Ever been contacted by a
recruiter to schedule a 15-minute phone call? It’s a good sign to be selected
for a phone screening. With the hundreds of applicants that they receive daily,
recruiters will utilize their limited time and prioritize candidates who have the
best chance to be considered for a particular job.
The phone screening is
the first opportunity for the candidate to express who they are and why they
are the best fit for the position. The recruiter will be highlighting the
candidate to the employer based on the call, so it’s important for them to show
the recruiter exactly what makes them stand out from the rest. And if the candidate is unable to successfully
explain to the recruiter why they would be a good fit for the role, then they
may not submit their resume to their client, the hiring company. Remember,
executive search firms are paid by their clients to attract talent and fill key
We asked President and Executive Recruiter Ben Farber his perspective on how to have a successful phone screening experience.
How do you normally
approach your phone calls with candidates?
The main purpose for the
call is to learn the candidate’s character and personality more so than
experience. I usually have a sense of a candidate’s experience based on their
resume, but I want to know what makes the person tick. How do they lead a team?
Do they understand the importance of having fun and get along with their team
in a social setting (in a professional manner of course)? If someone fits the
job description, but not the company culture, it will be challenging for
employees to work with that person day in and day out. This in turn leads to
turnover. We strive for tenure, always.
While some recruiters may
go by the book when it comes to phone screening, my calls are typically spontaneous
and free flowing. Once a candidate opens up and answers a question, I answer
follow-up questions based on their answer. Doing so helps to get to know who
the candidate is while keeping them on their toes.
In your opinion, how
have candidates knocked the phone screening out of the park?
A candidate who is able
to make a strong impact in showcasing their personality and skillsets within
the 15-minute phone call is ideal. I look for someone who is personable,
passionate, and self-aware during the call. The ideal candidate will also be
able to answer a question fully without overtalking. I am impressed by a
candidate who can be serious when talking about numbers and how they can add
value to the company without being arrogant. And the really sharp executives
also know how to throw in a touch of tasteful humor. These candidates get us
excited to present them to our clients, which makes for an even smoother
recruitment and interview process.
What are some reasons
you do not consider candidates after a phone screening?
As mentioned before, it’s
all about energy and interest. I would be less inclined to present a candidate
to a client who has a lack of enthusiasm for the opportunity and has not done
any homework before our call about the company or position. While some
candidates give me short, incomplete answers to my questions, others can stray
away from the conversation all together and talk about topics I didn’t ask. A
candidate who is not giving their full attention during the call can also be
concerning. On some occasions, I have even heard candidates taking care of
chores such as dishwashing or cooking mid phone interview! We all lead busy
lives, I get it. However, undivided attention shows respect and focus. If a
candidate can’t sit still for 15 minutes during a call with a recruiter, how
are they going to function on the job?
Any last piece of
advice for candidates who are starting the initial stages of the hiring process?
Treat everyone as if they
were the CEO and follow the basics for a phone screening. Speaking respectfully
to anyone affiliated with the company is an opportunity to differentiate oneself
throughout the process. Be on time, research the company, and try to carve out
15 minutes of peace for the call. If there is a need to reschedule or there is no
longer an interest in the opportunity, let the recruiter know in advance. It’s better
to follow up and stay transparent with the recruiter in order to build a good rapport
for any future opportunities.
The way a candidate acts
during the phone screening sets the tone for the rest of the hiring process. While
the initial phone screening with the recruiter may seem like a casual
conversation, treating the conversation professionally and authentically will
lead to a successful experience. We never get a second chance to make a first