December 2018 Educate Features

Don’t Fail the First-Round Phone Screen


Written By: Craig Petrus

For many recruiters and hiring managers, the “first-round phone interview” is a significant step in the overall job interview process. How a candidate performs in this “first impression” stage says a lot about their overall interest, passion and willingness to make a positive impact at the company they are interviewing for. It can truly make or break a candidate from moving forward in the job interview process. While the phone screen may not be seen as an important part of the overall interview process for candidates, you better take it seriously or your call will end just as quickly as it started.

While this may seem very rudimentary within the lifecycle of a job interview, too many times I have seen individuals fail during the first-round phone interview/screen by not taking the process seriously and by failing to conduct simple and easy company, industry and functional job research for the position.

The first-round phone interview is just as important as the final round interview, but many job candidates fail to realize this. Keep in mind, the first-round phone interview is the very first impression that hiring managers have of you.

If you want them to take you seriously, do not take the call while driving your car or sipping coffee at Starbucks or on your lunchbreak in the park. Prepare yourself to answer both the easy and hard questions, to show you have done your research and are communicating a sincere interest for the position.

Here are a few key ways in which to show you are the best candidate for the job, right from the first-round phone screen.

Do Your Research

As a former executive recruiter and current hiring manager, I want to know that you are invested in this process just as much as I. By asking simple questions about company, industry and function, I can tell when someone is really taking this process seriously or not.

Know the function you are interviewing for. Have the job description in front of you as you go through the phone interview and refer to it from time to time. Hiring mangers want to hear, in your own words, how you interpret the job and whether or not you truly know the basic function of the role.

You do not need to know everything about the function for which you you are interviewing, just know the basics. Have an intelligent, well-thought-out response to what you feel the job entails. Toward the end of the interview, ask some really great questions about the role itself to show the hiring manager you have done your homework and that you are invested in the process.

Similarly, learn the basics of the industry for which you are interviewing. You do not need to be an expert; just show the hiring manager you have put some effort into researching the industry and that you communicate some thought-provoking questions or responses to the questions asked.

Connect the dots between your experience to the job and industry, so that hiring managers don’t have to stretch their imagination into thinking how your background matches the industry.

Again, do your research of the company/department you are interviewing for. Too many times, candidates cannot get past this simple, but very telling question: “What do you know about us, our company, our department?”

Go beyond the basics that consumers may know about the company or department. Communicate something that shows the hiring manager you have gone the extra mile to find a few nuggets of information. Doing so will show them you have gone above and beyond in conducting your research and preparation for the phone screen.

Basic information such as this may seem like simple concepts to know going into an interview, but for many this is where it ends for them. If you don’t take first-round phone screen seriously, the hiring manger won’t take you seriously.

Location, Location, Location

Don’t take the chance of things happening around you becoming a distraction during your interview. Hiring managers can tell whether or not you are really interested in the position by where you take the first-round screen.

If they can hear the barista in the background shouting out “venti skinny Vanilla Latte for Jason,” this becomes a distraction. The hiring manger starts to wonder why you could not have taken the time and effort to find a quiet place, free from distractions, for your interview.

While some phone interviews can take place from the car since you may have to duck out of work for 30 minutes, that is OK, but don’t drive the car during your interview. Not only are you not fully concentrating on the interview, you take the risk of getting into an accident.

If you are truly invested in this process, and it is a job you really want, find a quiet place, free from distractions, to take your phone interview. The more you are focused, the better you will perform.

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