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Phone screen interviews: what to do before, during, and after

October 6, 2022 - 13 min read

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What is a phone screen interview?

How are phone screen interviews different from phone interviews?

How to nail a phone screen interview

What questions can you expect in a phone screen interview?

For the future

Great news — you received a call back about a job application. The recruiter wants to schedule a phone screen interview with you. 

A phone screen isn’t necessarily a job interview. It’s a pre-interview step recruiters take to ensure you check some boxes. It's often the first step you need to accomplish to make it to the next round of interviews in the hiring process.

Before you hop on your phone call, you might have some basic questions. Are phone interview questions different from face-to-face interviews? Do you still need to follow up after the call's ended? 

Don’t worry — we have answers for you. We'll help you prepare for a successful, professional phone screen interview.

What is a phone screen interview?

So what is a phone screening for a job? A phone screen interview is a brief phone call between you and a recruiter or member of a company's talent acquisition team.

They’ll ask about your basic skills and past experience and offer some details about the job opportunity. These calls usually take between 15–30 minutes and include some straightforward information about things the salary range, job responsibilities, and your availability. 

The purpose of these screening interviews is to weed out the job candidates who have glaring red flags. It's to narrow down the pool of people for detailed job interviews. And with the Great Resignation well underway, hiring teams need to save their energy for strong applicants.

As of 2022, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported just over 10.5 million job openings in the United States.

The hiring process takes lots of time, and companies don't want to waste time or money on job candidates who don’t match the position.

Phone screenings, formal interviews, and other evaluations take lots of time and energy. Some industries take longer than others, but don’t expect to start working a new job in two weeks.

LinkedIn studied the hiring timelines of 400,000 people who applied for new jobs between 2020 and 2021. They found the median number of days it takes for people to get hired in a variety of industries:

  • Industries that aren’t tech-related have a faster hiring process than those that are
  • Customer service is the fastest at hiring people, with a median time of 34 days
  • Engineering takes the longest to hire someone, with a median time of 49 days
  • Marketing and healthcare represent the study’s average at 40 days

Remember to congratulate yourself on getting a phone screen interview in the first place. It means that your cover letter and resume stood out to the recruiter, and they want to learn more about you. It's a great first step. Now you just need to nail the phone screening.

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How are phone screen interviews different from phone interviews?

So are phone screen interviews the same as regular phone interviews? Not exactly. Think of them as more of a general introduction.

Phone interview questions are more based around open-ended questions like "Tell me about a time when…" or "Tell me about yourself…" that ask you to explain your experience in more detail. Expect more behavioral and basic informational questions for the phone screening.

Phone interviews also last longer than screenings, so while you might expect a screening call to last 15–30 minutes, a phone interview usually lasts from 30–60 minutes.

Man-wearing-a-suit-waiting-phone-screen-interview

This is because the recruiter is more serious about you in the interview stage. They want to get a feel of how you'd fit the company culture, how passionate you are about the work, and if you’d fit in with their work environment. 

A screening interview involves a lot of listening on your part, too. You learn more than just what the job description says, which can help you realize if you want to pursue this job. IA phone screening might help you decide this role isn’t for you.

Whether it's a screening interview or a phone interview, you want to speak confidently and comfortably. At BetterUp, our coaches will provide the guidance you need to sharpen your communication skills for any type of interview you encounter and make a great first impression.

How to nail a phone screen interview

Interviews are stressful, and phone screenings are no exception. Your social anxiety disorder may cause you to become stressed and nervous about talking to new people, and phone anxiety is no exception.

If this is you, just know that you're not alone. Consider meeting with a mental health professional if your phone anxiety, or general anxiety, is overwhelming

One way to handle your worries is to devise an action plan that tells you what to do before, during, and after your phone call. It'll help guide you through the process and make you feel more comfortable.

Woman-working-phone-screen-interview

Here are some phone interview tips for before, during, and after your call:

Before the phone screening

  • Take a deep breath: Deep breathing exercises help to relax your mind and body. Give yourself plenty of time before your incoming call to shake out your nerves, confront your insecurities, and keep a positive attitude.
  • Research the company: You don't need to know everything about the company, but it's a good idea to dive into its values, goals, and impact. What do they do that interests you? Why did you apply in the first place? How do you align? Try checking out their social media pages to better understand their branding.
  • Set up your area: Where you take your phone call matters. You want to be in a comfortable area with little distractions and interruptions. Sit in a comfortable chair, or make room to stand.
  • Have resources on hand: Since the person on the other end won't see your face, why not have your resume or cover letter on hand? You could have notes you might need about the company, a list of your strengths, or whatever other tools you feel will help you.

During the phone screen

  • Listen carefully: Listening well to what the recruiter says will help you clearly answer each question. You'll understand exactly what they're asking of you, and the conversation will flow better. 
  • Ask questions: A phone screening is your chance to learn more about the job opportunity and clarify anything you're confused about. Don't hesitate to ask questions when it's appropriate. It'll show you're truly interested in the job.
  • Watch your voice: The person can't see your body language, so using your voice to make a strong impression is even more important. Try to avoid mumbling and use complete sentences. Don't rush your words. 
  • Take notes: Taking notes during your interview will help you remember what you learn. Don't feel like you have to write everything down — just the most important details.

After the phone screen

  • Do some reflection: You did it! But how do you feel about what you've learned? What's your outlook on the company and the job opportunity itself? It's OK if something's turned you off.
    Maybe the recruiter outlined a job responsibility you just aren’t interested in. What's important is that you take time to digest your feelings and thoughts as you move forward. 
  • Send a follow-up: At the end of the call, you should thank the person and send a follow-up message. It'll help you stand out more and is another opportunity to show your motivation.
  • Do more research if necessary: If there's something that you're still unsure about, research it. Try connecting with employees over LinkedIn to see how they feel about the company, or reach out to your mentors for some career advice.
  • Relax your mind and body: Feel proud of yourself for your accomplishments. Practice some self-care and reward yourself for completing your phone screen interview. Celebrating even the smallest of wins will help your well-being.

Young-woman-looking-for-work-phone-screen-interview

What questions can you expect in a phone screen interview?

Interview questions come in all shapes and forms. Phone screen questions might be long or short. But whatever questions you're asked, the recruiter has something particular that they're looking for. They want to hear your soft skills, past experiences, and attitude. Recruiters also listen for transferable skills, which play a big role in the hiring process and selecting which candidates move forward to the next round of interviews.

To give you a better idea of what you might be asked, here are six phone screen interview questions to review:

  1. What's your availability like?

  2. What are your salary expectations?

  3. What's your level of experience with X?

  4. What was your previous job like, and what were your responsibilities?

  5. What drew you to (company's name) in the first place?

  6. Why are you leaving your current job?

For the future

A phone screen interview is a great sign. It means you've grabbed a recruiter's attention, and they're curious about you. But they still require some preparation if you want to make a great first impression and move on to the next round of interviews.

Young-businesswoman-using-smartphone-phone-screen-interview

Now you've learned what to do before, during, and after your phone call. You know to do research ahead of time and not to rush your words while on your call. You'll be ready to follow up with a thank you email. When it’s time for the next interview, you’ll feel like a pro. 

You can move to the next interview knowing what to expect — and you’ll better show the recruiter you’re the best candidate for the job.

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Published October 6, 2022

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

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