How to Prepare for the Recruiter Phone Screen

Danielle Sander, contributor to the CareerFoundry blog

After weeks of applying, prepping your LinkedIn or GitHub, and working on your portfolio, you get a screening call with a tech recruiter looking to fill a position. You’re excited but wondering…what is a recruiter phone screen?

In this guide, we aim to give you all you need to know to prepare yourself for getting the most out of the call.

A recruiter phone screen is usually the first step of the hiring process. If you’re active on the job market by networking, completing applications, and posting your resume on job boards, be prepared for recruiters to reach out to you via phone, email, and social media.

If there’s just one element of the process you’d like to skip to, simply use the clickable menu:

  1. Remember: Details count!
  2. Taking the call
  3. How to impress during the recruiter phone screen
  4. After the call
  5. What about salary?
  6. Follow-up is key

1. Remember: Details count!

Make sure you have your notifications on, monitor your inbox, answer those calls from unknown numbers, and make sure that you’re as reachable as possible.

Your communication style and response times will impact landing that phone screen, so always be professional.

Ensure you have a professional voicemail message and that your responses via email and other messaging platforms includes a salutation, complete and grammatically correct sentences, and a signature.

2. Taking the call

Typically a recruiter will message you to arrange a call time (particularly if a good chunk of the job market these days are millenials, who aren’t the biggest fans of phone calls), so you can organize yourself.

If you have a formally scheduled call with a recruiter, treat this as your most important interview. Make sure you are in a quiet place with good cell service, no noise around you, and no interruptions. If you have multiple applications on the go, just double-check the company and position to ensure that you speak to the position that you’re interviewing for.

If you’re being cold-called, it’s best to take the call immediately unless you absolutely cannot talk. If they are calling without a scheduled appointment, it means they’re moving fast. If you’re setting up a day/time for another conversation, get on their schedule as soon as possible.

3. How to impress during the recruiter phone screen

Recruiter screens may vary widely in format across companies and industries. The primary goal is to measure your likability, professional communication, match for requirements, overall cultural fit within the organization, and to verify your salary requirement is in the same ballpark.

It can be a 10-minute screen or a 60-minute behavioral interview. Don’t be afraid to politely inquire how much time you will need.

Treat this as a sales call.  You are the product and you are selling yourself on your skills, knowledge, experience, company fit, and most of all, your potential to perform, grow, and succeed.

4. After the call

Be sure to get the recruiter’s name, company, and contact details and write them down. You’ll want to follow up after your recruiter phone screen via email.

Include the most recent version of your resume (whether it’s a UX resume or otherwise), links to your contact info, and professional social media profiles, as well as your best portfolio website. If you’re looking for some inspiration for this, you can find some excellent examples we’ve collected for these disciplines:

Be sure to thank them for their time and reaffirm your interest. If there are any questions that you wish you had answered more fully, include further elaboration.

You can also take this opportunity to ask for the job posting if you do not have it already, or any additional information about the company.

5. What about salary?

While some U.S. states have to advertise the salary range on the job ad itself (and Europe may soon be following New York on this), it’s typically left to you to work out if the position matches your own salary needs.

The best way to get ahead of this is do your own research. As well as websites such as GlassDoor, Indeed, and PayScale, there are also salary guides for different positions. These let you know what the average salary for the position is based on your country and even city. Here are a few that we’ve prepared for disciplines across the tech industry:

I generally advise not to bring up salary questions yourself first, because it tends to be incorporated into the recruiter phone screening process anyway. If you must know, and it hasn’t come up, wait until until the end of the screen.

A polite way to ask is: “What is the salary range for this position?”

6. Follow-up is key!

If you have not been given the results of your interview or next steps in the process, follow up with the recruiter once per week on varying platforms (email, phone, LinkedIn messaging) for up to one month afterwards.

Even if you are not moving forward, keeping your relationship with the recruiter ticking over is useful. Check in occasionally when you have completed a new project, added a new skill, or have a referral for them. When another position becomes available that you are qualified for, they will think of you.

Even if most people consider it a once-off first step to get past, a recruiter phone screen can be the first step to a great working relationship.

And finally: Don’t be afraid to be proactive with recruiters and connect with them first!

If you’d like to read a little more about changing careers, check out these articles:

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