Phone Interview Call

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Phone interviews, more commonly referred to by interviewers as a “phone screen” are often the preliminary step to getting an in office interview. Your resume was good enough to get the attention of the hiring manager and at that time they want to discuss your skills and history a little further before bringing you in for the actual interview. Phone screens are used as a way to identify undesirable candidates quickly without having to meet in person, which can take valuable time from both parties. As a result, it is of the utmost importance that as a job seeker you successfully sell yourself to a hiring manager or recruiter over the phone.

In a manner very similar to an in-person interview, the interviewer will be looking for a few indicators that you are a quality potential candidate for the position. But what are these indicators? They will surely vary from person to person but here are a few general things that recruiters are looking for during phone interviews:

  • Candidate attentiveness – How are they responding to my questions? Responses will always vary amongst candidates, however how the way questions are answered are important. A good indicator of the quality of the candidate can come from their ability to answer directly and naturally, rather than using a seemingly canned response.
  • Candidate reasoning – Are the answers that are given clearly thought out and logical? Like the attentiveness a candidate has to questions there should be a natural yet logical progression to the answers they give and the stories they tell.
  • Skills / Experience – Do these match up with the position I am recruiting for, what other skills or experiences do they possess that may be transferrable?
  • Attitude – Tone used during the conversation can be a huge indicator of the quality of the candidate and can most definitely indicate personality traits. For example whether they come across as Friendly / Positive / Reliable / Over-eager / Argumentative / Aggressive / Etc.

Keeping in mind that recruiters and hiring managers are doing phone screens all the time, the use of certain indicators to make decisions about candidates comes naturally after a while. Even though they can learn quite a bit about a candidate in a few minutes it does not mean that all phone screens will be quick. Some may last for a long time, this may mean peaked interest in you as a candidate, but there is no guarantee that you will be getting the in person interview as a result. The screen may be used to really vet you as a candidate as far as your skills and experience go, so be ready to answer the questions poised on a phone screen just like you would in an in person interview.

In any case, phone screens are interviews, so as a candidate you need to be at your best during them. A few quick tips to help you get through those phone interview a little better:

  • Stand up and smile! – This may sound weird because you are on the phone and the interviewer cannot see you but smiling will help to sound more positive and engaged, which the interviewer will take notice of. Many of the speeches that you see involve the speaker standing, while this is beneficial for the audience and their ability to see the speaker, it also allows for the speaker to be more engaging as they are more likely to be upbeat and focused.
    **Try looking into a mirror while you are on the phone interview.
  • Know your answers – Just like in a person to person you will get the common interview questions, know your answers to these and know your resume like the back of your hand. Hesitation to answer questions can be more noticeable over the phone.
    • Know how you will answer questions about your strengths and weaknesses, what you liked/disliked about your former job, what your ambitions for the next 5 years are, and what your interests in the position you applied for are.
    • Do your research and know as much about the industry, company, and specific interviewer as possible and know how to link that information to your experiences while you tell your story.
  • Have any documents you may need at the ready – This means have your resume and the job description available to you for reference whenever you may need it during the interview.
  • Give your interviewer your full attention – Do not multi-task during the interview, it will be noticed by the interviewer. This includes driving, its just not safe to do.
  • Engagement is the key to your success – The last thing you want to do is sound tired, uninterested, or unknowledgeable. Preparation is going to help you with this. If the phone call caught you off guard and you are not prepared to interview or will not be able to give it your full focus, ask for the interview to be scheduled for a new time.

Don’t forget to show your interviewer that you appreciated the chance to speak with them, make sure to thank them for the opportunity to speak with them and ask about next steps before you finish the call. A timely follow up from you (dependent on the expected response time from them) should come within a few days as a quick email reaffirming your interest in the position at their company and further inquiry about next steps.

Additional Resources:

Phone Etiquette Tips –
Phone Interview Do’s and Don’ts – Diane Gottsman
Video Interviewing – Walrath Recruiting, Inc. via Career Chameleon


By: Renee Walrath