I have a google voice number that I auto forward to my cell when I can afford to have a cell phone. It acts as my “land line” when I can’t and forwards to my email when I have a voice message. I have multiple numbers (because I have multiple google accounts) with varying area codes so that my friends and family that live out of state don’t have to dial a long distance number to contact me. All of these accounts autoforward into one master google account.

        Seriously, if google ever goes under, I’m so screwed.

  19. Shayna*

    This seems like an awful lot of debate for a topic that’s pretty common sense. If you have access to a (quiet! private!) landline, use that to conduct phone interviews. If you don’t, use your cell phone but follow AAM’s advice to again go somewhere quiet, private and without interruption. This time just make sure you have a decent signal. Call you mom or your best friend if you need to double check how well someone can hear you.

  20. Sergey Gorbatov*

    I lived in worked in different parts of the world, and when you are dealing with remote locations in Africa, landline might be the most sound option. At the same time, being a recruiter myself, on multiple occasions I had to interview people being at an airport or a hotel lobby from my cell phone, muting and unmuting it all the time. I would always advise the candidates that they will be noise, but then I cannot realistically demand from them that they use a landline. Yet, if I have a choice to call them on their mobile or a landline, I would always go for the latter.

  21. Ariel*

    I thought I’d throw out there that if an employer DOES insist on a landline, or your cell phone is just uniformly terrible and you don’t have access to a landline, and you have access to your college career center, lots of them have landlines and quiet rooms designated for phone interviews.

  22. Anonymous*

    I think this boils down to first impressions: candidate need to make the phone interview as easy as possible on their interviewer. Get the best reception possible – test it out with a friend first for an extended conversation. If you have access to a land line, use it. I do think as a society we are becoming used to lower sound quality so this is not a make or break. I would be annoyed to if I had to call a candidate back or vice versa. Would it cause me not to hire them? no. Would it be in my subconscious? Yes.

  23. A.L. Burns*

    It is NOT bad advice if you live in a place- as I do- that gets really crappy cell service. There are only a few spots that get reception, and they are iffy. It is also really weird to do an interview standing on a rock in your front yard with your left arm in the air…

    Seriously, use the phone that works the best, so you have one less thing to be stressed about!

  24. Piper*

    It’s definitely outdated advice. I don’t know anyone who has a landline anymore. I haven’t had one since 2000, and I have no idea where I would even find one at this point to conduct an interview.

    I’ve been interviewing (almost daily) with phone interviews for the past few weeks and I use my cell phone every time. I sit in front of my computer in my home office, with my notes in front of me. I have all my bars of service in there and made sure of it before I conducted the first interview there. I think the advice to test out your phone and the service in the area you plan to have your interview is much more up-to-date than “use a landline.”

  25. JuliB*

    Wow – let me come out on the side of landlines. I guess I’m a bit older (45), but I doubt I will ever get rid of my landline. I think that anyone who says that the call quality of a cell is the same as a landline is fooling themselves. I live outside a very big city, and find myself unhappy with the sound quality of the calls between my SO and I.

    My landline costs all of $10/month after I dropped EVERYTHING extra. I switched my long distance (never really use anyway due to cell) and local toll calls to a 3rd party provider who donates part of the profits to a charity I support. That runs between $3-9/month.

    If you don’t have it, it’s one thing, but if you do have a landline, I would suggest using it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Absolutely, if you have the choice, you’d be crazy not to use the landline. There’s so much chance that your sound quality will be better.

      I guess what I’m accepting, though, is that tons of people no longer have the choice. Which I consider a terrible tragedy, as I hate my cell phone.

      1. fposte*

        Because of the way we hire, we just do one round of interviews, and applicants unable to make a face-to-face interview we’re willing to interview over the phone. Those are the people who I think might be hurt by less effective connections, because it’s more of an obstacle to make yourself as “real” as the in-person candidates to whom you’re being compared if you’re sounding tinny.

        We’ll probably be switching to Skype for the next round, or at least offering it.

    2. Anonymous*

      I don’t even have a phone jack in my house! Can’t say that’s ever been a problem. I’ve never had a landline and never considered getting one because I have no need for it. In spite of living in a rural state, I have great reception on my droid. If you’re under 30, you are as likely to have a landline as you are to own a tape deck.

  26. Ray*

    Haha, that happened to me. Earlier this year when I was interviewing, most of the initial ones were phone interviews. My cell doesn’t get good service at my house. I’m one of the dinosaurs who still has a landline, and I encouraged the employers to call that one, but most forgot and called my cell (because that was the # at the top of my resume). Due to the vortex, as I call my house, I had a couple dropped calls. Sooo embarrassing.
    Definitely use a landline if you can. Otherwise, be in an area where your service is good.

