The Art of Successful Telephone Screening Interviews

By: Murray A. Mann and Rose Mary Bombela-Tobias

Many companies are using telephone interviews to pre-screen applicants and narrow down the list of candidates who get invited to personal interviews.

When receiving such a call, a job seeker might feel like he or she is playing the television game show JeopardyTMexcept with much higher stakes. Below are some examples of how Telephone Screening Interview JeopardyTM has played out for some candidates.

CATEGORY 1: Voicemail Roulette

The Answer: Your voicemail activates with Salsa, Merengue, or Daddy Yankee playing in the background and a message “You’ve reached the big guy, not here, out having fun, you know what to do.”

The Question: Why did the company recruiter hang-up without leaving a message?

CATEGORY 2: Don’t Cell Yourself Out of a Job Interview

The Answer: You are out in public, it is very noisy, and your cell phone rings. A recruiter is on the line and you choose to hold the conversation by speaking louder over the clamor

The Question: Why did the recruiter ask two questions, end the call, and you never heard from them again?

DAILY DOUBLE 3: The 3 P’s of Successful Telephone Interviews: Preparation, Practice and Performance

The Answer:


You provided companies with appropriate phone contact information
Changed your voice mail to job search mode – professional and repeated in Spanish, if applying for a position requiring bilingual proficiency
Developed your elevator speech, personal brand statement, targeted answers, S.T.A.R. stories, and company/position specific questions you might ask
Set-up your noise-free telephone interview space with your company folders, resume, talking points

Rehearsed your professional phone voice that is authentic, comfortable, caring and interested in the conversation
Observed your breathing and body language (smiling, gesturing, and posture affect your phone voice)
Conducted a dry-run with friends, coach or career center and received feedback on your performance
Reviewed and revised your answers based on feedback
Practiced for expected and handling unexpected interview calls

Sounded hirable during the call
Demonstrated your value to the employer
Took notes on key points plus the interviewer’s name and contact information
Closed the phone interview by showing interest in position being discussed
Followed-up with a performance-based thank you note
The Question: Why did you get invited to an onsite interview with the company you want to work for?

More About Telephone Screening Interviews

Telephone interviews save companies time and money. There are other reasons that telephone interviews might be required. For example, if the position of interest requires good telephone skills, hearing your voice and communication style on the telephone makes a lot of sense from the employer’s standpoint.

The phone interview is the second step in the process for many recruiters. During a phone interview, interviewers can determine whether you are as good as you sound on paper, if you can communicate, and if you would be a good addition to the company.

The phone interview is a way for both you and the interviewer to test the waters. Think of it as a trial run for the face-to-face interview and your objective is to win that face-to-face interview!

Some phone interviews are conducted to check that your qualifications match the job requirements, and might only take a few minutes. A more detailed pre-selection interview could last 20 minutes to an hour.

The telephone interview is designed to screen people out… but that does not mean you cannot impress them so much that they immediately screen you in.

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