Hiring practices have changed over the years, and one of the biggest indications of this is the amount of phone screening being done now. Hiring managers only have time to see the best candidates in person, so companies increasingly conduct initial interviews over the phone. Because you lack the visual clues that you tend to rely on in a face-to-face interview and often the ability to prepare ahead of time, the phone screen can be more challenging than an in-person interview. What is in your favor is the hiring company's interest. They have called because your resume indicates to them that you are reasonably qualified for the job. Now, your goal is to create enough interest in the phone screen to be invited in for a face-to-face interview.
Techniques to help you effectively handle a phone screen
- Answer the phone professionally at all times during your job search. Remember, this is the employer's first impression of you.
- Ask to reschedule the call if an employer calls at a bad time and you are not composed enough to deal with it effectively or you are unprepared to articulate why you want to work for the company and why your experience is needed there.
- Be informed about the company and its products. Review your notes on the company and the position you applied for and have your resume outlining your strengths and accomplishments handy.
- Be enthusiastic and positive, even if you are simply rescheduling the interview.
- Ask questions and listen carefully to the answers as you selectively take notes to use for your in-person interview. Keep an interaction going; don't wait for the interviewer to ask you, if you have any questions? Find out the needs and requirements of the company so you can target your answers to their needs.
- Limit your responses to a couple of sentences; you can always ask, “Would you like to know more?”
- Emphasize specific experiences that fit what the company is looking for, don't simply rehash your resume.
- Find out the next step in the interviewing process before getting off the phone. Ask your interviewer, “Could you tell me where you are in your search for this position?” or “Where do we go from here?”
Additional Phone Tips
- Speak directly into the phone, pronounce your words clearly and do not eat, drink, or chew gum.
- Control any excessive background noise which might distract either you or the interviewer. Turn off TVs and music and move to a quiet location.
- Use the interviewer's name during the conversation. Write it down in your notes immediately so you will have it in front of you during the call.
- If you don't understand something, ask for clarification immediately so the misunderstanding won't embarrass you later on.
- Speak at a similar volume level and rate of speech as your interviewer. Adapting to the communication style of your interviewer will help develop rapport by making the interviewer more comfortable with you.
- Provide complete, concise answers and refrain from filling in silences with nervous chatter.