Before an employer invests any time and effort in conducting a face to face interview, they will often do a preliminary phone interview which is also called a “phone screen”.

If you are working with a good recruiter or career professional, they will prep you for the phone interview to make sure that it goes smoothly so that you are invited to the in-person meeting.

If you are “flying solo”, you won’t have the advantage of having insider information, interview coaching, and constructive feedback that someone “in the know” can provide.

I recommend you invest in engaging a career professional to help you prep for the interview because it can increase your success rate significantly.

The phone screen is a tool to eliminate you immediately or move your forward to the next step.

In my experience, the employer is usually looking for reasons to NOT hire you as opposed to looking for reasons to hire you, so you need to keep this in mind and address any potential objections right away.

And despite what the interviewer might say, they know 99% of the time if it’s a “Yes” or “No” after they end the call with you.

For the employer, the main purpose of the phone interview is to:

i:  give them the opportunity to address any information that might be missing or not clear in your résumé and/or Linkedin profile

ii:  allow them to address any potential red flags like work gaps, short work tenure, no career progression, lack of education/professional development, and other things

iii:  determine if you are “worth” bringing in for an interview

For you, the main purpose of the phone interview is to:

i:  give you the opportunity to clarify anything that isn’t clear and provide more information as well as explain yourself in the event the employer seems to have a concern

ii:  ask a few questions if you are given the opportunity

iii:  get a sense if the opportunity is a good fit and “worth” interviewing for (you might not get enough information to come to this determination)




#1:  Your motivation

What really make you tick?

This is a big deal to the employer. They want to know what motivates you because this will indicate what your values and preferences are and if those values and preferences are in line with theirs.

Be prepared for questions like:

 “Why are you looking?”

“Why are you leaving your current position?”

“Why did you leave your last 2 jobs?”

For instance, if your answer gives them the impression that the only thing you care about is money and status that’s probably not going to go over well.

However, if the reason has to do with reducing commute time, increasing level of responsibility, or desire to work in a “matrixed” structure, those are “safer” reasons.

They’re also trying to determine if what you’re telling them makes sense or if there is some other underlying reason behind your job search that you’re not revealing. Like maybe you said you want to shorten your commute, but the real reason is something else. 

A skilled interviewer will be able to uncover what they would consider the “real reason” or even “red flags” so it’s usually best to be as transparent as you can without hurting your chances.

#2:  Your qualifications

The employer wants to know if you posses the core skills needed for the role. They don’t want to move your forward to the in-person meeting if you’re missing something that is a deal-breaker, like a degree, specific skill, or something else.

So, they’ll probably ask you a few pointed questions that give you the opportunity to showcase your knowledge, skills, education, experience, credentials, and even attributes.

Be prepared for questions like:

 “If your team was running behind a project and there was a person not pulling their weight, what would you do?”

 “Tell me about a recent example of where you had a difficult manager, what the problem was, and how you handled it.”

 “What is the greatest strength you can bring to this position and why?”

#3:  Your communication skills

Obviously, the employer wants to hire someone who can be understood in the language they will be working in. 

But it goes well beyond that. They’re looking for someone who can express ideas and concepts with no difficulty.

They will gauge your communication skills by how well you answer the questions (without going off on a tangent) and the kinds of questions you ask them.

If it’s like pulling teeth to get you to talk OR you talk way too much, neither are good and indicates that you might have difficulty expressing yourself (a confidence issue) and organizing your thoughts. Now I’m not saying that this is YOU, I’m just using this as an example. 🙂

Make sure to prepare a few questions to ask at the end of the interview. You might not have an opportunity but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

#4:  Your knowledge of the company

Employers like candidates who show they have done some research and can offer some information about what they’ve learned about the company, industry, and position. 

Be prepared for questions like:

“What do you know about us?” 

“Why do you want to work here?”

“Beyond your skills and experience, why do you think you would be a good fit?”

Be prepared to review the company website, Linkedin company page, industry websites, the interviewer’s LI personal page, Glassdoor, and any other online resources where you can glean some juicy tidbits you could share with the interviewer as long as it’s relevant.

#5:  Your interest level

The last thing the employer wants is to waste time bringing someone in for a face to face meeting when they’re not really interested in the job.

They’re looking for someone who demonstrates genuine interest and enthusiasm in the company and position.

Be prepared for questions like:

“When is your soonest availability for an in-person meeting?”

“How much advance warning do you need to attend a face to face meeting?”

“What would prevent you from attending an interview if you were invited back?”

If you say you will make yourself available, you will look interested. If you start going on about your yoga class, you need time to pick up your kids, you have a dental appointment coming up, and you’ll have to get back to them, etc. you will look like a problem.

Actions speak louder than words

Beyond just telling the employer you are interested, you want to sound interested. That means, conveying enthusiasm in your voice when answering the questions.

Make sure that you communicate with some degree of energy without going overboard.  Experts say that standing up and walking around while you are talking can help project your enthusiasm. 

If by the end of the conversation, you are still genuinely interested in the opportunity, then stress that fact to the interviewer.

You can say something simple like: “I would l like to stress that I am very interested in this position and would appreciate the opportunity to be invited back for the interview. I’ll do whatever it takes to make myself available for the interview.”

#6:  Your salary expectations

Employers don’t want to go through a whole interview process only to find out that you are looking for more money than they have in their budget. This would be a colossal waste of time for everyone.

Some employers will be upfront and give you’re the salary range and then ask you if this is in line with your expectations. This is to your advantage because you can decide right then and there if you are still interested in the opportunity.

However, others will be more direct so be prepared for questions like:

“What are you currently earning?” 

“What were you earning in your last 3 jobs?”

“What are your salary expectations?”

You need to be prepared how you are going to answer the money question without blurting out a number that you regret later or pricing yourself out of a job. 

I recommend you read this previous article about salary negotiation.

#7:  Your personality and preferences

Beyond your technical qualifications, the employer will want to get a sense of how well you will fit into the team and overall corporate culture.

Hiring managers typically like to hire people who are easy to work with and get along with all kinds of different personalities from various cultures and backgrounds.

They might ask questions about your preferred work environment, what your work style is, the kind of leadership style you thrive in, the kinds of people you like to work with, the size of company you prefer, among other things.

Be prepared for questions like:

“What kind of cross-functional teams have you worked with?”

“Have you worked with people from different cultures and backgrounds?”

“Describe your favourite manager and why you liked working with them.”

You should research the company to determine if there is a fit prior to sending your résumé so that when you get the interview, you already know how you will respond to these kinds of questions.

If you didn’t do the preliminary work, your response could be way off, and you won’t be invited to the in person meeting.

Résumé and interview help is only a click away!

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Hi!  I’m Diana.

I leverage over 10 years recruitment and sales/marketing experience to create attention-grabbing résumés, cover letters, and Linkedin profiles that help job seekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired. You can learn more about my story here and about how I can help you here.

Need help? That’s what I’m here for!

Are you in the midst of a job search and not getting the results you want? Or are you’re thinking of making a change and want to make sure you get started off on the right foot? Then I recommend you reach out for some help. You can contact me directly here!

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“20 Quick Fixes To Common Résumé Fails That Might Be Hurting Your Job Search”

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I look forward to helping you with your career success!