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Transcript: Episode 13 - Recruiter Phone Screen

EPISODE 13: Recruiter Phone Screen – Jess Get Hired Podcast TRANSCRIPT

Jess Get Hired! Podcast 0:10

Hey everyone, and welcome to the Jess Get Hired podcast! So you're applying for all of these jobs, and then you have to sit and wait. It seems like you're not getting too far with your search. But lo and behold, you finally get a phone call from a recruiter and they want to talk to you. Well, congratulations! This is what we call a phone screen, ...the very first step to getting a conversation with the hiring manager for the job that you applied for. So what do you do next? How do you prepare? And, what should you expect? Well, if you're new to the show, my name is Jessica Fiesta George, and I'm a Talent Acquisition leader who has been helping companies and candidates for over 15 years. This podcast is for job seekers, business professionals, the underemployed, and the unappreciated employee. We talk about a lot of different things. We talk about how to find jobs, how to recruit candidates, and how to stay ahead in the workplace. Well, welcome to episode 13, where I'm going to talk to you about the recruiter phone screen. I'm going to share with you what you could do as a candidate to prepare and what you should expect. I'm going to also give you a recruiter's point of view so that you can get a better understanding of the things that influence our decision to move you forward or not. I'm going to share both perspectives so that we can talk about why you might not be getting all the way to the finish line. But hopefully, you'll also get some good tips to help you if you're currently in job search mode.

Jess Get Hired! Podcast 1:33

Now before we begin, I do want to say a huge thank you to Feedspot for ranking this podcast as #9 on the top recruiting podcasts for 2021. And to note, I was the Top Female solo podcaster on that list! How about kicking ass, I love it! And then to Welp Magazine for also placing me as one of the Top 20 Talent Acquisition podcasts to listen to in 2021. I love it. And I really couldn't do it without everyone's support. So thank you so much for tuning in. And don't forget to connect with me on LinkedIn. You can find me by my full name Jessica Fiesta George. I have a website, and you can also find me on Instagram: Jess Get Hired ( So Episode 13, we're going to dive into a bunch of different things. We're going to talk about the recruiter phone screen: Why is it necessary? Why do you need to be prepared? What kind of questions should you even ask? How should you answer some of those difficult screening questions and then I'm going to tell you how to follow up so that you get that next interview.

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Jess Get Hired! Podcast 3:17

You're on episode 13 of the Jess Get Hired Podcast and we're talking about the recruiter phone screen. And I wanted to tackle this topic because I've been asked by a lot of you, "Why is this step even necessary?" I know I also see a lot of people posting on LinkedIn who think that the interview process is long enough so why can't we just cut to the chase and go directly to a hiring manager? Well, I really wish it was that simple. Recruiters play a very important role in the hiring process. And without them, we would have a huge hiring frenzy of unqualified candidates. If you think that the job market is tough enough, can you imagine if managers just hired warm bodies to fill their jobs without fully vetting candidates? Then you would have an even bigger problem with turnover and this whole cycle of recruiting would just keep continuing. Companies would have to scramble to find the right person for the job. They would spend even more money on recruiting and onboarding and on training, which ultimately, at the end of the day, cost the company more in the end. So yes, recruiters are a very critical part of any growing organization.

Jess Get Hired! Podcast 4:23

I know a lot of my fellow talent acquisition folks who were just like me were furloughed last year or even laid off from our jobs during the height of the pandemic because we were deemed as "non-essential." Well, now that companies are back there trying to find out what that new normal needs to look like and we cannot hire enough people. So recruiters are back in hot demand. There aren't even enough recruiters out there. So yes, a phone screen by a recruiter is very important and necessary because this job is very important and necessary. Recruiters serve as a company culture QA department, their role is to ensure that you meet the quality the company is looking for, and then they have to assure them that you're the right person for the job. Recruiters can be your best friend if you treat them right! Recruiters can also identify the best talent available, they have to go through a lot of resumes, narrow down your specific skills and experience as it relates to the job description and then determine if you meet the target compensation and future career goals that the company is looking for. Recruiters, if you will, are the gatekeepers of any organization. You cannot get through to the next step of the interview process if you do not make it past them. So is a phone screen necessary? Of course, if you ask me, I'm gonna say yes! Recruiters have to make sure that what you put on paper is what you're telling us on the phone. We have to hear that voice behind your resume. We also want to hear all about your experience, get a feel for your personality, see what it is that you're looking for in a company and then we want to be able to share even more information with you that cannot be written on a job description. So the recruiter phone screen is the very first step in getting closer to that job that you're trying to apply for.

