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How To Get An Interview By Nailing Your Phone Screen

So, you’ve completed your brand spanking new resume using the AAA Resume Format and you submitted it for a job that you really want.   A week later you’ve been contacted about the role and they want to talk to you about it #hellyeah

Firstly, great work! Clearly, they’re interested in your skills, experience and the way you have presented yourself on paper.  You’ve got your foot in the door, so now it’s time to “up the game”. The stakes just got higher.

You’ve been advised the next step in the selection process is to have a “chat” about your application with the recruiter.  Great! You’re excited about that but…

…you’re now starting to get a little nervous because you don’t know what they want to “chat” about…

…I mean, it could be anything yeah?

Sure, they could ask you anything, but let’s take a look at what typically this “chat” is going to be about, and what you need to prepare for.  Then you can remove those nerves and be your amazingly fabulous self.

Let’s start at the beginning…

An “informal chat” is typically what recruiters call a “phone screen”.

They’ve gone through all of the resume applications, culled the ones they don’t want and now they’re trying to find the best people to interview.  Time is limited in the recruitment world so they can’t physically interview everyone, only the best of the bunch.

So let’s go through what they’re looking for, so you don’t get caught on the “chopping block” and you do get that interview!

How you present yourself and communicate over the phone

They’ll be judging you on how you answer the phone, how polite you are, how well you know the job you’ve applied for… do you sound professional enough for them to want to interview you?

My tips for success:

  1. Keep copies of the job ads with you in your bag so you can reference them quickly when recruiters call. Nothing speaks more highly of a candidate that knows why they’re being called and is excited about it.
  2. Always activate voicemail – nothing worse than a recruiter trying to reach you and you don’t answer…or there isn’t an option for them to leave a message.

NOTE:  record a professional, friendly voicemail (no voice to text!) and check it regularly and get back to them ASAP.

  1. If they’re trying to set up a time with you, be flexible! They have a stack of people to call and you don’t want to be the one they roll their eyes at over the phone because you’re being a “princess” about times (I’m totally being serious about this one!).  You want them on your side.

Your motivation for applying

They’ll be making notes about your passion for the role, how interested you are and your motivation for applying.  They may ask things like why does this role interest you? Why are you wanting to leave your current role?  What compelled you to apply?

My tips for success:

  1. Think about your answers for these questions now (before they call)…be as truthful as you can but also keep in mind what the recruiter will be wanting to hear i.e. that you hate your current boss – not a good idea. That you don’t get paid enough – again, not a great idea.  That you’re looking for a new challenge and your current company doesn’t have room for progression – good idea.  Get the gist here?
  2. Write your answers down and keep then with you. The beauty of a phone interview is that it’s like an open book test – they can’t see if you’re reading off a piece of paper. This works really well if you get nervous easily too.  This has saved me so many times!
  3. It’s ok if you’re out and about to ask if you can call them back in 10 minutes, or later that day (if they want to talk to you on the spot), just so you can then rush back and grab your notes and be prepared for the call.  Please don’t take the call whilst on a bus, tram, train, driving etc. The signal ALWAYS seems to fail and it doesn’t come across professional.

Review your qualifications and experience

They may do quick review of your qualifications, technical ability and experience and ask you to clarify something such as your job history, formal qualifications, or anything specific about that role i.e. specific industry experience and skills.  If I’m interviewing for an administration position, as an example, I’m going to ask them about their diary management skills specifically and perhaps their ability to multi-task.

My tips for success:

  1. Have your resume with you so you can refer to it without having to remember all that info. Plus, if you’ve used the AAA Resume format you’ve likely adjusted the resume to suit that particular role so you’ll need to know exactly what you’ve written.  I always keep a little folder in my bag with all of my applications in it.  Might seem annoying but really, women have huge handbags nowadays and you can fit anything in there 🙂  It will really save you in the long run.
  2. If it’s a new industry that you haven’t worked in before, make sure you research that industry so you can at least have a conversation about what you know about it. And really, you should have done this prior to applying for that role anyway, so you know if it was going to be a good fit for you or not.
  3. Be prepared to provide examples as they may ask for them i.e. if we use my administrator example and I ask a candidate; “talk to me about your diary management ability”, it’s not enough to say “I’m really good at that” or “yes, I have a lot of experience in that”. You need to be able to demonstrate it through an example, even if they don’t ask you to provide one.  Tell them where you use that skill and the great outcomes you’e had using that skill.

And lastly, here are some of the common question you may need to prepare for:

  1. Talk through what you know of X company?
  2. What attracted you to this role?
  3. What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  4. Why are you looking to leave your current role?
  5. What is your salary expectation?
  6. Where do you see your career going in 5 years?
  7. Why do you think you’d be a good fit for this role?
  8. What is your notice period at your current role?
  9. What do you know about X Industry?
  10. Why are you interested in working in X industry?

Write down answers to all of them as you just don’t know what they’re going to ask.  Better to be prepared.  That’s how top candidates get the interviews!

Good luck!

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