  27. Stacey*

    I’m another pro-landline person having been the interviewer conducting a recent bout of phone interviews and having more than a few occasions where the quality was terrible or cut people off, or there was a delay which caused both of us to speak at the same time and over each other.

    Hated it.

    Of course, it was exacerbated by the fact that the largely 22-year old candidate pool would answer their phones, at our appointed interview time, with “yeah?”

    But that’s a vent for a different day. :)

    1. Jamie*

      When the different day comes for that vent, I have a stupid question.

      How are we supposed to answer our phones now? In the olden days we would answer with “hello?” – because ostensibly we didn’t know who was on the other end. But since caller id is the default now I just answer saying hello to the specific caller.

      But for calls where I don’t recognize the number I actually get tongue tied. “Hello?” “This is Jamie.” “Jamie speaking.” I never know what to say either on my work cell or my direct dial at my desk. I actually answered with “huh?” once because I was multitasking too many things and then tried to answer the phone and apparently forgot how grownups should speak.

      Personal cell is easy – it’s been a good ten years since I’ve answered a call without knowing who was on the other line.

      This is such a stupid question – I’m much more competent in other areas. Really, I am.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This is one of my favorite things about my blog — it sometimes leads to discussions of these weird nuances that I then discover that other people than me obsess over!

        I say “hello” if I’m at home and it’s a personal call and/or I don’t know who’s calling, and “This is Alison” if it’s a professional call.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Also, I remember calling my mom at work when I was a kid and hearing how she’d answer her phone just by saying her full name, first and last — not even “this is ___,” just the name. I’d always get a thrill to get this weird window on my mother’s professional life. Now it amuses me because it seems so formal.

          1. Henning Makholm*

            That’s how I was taught to answer phones — lift the receiver and speak my full name. Today, on cellphones, I’ll downgrade it to “hi, it’s Henning” if I can see the caller is someone I know well.

            Just plain “hello” has always irked me. It offers no way for caller to detect if they’ve misdialed, meaning that the first few sentences spoken will be taken up by affirming that the right person is at the other end anyway.

      2. Jenna*

        When I’m taking a professional call on my personal cell phone, even if I know who is on the other line via caller ID, I still say “Hello, this is Jenna” I answer exactly how I would answer a call from a coworker on a work phone, cause work/business is the intent of the call.

        I answer my desk phone however my job recommends, usually one of these 3 options: “Good morning/afternoon, this is Development”, “Good morning/afternoon, Development Office, Jenna speaking” or “Development Office, how may I help you?”

        And these aren’t stupid questions! I just kinda started doing these things and had my choices affirmed by bosses, so I continued doing it. No one really tells you what to do in these situations :)

      3. Liz in a library*

        I am terrible about just launching into conversation, no greeting at all, with people I know. Luckily, they all seem to take this in stride.

        Otherwise, at home I just use hello. I’ve also kind of wondered if this is still the thing to do (?).

        At work, if it’s internal, I answer with “This is Liz.” External gets the official long greeting: “University Library, this is Liz, how may I help you?”

      4. Kat*

        OMG I so get you. I am the same way (I think a bit of it is phone phobia or ‘stranger calling phone’ phobia.

        1. Kat*

          And I always answer hello, just a little bit goofier (I guess) when I know the person. I never initially state my name of it is a caller I don’t know. Once they ask ‘Is Kat there?’ then I say ‘speaking,’ or ‘this is she.’

  28. Anonymous*

    I happen to have a cell and land line. I use my cell number for initial contact and if the company wants to set up a phone interview, I always give them my land line number. That way we can avoid dropped calls and/or poor cell reception. Most phone interviews I have had, the HR contact or screener has asked for the best contact number. I also happen to have poor cell reception at my house anyway.

  29. kristin*

    I haven’t USED a landline in years, even though I pay for one. The cheapest cable/internet package in most cities I’ve lived in recently is the “Triple Play” (I know Comcast and Time Warner offer it, and I think AT&T and Verizon have similar packages) which has cable, internet, and a landline. It actually costs LESS to have all three rather than just cable and internet.

    So, I have a triple play plan- but I don’t have a phone hooked up to it, because it seems really crazy for the two members of my household to have three personal phone numbers between them. I still just use my cell phone or skype, and that works just fine.

    The only issue I’ve had with using a cell phone for a job search was once when I was talking to an HR person on the phone, my ear somehow placed a call to my stepsister, and I was suddenly talking to her instead of the HR person. But it wasn’t a big deal- I just called her back and apologized. I think expecting people to have (and use) landlines is a bit much, but it’s reasonable to expect them to be in a quiet place where they can successfully take the interview call.

