The real goal of the phone screen, why so many candidates don’t receive an in-person interview


phone screen
The goal of the phone screen is not to land a job offer

Phone screen

The phone screen, also known as the phone interview is a critical first step towards a job offer. The first interview is usually over the phone and can be conducted by the recruiter or the hiring manager. If a recruiter or hiring manager is contemplating 5-7 resumes, the goal of the phone screen is to whittle this pool down to 2-3 candidates. These 2-3 candidates will be brought in for an in-person interview. The goal of the phone screen is meant to weed out the first cut of candidates.

The trick to the phone screen

  1. You should not treat this as an interview that is going to land you a job offer. The goal of this phone screen is to land an in-person interview.
  2. Provide the interviewer with the information they are looking for as efficiently and succinctly as possible.

Are you a fit for the company vs. position

The goal of the phone screen is to determine if we are a fit for the company, the hiring manager/department, and the company culture. The in-person interview with the hiring manager and the team will focus on the technical details of the position. The phone interview/screen will be focused on company values, department and company culture.

Think of the phone screen as a high-level interview. The in-person interview with the hiring manager will focus on the day to day tasks and technical experience required. We should not try to fit in our technical accomplishments into the phone screen because the recruiter may not be familiar with the intricacies of the job.

Typical phone screen questions include

  • What are you looking for financially? (Are your salary expectations in line with the company’s budget and compensation philosophy?)
  • What do you know about the company (Did you do any research and at least show some interest? Research = interest)
  • Why are you leaving your last job (The hiring company wants to make sure that you won’t leave them for the same reasons)
  • What do you like to do after hours? (Will you get along with the team? Do you share similar interests?)
  • Why are you interested in “Acme Publishing” as a place to work? ( Is this just a J.O.B. or is there something here at Acme Publishing that interests you at a personal level?)

Qualifying you for the in-person interview only, nothing more

These five interview questions are generic. These questions are relevant for any industry and are used to qualify a candidate for any position. These are not job position or skill specific questions. Trying to force details of skills into the above questions is not the focus because these questions are not asking for achievements. This is why it can be OK if the recruiter doesn’t have specific knowledge about your position. They are selling and interviewing for the company culture, values, and benefits. The hiring manager is interviewing for the actual job.

Key Takeaway: Recruiters need to have their questions answered. If they don’t have answers to their interview questions, they are not able to go back to the hiring manager and sell you as a viable candidate. Because of this, it is important we focus on answering the recruiter’s questions.

Answer the recruiter’s questions and we will land the next interview.

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