How to Have a Successful Technical Phone Screen

By Kyle Skidmore

Even with our current situation, employers are conducting phone screens prior to most in-person (or video) interviews. The purpose of the technology phone screen is to allow both parties involved, candidate and interviewer, to gain a better understanding for each other with time being the number one factor in mind. With a phone screen, the candidate is able to discover more about the manager, company, and work environment while the manager is finding more about the candidate in a very short period of time. Want to find out how to have a successful technical phone screen in that short period of time? Keep reading.

Purpose of the technical phone screen
As I previously mentioned, phone screens are very short phone calls to quickly assess a candidate. No one involved in the interview process wants to waste any time, so the technical phone screen is used for both the candidate and the interviewer to quickly grasp if they are a fit. It’s a very efficient way for the client to gauge the candidates’ skillsets and background. At the same time, it allows the candidate to get a better understanding of the company’s culture, environment, what the company stands behind, as well as gain more insight into the position and job duties. A phone screen is a great place to assess those factors and determine if you want to join the team. It’s important to remember that a phone screen is only about 15-30 minutes in length, and it determines how both parties will want to proceed based on initial interaction.

This process can be extremely beneficial as it eliminates any time off the candidate would need to take for a formal in-person interview, and is even more valuable if the candidate or the manager decides not to proceed. From a client perspective, it also eradicates any time wasted in traditional a 30-60 minute in-person interview. This process is designed to assess on the fly, get answers quickly, and determine the next steps efficiently.

What to do to prepare
When it comes to phone screens, you should treat it like any other interview, whether it’s in-person, video, etc. To prepare, you should do your due diligence by researching the company and the manager interviewing you. A simple LinkedIn search goes a long way to help you get a better understanding of who you are potentially going to work with. Come up with small rapport to show that you have done your homework and can portray your interpersonal skills. Also, a phone screen doesn’t allow you to show any body language, so it is important to show your personality through your voice (inflections, having the “get it done” type of attitude, etc.). Showing your interest and excitement in a phone interview is essential when determining the next steps in the interview process.

When you are replying to an answer, make sure you are going into great detail as opposed to just giving a high-level overview. This is something you should absolutely prepare prior to the phone screen so you know exactly what to say about yourself and your experience. This is your first impression and your one shot to showcase your skills, so be sure to answer thoroughly to show that you are knowledgeable in the given subject areas, have done something similar before, and can do it for this company as well. This is also a great opportunity to take notes or write down questions you have, so it’s a good idea to have paper and writing material in front of you during the phone screen.

On the technical side of phone screens, it’s very important to consider everything that can go wrong during the interview. Make sure you are making the phone call in a place with exceptional service. Phones do not always have the clearest connection; therefore, you should speak at an average pace and enunciate words clearly. The last thing you want during an interview is to be asked to repeat yourself due to either a poor connection or you are speaking too quickly.

What to keep in mind
Similarly to what I mentioned previously, you should not act any differently because it’s a phone screen rather than an in-person or a video interview. The phone screen should be your only focus during that time, so be aware of your surroundings and do not multitask during the call. Just because the interviewer cannot see you doesn’t mean it gives you an opportunity to do other things that take away your focus from the conversation. The interviewer can always tell if you are distracted or if they hear those distractions in the background, so choose to make this call in a quiet place free of those potential distractions. The most important thing to keep in mind is to treat it like any interview where the interviewer sees you.
technical phone screen
What makes a phone screen successful
For your technical phone screen to be a success, you need to be fully prepared in your answers. Sounding knowledgeable on the company and the duties of the position is vital. Something I always recommend to candidates during the phone screen is to reiterate what the duties are and what you and the interviewer discussed. This shows the interviewer that you have a perfect understanding of the position. The fact is, most people during an interview either do not know the full responsibilities of the position they apply for, or do not do enough to ensure and portray to the manager that they know; therefore, showing the interviewer you do not have a full understanding. The best way to prevent that assumption is to repeat the duties of the role and state how your background and skills fit those duties.

During the phone screen, you want to carry out a personal and intelligent conversation. You should be able to intelligently portray your background and core skills in relation to the position, without hesitation. With a complete understanding of your background and what the company is looking for, you should be able to complete a successful phone screen.

What NOT to do
The number one thing you should NOT do during a phone screen is to look up answers on Google. NOTE: Managers can tell when you do that. You’d be surprised how often this happens, and it shows that you are underprepared. You should also avoid conducting the phone screen in loud areas. Choose a quiet area without distractions and background noise. Excessive background noise is distracting for both the candidate and the interviewer, shows a lack of planning, and is very unprofessional. A good tip is to also never reply “no” to an interview question. Instead, say you haven’t had a chance to get your hands on that yet, but here is what I do have experience in and this is why it is similar…

Another subject that should never be discussed in a phone screen is negative comments of a previous employer. The phone screen is the first conversation you have with the interviewer, and you want to have the best first impression. This also includes the asking of salary, benefits, commute, etc. There is no need to ask about these subjects within the first call as it shows a lack of focus on the opportunity given at hand. If a situation arises where the interviewer asks you about the salary you are looking for, respond with a statement assuring them that salary is not the motivating factor and that you are more concerned with finding the right opportunity for you.

The technical phone screen is a quick and efficient way for the employer to assess a candidate, as well as for the candidate to further assess the company and the role. The goal is to discover if the candidate is on the right path of continuing in further interview processes. If you have any questions regarding phone screens, please feel free to reach out. Good luck in your future interviews!

About INT
INT Technologies is the nation’s largest certified Veteran-Owned Staffing and Consulting Company. We have 20 years proven track record assisting our varied clients with their projects and staffing needs within the financial, insurance, healthcare, government, aerospace, and technology industries. Serving clients nationwide, our leadership team -comprised of Chris Knott, Rhonda Rutledge, James Moloney, Tamara Ellestad, and Richard Krause -focuses on integrity and service and the relationships they help build. Proof of our commitment to “our client is our highest priority” can be seen in the fact that each of INT’s founding clients remain INT clients 20 years later. www.inttechnologies.com

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