July 24, 2013
Tips for successfully navigating a phone screen
Most employers in the Seattle area conduct an initial phone screen or two with candidates before an interview, one with HR, and possibly one with someone on the hiring team. Although they are similar, a phone screen is used in a slightly different way than an in-person meeting. An HR screen is looking for communication and cultural fit, while a screen with the hiring team is usually ascertaining your functional fit.
The HR screen is also a chance for you to ask some questions about the company in general. The biggest red flag candidates can send up in a phone screen is not asking any questions about the company, or asking questions to which they should already know the answers, such as "Where are you located?" or "What does your company do?"
Good questions to ask in a phone call include those about the role; performance expectations and evaluations; the career path; the team; leadership; market penetration; where the company is in the recruiting process; and how you compare to other candidates.
You can also tell the recruiter you are open to other types of roles in the company, if that's the case. It is not the time to ask about benefits such as vacation time, or when you can expect to be promoted.
If you are speaking to HR, now is the time to discuss money. Contrary to what most people think, it is better to set mutual parameters sooner rather than later. You should have an expected salary range that is at the higher end with room to negotiate to your midpoint.
Tools such as NWjobs.com's Salary Wizard or PayScale can give you personalized salary reports that will include general industry ranges. Knowing your value is critical, especially if you are overpaid or underpaid and you know it.
During your phone screen, you should be in a quiet place with good reception and no distractions. Use your car if you are at work. There should be little or no background noise (pets, children, TV, music, etc.). Be prepared and interested; have a pad of paper or your laptop handy to take notes.
Remember, this is your first chance to make a live impression with the company. An engaged candidate with fewer skills can outweigh an indifferent one every time.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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