Most often, a phone screen is a gateway to a more extensive interview process. It is an efficient means for the hiring company or recruiter to screen candidates before passing them along to the rest of the team. Don’t let the casual nature of a phone call fool you into preparing less than you would for a face-to-face interview. With thorough preparation and focus, this conversation can encourage your candidacy.
Do Your Preparation
You may not have to get dressed up or travel anywhere for this meeting, but it should still be approached with the same care and attention that you would give to an interview. Certainly, all relevant research about the company and the person you’ll be speaking with still applies. It is a good idea to have a copy of your resume and the job description, if it’s available. Additionally, if you can find a LinkedIn profile of the interviewer or an About page of their website, that is even better. As the interviewer talks through your career moves, you can literally be on the same page. In the planning of the call, be sure you allow ample time and don’t try to squeeze the phone call in on a break or right before another obligation. You can also plan ahead to manage your environment.
Control Your Location
We all know what it feels like when the person on the other end of a phone call is multi-tasking; when we have become less important. The interview should be the absolute focus of your attention for its entirety. You should not be driving, navigating a busy coffee shop or even standing outside. Public spaces leave you susceptible to any number of interruptions, let alone noise interference. Making the call in a private space with good reception enables you to be yourself and convey enthusiasm without restraint.
Engage in the Conversation
It actually requires conscious effort to communicate this enthusiasm over the phone. Without seeing your warm face and engaged body language, a disembodied voice can sound cold, and even disinterested. Though it might feel silly, smiling while you talk can brighten the quality of your voice. The confidence and ease you would bring into a room can be conveyed in your thoughtfulness and speed. The interviewer is most likely taking notes and it is good to monitor your pace. Allow a beat after a question is asked to be sure the interviewer has completed their thought and to give yourself time to formulate an articulate response. It’s easy to ramble on the phone and might be helpful to jot down a question as it is asked so you can be sure to keep your response on track. Of course, you are there to ask questions, as well as answer them and to this end, it is helpful to come in with a list of your own questions for the interviewer.
Finally, you want to have a good closing that confirms your interest and confidence in your ability to do the job. For example: It has been great talking to you. I have learned a lot about the position and the company and am even more interested now and confident that I am the right person for the job. Remember the goal of the phone call is to secure a face-to-face meeting. While some elements of every interview are out of your control, manage what you can to present a polished, enthusiastic candidate before they ever get to meet you in person.
Chaloner, founded in 1979 as Chaloner Associates, is a national executive search firm that focuses on recruiting mid- to senior-level communications, public relations, marketing and investor relations professionals.