Job searches require phone lessons for text-happy students

Lackluster phone skills can be a stumbling block for recent graduates in the job market.

With piles of resumes and cover letters waiting to be sifted through, employers more and more weed out applicants with quick phone calls. That can mean trouble for recent college graduates with overdeveloped texting thumbs.

Teens and college students rely on text messages and eMails as their primary form of communication with friends, making phone calls somewhat of a relic in the college demographic, according to a national survey.

Companies aren’t impressed by timely texts, however, so recent graduates looking for work need to know the finer points of actually speaking to someone, not typing to them, said Lesley Mitler, founder and president of Priority Candidates, a New York-based company that counsels students in their job searches.

Mitler, whose expertise was in executive job searches before starting Priority Candidates in 2009, said tutoring recent college graduates on the do’s and don’ts of phone interviews has become a central part of her job-hunting process.

Too much filler, not enough annunciation, frequent babbling: these are the definite don’ts of phone interviews, and Mitler often sees the faux pas among out-of-work 20-somethings.

“This is not a generation of people who use the phone as a regular form of communication at all,” she said, adding that almost-exclusive texting and eMailing has “eroded” students’ communication skills. “It’s a skill that they seem to be way behind in, but you’re going to have to talk on the phone if you’re in the business world.”

Mitler tells her clients to avoid cell phones for official interviews – landlines are clearer and less prone to static interruption – and to have their resume and notes in front of them. If a student doesn’t make an impression within the first 10 minutes of the phone call, he or she has likely lost their chance.