Jess Get Hired! Podcast 6:14

Now, if you're applying for smaller companies that might not have a recruiter, you might actually get a call from an HR person or the hiring manager. So if that's the case, you still need to make sure that you're prepared. So we're going to go into that in more detail in a few on how you can get prepared for a phone screen. But I will also tell you that recruiters can be your BFFs. So here's my PSA... Just be kind to those that are here to help you get a job because we're here to help you get the one that you want. You also never know when you might run into a recruiter who thinks of you for other opportunities that they have posted in the future. I will tell you that there have been several cases where I remember great candidates that I have interviewed but we had to move on and hire someone else, but when a new opportunity came up, they were the very first people I had in mind. Also, the network of recruiters, although there's a lot of us out there, it's kind of small, we're a tight-knit community. And we also make sure that we stay connected. So I always see a lot of my fellow ta professionals posting on LinkedIn. Or they'll come to me and see if I know anyone who might be a good fit for the role. So I tend to recommend certain people that I can remember that I know would be great. So always be kind to those that want to make you shine.

Jess Get Hired! Podcast 7:34

So tell me what you think about for certain roles. Is the phone screen a necessary step? Like I said to me, of course, I want to tell you Yes, but I do want to hear from you. So message me on LinkedIn, or email me at and let's continue this conversation

Jess Get Hired! Podcast 8:04

Alright, you're on episode 13 and the next thing that we're going to talk about is how you need to be prepared to answer the phone when recruiters start calling about your job application. I know we're in that age where nobody likes to answer their phone anymore unless you know exactly who that phone number belongs to. And when you see an unknown caller, you're very reluctant to pick up. But you have to start getting out of that habit. Because if you're actively submitting resumes, you need to answer your damn phone! You have to start thinking about yourself as a business. Your only job right now is to get a job so you cannot do that if your customers, aka recruiters or hiring managers, are calling you and you don't answer your phone. So aside from the fact that you have to answer it, that's the first step. If you can't quite get to it, then the one thing that people overlook is their voicemail greeting. There is nothing worse than having an unprofessional voicemail. What kind of impression do you want to give people when they call you? So when you're in job search mode, it's not just your homies from around the way that are going to be calling you. So let's start by taking a look at your greeting on your voicemail. Is it set to default? Or if it is a personal greeting? Is it professional? Trust me, I have heard them all. I've heard everything from "Hey, what's up, this is Jessica, holler at your girl," or "hey, what's up? It's Jessica, you know what to do!" Or even "Hey, text me you know I don't answer the phone".

Jess Get Hired! Podcast 9:34

I'm always entertained by the variety of voicemail greetings I hear but really the ones that are very unprofessional are a total turnoff and I don't even add candidates back to the top of the list to follow up with so again, make sure that you clean it up. A lot of people totally forget about that. So let's just say you do answer the phone and you're totally caught off guard that you can do one of three things. You can One: pretend it's the wrong number and hang up, which I recommend that you do not do. But there are two other options that I would recommend here. So the first thing I would say is politely tell the person on the other line that you were caught off guard. Thank them for calling, and then see if they can schedule a time for them to call you back. Or, you can be prepared as best as possible to answer some very basic screening questions. So don't worry, if you're getting an initial call from a recruiter, it's not going to be a full-blown interview. Usually, that's left for if you pass the basic screening questions. So you're in luck, I'm going to run through a few things that you can prepare for that you can practice and you can answer with a little bit more confidence. So get ready to answer your phone, change your voicemail greeting if yours is less than professional. And then let's get ready to answer some basic questions which we're going to explore next.

Jess Get Hired! Podcast 11:08

Hey, the phone is ringing!! Hello? it's your next job calling! You answered the phone. And now you have a recruiter or hiring manager on the other line. What do you do next? Do you freeze up? Well, I hope not because this is your chance to make a good first impression! So we're going to talk next about how you can prepare for that phone call. Now, you've heard this term from me a couple of times in my other podcast about an elevator speech or an elevator pitch. If you're not familiar with the term, an elevator pitch is how you would describe yourself in the amount of time that it would take for you to ride up or down an elevator if you were talking to someone. So it's really important that you practice your elevator pitch. Now, we know most elevators can be kind of slow, but for the most part, you want to keep it between about 30 to 45 seconds. If I asked you, "Tell me about yourself..." What are some of the things that you want me to know? Your elevator pitch needs to be personal to you and should be customized to what you want it to be. There is no right or wrong template to follow. But I can give you a basic framework that you can build upon. This is your highlight reel. So what is something that you want people to know about you? I will share one piece of advice which is - do not share too much. If it's not relative to the job that you're looking for, then leave it out. People like to share and overshare things about their family or things that might be going on with them currently. But really try to keep this conversation focused on you. This is your opener whenever someone calls. So go ahead, brag about your accomplishments. Tell them about your background, and then tell them why you're looking for your next career. Try to keep it to the point, don't ramble, I will say that the ones that do this right in the beginning automatically piqued my interest because to me, it's a good conversation starter. You want this to be a good flowing conversation. So a good intro will allow me to ask you more questions. And then I would want to learn more about you. So practice this, write it out, say it out loud a couple of different times asks a friend or family member to listen to it, and then get their feedback. Try it a number of different ways. So it comes out naturally. Again, this is a conversation starter. So you don't want it to sound scripted. You want it to come out as a part of a conversation. So you're talking about yourself, so it shouldn't be too hard. But if you do need some inspiration here on how to kind of frame up your elevator pitch, there's a few things that you can do. So you can always start by saying your name, how many years of experience you might have in the role that you're looking to get into maybe something interesting about yourself or a fun fact, and then what you hope to bring to the table. So if I use that framework, then it might sound something like this. Hey, my name is Jessica. I lead talent acquisition and recruitment strategies for startup to midsize organizations. And I've been doing it for about 15 years. I also host a podcast that focuses on job seekers and business professionals and I'm really looking for a leadership opportunity that's going to allow me to utilize all of my experience and skills. Would you like to learn more? Or, if you don't have a ton of experience or much to say here and you just graduated from school Another example would be Hi, my name is Jessica. I graduated with a Communication Arts degree from the University of West Florida. A lot of my studies have been focused around public relations and advertising, which I think would be a versatile skill to have in any organization. So I've been targeting roles like employer branding, and or employee or internal communications. I believe that I could be a great addition to a team So I'd really love to tell you more about why.

