How to Breeze through the “Phone Screen” Interview

January 29, 2019

If you’ve been actively job searching for a few weeks and you’re doing it right, then eventually you’ll be getting call backs on some of those roles you’ve been pursuing.

Most companies these days will pre-screen job candidates with what’s called a Phone Screen Interview, before deciding on their short list of candidates to interview in person.

They do this to save time, and your ability to get through this type of screening is crucial in getting to the in-person interview stage. 

The in-person interview is when you have the best chance of securing that new job.

Unfortunately, since most companies get hundreds of applicants for open positions, their # 1 goal with the phone screen is usually to eliminate candidates!

That’s the exact opposite of your goal as the candidate, which is to get through that phone screen and on to the “real” interview!

We need to come to terms with this and realize that the phone screen is just a step in the process. And, your ability to “pass” that test will make a world of difference in the opportunities that will open up for you.

And before we get into the tips to ace that phone screen, I have an unusual recommendation for you:


It’s very tempting when we’re job searching to think that we must answer each and every call just in case it’s for a new, great job opportunity!

However, are you always prepared for an on the spot interview? 

Chances are that you’re not and how could you? 

I see many people get eliminated at this stage because they answer their phone when they’re not in a space or a frame of mind that’s conducive for an interview. 

Instead, let them leave a message. 

If it’s a serious job opportunity, they will leave a message for you and you will have the opportunity to call them back and have that interview and you’ll also have more information and forewarning on who called you and make sure that you’re 100% prepared for it. 

Now that we’ve addressed this important step, here are the top things employers verify in a phone screen interview and how to strategically position yourself and not get screened out and make it to the next phase. 

1- Do you have the basic job qualifications?

Sometimes, it’s hard for them to ensure you meet the basic requirements of the role by scanning through your resume and LinkedIn profile. 

If they have any questions or doubt about your qualifications, they’ll bring them up during the phone screen. 

You want to make sure you take great notes of roles that you’re pursuing so you’ll be clear on how you meet the requirements for the role and make a great first impression over the phone. 

2- “Fit” = personality

Just as important as qualifications, employers need to be able to “picture” you in their work environment. 

This means they need to see if your personality would fit in with the existing team. 

This is an extremely important aspect of the phone screen. They’ll be looking for basic clues to the type of person you are, and determine if there’s even any chance that you might fit in. 

Hiring mistakes often boil down to fit, when a hiring manager brings in a new hire that can’t seem to fit in with the rest of the group and collaborate on projects. 

Make sure you let your personality shine on the phone screen. Be polite, personable and professional. Answer questions in an impactful yet succinct manner and, if the opportunity presents itself, be prepared with a couple of pertinent questions to ask as well. 

Definitely ask about what the next step in their hiring process is so you have an idea what to expect. 

3- Compensation: can they even afford you?

Many times employers will try to determine at this stage if they can afford you by asking you about your salary expectations. 

Of course, at this stage, chances are you don’t know very much about the role or the company however, you should be clear at this point what you’re aiming for. 

And, recruiters these days don’t like for candidates to play games with this question and so if asked, my recommendation would be to answer it succinctly. 

Let them know that you’re currently interviewing for roles with compensation in a range from $X to $X. And leave it at that. It’s helpful to know your worth in this case and to know what the market pays for the type of role that you’re looking for. Do your homework in this area and you will know exactly the range to aim for. 

That’s it, you’re now ready to ace your phone interviews and get through to the next round!