Ask Amy! Questions about phone screenings and phone interviews

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Phone interviewYou asked, she answered. This is the column where our resident Career Coach & Strategist responds to job-seeker questions.

Hi Amy,

I was wondering if you had any suggestions on how to conduct a phone screening with the HR representative. I have a phone interview with the internal HR recruiter from the company on Thursday. I have begun my research, and I am very familiar with this company because I have a family member who is employed there.

Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.


Dear Curious Candidate,

This is a brilliant question! I want you to know that there is a huge difference between the phone screening and the interview. Point No. 1: Think of it as a “phone screening”. In an interview your answers are focused on recommending yourself for the job and your goal is to get the offer. On a phone screening, particularly with HR, your answers are focused on not being eliminated and your goal is to get the face-to-face interview with the decision-maker, who may not be the same person conducting the phone screening or may not be in HR at all. Point No. 2: Be sure to ask very detailed and smart next steps questions of your own at the end. Here’s an example:

“Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today and give me more information about the position. I really appreciate it, and I would like to send you a note of thanks. Could I get the correct spelling of your name? And how would you like me to send this note? Mailing address? Is there an email address?  Or would you prefer if I connected with you on Linkedin and just sent it as Inmail?”

But you’re not done, yet! Also follow up with some of these questions:

  • “As for the next step in the process, I would love to meet with you or another hiring manager to ask more questions and discuss my qualifications. Can we schedule that meeting NOW?”
  • “Who would I be meeting with next?”
  • “Are you the person that I should follow up with about the status of that next interview?”
  • “How and when would you like for me to follow up?”
  • “Does your company send notification to those of us being considered even if we are not being offered the job/interview?”
  • “What is the time frame?”

End the phone call with a recap: “So I can follow up with [you] in [x] weeks about [scheduling the interview] or [the status of my application] or [moving forward with the process]?”

All of my job seekers who have not tried to get this information have sourly regretted it. Knowledge is power.

Pay particular attention to the salary question. Seriously. Another goal should be not to discuss salary until you get the offer.

I am so excited for you! Please let me know how it goes. And let me know when you need assistance preparing for the formal interview!


You asked, she answered and there are other opinions. Here is how some other job search players feel about the question from our Curious Candidate:

Beth is a recruiter from another organization and has asked that her name be disguised.

Bonita is a job seeker who has been using networking to get into conversation with the right people at her target companies and asked that her name be disguised.

Joe is a job seeker who has been unemployed for over three years.

HR Recruiter Beth:  “That is true. I conduct several phone screening interviews a day, but I am not the one who makes the final hiring decision. I ask every candidate at least 4 basic questions to determine if it will be a good use of time to bring them in for a formal interview. ‘Tell me a little about yourself.’ ‘Tell me why you want to work for this company.’ ‘What experience do you have in…or working with [skill/technology]…?’ ‘What are your salary expectations?’ The conversations are usually pretty brief. I also try to get a sense of how comfortably the person will fit into our company culture.”

Networking Bonita: “When I talk to employees at a company, I ask a lot of questions about their work environment. I have found that I have more success when I can communicate to an HR representative exactly how my professional values line up with the values of their company, in addition to understanding where my skills match the business or industry need. This is something that I am very clear about when I am asked why I applied for that job at the company during a phone interview.”

Job-seeking Joe:  “I don’t think there is much difference between a phone interview and an interview in person. I’ve had some interviews by phone but not many in person. I would send a thank you note if I ever met with anyone in person for an interview, but I don’t after a phone screening because it should be their responsibility to keep  me in the loop. How would I know where to send a note if I don’t go to an office, since I can’t ask for a business card?”

Do I need to include a cover letter? How do I ask my boss for a raise? Whatever your careers-related question, our experts are here to help.
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