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  • Writer's picturePenny Langstaff

6 Tips for Phone Screen Interview Success

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

Don't get caught out by an unexpected company or recruiter call!

6 Tips for Phone Screen Interview Success - Blog by Apply and Succeed Coaching

Anyone applying for a job could end up receiving a phone screen call. It's what companies and recruiters do when they’re following up on your application and “screening” for potential suitability. Think questions like “what’s your reason for looking?” “is the company location suitable/would you consider relocating?" "have you got the specific skills /experience we're looking for?”

Unlike a phone interview which can be lengthy but is usually at an agreed date/time, a phone screen is much shorter and the hiring manager or recruiter are usually hoping to get their questions answered at the time they call.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a text asking you to contact them, but more likely you'll get an unexpected call! You don't want to feel like you're on the back foot from the start, so you need to be prepared and think about how you'll respond when the situation arises. Firstly, before even sending off any applications, make sure you have your LinkedIn profile up to date, your social media profiles appropriately set for anyone to view and that you have a professional voicemail in place. You won't have to worry about missing a call if you know there's a message that says something like:

“Hello/Hi, you’ve reached Penny Langstaff. I’m sorry I can’t take your call right now but please leave your name, number and a brief message and I’ll call you back as soon as I can”

If your current message says “can’t talk – text me” (or similar) or worse still there’s no message at all, you need to change it or create one immediately!

So, now you've got your pre-job application preparation sorted, how do you deal with the phone screen call when it arrives?

  1. Only answer the call if you can talk openly! Sounds obvious, but if you’re at work, driving without hands-free ability or somewhere that’s noisy, let the call go to your voicemail. You want to be focussed on the conversation and not looking over your shoulder or struggling to hear. If possible, return the call within a few hours – even if it’s to arrange a time to speak to them. Don’t leave it for a days to respond or you’ll give the impression that you’re not really interested.

  2. Always give your name when answering (e.g Hi, Penny speaking”) and sound confident & positive. Never answer with a hesitant or timid “Hi” and then say nothing. That response means the caller has to check they’re speaking to the right person before continuing and it’s not a good start to the conversation.

  3. If you’re calling back, give the person your name, explain that you’re returning their call and tell them the role you’ve applied for. This information is important because recruiters and hiring managers speak to many people and can't always remember each person’s details.

  4. Know which jobs you’ve applied for and all the details on each one. A hiring manager or recruiter doesn’t want to have to jog your memory about their role. They want you to know exactly what the advert said, where the job’s located and what skills/experience they’re looking for. If you struggle to recall any of that information, it gives a poor impression of your interest in their role and they're less likely to move you to the next stage of the process if they doubt your commitment.

  5. Listen carefully to questions and give appropriate full answers. There’s nothing worse for a hiring manager or recruiter to receive a one sentence answer and to have to probe for more information. You want to provide clear, detailed, relevant responses to their questions. Don’t be tempted though, to provide information and examples you haven’t been asked for, unless you know it’s particularly pertinent to your application. You'll have plenty of time to provide that if you get to the next stage of the process - a more thorough meeting/interview.

  6. Have a list of any questions or queries you've got about the role. This is your opportunity to confirm or clarify anything that might impact on your interest and/or suitability.

As with any part of the job application process, preparation is key to success. Keep a list of jobs you’ve applied for, know what the company or recruiter is looking for and respond to calls with a positive, confident and professional attitude.

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