The phone rings just as you are about to sit down for dinner, but this time it’s not a pesky telemarketer – it’s a company recruiter calling. You’ve been caught off-guard! The telephone “screen call” can come at any time – day or night. Some interviewers find evenings the best time to catch people at home, where they will be able to talk more candidly. Therefore, you should be on-call and prepared to receive a telephone interview at any time.
Telephone interviews, typically conducted by a human resources staff member or a hired recruiter, are used as screening tools. By asking key questions, the interviewer determines whether or not it is worthwhile to pursue you further as a candidate. The screenings may consist of a few quick questions or as much as a one-hour grilling.
Some general questions you might expect in a telephone screening are:
1. Why are you leaving your current job?
2. What kind of salary/job are you looking for?
3. Tell me three adjectives that describe you.
4. Tell me about a time when you had to solve a problem using creativity.
5. Do you have any questions for me?
If there is some particular skill that qualifies you for a job, for example technical skills or languages, there may be some qualifying questions about the “tools of the trade.”
Even though you cannot control the timing of these calls, there are some steps that you can take to not be caught off-guard.
1. Get organized. Set aside your materials as though you were going to a face-to-face interview. Have a folder with job postings or ads you have answered, along with company information. If you have several versions of your resume, attach the one relevant to the particular job posting. Keep this folder in a specific place so you can get to it in less than a minute. Tell the caller to hold and then grab your folder.
2. Be prepared. This is key to any interview, but for the telephone interview it is essential. Practice with a tape recorder to hear the level of enthusiasm in your voice. The key to telephone interviews is projecting an upbeat image through the sound of your voice and the words you use.
3. Know what they are looking for. Look over the job description to see what the company is seeking in a candidate. If you don’t have a good description, look at other postings of similar positions to see what is being asked for. Compare what you have to offer against what they are looking for. Be ready to let the interviewer know what a good match you are for the position.
4. Alert the household. Be sure everyone in your household – children, roommates, etc., are aware that you will be receiving calls from recruiters and companies. The phone should be answered in a polite, professional manner. While you’re at it, make sure your voice mail message is also professional and upbeat.
Getting through this screening is critical for advancing to the next step: the face-to-face interview. This puts added pressure on you to present yourself in a positive, focused manner. If you attempt to wing this call, you may reach a dead end in the process. By organizing and preparing you will feel less stress when these calls do come.