Tips for a successful job search – The Phone Screen

by Alan Bernstein, SHRM-SCP

In previous articles I shared how to write a compelling resume and how to get that resume in front of employers. Now I want to give you tools for the next phase of the job search process – the initial phone screen.


Many interview processes include an initial phone screen. Employers do this primarily to validate a job seeker’s qualifications and also to confirm interest in the position. There are a few things you should do:

Set up voice mail

Too many opportunities are lost because “voice mailbox is full” or “this phone cannot accept messages”. It’s best to answer the phone immediately and professionally. But if you must let the call go to voice mail, make sure your voice mail is set up to accept messages.

Your outgoing message should be short and professional. It should include your name and a request to leave a message. Eliminate any extraneous sounds like babies crying, horns honking or dogs barking.

Pro-tip: Call your phone from another phone to hear the voice message. Leave a message and listen to it to confirm it all works.

Communicate professionally

Assume every phone call is a prospective employer. When you answer the phone, say hello and introduce yourself. “Hi, this is Alan” is far better than “What’s up?”.

Be excited about the call. Employers want to know you are interested in the position and eager to work for them.

Find a quiet place to talk, away from distractions and loud noises. If you don’t have the right place to take the call, let the call go to voice mail.

During the call

Have your resume handy. Some people carry their paper resume in a portfolio, while others may have it electronically on a phone or tablet.

Note the name and contact information of the person you are speaking with. Refer to them by name during the call and send them a thank you note or text after the call.

If you let the call go to voice mail, respond within a few hours or as soon as possible. If it has been more than a day, be prepared with a good reason for not getting back sooner.

Pro-tip: Carry a pen or pencil with you so you can take notes during the call.

In Conclusion

Phone screens are an important piece of the job search. Treat the phone screen like you would a regular interview. The caller will be making a judgment based on the phone screen. Give them a reason to take you to the next step!


HR Office Savers, Inc. is an independent human resource consulting firm that provides employment advisory solutions to small businesses and individuals in the areas of staffing, compliance, employee relations, resume writing, interview preparation, and job search. We help small businesses and individuals navigate the complexities of human resources through hands-on delivery and education.

Alan Bernstein, SHRM-SCP, is the owner of HR Office Savers, Inc. Prior to launching his business, Alan held a series of human resource positions of increased responsibility at Harris Corporation, Honeywell International, GTSI Corp, and Verizon Wireless.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from The University of Buffalo, is Six Sigma Green Belt Certified, and is a Senior Certified Professional with the Society of Human Resource Management.

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