Congratulations! You’ve been selected for a phone screen. Now what? As a recruiter, I’ve witnessed many people struggle with the phone screen stage of the interview process. Too often, candidates end up in phone screen purgatory: getting close to the job of their dreams, but never advancing to the next stage.
The good news is there are some basic steps you can take to make a good impression:
1. It’s all in the words
A high percentage of communication is nonverbal (e.g., facial expressions, gestures and eye contact), which can’t be conveyed through the phone. This means the words you use and how you deliver them are more important than usual. Choose your words wisely.
Letting the recruiter hear energy and enthusiasm in your voice matters as much as the language you use. Remember, recruiters talk to many bland, listless candidates all day, so listening to a genuinely cheerful person stands out.
2. Answer the (right) phone
A common mistake is to provide one phone number to the recruiter, yet be standing by to answer on a different line. In a world where having multiple personal phone devices is a common reality for many, make sure you’re available at the right number. Set a calendar alert to remind you of your scheduled time. Be ready and waiting for that phone to ring.
3. Don’t multitask
I commonly come across candidates who repeatedly press keys on their phone (on accident), deafening me with intermittent beeps. I know this means the candidate is holding the phone with their cheek and shoulder and they’re busy with something else.
This also means they’re completely distracted and only partially engaged in the conversation. This isn’t the time to wash your child, do your laundry, order takeout or read a magazine. Yes, we’ve heard it all.
4. Park the car
Many candidates think they might as well kill two birds with one stone and talk while they’re on their way to their next destination. This happens to be illegal in many places, and at the very least, is distracting. Worst of all, it often leads to a poor connection, and listening through ambient noise is painful.
5. Do your homework
A phone interview is still an interview. Don’t let the informality of the phone get in the way. (Click here to tweet this thought.) The recruiter wants to find out about you, your motivations and why you want to be a part of this organization in this particular role. Be ready to explain why you fit based on your knowledge of the company and skill set.
Before the call, go to the company’s website and read up on the company mission, culture, goals, products, services and exec bios. Don’t assume that Company A, which makes widgets, is anything like Company B just because they also make widgets.
Based on this knowledge, determine how and why you belong there. Write down five points you want to make about your experience; this will help you to collect your thoughts about your past work and highlight what’s most important for them to know.
6. Prepare questions to ask
Most recruiters allow time at the end for questions, and you should take this opportunity to learn more about the specific role you’re applying for. Ask about the size of the team you’ll be working on, and how this role fits within the organization. Ask about specific goals the team wants to achieve. Ask what the interviewer likes the most about the company.
This shows the recruiter you’re not just in it for the paycheck; you want to find a place that’s a good fit for you.
Remembering these simple tricks will ensure you put your best foot forward during this crucial first impression. And here’s one last suggestion: About 30 minutes before the call, if you can, go for a nice walk. It’ll allow you to clear your mind, get your creative juices flowing and give you a moment to reflect on what you’re going to say.
Danny Roberts is a recruiter for Redfin, a technology-powered real estate brokerage that is currently hiring for many roles. In 2000, Danny participated in MTV’s The Real World: New Orleans, which lead him on a unique and varied career path that helped him discover what his values are and where he needs to be.