What Not To Do in a Phone Screen

Posted by Anya Cromie on Mar 26, 2015 11:56:30 AM

Dear Candidate,

I realize being an applicant in a competitive job market is difficult. You know you have the skills and experience required for the position you’re applying for, but you’re not progressing past the phone screen.  A good exercise is to try being on the hiring side of the phone during an interview and see if you really stand out. Let me be honest, this is your chance to make a lasting impression and impress me.  As a recruiter, I have to make a pass/fail decision after every conversation and I can only use the information you present to us on that first call.

At this point, you’ve probably created an interesting resume or LinkedIn profile that has peaked my interest.  It is an appropriate length and kept my attention, not a rambling 7 pager that screens “poor communication skills”. It reflects that you took the time to tailor your profile/resume to the job posting and reference some of the skills required – thank you. You’ve made it past the resume review stage and onto the phone screen, congratulations!

My job as a recruiter is really about assessing three key goals in about half an hour:

  • Can you do the job

  • Do you want to do the job

  • Do you fit the company culture   

In my years of experience, I’ve come across many unprepared candidates, so here are a few sure-fire ways you can ruin your chances of moving on to the next step.

  • Not knowing the job you are applying for. I am still surprised by how often I connect with a candidate who knows nothing about the job or company they are applying for. Make sure you understand the job description, have a clear understanding of the skills and requirements and have some of them!  I will know pretty quickly if you don’t.

  • Being unaware of how you present yourself.  On a phone call, all I have is your voice and mannerisms so make sure you sound enthusiastic and upbeat, not sleepy like you just got out of bed. Be personable but not overly casual – a good trick is to try and smile while you speak.

  • Not asking questions. If you’re really interest in the position, you’ll have done some homework on the company and will have questions about who it reports to, management style and team, interview process, etc.

  • Constant interruptions/background noise. This is often easier said than done, but make sure to find a quiet space to speak with good reception, avoid being outside on a sidewalk  so the call can be clearly heard.

  • Be negative. The fastest way to talk yourself out of the running. Please avoid complaining about other employees, managers or past employment.  Going negative in an initial conversation reflects poorly on you and implies you’ll be a negative worker.

  • Use unprofessional email addresses and titles. Catchy terms like “director of awesomeness” or email addresses like partyon@email.com are not going to impress me or the hiring manager, either.

  • Not following up after the call. No news is typically not good news in a job search. After a call or in person meeting, make sure to follow up with a quick email and thank me for my time – this goes a long way to show your interest and professionalism and will help you stand out in my queue of candidates.

Remember, the phone interview is just as important as an in person meeting and gets you in front of the hiring manager. Prepare, practice and you’ll improve your chances of making it to the next step. So please be prepared…because “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”.


Topics: Job Search, Interview, Career Advice