Phone Screens – They can Help or Hinder Your Job Search – How to Rock a Phone Screen in 7 Steps

Christine Ramage, CHRP

Christine Ramage, CHRP

As the old saying goes, if you fail to plan you plan to fail; here are some ideas on planning and preparing before a telephone interview:

1) Before the call, as part of your homework, review your resume, ensure you are familiar with the job description and ensure you have a ‘success story’ in your back pocket for all the notable requirements of the job. You will be asked for examples so have them ready.

2) During the interview listen to the questions being asked, and answer them. Sounds simple, but an interviewer is looking for you to be able to demonstrate specific skills and abilities in an applicable way. Before you answer the question identify what base skill or competency the interviewer is trying to see if you have, then craft your answer to respond to the question showcasing you in a specific example. Questions are most often behaviourally based meaning the recruiter will ask you to ‘tell me about a time…. Respond by showcasing yourself through a specific instance; don’t be vague.

3)  If you’re asked a question you can’t answer, or don’t have experience relating to don’t be afraid to address it head on by stating you may not have had direct experience in the past – but make sure to state transferrable skills or experiences you do have in its place and how you can stretch or grow into that competency.

4) Keep it light and brief. Usually, unless you are speaking with the actually hiring manager recruiters tend not to have a lot of long term, strategic information on the role so save the heavy hitting questions for actual hiring manager during a face to face interview. Good questions to ask the recruiter are:  why the position is vacant?  How long it has been vacant for? What the next steps would be, and the timeline for the hiring decision. You can also ask about the reporting relationships, and the focus of the role or what key projects and initiatives will be key during the ramp up- don’t ask anything that is already stated in the job posting- it can make it look like you didn’t do your homework. Do your home work- research the role, the department, the history of the role, the major accomplishments by the company and anything of note in the recent news… be prepared to explain why you want to work for that specific employer and why you are a good fit for the role as well as the culture.

5) You may be asked for salary expectation and it’s a good idea to have a ballpark figure you feel comfortable sharing- if you are unsure of how to price yourself there are salary surveys and ranges available online to research, but remember these sometime reflect total compensation and may roll in benefits and variable salaries in them options. You can also say what your current salary is and that your comfortable staying in that range (if its true) and it’s a similar role.

6) Remember that the person on the other end needs to like you and also needs to take good notes so be conversational, friendly but don’t speed talk their ear off because they may miss some important info and be hung up by all the filler conversation.

7) Last but not least, embody the role; you need to sell that YOU can DO the role… Own it, be confident, and be prepared. Being prepared also includes being physically ready to take the call; ensure you have cell service and a charged battery, have water available and have your resume, and job description open in front of you in addition to any notes you may want to reference. Remember, you only have once chance to make a first impression- good luck with your career search!

Related Pages:

Cold Calls: Why Are They So Scary? by Michelle Yao

Agony and Elation: Searching for Work in a Turbulent Market by Nicole Davidson

Convince me That I Want to see you Again; Let your Personality Shine in Every Interview by Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

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