In the world of job hunting, recruiters have come up with a variety of creative ways to screen candidates before inviting them to interview, from Googling a candidate to scrolling through their social media pages. One popular method is a phone screen, which can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

According to a CareerBuilder survey, 49% of employers know within the first five minutes of an interview whether a candidate is a good fit. What’s even more shocking is that 87% know within the first 15 minutes. The first few minutes of meeting a recruiter or hiring manager can tell a lot about a candidate, so preparation is certainly key.


If you have a scheduled chat with a recruiter, your call could range from a quick 10 minute phone screen to a long and detailed phone interview. If you don’t impress employers with your phone etiquette, you won’t get the chance to dazzle them in person, so you have to prepare yourself for any conversation that might come your way. With these 7 tips in mind, you will pick up the phone with confidence every time.

Check your voicemail

A quick and easy first step is to check the recorded voicemail on your phone. If you don’t get to your phone in time, your voicemail message is the first impression an employer will get of you. To solidify your professional demeanor, speak clearly and slowly, identify yourself, and state what information should be included in their message so you can return their call.

Know your resume

Although some phone interviews will be short and sweet, other employers may want to walk through your resume before inviting you for an in person meeting. Before your call, go through each major accomplishment on your resume and jot down a few things you could say about each one, including an overview of your job and responsibilities. Keep these notes in front of you during the interview as a reference.

Go to a quiet and productive location

Find a spot with limited background noise where you won’t be easily distracted. Lay out all of your materials, including a copy of your resume, a notepad, and a pen. Sit in an upright position (as opposed to lying down on a couch or hanging out in your bed) so that you remain alert and focused. This will help keep you in the right mindset throughout your call.

Keep it simple

It’s perfectly normal to ramble when you’re nervous, so don’t be afraid to pause and think about your answer before immediately responding and listen to each question fully before answering. It will be easier with your resume and notes right in front of you. Before you begin an answer, take a moment, look over what you need to, collect your thoughts, and then answer when you’re ready.

Pretend you’re face-to-face

During an in-person interview you can use facial expressions and body language to express your interest and portray your emotions. However, over the phone, a recruiter can only gauge your interest by the sound of your voice. Keep the excitement in your voice by smiling the way you would in person to keep your voice cheery and enthusiastic. If you want, you can even dress professionally the way you would for an interview so that you are in an interviewing mindset, which can be hard to do if you’re just talking on your cell phone.

Ask questions

Another way to express interest in the position is to ask questions. Use your notepad to jot down any comments or questions you have during the call so you can refer to them when the interviewer asks if you have any questions. Asking a question will tell the recruiter you were actively listening, and if you do research about the company beforehand, this is the time to show off what you know by asking questions tailored specifically to this role or to the company in general.

Say thank you

At the end of the call before you hang up, make sure to thank the interviewer for taking the time to speak with you, even if it was just a 10 minute screening. To take it a step further, send them a thank you email with specific details from the call so they know that you are serious about the position. Even if you don’t end up taking this job, taking the time to thank them will help make a good impression. The interviewer might even think of you next time they have a job opening for which you are qualified.

These small steps, which can be as simple as checking your voicemail and saying thank you, can set you apart from other candidates. Although phone screens can seem daunting, these few tips and tricks will help prepare you to conquer anything an interviewer could throw your way.


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