    But this won’t work well for HR people who like to spring surprise phone interviews on people…

    1. class factotum*

      But this won’t work well for HR people who like to spring surprise phone interviews on people…

      Is that a common practice? I would be really annoyed if I got a phone call I was expecting and was being judged on whether I dropped everything to respond. Actually, unless it is my husband or a friend calling, I don’t answer my phone if I don’t recognize the number or if I don’t feel like talking, which is most of the time because I hate talking on the phone. So a surprise phone interview call would go straight to voicemail anyhow.

      1. Jamie*

        This happened to me once – I sent in a resume and HR left me a voice mail for me to call and schedule an interview.

        He specifically said he wanted me to call him to “schedule” an interview. When I did this he happened to have some free time so while I was on the phone how about we get the head of IT on speaker for a couple of questions.

        1.5 hours later I finally “scheduled” my interview. I got the job and after I’d worked with him for a while I told him that ambush was stupid – what if I didn’t have 1.5 hours at that time as it wasn’t scheduled? He said (and this proved to be true) he didn’t plan it, just happened to have time when I called so why not.

        He never did understand this is an assbackwards way to hire.

      2. Stephanie*

        Yes, this has happened to me before. Usually I just say I can’t talk extensively at the moment and schedule a later time to speak. And then there’s usually frantic prep time until the new time. I don’t quite get why employers do this.

  30. Andrea*

    I hate my cell phone, too. I sort of hate them in general, though. And I never had one at all until less than a year ago (and yes, I was absolutely the last one in my peer group to get one–I just turned 30). (And yep, I also had a corded phone in case the power went out.) I am firmly in the camp that too many people use cell phones to justify rude behavior, and it annoys me; frankly, it also angers me that so many use them while driving, which is a hazard that ought to be illegal, even with hands-free devices.

    I like the idea of not being reachable all the time. I often didn’t answer the land line, either–I had an answering maching that picked up after the first ring (and I always kept it on silent, so I never heard the ring), and I’d screen unless it was important. I work from home, and I don’t like to be bothered unnecessarily (and work never calls). In fact, I generally feel like just because someone called my phone is no reason for me to drop everything and come running (unless I knew about it beforehand). I’m not Pavlov’s dog and cannot be expected to react when I hear a bell. I would run my life over email if possible. I enjoy talking to friends and family on the phone, but I view the phone as a bother, and I sort of resent that everyone is practicallly required to be available at all times now.

    I’m just not so important–and neither are most people–that we need to have these damn phones with us all the time. Mine is almost always off and always on silent, because I don’t want it to ring while I am shopping or something. (Accuse me of being old if you want, but then consider that some of the worst and rudest cell phone users I have ever seen have been over 60.)

    But my husband has had one for work for the past couple of years (he was the last holdout there, too, because frankly, I don’t think it’s ethical for employers to require that you have a cell unless they want to pay for it, with some exceptions), and we moved a few months ago. And before we moved, we lived apart during the week for about three months because he’d already started his new job and we were buying a house in our new city. He was using all his minutes to talk to me, so he finally just gave me his old iPhone and upgraded his.

    I admit that I did like the idea of being able to get email when I’m not at home, which is how I communicate with and get assignments from my employer (I’ve never met them and have only spoken to them on the phone twice). Now that we’ve moved, it seemed unnecessary to get a landline. I still think it is better sound quality on a landline, even though we get a good signal here, too, but even without any extras, the landline costs about $30 per month, which just seems like money we could be spending elsewhere. I still haven’t decided, though, and I did bring the corded phone with me when I moved, so I may still get it hooked up. It just seems like one more hassle and one more bill that I’d rather not deal with, though. If I applied for a job and needed one for a phone interview, I don’t even know where I’d go. I doubt my neighbors have one.

    All of this (sorry) is just to say that some of us have adopted cell phones out of necessity, not because we particularly like them, and requiring that applicants have a landline is unreasonable, especially since fewer and fewer people have them these days. Either you want people to be reachable all the time, or you want them to have a landline. It’s not reasonable to require both, no matter how little a landline costs in some areas, and far too many employers seem to require just that.

    1. Jamie*

      I am firmly in the camp of employers not requiring a cell for work unless they are issuing it and paying for it. Period. I just think to expect anyone to be at your beck and call with their own cell on their dime is just rude.

      I’m also not a fan of the phone, I much prefer email or texting to a phone call for all work and 99% of personal communication.

