Don’t “Phone It In” — 10 Tips for Phone Screening Interviews


Congratulations! You’ve finally slipped your metaphorical foot into that elusive corporate door by landing an initial phone screening interview. Better yet, it’s with your dream company. Before you celebrate the win, it’s essential to understand the steps you must take to wedge yourself in that door even further by advancing to the next round.  

Remember that this is a phone call. You won’t be able to rely on typical nonverbal communications like facial expressions, posture, gesturing, and eye contact to convey your personality and passion. So how do you convince the interviewer that you’re worth more of their time?

Read on, job seeker. Here are 10 tips to ace your phone screening interview.

10 Tips for Successful Phone Screening Interviews

1. Take notes on the company and any STAR stories you might be asked to share. The secret is to avoid word-for-word responses, so you’re not reading. Use short phrases with bullet points to stay on track.   

2. The one exception to more structured notes are the questions you plan to ask the interviewer. The phone screen is your chance to acquire helpful information for succeeding in the next round of interviews. You can also incorporate the research you’ve done on the company. Have the questions well-phrased and ready. 

3. Be ready to answer the inevitable prompt “Tell me about yourself.” Keep your answer focused and concise, but be sure to note the following:

  • Title of your current role and name of your company OR your last role
  • Education if you’re new to the job market
  • Amount of time you’ve worked in the industry
  • Key responsibilities using strong action verbs and quantifiable data that emphasizes your impact

Sample response for a recent graduate:

I earned an undergraduate degree in international business at Rutgers with a second major in Spanish. I’m currently employed by The United Nations as a translator while completing my MBA at Columbia. I’m passionate about using my language skills and business expertise to bridge gaps between those who are working to establish better diplomatic ties between the United States and Latin American countries, whether it be government agencies or private industries. Acquiring experience in both has enhanced my education and provided perspective that would surely benefit me in this position.

Sample response for a more experienced job seeker:

After graduating with my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, I spent two years as an Executive Assistant with Draftkings where I learned a great deal about improving fan engagement. This led me to Genius Sports, where I’ve spent the last five years as a project manager. I‘ve had the opportunity to work collaboratively towards increasing our reach to 700 sports, betting, and media partners around the world. Most recently, I’ve successfully managed 12 end-to-end event coordination projects at the New York office and have generated a strong professional network of national and international colleagues. I was excited to learn about this opportunity in the sports management space — as a longtime athlete and sports enthusiast, I’ve always been passionate about the way sports bring cultures together and would love the chance to bring my leadership abilities to this position.

4. Focus on your transferable skills. Determine how your current role or past roles have prepared you for this specific position. Make the connection yourself; don’t wait to be asked. Use the language from their job description or qualifications. 

5. Determine what makes you the perfect fit for this particular role at this particular company. What do you bring that’s unique based on job experience, work ethic, or personal values?

Stand while talking during a phone screening interview.

6. Be enthusiastic. Stand while talking; it will help you come across as more confident. Be sure to smile because it affects your tone.

7. Use extra energy since you have no body language to help convey your responses. Your personality has to be channeled through your voice. Definitely rehearse aloud. 

8. If the question “Why do you want to leave your current job?” is posed, be positive. Describe your skills mastered in the position, your goal of activating them in future roles, and your appreciation for opportunities that were provided. 

9. Research the interviewer’s LinkedIn. It’s helpful to review their bio and learn the specifics of their career path. Having this background can make you feel more comfortable during the interview. 

10. When answering questions about hypothetical situations, provide clear steps and strong reasons for your actions. Conveying your priorities and decision-making abilities convinces the interviewer that you are a great candidate.

What Happens Next

After you hang up the phone and smile one last time, sit down (since you were definitely standing), and craft an email thanking the interviewer. Make it brief, but sincere, expressing clearly that you appreciated their time and the opportunity to learn more about the position.  State that you feel the role is an excellent fit for you based on your experience, your qualifications, and the company’s mission statement. Conclude by saying that you hope to hear from them soon. 

Corporate doors may revolve rapidly, but rest assured, if you follow these steps, you’ll center yourself in a compartment that will deliver you, feet first, into the lobby.

-Dana Kinsey, Red Pen Wench’s Certified Interview Coach

Lacking confidence in your interviews? Let Dana help! Click here to schedule an interview coaching session.