I am asking this question on behalf of my girlfriend. She recently applied for a job at Macy's (a department store). After about a week, they wanted to schedule an over-the-phone interview, before doing an in-person interview. So they scheduled it, and she was nervous but I told her it would be fine. It wasn't. When they called the first time, they asked to clarify on how to spell her name. She spent about 15 seconds not saying anything, and then hung up the phone. After about a minute, they called her back, and I told her to say that the line got disconnected, in an attempt to recover the interview. They answered and proceeded on to the interview. Then they asked (and I'm paraphrasing here) if she uses technology. Again, she got real quiet, was like that for about 15 seconds, and then hung up the phone. They did not call back at that point.

We spent a couple of weeks training for the phone interview. I would call her from a random number at different points during the day, and ask some normal interview questions, and she was fine. It was only when it came to an interview that mattered that she wasn't able to do it.

So my question is, how can I help her get over this social/over-the-phone anxiety that she's experiencing?

  • 6
    I'm somewhat phone-shy myself, but not to that degree. I think that's more a psychiatry or support-group kind of question than a workplace question.
    – keshlam
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 1:09
  • Has she had face to face interviews before and if so do you know if she had any problems with those? From your question it sounds like you were listening in on the whole thing. Is it possible that this could have affected her at all? (I personally would find my boyfriend being next to me during a phone interview awkward and distracting)
    – Alpar
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 11:22
  • 3
    This is not a duplicate. This deals specifically with phone interviews.
    – Eric
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 18:03
  • Before the interview make her listen to music. If she is religious let her read something from her religious book (bible, Quran ..etc)
    – Jack Twain
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 18:53

3 Answers 3


Aside from going to a professional to help with the social anxiety, I think the only thing that will really help her to improve is more experience. I believe most people who have suffered from any form of social anxiety will agree that the only thing that will really help is more exposure to social situations.

The anxiety perhaps is more specific to an interview scenario. In that case I think it's even more important to just get more interview experience. I know from experience that it only really gets better with practice. (I can't really seriously recommend this but a time or two I've taken a couple shots before phone interviews)

She needs to keep in mind that these are just normal people she's talking to!


If the role she is applying for does not deal with much phone communication, she could just explain that she is not comfortable speaking on the phone and ask if she could do the initial screen in person.


There is no way you can help her get her over-the-phone anxiety if you are not digging any deeper into why she is having it:

  1. Do you know what went on through her mind before she decided to hang up? Did her mind shut down? Was she experiencing a panic attack? What is the SPECIFIC event that triggered the panic attack, assuming that she was having a panic attack?

  2. Does she have issues with her self-confidence? People with a low level of confidence cope more poorly with the unexpected.

  3. Is she a perfectionist? People with perfectionism issues would be the bane of my life as a professional - I need them to get their tasks done regardless of what goes wrong and have the good sense to escalate to me in a timely way if what goes wrong is serious enough that they need reinforcements. Perfectionists tend to shut down when the unexpected happens. Very few things go 100% smoothly.

  4. Does she have issues initiating communication with strangers?

Her slamming of the phone could be not just one personal issues but several related or unrelated personal issues converging on her at once in fractions of a second.

Without taking the time to understand what makes her tick, I very much doubt that your attempts to help will have any result.

She certainly needs to develop the appropriate coping skills, but these skills must be customized for her issues and they must fit enough of her personality that she is comfortable applying them and even better, these coping skills become part of her.

I surmise that neither you nor her are independently wealthy enough to pay out of pocket for professional help. I suggest that you start googling for "interview anxiety" and look up for non-profits that may help her practice interviewing. Look for participation in such activities as Toastmaster that may help her develop confidence. Some non-profits may conduct free out-of-door boot camp activities that may help her develop better coping skills and higher confidence.

Even if she gets professional help, much of her salvation will lie in her own hands. Professional help makes it easier and can be invaluable but it's just that - help. The rest of it is hers.