If you’ve been seriously searching for a Federal position you may have 5-10 applications in the pipeline and it may have been 6 months since you applied for any one of them. And then one day, the phone rings. The first impression of you as a candidate will start the moment you pick up that call.

The person scheduling your interview may be the administrative assistant in your office-to-be or it may be your future boss. Regardless of who it is, how you respond to that first call is your first impression. While you may not be getting any points towards the hire during this call, you can lose them quickly.

Here’s three quick tips to make a good first impression:

  1. Contact number
  2. Excitement
  3. Flexibility

Contact number

Make sure to give a contact number that is the best one to contact you. One hiring manager recalled the time she called a candidate to set up an interview only to be told, “I’m at work right now, could you call me back?” Rest assured, that candidate wasn’t called back.

If you’re at work and can’t take a call – let it go to voicemail.Your friends may not leave voicemails anymore, but hiring managers will.

The benefit of letting that first call go to voicemail is that you’ll be able to gather information like the name of the agency and the position that they’re calling about. Again, if you are like most people and have 5-10 applications in the pipeline, you’ll want this information to be able to go back to USAJobs to refresh yourself on what the job is about before returning the call.


When you answer the phone, you’ll want to at least sound like you know what position they are calling about (see previous advice about voicemail). Watch your tone of voice – remember, people can hear smiles. From the scheduler’s perspective, there nothing better to hear it in your voice how excited you are that they called.

Assuming you haven’t already gathered information from a voicemail, take notes on what position they’re calling you for and the agency that they are from.


Finally, be as available and flexible as possible when setting up an interview time. Depending on the position and the people involved, their availability may be extremely limited. Unless you have a very compelling reason not to accept one of the times offered, you don’t want your interviewers to be inconvenienced.

On top of that, hiring managers may be on a very tight timeline to make a decision. If a hiring manager has to make a selection by the end of the week (it happens), those who couldn’t make the interview that week will be out of the running no matter how amazing they may have been.

If you absolutely cannot make any of the times they’re offering be honest about why. Suggest alternatives. An example from my own life:

I got a call to come to a face-to-face interview the following week. The following week just so happened to be the week I would be spending every day in front of a room of students to deliver training. Given that the agency was on the farthest away an agency could be, there just was no way I could make it to even a super early or super late interview.

I explained my situation. I told them how disappointed I would be not to be able to make it to meet them. I offered that perhaps we could do a phone interview during lunch the week they wanted and I’d be happy to come in whenever they were available the week afterwards (even though it was Thanksgiving week). I also mentioned I completely understood if that wouldn’t work for them.

Ultimately, we had a lunch time call the following week, I met them for a face-to-face interview on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and…got the job.

In close, remember, something as simple as that very first contact with the hiring agency can leave an impression that can color how your interviewers perceive you. Consider that first call an interview that you don’t even know you’re having.