STEP FOUR to Getting the Interview: BE PREPARED

Alpha Stock Images


Scenario 1:

Brrring. Brrring. Brrring.

“Hello, this is Sally.” Wahhhh! Wahhhh! Wahhhh! Wahhhh!

“Hi Sally, this is RECRUITER calling with Career Professionals. Wahhhh, wahhhh. I received your resume and was hoping to go over your qualifications for the open sales representative position you applied for. Do you have a few minutes?” Wahhhh, wahhhh, wahhhh.

“Actually, right now isn’t a good time. My child is crying. Can I call you back when he is napping?” Wahhhh! Wahhhh!


Scenario 2:

Brrring, brrring, brrring.

“Hello, this is John.”

“Hi John, this is RECRUITER calling with Career Professionals. I received your resume and was hoping to go over your qualifications for the open sales representative position you applied for. Do you have a few minutes?”

“Sure! I’d be glad to discuss why I am a positive match for the sales representative opening.”


Scenario 3:

Brrring. Brrring. Brrring.

“Yo. Whaddup?”

“Hi, is this Alex?”


“Hi Alex, this is RECRUITER calling with Career Professionals. I received your resume and was hoping to go over your qualifications for the open sales representative position you applied for. Do you have a few minutes?”

“Uh-huh. What do you want to know? You should hire me. I’m awesome.”



Will Sally, John, or Alex be brought in for an in-person interview based on the three above scenarios? If you guessed John, you’re correct. John was professional and prepared for the call. He was ready to go over his qualifications and nail the phone interview. Sally should have let the call go to voicemail and returned the call while her child is napping. She was distracted and couldn’t prioritize the conversation with the recruiter. Alex needs to work on his phone etiquette – especially if he is applying for a phone-based sales role! He wasn’t prepared for a potential employer to be reaching out.

You completed the first three steps to getting the interview – you created your resume, you applied, and you followed up. All your hard work paid off, and you were selected for a phone screen. The 20-minute phone conversation you are about to have will determine if you get the opportunity to meet the employer in-person. You want to appear confident, professional, and calm. Easier said than done. When you answer a recruiter’s phone call, you might be tempted to jump up and down with excitement, use a tone an octave higher than your normal voice, or gush about how badly you wanted to get the call. Instead, take a deep breath and reach for your resume and prepared talking points. This will ensure you stay on topic and are ready for any questions that come your way.

Be professional. Be professional. Be professional. This cannot be stressed enough. Your resume impressed the recruiter, and you must prove to them that what is on paper transfers to reality. Be prepared to highlight your education, previous work experience, and why you should be hired. It’s helpful to have the job description handy. You can tailor your examples to match what the employer is looking for. For example, a requirement might be to work well as an individual and as part of a team. When asked why you would be a good fit, you can list an example of a time you completed a task on your own as well as a time when you collaborated with team members on a project to achieve the desired outcome. Remember to breathe and pause regularly. Take a few seconds to plan your response if needed. That’s better than using fillers. Avoid ‘um’, ‘like’, ‘ah’, ‘so yeah’, etc. Remain mindful of your talking speed and pronunciation throughout the conversation. It’s normal to talk a lot faster than usual when you are nervous. This can cause words to slur together or be skipped over entirely. You want to speak as clearly as possible and keep the conversation moving without rushing. You are nearing the end of your phone interview, and you rocked it! The recruiter wants to set up a face-to-face interview to dive into your qualifications further and determine if you’d be a good culture fit. Know your schedule and get an appointment on the calendar while you are still on the phone with the recruiter. Then, ask for a follow-up email or calendar invite to confirm the details.

If you haven’t laid the groundwork or don’t feel organized, it’s okay to let the call go to your voicemail. Other times it’s okay to let a phone call go to your voicemail are if you don’t know who is calling, you are in your car or driving, you are attending to a fussy child, you are at your current place of employment, you have poor phone reception, you are out of breath from running to the phone, or you are distracted. You want to set yourself up for success, and your environment can greatly impact the outcome of the phone interview. When applying for jobs, make sure your voicemail is set up, and that it isn’t full. Also, listen to what you have recorded. Are you the one talking? Does it sound professional? Is it the same recording from when your phone was set up five years ago or have you updated it recently? If you need to record a new message, keep it short and simple. Try something like “Hello, you’ve reached NAME. Please leave a brief message with your name, phone number, and the reason for calling. I will return your call when I have a moment. Thanks!” Then, when you are ready, return the voicemail. If possible, try to give them a call back that day or the following day.

Following these tips will help you stand out from the applicant pool and get you closer to an in-person interview. Your resume or application made a strong first impression and left the recruiter curious to know more about you. The phone interview is an important step to solidify your chances of being invited to meet the recruiter face-to-face. Nerves or excitement may take over, so be prepared. Try to reduce any surprises by writing out answers to common interview questions. Ask a friend to give you a mock interview to practice your responses. Then, ask them for feedback. It’s common for recent graduates or entry-level professionals to need help preparing for an interview, so use resources available to you. Check out your college career center, articles on interview tips and phone etiquette, or recruitment agencies to ensure you’re ready for the phone interview.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s