The official blog of Abacus Group — a place to share our knowledge and thoughts on trends in recruiting

April 18, 2017

This is Why You’re Being Phone-Screened Out of the Interview Process

It’s standard procedure for the interview process to begin on the phone. A preliminary phone screen—keyword: screen—permits an employer to efficiently condense the applicant pool to a small number of standout professionals. Inevitably, multiple candidates are filtered out.

Some unfortunate job seekers are repeatedly eliminated after phone screens and never invited to interview in person. Such individuals’ verbal presentation—not their luck—is the obstacle. A pattern of rejection is especially frustrating because phone interviews yield little to no feedback from employers. If this is the case for you, it’s time to evaluate your performance and make adjustments.

Think about the phone interview in terms of three elements of time: the present, the past, and the future. Candidates who fail lack attention to the present, struggle to describe the past, or show disinterest in the future. Meanwhile, candidates succeed when they are fully engaged in the moment, are prepared to respond succinctly, and demonstrate enthusiasm about the prospect of getting the job. Read on to find out how and why communication deficiencies related to the present, past, or future will halt your candidacy.

Detachment from the Present Conversation

Internal conflicts, external distractions, or a combination of both prevent your total participation.

You schedule the conversation to take place just after a large, stressful meeting. Your mind is racing as you recap recent events. You forget the interviewer’s title and relation to the open position!

You mistakenly believe that multi-tasking is acceptable just because the interviewer cannot see you. You’re ordering coffee while communicating the reasons why you’re looking for a new job. You’re navigating rush-hour traffic as the interviewer tells you why the position is vacant. Customers’ conversations in a noisy cafe preoccupy your mind as the hiring manager awaits a response to a question about your greatest strengths.

Filler language—“like,” “um,” “er,” “you know”—pours out of your voice and you need to have questions repeated. You stumble over your answers or trail off without making a strong point.

Although you are physically invisible to the interviewer, we urge you to pretend that he or she is sitting across from you. Sit up straight and take notes in a quiet, private location. Otherwise, your lack of attention will clearly signify to the interviewer that you’d rather be doing something else.

Inability to Communicate Previous Experience

Selling yourself in a phone interview is rooted in connecting the work that you’ve already done with the work expected in the new position.

You answer the phone without any materials on hand. You didn’t print out your resume and the job description in advance. You know the information well enough, you convince yourself. The interviewer asks you to walk him or her through your most recent experience and you spit out a jumble of insignificant duties.

The interviewer asks you to give an example of a time you performed a specified task exceptionally well. The task is one of the main bullet points in the job description. The answer is on the tip of your tongue. You neglected to jot down your success stories, so make up an answer—only to recall a perfect example after the phone call has ended.

Phone interviews permit a cheat sheet, so there’s no need to skimp on preparation. Don’t fall for the myth that you can breeze through the conversation. The interviewer will see through your ambiguity.

Indifference about Next Steps

The interview is winding down. You were fully engaged in the conversation and answered every question clearly, but your strong performance cannot guarantee your advancement.

The interviewer asks if you have any questions. “I think you’ve already covered everything,” you respond. The employer thanks you for your time and tells you that he or she will be speaking with other candidates in the coming weeks. You don’t ask about next steps because you assume that an in-person interview request is already on its way to you.

In the hours that follow, you send a trite thank you email that doesn’t address anything special from the conversation. Worse yet, you don’t send one at all.

Regardless of how you’ve self-appraised your performance, asking about next steps is critical. Otherwise, the interviewer can assume that you’re no longer interested after learning more about the company and the role.

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