A phone screen is the first step of the interview process, at which point a recruiter or a human resources professional calls a job candidate to gauge their interest and weed out candidates who wouldn’t be a good fit. Just because your future boss may not be interviewing you in this phone call, you should still know that you are being evaluated. The phone screening is a pivotal point in the application process. Although some candidates may think it’s just an invitation to the interview, the recruiter is still assessing the job seeker. 

  1. Don’t take the call if you’re in a distracting environment.

Screener interviews can be scheduled, or they can happen randomly after a recruiter finds a job seeker’s contact information. You should be prepared for both scenarios. Even though you are not having this initial phone interview face-to-face, the company recruiter can still hear what’s going on in your background, so you want to minimize distracting noises. Candidates may feel like they have to pick up the phone immediately, or a company recruiter will never call them back. If you do pick up the phone when you are not ready, it’s reasonable to say that you will call back at a better time. 

  1. Don’t wing it, especially if it’s been a while since you applied to the job.

There are often days or weeks in between when you apply for a job and when you get a phone screening interview. It’s important to have notes ready, so that when a screener interview happens, you can show that you know which job you are applying for, and why you are the best candidate for it. A lot of times people don’t perform well on the spot, especially if you are not expecting to have that conversation about your salary.

  1. Be prepared to answer questions about your salary expectations, but don’t try to negotiate over it.

Recruiters will typically ask job seekers, “What are your salary expectations?” during this initial phone screener interview. The goal here is for both sides to figure out if we have some common ground before we move forward. You don’t want to go through that entire process, take off work, invest that much emotional energy into a position that you find out pays less than you want. When a company recruiter does answer with a range, you can also ask if that range is just the base salary or also includes other benefits like bonuses, commissions, or mileage reimbursement. 

  1. Don’t forget to project enthusiasm.

In a phone interview, hiring managers and recruiters can only evaluate a voice, so remember to express enthusiasm while you are talking. You can also show enthusiasm by referencing the job posting in your answers. If you reference the posting, you reference the company, what you know about them, or the job ad, it shows them that you’re interested, you’re excited, you’ve taken the time to read through things.

  1. Don’t forget to ask about next steps.

Beyond figuring out what the role entails, this phone screen is a time for you to figure out next steps in the hiring process. Silence from a company after an initial interview can be nerve-wracking, so asking for a timeline can help. To ease some of that anxiety, just ask what you can expect going forward in the process. You want to know, ’OK, where are things going? Are they going to be scheduling in-person interviews? How much longer is that going to be? Always ask what’s next, if they need anything else from you.


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