Has this ever happened to you?

You apply for a job opening and receive a phone call from somebody at the company. They want to conduct a preliminary interview over the telephone, i.e., a phone screen. So they ask you a few standard questions, and you give what you believe are good answers. You hang up the phone, confident that you’re on your way. Except . . . you never receive another phone call from the company. Obviously, you failed the phone screen.

What went wrong?

Unfortunately, some candidates believe that the phone screen is merely a formality before the company calls them in for a face-to-face interview. This is a mistake. The objective of the phone screen is to secure a face-to-face meeting. With that in mind, below are tips to help you prepare for a phone screen and move to the next stage of the process.

  1. Be enthusiastic and assertive. Sometimes it’s easy to forget, but the person on the other end of the line can’t see your facial expressions or make eye contact with you. As a result, they can’t fully or accurately gauge your level of excitement or interest in the position.
  2. Stay focused and eliminate all distractions. Avoid speaking too quickly, having music or other noises in the background, chewing or smoking, or speaking too close to the receiver—in other words,anything that may create an unpleasant image of yourself.
  3. Don’t ask questions that appear to be selfishly motivated. This is the most common mistake that people make during phone screens. You shouldn’t even bring up the subject of money or benefits. Remember, this phone call determines whether or not you’ll be having a face-to-face interview. Your only goal at this point should be to sell the company on your skills and experience. Be ready to showcase specific examples of projects and accomplishments that illustrate these things.

Be prepared for the following questions:

    1. Why are you leaving your present position? Have a positive reason for this move. Ripping on your current boss is not going to leave a favorable impression. Instead, emphasize your desire for professional growth and development.
    2. What are your strong/weak points? Be honest when answering this question. Trying to convince the interviewer that you have no weaknesses will uncover at least one weakness—dishonesty. What have been your most significant professional accomplishments? This is another opportunity to showcase your skill level and experience. Make a detailed list of your accomplishments beforehand.
    3. What contributions can you make to our company? This is the big question, the one that will either cement their interest in you or leave them with lingering doubts. The best way to answer it is to conduct thorough research. Check out the company on the Internet (including social media), find out what it’s doing, and be prepared to point out how you can help it achieve its goals. As a parting comment, let the interviewer know that you are very interested in the position and why.
    4. Once again, let your enthusiasm show.

If treated properly, the phone screen can help set the tone for the entire interview process. It can make you look solid from beginning to end. If you stick to the guidelines listed above, you’ll increase the chances that you’ll move on—and move one step closer to receiving an offer.