So you saw a fantastic job, submitted your CV and cover letter, and now there’s a recruiter or hiring manager on the phone wanting to have a quick chat with you about your application! What’s this all about? And what should you do?

Welcome to the world of phone screening!

What is a phone screen?
To help narrow down the list of candidates whose CV’s and cover letters look good on paper, a phone screen may be undertaken after a vacancy’s closing date and once all applications have been processed. Because it’s much quicker to chat with people over the phone than arrange a bunch of meetings, a phone screen is often used to assess who will go through to the face-to-face interview stage.

This call, typically undertaken by a recruiter, HR, or the hiring manager, is a chance to cover off some basic questions around your reason for applying for the role, your interest in the position and to get a good idea of what you feel you can bring to the role – much like the first questions of an interview. Current notice period, eligibility to work in New Zealand and salary expectations may also be covered.

What’s being assessed during this call is your enthusiasm for the position, ability to articulate and think on your feet, your communication style, and – to some extent – your personality. How you come across is often as important as what you say.

As you can see, it’s really crucial that you give this call your full attention.

How can you prepare?

  • Keep track of what positions you’ve applied for, and if possible, keep the position descriptions somewhere handy just in case. It’s not a good look to tell the person on the other end of the phone that you don’t remember the vacancy they’re calling about, even if it’s true!
  • These calls generally aren’t scheduled, so if you need to refresh yourself on the company and role before having the conversation, or you feel like you’re in the wrong environment or head space, politely ask if you can arrange to call back later. It says more about you if you want to take the time to ensure a quality conversation, rather than trying to wing it.
  • Most importantly, treat the call the same way you would a first interview – don’t underestimate its importance. Just as you would for an interview, practice what you’ll say if called… and then practice some more.

What not to do!

  • Don’t make it impossible to contact you – make sure your application includes all of your contact details and that your cell phone has a voicemail system set up with an appropriate message. If you know that you are going to be overseas or uncontactable at any point, include this in your cover letter.
  • Don’t make the caller chase you – if you receive a voicemail message asking to talk to you about your application, get back in touch as soon as you can. Recruitment processes usually run to tight timeframes, and if they have to chase you that’s a black mark against your reliability.

What happens afterwards?
Depending on who you spoke with, notes from your conversation may be given to the ultimate decision maker to decide which candidates make it through to the interview stage.

If you are not given a timeframe on when you should expect to hear back, you can ask at the end of the call. If it’s been a while since the phone call and you haven’t heard anything further, you should definitely follow up.

We know that you want to put your best foot forward when it comes to the job application process, so make sure you check out our website’s helpful resources page and our other Top Tips!

Good luck!
Kirsty and Nikki