      I will say, though, I’ve seen people feel like they are a slave to their phones and it’s not necessary. I refuse to get bluetooth in my car and I will not pick up while driving – it’s my one last refuge of privacy in my life and I’m not spending it on the phone. If it’s an emergency my family knows to ring twice and then I’ll pull over and call back.

      I’m always on call – but my users know to send an email for all non-emergencies and only to call if it’s truly urgent.

      I don’t feel bad about setting boundaries – because as technology continues to advance we could easily slip into 24/7 work mode – and as fun as that would be I’m not sure it’s healthy.

      Like when you’re taking a bubble bath and watching an old rerun on YouTube trying to relax and a work email comes through and you’re compelled to start troubleshooting some non-urgent issue just because you know about it…it really defeats the purpose of trying to unwind.

      1. Anonymous*

        I work for a company where not having a smart phone is the rough equivalent of wearing a sign stating that you do not care about your career. We are expected to be fluent in all new technologies so it is less of an issue of being reachable at all times and more of an image thing. It is a little unfair but that is just how it is. This is a financial company and not a tech company, by the way.

    2. ImpassionedPlatypi*

      “frankly, it also angers me that so many use them while driving, which is a hazard that ought to be illegal, even with hands-free devices. ”

      Andrea, how exactly is talking on your phone with a hands free device any more hazardous that talking to a passenger who is physically there? Should speaking to passengers in your car be illegal too? Should passengers speaking to each other, not the driver, be illegal? And what about singing along with the radio? Oh, or the incessant noises from GPS devices?

      I’m sorry, but people throw around the phrase “it should be illegal” way, waaaay too much. If you find something to be a distraction when you’re driving, then YOU don’t do it. Don’t assume that everyone else is just like you.

      1. Julie*

        Actually, the book “The Invisible Gorilla” by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris talks about exactly that. In fact, it IS more distracting talking on a hands-free phone compared to a live passenger. The passenger (unless they’re a child) presumably is also looking at the road and realizes when the driving situation has gotten difficult — someone pulled in front of you, hit a patch of heavy traffic, etc — and will either shut up or be understanding if you suddenly go quiet to deal with the road. Not so if you’re talking with someone on the phone, who can’t see the situation around your car.

        In terms of the radio, you might find yourself abruptly STOPPING your sing-along if you suddenly had to swerve to avoid something in the road or slam on your breaks. And with regards to the GPS, it’s been documented that people paying too much attention to the GPS can and will miss things like a detour sign, an unexpected obstacle, or a one-way street that’s not programmed into the machine. Why? Because they’re paying too much attention to the GPS and not enough on the road!

        Do I think all these things should be illegal? No, but that doesn’t mean they’re not hazards. Driving while sleep deprived has been shown to have as much impairment as driving over the legal alcohol limit, but I don’t want to make that illegal either, mostly because it would be impossible to enforce. The worst part is, most people who are distracted or impaired (by alcohol, sleep deprivation, a GPS, or talking on the phone) don’t realize they’re impaired! That’s the horrible part of it all! They think they’re perfectly focused on the road… until a crash or a near-miss proves that they’re not.

        1. ImpassionedPlatypi*

          My point was never that these things aren’t distracting at all, and therefore possibly hazardous. My point was more that there is such a differing range of what different individuals find distracting and to what degree that advocating they be made illegal is ridiculous and unnecessary.

          Hell, I would even suggest that some small distraction, in some cases at least, is more likely to make a person drive more safely than less. I know that if I’m driving a long distance with no one in the car with me and no good radio stations getting reception, I’ll sometimes get sleepy. Even in the middle of a sunny day, my eyes will start to droop because focusing solely on the road is really, really boring.

  31. Stephanie*

    Hmm, if you have one I say use it. When I was job hunting at my parents’ house, we had a land line as for the longest time we got terrible cell reception since we lived in an unincorporated part of the county. Only problem is, with four people using the same line, it was easy to miss messages, not check voicemail, etc. We also get a TON of telemarketers (I have no clue what is supposed to do as it hasn’t done crap since we signed up for it), so we tend to ignore calls from numbers we don’t recognize (usually on the Caller ID it’ll just pop up as City, State).

    Usually, I list my cell phone number as the point of contact and then tell the interviewer to contact me on my land line. Of course, from time to time, interviewers forget and call me on the cell.

  32. Anonymous*

    You can pry my land line from my cold dead fingers!

    I have a cordless, but also a corded one. Guess who had phone service after the hurricane and who did not? ;-D

    I don’t ask people to use a landline for my phone interviews, but if the calls keep getting dropped, there is little chance that they would move on to the next round.

