Many successful career searches begin with a telephone interaction with a representative from a company. When having a telephone interaction, it is important to know the purpose of the call – is it a full interview or a screening call?
Job/Internship phone interviews tend to go more in-depth with questions and often are conducted by someone within the specific business unit (possibly even the hiring manager). Screening phone interviews tend to be shorter (15-20 minutes) and conducted by an individual who is working off a standard list of questions that will be asked of each candidate. Think of it as some additional information that will be added to your application materials. Even though they are different, it is important to treat each of the interviews seriously because they do have an effect on your employment chances with a firm.
Screening Call: Screening interviews are used when an employer after an employer has whittled down an applicant pool to a smaller number of potential hires. For example, recently I received 125 resumes for a job opening within my office. I narrowed the list to what I thought were my ten strongest candidates. I telephone screened these individuals in order to have a better idea of the candidates to help me decide which three or four candidates I would eventually to bring in for a face-to-face interview day.
It is not unusual for a screening interview to occur without being scheduled. In this situation, a recruiter has several applicants to screen and cannot wait to schedule each person and thus may start calling applicants for impromptu screening interviews. This is a good reminder to always answer your phone professionally – Hello, this is ______. While not optimal, the impromptu interview has to be handled as best as one can.
When an impromptu screening call occurs, it is best to get to a quite place in order for you to focus on the interview. If you should find yourself in a situation where you cannot hear the individual well (think NYC subway) or if the timing is not conducive (heading into a meeting) – schedule an alternate time. When rescheduling, keep the interview for the same or next day – an impromptu phone screen indicates the employer is in a rush. I have known recruiters who do not reach a candidate to move onto others without coming back to the missed call.
The questions tend to be straightforward in the screening call. What interested you in the job? What skills do you bring to this position? Tell me about yourself? Salary expectations? This last one is a tough one as many employers are looking to screen out candidates who are outside of their position funding range. By reviewing and practicing some common interview questions and identifying a typical salary range for the position and your experience, you should be well prepared for the phone screen.
It is good to have questions ready to ask the employer and be sure to discuss the next step in the process. If possible, get the name of the person who called you so as to be able to follow-up if your situation should change or if further details about the role are needed.
Tomorrow: The Phone Interview (by the hiring manager)