It's time to get on the phone with a recruiter. Are you ready?

Did your Linkedin profile just capture the attention of a recruiter? Did you get referred to a recruiter that could help you? Have you reached out to recruiters to bolster your career and made a match?  Congrats! You just moved past one of the first hurdles of your job-search journey. Next, you need to prepare yourself for a scheduled (or potentially unannounced) phone interview with the recruiter.

Phone interviews, also known as phone screens, are used by employers to screen potential candidates and narrow down the pool of applicants before conducting in-person interviews, and they are also a great way of cutting down expenses when interviewing out-of-town candidates. These interviews are usually short, often lasting between 10 and 30 minutes. If you just scheduled one and are worried about questions to ask the recruiter or interviewer during the phone interview, fret not! Here are the best tips to ace your phone-screen interview during the hiring process.

Questions to ask prior to the interview

If you're lucky enough to have a phone interview that is scheduled in advance, get in touch with the recruiter to figure out what to prepare. For instance, it would be really helpful to know the name of who will be interviewing you. If it's the hiring manager, then you should read up about their scope of work and areas of interest.

Additionally, you should also try to discern what type of interview this will be. If it's a behavioral interview, you'll need to prepare for questions about your experiences at your previous positions, such as “Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and how you handled implementing it.” If it's a product-focused interview, you might be asked questions like “Have you consistently met your sales goals?”. Knowing what type of interview it'll be will help your preparation tremendously.

Another good strategy is to ask the recruiter if there's anything in particular that you should focus your preparation on. For example, some recruiters might want to discuss more of your technical expertise, and in such a case, it's always better to prepare points and examples ahead of time on the topic.

Do your homework

If you're anxious about what questions you should ask during a phone call with a recruiter, it always helps to do thorough research about the company prior to the phone screen. Although recruiters may not expect you to know everything about the company at this stage, you should still have a firm understanding about the position you're interviewing for.

There is a significant difference between talking to someone who has done their homework and someone that is trying to wing it over the phone without any substance. Experienced recruiters can tell the difference the moment you start talking, so don't ever go into a phone interview unprepared!

Be sure to demonstrate to the recruiter that you fit the basic requirements for the position advertised by carefully studying the job description provided and listing down the critical deliverables for the role. During the phone-screen interview, highlight your strengths in these specific areas to demonstrate your technical aptitude, as well.

Be willing to discuss salary

Now, this is a tricky one. It's not easy to discuss salary as you don't want to lowball yourself, but avoiding this conversation altogether can only backfire. Recruiters and hiring managers ask about salary for a reason: They don't want to waste your time if your expected salary is much higher than what the hiring company is willing to pay.

Some candidates like to beat around the bush when it comes to this question. They go through the entire interview process without giving an answer until the very end. This is the worst thing you could do! If your salary demand is much higher than what the company is offering, not only have you wasted the recruiter's time, but you have also made a bad impression on someone who can introduce you to better jobs in the future. Be honest about what you're willing to earn so that you can focus on other job openings if this one doesn't work for you.

Questions a potential candidate can ask the recruiter during a phone interview

Your phone interview should be an interactive, two-way communication — not an interrogation. Hence, it's not enough to just be prepared with answers for potential interview questions. A smart candidate would also prepare a list of phone interview questions to ask the recruiter.

  • What qualities are you looking for in the person you hire for this job?

  • What do you think is the most challenging part of this job?

  • Where do you see the company in the next five years?

  • What did the last person in this position go on to do?

  • What skills do you not already have in the team that you're looking for?

  • What are the opportunities for progress in the company?

  • Could you describe a typical day in this position?

  • Does the company provide training opportunities for its employees?

Show sincere interest and strong cultural fit

Recruiters and interviewers love it when a candidate's skill set is a strong match for the job opening. However, having good technical expertise alone isn't enough for you to land the job. Recruiters want to hire candidates who are enthusiastic about the job and excited to learn new things. Instead of making the interview all about your skill set, also talk about your genuine interest in the particular field and why you think you can contribute to the company. Make it clear that you are serious about landing this job and not just so-so interested. If something excites you, share the excitement! You'll be sure to stand out for your honesty.

Additionally, keep in mind that companies want to hire candidates that can fit well with their working company culture and team. If you don't know much about the company to begin with, be sure to go through their social media platforms, such as their Facebook page and Twitter feed. Scrolling through the company's social media posts will give you a better idea of its brand personality and tone. During the phone call, make it clear that you can fit in well in the company with your personality and adaptability.

Using these tips, you put yourself in a good position to get called in for a face-to-face interview … and one step closer to landing the job!

Are your phone interviews turning into missed opportunities? Don't fret! Our professional interview coaches and career experts can help.

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