    1. Anon*

      Does anyone miss the actual corded phone and twisting the cord in your fingers while you talked? Maybe that’s just reminiscent memories of high school and talking about the latest crush…

  33. Brian*

    Warning: Rant follows.

    This conversation is, at its core, a reflection of the changing values of our society. In some ways, the answer to the query as to whether or not the concept is “outdated” lies in how closely the company or interviewee in question aligns itself/him/herself with “modernist” values, and how interested in true communication it/he/she is. As a society, we tend to push for convenience, low immediate cost, ease of use, and immediacy of access over quality, durability, and longevity. We choose 128 kb/s MP3’s and streaming flash video because they’re cheap, immediate, and portable – in spite of their hugely inferior sound and picture quality (and in spite of the loss of communication thereby incurred). We choose fast food and Starbucks because they’re ubiquitous, convenient, and designed to appeal to our most basic tastes. As H. L. Mencken keenly observed: “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”
    For years, sound quality was the very quintessence of the telephone business. Companies touted the clarity of their lines as a major selling point (Anyone remember Sprint’s famous “pin drop” campaign when they introduced fiber optic transmission lines?). Telephone manufacturers switched from traditional carbon microphones to condensers, providing expanded frequency response for greater clarity. All of this was done with an eye towards a seemingly self evident truth. As Papa John continually reminds us, ‘Better ingredients, better pizza.” The analogy is universal. “Clearer voice transmission, clearer communication.” Increasingly, we are shifting our communication paradigm. Voice has taken a back seat to data and text. Accordingly, service providers and phone manufacturers have followed the market. There’s not a thing wrong with that. It’s capitalism.
    The goal, it would seem, of any interview is interpersonal communication. This is a multifaceted undertaking. Consider how much of a face-to-face encounter is non-verbal. Consider how much of a verbal exchange is communicated through inflection, emphasis, and even dialect. Both the interviewer’s and the interviewee’s choice of communication medium reflects the importance they place on the quality of the communication they expect to take place during the interview. Whether we see a movie in the theater, watch it on Blu-Ray on a well-calibrated HDTV, or watch it in broken up into 10 sections on You-Tube in a small window on our computer screen, the “content” is essentially the same; what changes is the detail available, and the impact on the viewer. Were I to be in the business of trying to make an impact on a potential employer via my personal presentation, I would attempt to show the highest regard for the quality thereof. As an interviewee, would I want to risk miscommunication at the hands of a poor cell connection? Am I willing to accept the inherent (relatively) poor sound quality that results from digital transmission? Not bloody likely. As an interviewer, should I expect the best possible presentation from a potential employee (or, perhaps more realistically, will I be more impressed by the candidate I don’t have to struggle to understand)? You’re darned tootin’.

    Is it “outdated” for an employer to expect clarity, time, and effort from a potential employee? Is “good enough” good enough? Is the technological savvy of a company’s HR department a basis for wanting to work there? These are questions that speak to values over practicalities. Ultimately, companies and employees who are matched on a values level will have the most successful relationships, which, in turn, may lead to success in other arenas.

    * stepping down off soap box…*

  34. Joey*

    I don’t care what kind of line you use as long as it’s clear enough that I can easily understand you, theres no more than slight background or signal noises and your phone isn’t dropping my calls more than once(maybe twice if I’m so far impressed). If your phone can’t do those things find one that can or at best you risk annoying me and at worst I give up on talking to you.

    1. samiam3*

      So you’ll give up on a person just because a call dropped due to no fault of their own? Phone calls can drop out of the blue in perfect reception area with perfectly working phone. Of course, it will always happen during the most important phone call too even if it only happens once in 100 phone calls.

      1. Joey*

        Yep. It’s sort of like having reliable transportation. One dropped call/ car problem=happens to everybody sooner or later. Twice=I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt if you’re otherwise an all star. Thrice=no excuse. It’s a regular problem that you should have fixed.

  35. Anonymous*

    Just don’t be like the candidate we had who answered his cell phone from a windy golf course at the scheduled interview time.

    Common sense, people, common sense!

  36. SG*

    I dislike my cell phones (both of them, but especially the Blackberry!) because of the sound quality and reception. Despite living in a big city, reception is quite often flaky for whatever reason. So I hang on to my landline for situations just like this and the fact a landline is the best option in a hurricane-prone area (I’m in my early 30s and am starting to feel old reading this!). Interviewing on the landline is so much less stressful — better reception and not getting dropped. That being said, lately most of my calls have taken place during work hours and as a cubicle dweller, I have no choice but to return the calls from a parked car in the garage. I let the interviewer/recruiter know when I call what the situation is and they’re usually fine with it, but I worry the entire time that if I move the wrong way, the call will be dropped. It’s definitely less stressful for me to use the landline.

