The Phone Screen

The phone screen interview is increasingly being used as an efficient preliminary screening tool to determine if you will be invited for a face-to-face interview. It is important to be prepared.

This type of interview is typically a basic interview with behavioral questions that lasts anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. The interviewer's objective is to:

    • Verify the information on your resume;
    • Determine if you fully understand the job and the company you applied to;
    • Learn about your goals and why you want this job and why you want to work for this company;
    • Learn about you and hear you talk. They want to know that you can communicate well.


Pre-Interview Tips

Be sure that whomever is answering your phone is polite, knows how to take a message, and will relay information to you.

Make sure your voicemail messages reflect that of a serious job-seeker.  Leave your name on your voicemails so the caller knows that he/she got the right number.

If you choose to put your cell phone number on your resume, be aware that whenever you answer your phone, the caller might be a phone screen interviewer.  Answer your phone in appropriate places where you have the opportunity to talk or ask if you can schedule another time for the phone screen.

Have your resume, job description, employer research materials, calendar, pen, and paper near the phone.  You’ll need all of these during the phone screen.

Prepare your answers to common questions such as: 
    • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
    • What were your most significant accomplishments in your last position?
    • Can you identify related projects on which you have worked?
    • Why are you applying to our organization?
    • What can you contribute to our organization?

The best way of answering this last question is to research the organization: check out the employer's web site, find out what their goals and objectives are, and be prepared to discuss how you can help them achieve their goals. 


During the Phone Screen

    • Be enthusiastic and assertive.
    • Remember that you don't have the benefits of expression and eye contact to show your excitement and interest. The listener can tell when you are smiling, so smile!
    • Be ready to provide specific examples of projects and accomplishments which demonstrate your skills.
    • Keep answers abbreviated.
    • Avoid: speaking too fast, having music/TV or other noises in the background, chewing or smoking, speaking too close or too far from the receiver - anything that can create an unpleasant image of yourself.
    • Listen attentively and ask questions.
    • Do not ask questions that appear to be selfishly motivated. This is a very common mistake people make on phone interviews - you should not bring up the subjects of money or benefits. Your only goal at this point should be selling the organization on your skills and experience - talking about money prematurely can only have negative effects.
    • End your conversation on a positive note…focus on how you can benefit the organization.  Reinforce with the potential employer that you are very interested in the position and why. The enthusiasm you display could be the deciding factor between you and another candidate.
    • Ask for the interviewer’s name, contact information, and permission to follow up.

After the Phone Screen

Follow up: Make sure to contact the interviewer a couple of days after the phone screen with a thank you.  You could send an email, note, or voicemail, depending on the contact information that they give you.  This demonstrates your interest and enthusiasm about working for that employer.  Since such a small percentage of people follow up, employers really pay attention to the candidates that do.