The job screening interview may be conducted in person or by telephone. It is almost always a quick behavioral or experienced focused discussion (questions about your past experience often predict your match to a current position and future action) conducted by just one person. It is very common for human resources personnel or recruiters to screen candidates by phone or video call as it is the quickest way to ascertain a candidate’s skill set, qualifications and match to the job opportunity. Likewise, employers receiving numerous applications also find the telephone to be the best method for screening candidates for the first round.
Tip #1: Treat all interviews formally.
It might seem a bit more informal, but do not be lulled into that feeling because every interview is formal, important and critical to your success in moving onto the next interview level. At every step along the way you are being highly scrutinized. Employers are looking for elements in your resume and from your answers that confirms you might be a match for their position, but they are also interested in screening out those that simply do not match up. They want to hire the best possible match and quality individual for a position with their organization. The sooner they can assemble a solid candidate pool of top notch candidates to invite in for face-to-face interviews, the better.
Tip # 2: Always be prepared.
The Scout Motto.
Whether or not you are being screened in person or by telephone, you need to be prepared no matter what for the screening interview as this is only the first in what may be several steps and interviews you will have to go through. However, assume that when you are actively job seeking and have distributed your resume, that a prospective employer is going to call you. Your phone is going to ring and you will be facing the initial screening interview. Are you prepared? Probably not. That is because the interviewer is prepared to begin asking you questions about your background, experience and achievements. You, on the other hand, usually have no idea who is calling you, and thus, may not be prepared at that moment, or even be in the situation, to carry on an interview.
Tip #3: Don’t answer your phone.
Don’t answer your phone when you aren’t ready to talk.
What can you do? Simple, let the caller go into your voicemail and leave you a call back message and phone number. We all live in a world of voicemail and leaving one message is usually not a problem, as long as the person returns the call in a timely manner. Opportunity is knocking, but if you are holding a baby, have three dogs barking or hanging from the side of a cliff climbing a mountain, you probably shouldn’t answer the call. By letting the call go into voicemail you have some time to prepare. That way you can take a moment to compose yourself and be better prepared to call back at a time more suitable to you so you can give the best interview possible.
When you list your phone number on your resume, you can be absolutely certain an employer will use that to make an initial contact. Usually by email, but often by telephone as well. Now you know an employer is going to call you; you must anticipate this and be prepared. Thus, it is imperative that the message on your phone is professional, warm and courteous. It should not be cute, humorous, folksy or anything else but above board and professional. This is another “first impression” and you do not want to drop the ball here.
When you aren’t ready for the call, it is safer to let the call go to voicemail so you can return it at the right time than it is to be caught off guard and give a poorly prepared interview. You could knock yourself out of contention right at the outset, so why take such a risk?
Tip #4: Call back at your choosing.
When is the right time to call the interviewer back? As soon as you are relaxed and in a comfortable setting where you will not have annoying background noise, disturbances, interruptions, or anything that implies you are not in a professional setting and mode. You should call back as soon as possible; within minutes is best because the interviewer is eager to talk with you, already has you and your resume on their mind, is somewhat familiar with you and does not want to have to keep chasing you down.
Tip #5: Control the environment.
If you are driving and on your cell phone, pull over and get off a loud, busy street. If you are at home, go into a quiet room where no one can disturb you. Likewise, if you are at your office, close the door, use a private conference room, or go outside with your cell phone and find a suitable location (not near a door where people are going past you with greetings or might be tempted to stop and talk). Have your resume and any other important materials neatly organized and at your fingertips so you can refer to them at a moment’s notice. After all, the interviewer has them and is reading from the materials you supplied to them.
Tip #6: Get prepared for your next interview.
Assuming you have passed the initial screening interview, most likely by telephone, now what? Usually the next step is to invite you in for a more in-depth second screening interview – referred to as the qualification interview. The screening interview was to determine if you match up with the job description, possess the required job skills and requirements, and have most of the qualifications. The qualification interview will determine your strength and position within the candidate pool.