  37. samiam3*

    It’s so easy – whenever I have a phone interview, I just mention to the person that I am on a cell phone and ask for (or confirm if I already have) a best call back number if the call does drop.

    I think showing that little courtesy goes long way and I’ve never had an issue.

  38. Anonymous*

    I’m 31 and I have never had a land line. Ever. And yet, this has had zero impact on my career. I’ve never had a company request that I call them from a land line and if one ever does then I will probably assume they are a bit behind the times.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just to be clear, I don’t think any companies are telling candidates to call them from a land line. I’m asking only in the context of giving advice to people.

  39. Weakness?Perfectionist*

    I’m 31 and believe it or not I don’t have a CELL phone. I hate them. Sometimes I’ve been in interviews where you have to fill out forms and I leave the cell phone# section blank-always get interesting looks from interviewers when they ask why I didn’t fill out that part. On the bright side, it sometimes leads to interesting conversation during the interview.

    1. Anonymous*

      I don’t mean this in an offensive way, but you may want to rethink your stance on cell phones. I’ve been on plenty of search committees and I can say with total confidence that while someone with no land line would get an interview, someone with no cell phone would not. I would think you were a luddite or some sort of political extremist. It’s not personal; that would just be the gut reaction. You can get a pay-as-you-go phone to avoid that

      1. GeekChic*

        How about YOU rethink YOUR stance on cell phones? I’m a sys. admin. and I don’t have a cell phone. Why? Because it is cheaper to own a land line where I live, I don’t text and I’m not a doctor who NEEDS to be on call all the time (my sys, admin. work isn’t life or death).

        1. Sarah*

          Well I’m not sure what kind of IT company puts up with that, but I know my company wouldn’t. I work for a national corp and anyone here without a cell phone wouldn’t be taken seriously and would not advance. Heck, even having a flip phone instead of a smart phone is enough to draw ridicule here. That’s just how it is in this type of environment.

        2. Jamie*

          I’m so bowed in admiration of someone in IT without 24/7 on-call duties I can barely respond.

          Except to say you, GeekChic, are now my hero.

  40. Cary*

    I wouldn’t mind either way so long as the reception is clear and there in a quiet place where they can give the interviewer their undivided attention. So not (for the love of god) whilst driving or some other distracting task.

  41. Bob G*

    I don’t think “use a land line” is bad advice because that is what it is..advice. If you don’t have a land line then you make the best of what you have.

    I’d be curious if all the people acting like this is horrible “advice” would choose to use a cell phone over a land line if they had access to both? If a land line is available you have to admit it eliminates a lot of possible issues with dropped calls, poor quality, etc.

    1. Liz in a library*

      I haven’t heard much of a response that this is horrible advice, just that it is irrelevant to many people and situations.

      And I agree with you; had I access to both, I’d use a landline. I just wouldn’t pay a monthly fee for a landline on the off chance I’d need it for a phone interview.

  42. Wilton Businessman*

    I’ve been thinking of this all day. I didn’t read the comments because I didn’t want it to influence my response.

    When I call you for an interview I want clear communication and your undivided attention. If we have a good conversation going on and your cell phone drops or runs out of power, we have a problem continuing with our conversation. Same thing goes for people on a land line and have their TV blaring in the background or your clacking away at the keyboard while I am asking you questions.

    I talk to people all the time on the phone. When I can’t tell if it’s a cell phone or not, I don’t care. If you get good signal at your house and you want me to call you there, great. If you have crappy service at your house and you want me to call you there, I am going to get frustrated and somebody else is going to get the job.

    I look at a job interview as a sales job. I’m trying to sell you on my company, you’re trying to sell me on you. I am giving this process 110% of my attention, I am just asking that you do the same. Don’t tell me 30 minutes in that you have to take your dog for a walk (it happened). Don’t be researching my company online as I’m asking you questions (it happened). And certainly don’t be talking to me in the car on a bluetooth where I can hear every passing car and fire truck (has happened multiple times). Those situations tell me you don’t give a crap if you get this job or not, and guess what, neither do I.

    1. Anon*

      I will definitely have to re-address usage of my Bluetooth. Many have noted how they pick up so much background noise, of which I was unaware (and I have called and “tested” it with relatives, who never mentioned this). It’s too bad, because I loved the fact that it gives me the ability to take notes during the call….holding it shoulder-to-ear sometimes disconnects calls ~

    2. Anonymous*

      If you have crappy service at your house and you want me to call you there, I am going to get frustrated and somebody else is going to get the job.

