Your application is submitted. Go you. Now, before you start freaking out interviewing (fingers crossed!), remember that another equally daunting task lies ahead of you. The phone screen. When employers get a large number of applications for a position — which they generally always will for entry-level roles — it’s very common for recruiters to screen their top candidates on the phone before deciding who will be asked in for an interview. Usually, the recruiter will ask you a few simple questions about your application and — if things go well — set up a time for a formal interview. While phone screens can seem deceptively casual, most companies use them as a pass / no pass test for fit. In other words, the phone screen is your make or break moment, even if it only seems like a quick meet and greet. Here are a few tips to help you pass with flying colors.
Don’t let down your guard.
Sometimes, a recruiter will email you ahead of time to schedule a 15-30 minute phone call. Sometimes. When you’re applying to jobs, you have to be “on” all of the time. You never know when someone important is going to call you, and if they do, you definitely don’t want to answer with a confused, “Hello?” If you see a call from an unknown number, always answer with the utmost professionalism. Let me demonstrate. “Hello, this is Michaela.” Ahh, perfection! (While you’re at it, make sure you have a professional voicemail greeting. Read more on that here.)
Remember that putting your best foot forward over the phone is hard.
Talking on the phone to a stranger is awkward. Without visual cues, it can be hard to match the tone of the other person and showcase your personality effectively. Try standing up. It’ll help energize your voice. Also, if you’re someone (like me) who talks with your hands, consider using a headset. Bottom line: do whatever you can to communicate as naturally as possible! Finally, and possibly most importantly, make sure you’re in a quiet area with good reception. If the recruiter catches you off-guard and it isn’t a good time, don’t be afraid to ask if you can reschedule for later that day or tomorrow. You don’t want to be talking about your long-term goals while hiking up a mountain or out to lunch with your friends.
Be concise and company-centric.
It’s really easy to ramble when you can’t see that “I lost you” look in someone’s eyes. Avoid going on and on by taking some time (NOW!) to come up with go-to answers for common interview questions like “Tell me about yourself” or “What is your greatest strength?” Make sure your answers can be easily adjusted for different jobs and companies. It’s important that you focus on the job, not just your own awesomeness.
Follow up, no matter what.
Just like with any interview, it’s important to follow up after a phone screen. Recruiters talk to a lot of people, and a simple follow-up email will help you remain top of mind. If you don’t have the recruiter’s contact info, ask for it during the phone call! A simple, “Is there a good email for me to reach you at?” will do the trick.