Top 10 Tips for Screening Interviews

For most companies, the interview process typically begins with a screening interview. Traditionally, most screening interviews are done by phone. But due to the significant increase in video calls as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, you could actually have a video call scheduled for your initial screen as well.

Typically, a screening interview is an opportunity for a company to see if they like you before committing to moving you forward in their interview process. Screening questions are usually not as in-depth and are designed to get a sense of your personality and assess your communication skills. Occasionally compensation may be brought up during a screening interview so that you and the company can discuss your expectations to ensure there is a fit on both sides.

So let’s dig into my Top 10 Tips for a Successful Screening Interview!

PREPARE FOR THE CALL. Before any screening interview, I recommend you review your resumé and visit the company website to get familiar with their business. 

PLAN FOR 30 MINUTES OR LESS. This is just an introductory conversation, so be mindful of the fact that the interviewer is unlikely to talk with you for much longer than this. 

Do your best to BREATHE & RELAX and don’t try to cram too much information into what is intended to be an initial screening meeting. If the interviewer wants more information, they will ask.

CREATE A CHEAT SHEET. The beauty of screening on the phone is that you can use notes to help you perform at your best. This will help you feel more confident and you won’t be scrambling to think of what to say or how to answer. Write down some bullet points highlighting a few of your successes and your top strengths and skills so you have them top of mind.  If you are using video, your notes will need to be a little more discreet – you don’t want to make it obvious that you have them or are referring to them.

DEMONSTRATE ENTHUSIASM about the company, the role, and take opportunities to work in how you’re a great fit. For example, you could say something like this: “Based on the job description and based on what you have told me about this role, I think my skills and experience are a perfect fit, and I’m really excited about this opportunity.” Your enthusiasm goes a long way because it can really help you differentiate yourself as a candidate.  

KEEP ANSWERS BRIEF and TO-THE-POINT. If the screener asks you “A” then don’t answer with “A through Z”. Many candidates try and cram a 10 lb. sack of potatoes into a 5 lb. bag. Try not to get caught up in that trap. Remember, the screen is typically 30 minutes or less, and the screener may find it difficult to take in too much information at once. 

PRACTICE ANSWERS TO INTERVIEW QUESTIONS OUT LOUD, by yourself or with somebody you trust. Think about some basic questions you’ve been asked in the past and prepare some answers.  If you haven’t interviewed in a long time, ask family members or friends to help you with some common questions. Try to speak at a pace that is not too fast or too slow.  

CONVEY POSITIVITY, ENGAGEMENT, ENERGY and LIKEABILITY. On the phone, you have to do this all with your voice. Take your energy level up a notch or two because the interviewer can’t see you or make eye contact which makes it more difficult for them to get a feel for the energy and excitement you have for the role. On video calls, be sure you are comfortable looking at the camera to try and create a feeling of engagement through eye contact.

COMMUNICATE THAT YOU ARE A TEAM PLAYER. Collaboration and teamwork are highly valued in today’s workplace. 

PREPARE A FEW QUESTIONS but keep them more general at this stage. The person interviewing you is unlikely to be a final decision maker. They are more likely a recruiter or HR team member, so they may not have a lot of detailed information about the specific role. A couple of good questions might be: “Can you tell me about the culture?” And “what are the most important qualities you are looking for in candidate for this role?” 

That’s it. Your Top 10 Tips for a Successful Screening Interview. 🙂

If you have any questions about screening interviews, or have any experiences to share, please drop a note in the comments below. We’d love to hear what you think!

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