Phone Screen Success

Unfortunately, phone screens are sometimes used by hiring companies as the first contact with candidates. It is unfortunate because nobody presents themselves as well on the phone as in person.  This applies to both the company and the candidate. To really have any meaningful evaluation by both parties requires a face to face meeting.

Therefore; the objective of  the phone screen is to not get “screened out” and set up an in-person interview.

Here are some guidelines to help you accomplish the goal of a obtaining a face to face interview.

The phone is a limited communication device. It does not deliver the more subtle communication of facial expression, tone of voice or body language.  To make sure you sound as enthusiastic as possible, stand up when doing the interview. This is a standard and time tested method used by tele sales etc.

Keep the conversation as short as possible. The longer the call, the more chance of being screened out before you have a chance to promote yourself in a face to face situation. A good practice is to answer a couple of questions and then try to close an interview with something like the following; “based on what I have heard about the company and the position, I am very interested. When would be the best time to schedule an interview?”

The point is to ask for the interview as soon as you feel is the right moment. Even if they don’t bite at that point, you have established that you are interested and maybe a bit more assertive than the average candidate.  Then rinse and repeat, answer some questions and then try to close a face to face again.

If by the end of the phone screen, you haven’t been successful setting up an interview, you need to ask one more time. If they still hesitate, you need to ask if there are any concerns regarding your background. The point is that if you can’t set up the interview then, the likely hood of it happening later are nil. You only get one shot, so at least try to find out what concerns they have and out weigh them will positives.

One thing to be careful of, is evaluating the opportunity during the conversation. You should have already researched the company and have a feel for what they are looking for prior to the phone screen. Now during the interview, you need to concentrate on getting the face to face.  Don’t distract yourself by evaluating the opportunity, when you should be focusing on demonstrating how you can do their job.

It probably won’t come up in the phone screen, but if it does, here is our recommendation regarding the salary question.

If you give an answer to “what salary would it take to get you to join us” question in the early stage of the interview process, at the end, your offer will be that number, no matter how badly they want to hire you. The problem with giving that number at the beginning or during the interview process is, that if it is too high, you may scare them off before they find out that you are well worth that amount, or if it is too low, you are leaving money on the table.

The best answer is no answer, “ it is too early to discuss salary, I hope you will make the best possible offer.” If they persist, you can say “ I currently make $ xxx and I hope you can put together an attractive offer. “ this is just negotiation 101, once you know they are interested, you are in a better position to maximize the offer.


Keep it short.

Ask for the face to face.

If no face to face, then find out why and demonstrate positives to out-weigh the negatives.

Don’t give a salary target number. If pressed give them what you make currently and then say state your hope for their best offer.

Don’t evaluate during the phone call.

Phone screens usually screen out the glaring mis-matches, which you won’t have because you don’t apply to jobs you aren’t a fit for.

Good Luck


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