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 roles.
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 impression.