Your resume and cover letter’s primary purpose is to get you an interview and ultimately a job opportunity. However, for many companies today there is another step in the process of getting hired, the telephone pre-screen interview.
With several qualified job applicants applying for a limited number of jobs, many companies today conduct telephone pre-screen interviews with applicants they believe are potentially strong candidates for opened positions. Usually, these interviews can range from 20 minutes to an hour.
Employers often do not have the time or staff to conduct face-to-face interviews with a large number of qualified candidates. So, to save time and money, telephone pre-screen interviews are commonly done to both weed out applicants that are not a good fit while identifying those that are a strong match for opened positions.
How successfully you present yourself in the telephone interview will determine whether you will later be asked to come to the company for a more direct interview that could include meeting with other staff members.
Succeeding in telephone pre-screen interviews requires both preparation work and presenting yourself as an articulate and qualified candidate for the position you are seeking.
How to prepare for phone pre-screen interviews
After you and the employer have agreed on a time for the telephone interview you should immediately prepare to ensure that the phone interview runs smoothly and presents you in a professional manner. Among those preparation activities include:
- Visit the company’s website to conduct your research. Review the company’s mission statement and values. Read about the organization history and the focus of its business. Review also any information online about the company finances. Your research will prepare you for asking good questions and will reflect your interest in the job and company.
- Study the job description and make notes. Write down specific points you want to address during the interview that parallel your work experience and responsibilities to those in the job description.
- Prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer. When you ask good questions it sends the interviewer a message that you are interested in the position and company. Employers like it when applicants show interest and enthusiasm in their company.
- Have your resume visibly accessible so you can refer to it. You don’t want to be rambling through papers and searching for your resume and other documents during the interview. It makes you seem unorganized and unprepared.
- Have a salary range in mind. Often during the phone interview, the recruiter will ask for your salary requirement. Consider searching the website for salary information on the position you are applying for to get an estimate of what it pays in the market place. Also, consider in your salary range quote your years of experience in the job you are seeking.
- Make notes of specific points you definitely want to make in the interview. These could be important statements you want to convey that makes you a strong candidate for the position.
- Practice how you will respond to tough questions. Some questions undoubtedly may be difficult to respond to during the interview, such as why you were fired from your last job. Think of those tough or difficult questions that could be asked of you and practice how you will respond to them.
- Make sure the environment for your telephone interview is quiet. Surroundings for the telephone interview should be quiet, comfortable and free of interruptions. If you are doing the interview with a cell phone, make sure you have good reception. Remember, a telephone interview is a business meeting conference call; treat it that way.
How to succeed in the phone interview
Now that you made all the right preparations for your telephone pre-screen interview, you are ready for the actual interview. How you communicate and respond to questions along with your confidence and enthusiasm in the job will determine later whether you will be called in for an interview with other company staff members. To be selected as a top candidates, here is what you need to do:
- Communicate clearly and pleasantly. Regardless of the type of job you are being interviewed for, use good diction, grammar and respond directly to the questions being asked. You want to speak clearly and confidently.
- Articulate interests and enthusiasm about both the position and organization. Obviously, the interviewer cannot see you but they can feel your excitement in the way you respond and ask questions, show interest in the organization, and the energy level you display during the telephone conversation.
- Avoid long drawn out answers to questions. This is important especially for those types of questions that do not require a lengthy response. Respond to questions directly and succinctly. If additional explanation is needed, the recruiter will ask you to elaborate further.
- Listen carefully to the interviewer. Part of communicating effectively is being a good listener. Listen carefully to the recruiter when she is giving general information about the organization. Many times the recruiter may have answered some of the questions that you intend to ask later during the interview. So, when you attentively listen, you avoid the embarrassment of asking questions that the recruiter may have already answered. Follow-up questions are welcomed.
- Talk about your previous or past contributions. Provide details on how you contributed to your current or former employers. Whether you resolved problems, increased sales, or created cost-saving strategies; be specific of the role you played in those accomplishments.
- Tell good stories. Recruiters like to hear good stories. It could be something as simple as how you handled a difficult problem and what was the outcome as a result of you resolving the issue. Often the opportunities to tell such stories will come from the recruiter questions. However, whether the those opportunities are presented by the recruiter or not, it is up to you to see that those stories are told. Make sure your stories and brief.
- Have a Salary Range in Mind. Since the interview is a screening process, chances are the recruiter will bring up salary. It is best to give the recruiter a salary range rather than a specific salary rate. This way, you do not limit yourself to a specific rate and are less likely to price yourself above the pay of the job. If you did your salary survey research while preparing for the interview, you will already have an approximate market range for the position, taking also into account your experience.
- Summarize your ability to do the job. During the closing of the interview, you want to leave the recruiter with a positive impression that says you are a strong candidate for the position. To do this, you want to reiterate your qualifications and fit for the position and the organization.
To get hired in today’s competitive job market, you want to stand out and above the crowd of other job applicants. Mastering the telephone pre-screening interview process will help you achieve that goal and move closer to getting the job you want.