Women winning phone screen interview

Interviewing 101-Crushing the Phone Screening Interview

One Phone Call-Are You a Helloooo-Oh-Yes! Or a No-Thanks, Goodbye?

What stands between you and your next career opportunity is a phone call. Typically, it’s a recruiter on a mission: screening candidates that might fit their client’s open role. You could wing it. On a good day, all goes well. But to avoid common blunders, it’s best to take a few minutes to plan the conversation. This article explores a few easy steps for interview success; how to dodge the potholes and land a fabulous first impression.

We think of interviewing as a progression of steps, much like building any relationship. Let’s say you just met someone, and you feel the butterflies of anticipation dancing on the inside because you’re unsure of what will come next. Will they like you? Will you like them? What kinds of questions will they ask me? The unknown can create jitters, and that’s normal. The feeling can be similar when a recruiter reaches out to you about an exciting new job opportunity and they invite you to have a phone interview.

Let’s walk through the steps, so you feel comfortable and prepared and can rock the preliminary phone screening.

Before the Interview

Promptly Respond

Like most forms of correspondence, it is a best practice to respond within 24 hours of receiving an interview request. Good opportunities are always competitive, and recruiters search for the most qualified talent. If you wait too long to respond, you may miss your chance.

Confirm the Details

This means understanding and knowing the details of your phone interview; the date, the time (including the specific time zone), who is interviewing you, the number they’ll be calling from, and any additional contact information you may need in case the call is disconnected unexpectedly. If you’re unsure of anything, never hesitate to reach out and ask the recruiter – that is what they’re there for!

Do Your Research

Although the phone interview is a preliminary screening to see if your skills qualify for the role, to up your odds of interview success, prepare, prepare, prepare. There have been too many cases where candidates make the mistake of winging a phone interview and struggling to answer simple questions. Not only does it feel embarrassing, but it also reduces their chances of moving on to the next round. Be sure to:

  • Review the job description in full detail 30 minutes before the interview so it’s fresh in your mind.
  • Review the company’s LinkedIn page and website to explore recent news updates, read employee testimonials, and scroll through social media. Get a sense of who the team is, the company’s mission, and the overall vibe. Do you think you might have something in common with the culture, core values, or perhaps charities they support?
  • Research the person interviewing you on LinkedIn or the company’s website. If you share a common interest, you can mention it during the interview to break the ice.

Plan for a Quiet Space to Focus

Finding a place that eliminates potential distractions will be easier if you live alone. If you live in a home with other people, it is recommended to lock yourself in a room that’s away from people and pets. If you’re at work during the phone interview, you may need to book a conference room, find a coffee shop nearby, or settle for your car on a quiet street. Wherever you go, give yourself a day or two to decide the best location. That way, you can place your attention entirely on the interview.

During the Interview

Put on a Winning Smile

The person on the other end of the phone can tell if you don’t sound interested or enthusiastic about the role. Naturally, when you smile, the tone of your voice jumps up and creates a happier, upbeat sound. You may appear bored, tired, or disinterested when you don’t smile. You’re interviewing for a job, so make the best first impression! Practice standing in front of the mirror and smiling at yourself. Though it may feel silly initially, you will sound more natural on the other end of the line to the recruiter.

Count to Three and B-R-E-A-T-H-E

When excited about a new opportunity, many people have a habit of rushing into their answers and jabbering that the listener has difficulty remembering what was said. Don’t be afraid to allow brief moments of silence – letting the conversation breathe is okay. When your interviewer asks a question, count to three before answering them to (1) ensure they’re finished speaking, (2) collect your thoughts, and (3) slow down your response. The most important thing is to ensure a smooth transition so everything is heard and understood.

Come Prepared with Questions

Always come prepared with five questions that relate to the job you’re interviewing for and the company. You don’t have to ask all five questions, but having a variety prepared enables you to pick the most appropriate and relevant one or two based on the conversation. Avoid asking about salary, benefits, or PTO before they mention them first.

Always end the interview by asking, “What are the next steps?” and “What is your timeline?” They might not always have a tight timeline, but a good interviewer will outline and share their process.

After the Interview

Write Down Important Notes

Was there something noteworthy about the role that you heard, such as office hours, salary, reporting structure, and measures of success? Jot your notes down soon after the interview while it’s fresh in your mind. Document the answers to your questions and assess if other questions come to mind.

Always Say Thank You

At the end of the phone interview, send the recruiter a thank you email within the hour. You can leave a bonus impression when your name is fresh on the recruiter’s mind. Even though typing a simple email may seem insignificant, it goes a long way. Only 57% of candidates send thank you notes after an interview, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! The five minutes it takes to send a thank you email can lead to a life-changing new career opportunity.

Here is a sample.

Dear [Name], 

Thank you for speaking with me today about your (insert title here) position. It was a pleasure to learn more about the role and your company. I very much aligned with [insert one need they expressed for the part or something about the culture or opportunity that you learned in the conversation.] 

I can see myself as a valuable member of your team.

Please let me know if there is anything additional that I may provide. Otherwise, I look forward to hearing from you soon.

All the best,

Your Name

Your Opportunity to Shine: Hello and Go!

With a bit of preparation and a few simple follow-up steps, you can set yourself apart on the journey toward your next-level career move.

About Equiliem

Equiliem (www.equiliem.com) believes in empowering success. It’s our job to cultivate relationships that connect people and employers in a way that is inclusive, intelligent, and allows both to thrive. 

Across the U.S., leading companies in healthcare, government, light industrial manufacturing, professional services, and energy rely on us for their workforce solutions. Our recruiting and HR services include contract and direct hire staffing, Payrolling/EOR, Independent Contractor Compliance, and Managed Services.

Since 1995, we’ve helped shape our industry. Today, we continue to research, ask questions, and continuously enhance the candidate journey and client experience.