If you are looking for a new job, do you know the difference between a get acquainted call, a screening call and a real interview?

Candidates sometimes go all out, trying to win the job, OR, take the opposite approach and act too casual, and in either case, get deselected before they really had a chance.

If you have submitted your resume to an employer, and they have contacted you, the key is to keep making it to the next step.  Winning a job is an incremental process.  The first contact may be simply to verify information, or it may be a screening call, to determine basic qualifications.  It is rarely a true interview.

What mistakes do candidates make in screening calls?  Here are a few to avoid:

Being too relaxed or passive: Employers want to feel energy and enthusiasm.  When you are chatting over the phone, there is no opportunity to smile, make eye contact, look friendly in your body language – all you have is sound.  So, you must put energy into your responses.  Some communications experts advise standing or even walking around while on such a call.  Or, have a cup of coffee first!  Whatever it takes to get across that you aren’t falling asleep, lazy, or simply apathetic.

Saying too much: You don’t know if the screening call is 20, 40 or 60 minutes.  You don’t know if the screener is on their first or 100th call of the day.  It pays to be concise.  Don’t try to sell every aspect of your capability in this call – just avoid mistakes.  One mistake is to overdo answers.  You risk boring the screener, or worse, they don’t ask all their questions, because you wasted too much time on early questions.  Then, the screener might not have an opportunity to really get the key info they need to screen you in.

Going off on tangents: Everything you say must be relevant to the screener’s direct question.  If the question is “How did you improve processes?”, don’t start describing in detail the products you were making; just answer the question.

Asking “me” questions too soon: You don’t think about how big a diamond engagement ring to buy on the first blind date with someone.  Similarly, you don’t ask a screener about salaries, working hours, time off, benefits, and other “me, me” things, until they have demonstrated interest in you.  No one will force you to say yes before you have enough information about the job – there is time for that later.  Let them fall for you first, then you can ask for more.

Failing to show interest: Some job seekers think that playing “hard to get” is a good strategy.  It isn’t.  The employer will simply want to move on.  It is also important to say something about them – the company – that attracts you.  Show your interest early and reinforce it if needed.

Passing a screener is an art and a science.  The screener may know very little about the actual job requirements, or they might know everything!  You have to be on your toes, pay attention to the questions, and give answers of appropriate length, content and tone, in order to make it to the next level.  In a competitive job market it is critical to get this right, so you avoid being de-selected too early.

Views: 724

Tags: being, calls, deselected, interviews, screening

Comment by Mark Bregman on February 27, 2012 at 2:00pm

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Comment by Tiffany Nugent on February 28, 2012 at 9:15am

Excellent! I'm teaching an interviewing class to our employees in a few months, and I would love to use these tips to show them I'm not the only one who says these things. :)

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