Once you’ve applied to a job post, you may be invited to do a phone interview. This is an indication that the recruiter has reviewed your resume and found that you have the basic skills and experience required for the role. The goal of the phone interview – or phone screen – is to weed out the most desirable candidates from a larger pool of candidates who, at least on paper, appear to be qualified.
Phone screens typically last between 15 and 30 minutes, during which a hiring manager will ask you a series of questions about your background. It is also an opportunity for them to evaluate your communication skills, get a sense of your personality, and determine whether you’d be a good cultural fit for the organization.
To help you prepare for your next phone screen, we’ve compiled some commonly asked questions, as well as do’s and don’ts. Study up and make a great impression next time you take a call from a recruiter.
While those job seekers who are eager to find a new job might be tempted to schedule a phone screen during the work day, try to avoid this if possible. Many recruiters will make arrangements to speak to you either before or after business hours, and you’ll be more relaxed if you aren’t worried about getting back to work on time.
Allow yourself twice as much time as you think you’ll need for a phone screen. This will allow you to be organized and ready a few minutes early and will provide a buffer on the back end in case the recruiter calls you a few minutes late.
Without a crystal ball, this one is a bit hard to answer but, below, we have compiled a list of questions you could be asked during your call. Here is a pro tip: write out your responses to each of the following questions. The best part of a phone screen is that you can have a cheat sheet with you during the call, which can help you get your key points across to the recruiter.
Questions during phone screens typically fall into two categories: questions about you and your experience and questions about what you are seeking in your next role. Here are some sample questions:
Potential questions about you:
(Note: In some cities and states, employers are banned from asking about current and past compensation. Click here to find out if you live in one of these cities or states.)
Potential questions about the company and the role:
If you can’t answer these questions, your interview is more likely to go poorly. So make sure to be ready.
Go to the company’s website and read the About page for an overview. Next, read recent news articles written about the company. Add your findings to your cheat sheet. Next, look up the recruiter on LinkedIn. Look for commonalities; perhaps you share an alma mater, or maybe you have common connections. These facts are nice to have in your back pocket as conversation starters during the call.
Find a quiet room in your house; you’ll be most comfortable at home and will have the most control over the environment. Ideally, do your call when pets and children are out of the house. A child asking for a juice box mid-call can make you lose your train of thought. Consider whether you’d be most comfortable in a chair or if pacing helps you to gather your thoughts and plan your location accordingly.
Print out your résumé and cheat sheet and mark the important skills you want to highlight during the conversation (and consider fine-tuning the doc with a resume builder to make sure it’s in tip-top shape). Keep a pad and pen handy for taking notes. Pour yourself a glass of water and have it nearby, just in case. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged and turn off any sounds or alerts that could distract you.
The quality of your questions can show a recruiter your level of interest. Formulate questions from the research you’ve done on the company and from information in the job description. Ask questions about the role, the team you’ll be working with, and about company culture. Don’t ask about compensation at this stage of the interview process. If the recruiter doesn’t offer the information, save those inquiries for the next round of interviews.
When the screen is winding down, ask about next steps. A recruiter should be able to give you a timeline for when you can expect to hear back about in-person interviews or when they hope to hire for the role.
Send a hand-written thank-you note, if possible, though a well-crafted email will suffice. You should mail or email within one day of your interview, but not immediately after the call. Keep it short but sweet. Express your interest in the company, your ability to do the job, and emphasize your desire to take the next step in the interview process.
About this guest author:
Since 2005, LiveCareer’s team of career coaches, certified resume writers, and savvy technologists have been developing career tools that have helped over 10 million users build stronger resumes, write persuasive cover letters, and develop better interview skills. Land the job you want faster using our free resume examples and resume templates, writing guides, and easy-to-use resume builder.