      I’m assuming your referring to someone using a cell phone at their home. If so read on…

      That’s rather lousy on your behalf. Let’s say the person only uses a cell phone and is home when you call (because everything else in other situations apparently distracts you too much as well). You’re going to have to deal with it. The person is probably giving you more than 110% of their attention to you because they are interested in working for your company. To let technology, or rather its time-to-time faults, stand in the way, then I don’t know who would want to work for you. It seems like you are not willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt, and you are giving yourself way too much importance, as if you can’t be bothered. I would give to see the shoe on the other foot in your situation someday.

      Just a note: While you do have good reason to be upset with those who are obviously not giving the phone conversation/interview full attention – such as walking the dog or researching the company – this comment pertains to the dropped call/bad signal comment.

  43. Vicki*

    It’s really not a question of “land line” vs “cell phone” vs VOIP or Skype or whatever you’re using. It’s a question of courtesy.

    Are you in a quiet place? No dogs, children, open windows, television, radio, noisy co-workers. Do you have a reliable connection? Try to use a headset if possible so that there’s less interference from other sounds. Please don’t use the speaker phone.

    If you do use a cell phone, find a place with good signal and _stay there_. Don’t walk around. Don’t call from your car on the freeway or from a noisy public park, a bus stop, along a city street, or from a train or bus. Don;t sit beside an open window. Don’t fergashsakes _type_. Find a quiet place.

    Not an interview, but once, in a company conference call, I swear one of the people had birds and monkeys in the background. He was, from the sounds, at the zoo. Other times, I’ve heard babies, barking dogs, and other unnecessary distracting noise.

    Consider “dropped calls” to be a catch-all for “it’s in your best interests to make this call go as well as possible. Control it.”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “Once, in a company conference call, I swear one of the people had birds and monkeys in the background.”

      Just wanted to repeat that, because it is awesome.

      1. Jamie*

        That IS awesome. One of my consultants has 40 birds – so calls with her make me feel like I’m in an aviary – but I’ve never had monkeys.

        I really want a call involving monkeys.

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      ‘Consider “dropped calls” to be a catch-all for “it’s in your best interests to make this call go as well as possible. Control it.”’
      Two awesome lines in one response, brilliant! You are at a disadvantage as the person being interviewed, why not give yourself every advantage and control the things you can control?

  44. Coral Sheldon-Hess*

    I think that “use a landline, if possible” is great advice. Having been on the interviewer end, using a convener-type speakerphone, I assure you, the candidates who could hear us clearly and whom we could hear clearly had an advantage. Not a huge one, because we didn’t judge them on the quality of their connection, but the better connection still helped people: they didn’t have to ask us to repeat questions, we didn’t have to ask them to repeat (or, worse, try to fill in missing words from) their answers; we were all able to communicate clearly.

    As an interviewee, two and a half years ago, I did my best to use a landline when I could; I was lucky to be working at an internship in a place where they would let me use the phone, so I had the opportunity, for at least some interviews. I had a higher level of confidence in those interviews, no question.

    It’s great advice, as long as you include “when possible.” Not everyone has a landline, as others have suggested. But if you do, for goodness sake, USE IT.

  45. Tami*

    I have a land-line with a corded phone in case of emergencies. If there is ever a large-scale emergency, cell phone towers get completely jammed with people trying to make calls. The only way to get through sometimes is using a land-line.

    Also, what happens if there is a blackout and you have no bars on your cellphone…and no way to charge it? That happened 8-10 years ago (along with the above scenario) when there was a major part of the US power-grid that went down.

    Additionally, I do a lot of phone hearings for unemployment. The practically mandate a land-line for the phone hearings because cell phone call quality can be so poor. In fact, I have been in hearings in which people have lost their case simply because they did not use a land-line and the hearing officer could not hear them due to poor sound quality on their cell phone. They could hear the hearing officer, but the reception was not good the other way.

    Finally, I work in an industry in which faxes are prevalent. Even in this day and age, not everyone has the ability or the knowledge to access the internet, so we have to have faxing capability in order to run the business.

    I guess my point is that people under a certain age don’t necessarily see a value in having a land-line or a fax, when, in fact, it can be downright necessary from time to time. There’s a reason that businesses generally have land-lines and faxes at their offices and not only cell phones. While you may not feel the need to have one at your home, there are certain instances in which using a land-line is appropriate if not preferable. One is wise to take that into consideration, rather than scoff at people that they feel are in the stone age.

    1. Melissa*


      Please don’t take this the wrong way…

      People do have faxes.. it’s usually called E-Fax now, or they have a fax in their printer. I have NEVER in 10 years, after interviewing with countless people (I’m pretty selective about jobs) been asked to fax anything. Always e-mail. I”m 30.

