What Is a Phone Screening Interview?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 24, 2022 | Published July 26, 2021

Updated October 24, 2022

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Related: Ultimate Job Interview Guide - What To Expect Plus Top 6 Tips

Jenn, a career coach, provides a look at the interviewing process and shares tips on how to position yourself for success at every step.

A screening interview is usually your first opportunity to catch the interviewer's attention and make them more curious about your application. Employers typically schedule these interviewers at the early stage of the hiring process. By understanding how to navigate screening interviews successfully, you can secure a second interview and improve the likelihood of getting the job. In this article, we discuss what a screening interview is, cover how to prepare for a screening interview and the common questions to expect, and explain what to do during and after screening interviews.

What is a screening interview?

A screening interview is an aspect of the hiring process employers use to identify qualified candidates. While these interviews are typically held over the phone or on video, some employers may conduct them in person. Screening interviews usually last 15 to 30 minutes. Unlike other interview formats, candidates typically move on to the next phase after screening interviews instead of getting a job offer. Hiring managers use screening interviews to do the following:

  • Describe the company and the open position

  • Find out whether you meet the role's basic requirements

  • Learn whether the position aligns with your interests, values, and abilities

  • Discover whether you're passionate about the position

  • Assess whether you have the basic skills for the job

  • Answer any question you may have about the company, role, or hiring process

Related: How To Ace Your Next Job Interview

How to prepare for a screening interview

Follow these steps to prepare for your next screening interview:

1. Read the job description

Start by reviewing the job description to examine the preferred qualifications and duties for the role. Note the job responsibilities and how your education, skills, and experience align with the position. For example, if you're applying for a trade position, check whether you need a specific trade certification.

2. Research the company

Reading about the company makes answering questions relating to its products, services, market, competitors, key strategies, and target audience easier. As part of your research, go over the company's official website and check the posts on social media pages. Confirm whether you know someone currently employed in the company and ask for an informational interview with them. Informational interviews can help you gain first-hand experience about what it's like working for the company and discover what the employer is looking for in a candidate.

3. Prepare your resume

Next, create a version of your resume that includes skills, experiences, and educational qualifications that align with the position. Prepare to describe previous jobs and how your experiences prepared you for the new role. Also, ensure you are ready to respond to questions relating to your achievements and how they demonstrate your ability to succeed. Keeping a copy of your resume with you makes it easy to refer to the information on it.

Read more: Why Creating Multiple Versions of Your Resume Works

4. Practise interviewing

Have a friend, mentor, career coach, or family member hold a mock interview with you. Give them a list of common screening interview questions and practise how you intend to respond. Try to make the practice interview similar to the format you expect the screening interview would take. For example, if you expect the screening interview to take place over the phone, have your friend call you.

Related: Preparing for a Mock Interview

5. Prepare questions for the interviewer

Finally, think of relevant and thoughtful questions for the interviewer. Asking questions about the company, position, or hiring process shows that the position genuinely interests you. It can also help you understand the position better. Ensure you stick to the allocated time for the screening interview and be mindful of it when asking questions.

Common questions to ask after screening interviews include:

  • What are the characteristics of a candidate who would succeed in this role?

  • Can you elaborate on the daily responsibilities this job entails?

  • What challenges do people in this role or team encounter?

  • How would you describe the office environment?

  • What's the most important action an ideal candidate would take within the first 90 days of employment?

  • How do supervisors measure performance?

Related: 40 Interview Questions To Ask About a Company

Top 15 screening interview questions

Here are the most common screening interview questions to expect:

  • Can you tell me about yourself?

  • What do you know about the company?

  • What do you know about the job requirements?

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • What interests you about this position?

  • How do you handle stressful situations?

  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

  • When would you be available to start work if selected for the role?

  • Why did you leave your most recent position?

  • How do you stay motivated?

  • Why do you think you're the best candidate for this position?

  • What is your greatest achievement?

  • Why do you want to work here?

  • How would your previous employers describe you?

  • What are your salary expectations?

Tips on what to do during a screening interview

Here are some tips to help you have a successful screening interview:

Find a quiet location

If the interviewer schedules a phone screening interview, look for a quiet location where you can talk freely. Ensure people, pets, and noises won't interrupt your screening interview. Consider a private room in a public library if you can't take a quiet call at home.

Show enthusiasm

Seek to build a professional relationship with the interviewer and use open body language. For example, try to smile and maintain an enthusiastic tone as you respond to questions. Doing this can impact how interested you sound because interviewers typically tell your enthusiasm level from your tone. If you don't already have the interviewer's contact details, you can ask for them so you can follow up.

Be direct

Be straightforward with your answers to make it easier for the interviewer to get the information they need. Since screening interviews typically last only a few minutes, try to limit your use of anecdotes. An anecdote is a short story that helps you emphasize an important point.

End on a positive note

Before you end the call, appreciate the interviewer for taking out time to have the interview with you and discuss the role. Ending screening interviews on a positive note helps to leave a lasting impression on the interviewer. You may send a message that reads, "Thank you for your call. I enjoyed discussing the role, and I'm confident I am a good fit for the job. I look forward to meeting you in person and discussing this job opportunity in detail. Can you describe the next hiring steps?"

Tips on what to do after a screening interview

Here are the top tips to use after a screening interview:

Send a thank-you letter

Write and send a thank you email after a phone or in-person interview. In the letter, express what went well and why you hope for a second interview. Doing this helps to reiterate your interest in the position and position you as a serious candidate. Common sections to include in the letter include:

  • A subject line

  • A warm greeting

  • An opening statement that thanks the interviewer for the opportunity to discuss the job vacancy

  • A sentence that describes why you're the best candidate for the position

  • Comments or additional information about your discussions during the interview

  • A statement that you look forward to getting a response

  • Your signature

  • Your contact information

Follow instructions

Complete any task the interviewer gave you during the screening interview. For example, they may ask you to send a copy of your resume and cover letter to an email address. If you're unsure about the next hiring steps, request clarification in your follow-up email.

Be patient

Wait for a response from the interviewer or hiring manager after sending a thank-you letter. Hiring managers typically screen many candidates, which can take time. After your initial follow-up letter, give the hiring manager at least one week to respond before sending another follow-up letter.

Read more: Follow-Up Email Examples For After the Interview

Prepare for a second interview

While waiting for the hiring manager to get back to you, start preparing for a second interview. You'd want to be ready to ace the interview, so conduct more research about the company and the open position, and seek to develop your interviewing skills. You can attend training sessions, read blogs, and check job posting websites for the best practices when interviewing and professional etiquette for interviews.

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