7 Tips to Ace the Phone Screen

phone interview

Congrats!  You’ve secured a phone interview.  This could be the first step to getting the job you’ve been after.  So, what do you do next?

As with any interview, you’ll want to spend time preparing. Even though you won’t need to put on your best suit and travel to the office, the phone screen is critical – it’s the gateway to getting your foot in the door (literally). Don’t take it lightly just because it’s not face-to-face.

Here are 7 tips for acing the phone screen and ensuring you get invited for a follow-up interview:

  1. Remember the purpose.  A phone screen has one primary objective: Weed out the people who will not progress to the next stage of the hiring process.  Many phone screens are conducted by Recruiters who want to ensure they only pass along viable candidates to the Hiring Manager.  Recruiters usually have a large pile of resumes and will have no problem passing you over if they sense any red flags.
  2. Research your interviewer.  Linked In has made it possible to get a snapshot of most professionals who you might interact with in a job search.  Do your homework. Being over-prepared is always better than the alternative.
  3. Use your notes (but don’t read).  One major benefit of the phone screen is you can have your resume, questions, and other information on hand.  This can be helpful if you tend to get nervous, so by all means, use it.  However, avoid reading or coming across scripted.  One objective of any interview is to connect with the person that you’re speaking with.  No one will connect with a robot.
  4. Prepare for the core questions.  The Recruiter is trying to narrow down the candidate list.  One question that makes this easier is the salary question – if you’re reqs are significantly out of range, they’ll toss your resume into the “no” pile.  Find out as much as you can about what the market pays and if possible, general salaries at the company for this level/role (try vault.com, salary.com, glassdoor.com or better yet, use your network). Other common answers to prep include why you’re interested in the job/company, how your skills/interests are a match, and when you can start.
  5. Be aware of your phone presence.  Many people come across better in person than over the phone, so be aware of what your tone and words are relaying. It helps to keep answers relatively brief on the phone (you may only have about 20 minutes).  Also, smile and amp up your enthusiasm since you lose out on the ability to communicate interest through eye contact and other body language.
  6. Prepare appropriate questions.  The Recruiter will have some info about the job, however, since they likely aren’t in the department that you’re applying for, their knowledge of the role at a detailed-level is limited.  Always have questions ready, but keep them appropriate for the person with whom you’re speaking.  Ask what he/she likes about the company, the next steps in hiring process, and when they’re looking to fill the role.
  7.  Be ready anytime.  When in a search, be prepared for a phone call at any time, even after business hours.  If the incoming number on your cell phone is unfamiliar, it may be a Recruiter, so answer in a professional manner.  If you’re out with friends or in a noisy restaurant, you may want to let the call go to voice mail rather than risk a poor first impression.

Happy hunting!

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