      In fact, I feel like someone who is not savy in using e-mail is missing great opportunities, why do you think they have retraining for people who have been laid off?? They get taught how to send resume’s etc.

      As for the hearings.. seriously? That would be an exception.
      See below… same thing for me with cell phones. I have never used a land line. In fact I am in sales, and have had about 10, 2 hour + assessments done over the pjone- CELL phone. I have never had an issue with those either.

      I don’t think people “scoff”… but it does feed the cliche that if you are 40+ and use a land line or fax your resume that you don’t know how technology/compuers work.. and would need to be trained, therefore not a good fit. Once again, that is why they have classes…

      1. Anonymous*

        It may be true that there are some exceptions where a fax, land line, etc. must be used. In my experience living in both rural and urban areas and at big and small companies, those exceptions are rare. We don’t even have a fax machine in my office. We are ALL issued iPhones and Androids upon hire (the company does pay for these and we are not required to respond to things outside of normal work hours). Everyone regardless of age knows how to use the Internet and email. Why? Because we operate in the year 2011. I understand that change is scary for some people but it is better to embrace new tech and stay relevant rather than resist it.

  46. Melissa*

    Over the last 10 years I have ALWAYS used a cell phone. Never had any issues, was never not asked for an in person interview…

    If there was a technical issue I would say the call was dropped. It was NEVER held against me.

    Who the heck has a land line these days? Not people in their 20’s-30’s! In fact I don’t know anyone in my circle of friends who has a land line.


    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, I’m in my 30s and I have a landline and a cell, and I know other people my age who do too :)

      People tend to assume that what they see around them is representative of how everyone is, but that’s not always true!

      1. Melissa*

        My point was that advising someone to have a land line for interviews is outdated.
        It’s so expensive…
        So many people are switching to Skype, Vontage.. because ther are sick of paying a lot of money for international calls and calls outside of their call area.

        I have had a call drop etc.. usually we laugh about it and move on. It breaks the ice.

        I’m just not undesratnding what the big issue is here. You know your cell phone reception, and where you should call from.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Oh yeah, I’m convinced on that point. In fact, my column for U.S. News on Monday is about outdated career advice, and this is going to be front and center!

      2. Dawn*

        I have a landline, too, and I stubbornly refuse to get rid of it. I feel that cell phone reception and call quality isn’t the best. I guess my landline is my security blanket. :)

    2. Anonymous*

      Same here. I don’t know anyone with a land line. Until recently, I didn’t even have one on my desk. I had to use my company issued cell phone. That seems to be a new trend as well. I wonder how much longer it will be before businesses start cutting out their land lines…

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t think the mid-to largish businesses will cut them out – they are too useful for not only external calls, but internal and intercoms – and the conference call features built in, etc.

        I would hate to have to pick up my cell to call someone in another department when I can hit a couple of buttons on my desk phone.

        That said POTS lines are already a thing of the past, for the most part. I have two remaining which I keep for emergencies (so no matter what happens to the data lines we always have a couple of dedicated lines.) Otherwise the service for either PRI or VoIP phones is generally so much cheaper and the cool features of in house management (so you can assign and move lines and extensions, set up new faxserver lines, etc. without having to call the phone company) just make them so wicked useful I can’t see businesses doing away with them.

        At least I hope not – I’ll cry if my knowledge of the architecture and admin of PRI systems becomes obsolete any time soon.

    3. Wilton Businessman*

      I have a land line. In fact, it’s mandated by my company that I have two methods of communication during an emergency.

      1. violet*

        My company has a similar requirement for people with my job. Me and every single one of my coworkers carry two cell phones when we need to.

  47. SB*

    Thanks for all the thoughtful exchange…I’m surprised no one has brought up the issue of cellphone (un)safety, esp for longer calls. Try Jean Gallick’s website,, for hazards as well as solutions.

    Good luck to all!

  48. Wilton Businessman*

    Laugh at me with my landline. I have phone service and dial-up internet during a hurricane.

  49. Lina Souid*

    I used a land line for a phone interview recently. I ran around like a crazy person 30 minutes before the scheduled time collecting all the headsets so no one would try to call someone or answer the phone. Probably I was being over cautious because everyone knew I was interviewing on the phone– but I leave nothing to chance.

  50. Work It*

    Whoo whee. I’m in trouble. I don’t have a land line, I have a decrepit old cell phone, I live in a neighborhood with atrocious coverage that often requires me to go outside to have a conversation. That would be okay if it weren’t for the fact that I live less than a block from a major AFB with giant planes and fighter jets flying by every 10 minutes. Good times.

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