Have you ever hung up after a phone screen convinced it didn't go well but not entirely sure why? You prepared, practiced, did your research and attempted to give the interviewer every reason to say "yes." Yet, you were convinced the answer was "no." You certainly aren't alone. According to Jacquelyn Smith in Forbes magazine, only 20% of applicants survive a phone screen and are recommended for an interview with the hiring manager. This statistic makes it clear that there's a fine filter at work in this stage of the recruiting process, but how can you increase your chances of becoming one of the chosen few? The answer is in knowing your audience. Here are a few truisms about recruiters that will help you either survive a phone screen or better understand why you didn't.
- Recruiters color within the lines. By and large, recruiters are a conservative bunch. Their reputation depends on "meeting the brief," and referring only candidates that tick all the boxes of a manager's requirements for the job. Recruiters know it's career suicide to refer an unqualified candidate and potentially waste a hiring manager's time. So, help them tick the boxes. Understand the job, the skills they are seeking, and the company to which you're applying. During the interview, connect the dots between what a recruiter is looking for and what you have to offer.
- Recruiters are looking for clarity. Recruiters know how to probe and will more likely than not find the weaknesses in your background. Be prepared for at least a few uncomfortable questions. If you are asked a question for which you do not have a good answer, whether it's about your skills, experience or background, answer the question forthrightly. There's every chance that your other offerings will outweigh that "bad fact." If you attempt not to answer, most recruiters will pick up on the dodge and assume you have something to hide.
- Recruiters are looking for analogies. Remember Freshman English? The concept of "like for like" can be very helpful when preparing for an interview. Recruiters will be looking for an analogy between your experience and the job they're seeking to fill. Listen for cues and connect the dots for the recruiter. Explain how your skills and experience are similar to those needed for the position.
- Recruiters are looking for a cultural fit. Herein lies the most difficult part of interview preparation. Unless you have a direct line of sight into a given company, you'll never know the exact nature of a it's culture. Don't give up on research, but recognize that there may be buried aspects of the company culture that you won't access before the interview. Most recruiters are embedded in the culture and understand it well. They'll probe cultural fit and be loathe to refer someone on who's not right for the culture. During the phone screen, respond honestly to questions about the kind of cultural environment you work best in. Don't fake a cultural fit. It's a lose-lose if you get the job and fail as a result.
- Recruiters are on your side. Know that most recruiters, while trained to be skeptical, want nothing more than for you to get the job and ultimately, succeed in said job. So, relax. While phone screens are by nature stressful, there's a friend on the other end of the phone.
Not every phone screen will lead to a face to face interview, but you can get more insight into the recruiting process and better your chances of success if you contact us here.
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