Jess Get Hired! Podcast 15:03

So hopefully you get an idea from those two examples. But an elevator pitch is going to be custom to you and your experience. And if you need help, I'll be happy to help you, you can reach out to me, send me an email or find me on LinkedIn. And I'll be happy to help you with this. But you want to get to the point be clear and concise. You want to draw the recruiter or hiring manager in as to why they need to learn more about you. And then what distinguishes you from anyone else that's applying for the same job. I plan on doing another podcast episode just on elevator pitches. So I can give you more examples. But hopefully you get the idea. Draw the interviewer in to learn more about you keep it conversational. Practice this a couple of times to see which ones give you the best success in moving forward to that next step.

Jess Get Hired! Podcast 15:55

Now, each phone screen is going to be a little bit different. But the basic questions are usually the same. Most recruiters will just want to know a little bit about you so you will practice this as your elevator pitch. They'll also want you to take them through your job history. So this is why knowing your resume and knowing your experience, frontways and back ways is going to be really important. But they'll also want to know why you're looking for a job today. So you want to make sure that you give them a good explanation. But also probably go into what you know about the company and about the position. What kind of qualities do you have that qualify you for the role? What you're looking for in a company? They might even go into compensation just to make sure that you're within the budget, and then turn it around and ask you if you have any questions for them. So phone screens usually should take only 15 to 30 minutes. It's more of a conversation, like I said earlier, it shouldn't feel like too stressful of a situation because it's really just answering some basic questions so we can understand the voice behind your resume and make sure that you do match up to the current job opening. As when we go back, if you are asked about your job history, you want to walk them through the last few relevant positions, and then tell them why you left each role. So if there's gaps in your resume, as far as your employment, you want to explain why and what you were doing during that time. So this is not the place to bash your current employer. I've heard it many times when I asked, you know, why are you looking to leave your current role, then everyone starts focusing on all of the negatives, which really does not give a good first impression, because you do not want to bash your current company. Because as a recruiter, I'm thinking, what are you going to say or do when you join our company. So try to leave all of that out, stick to the facts about why you're truly looking for a job, and then focus on the rest of your job experience. If they want to ask you about what you know about the company or the position, this is really the recruiter taking a look at how much research you did before you apply. So a few things that I look for here. Are you just applying for jobs that you see without really reading the job description or researching anything about the company? Are you just throwing all of your resumes out there and to see what sticks? Or are you truly interested in joining our company and you did your target research. So if you're caught off guard, by the phone call, and you haven't had a chance to prepare, then it's totally okay to tell them that you were not prepared to answer that. But you do remember seeing the role online, you felt that you match the job description. And that you would like additional time to research but you can also turn this around and ask the recruiter or the person on the other line to tell you more about the company and why they like to work there. So this also gets them talking. They're probably also going to go through a number of different things like learning more about your background, your experience, any certifications, if it's relevant to the job, any skills that you might have, and then why you want to join the company. So be prepared to answer with some of your top reasons why you're looking for a career change or what you want to have in your next company. If you're looking for more work-life balance, career progression and training, good benefits, the ability to be flexible, maybe you enjoy doing remote work, and this position allows for remote work, maybe you like to travel this job allows for travel. If you're looking for a diverse culture, company growth, whatever the reason is, think of key characteristics you truly want in your next company.

Jess Get Hired! Podcast 19:50

Also, the recruiter is also going to 99% of the time ask you about compensation. So they're also looking to see if What you're looking for is within the range of what they have been budgeted for this role. So this one is always tricky. But you can always turn the tables and ask them if they mind sharing what the budget is for that position. But if you're confident in what your number is, and you are a stickler for what that needs to look like, then throw that number out, you have nothing to lose! But make sure that you give them a range that they can work with. And then ask them if that fits within their budget. All they can do is say no, and maybe explain what the budget is to you. And then give you back an opportunity to consider all of the different benefits that might be available on top of compensation. And then if you want to move forward, you move forward, there's no obligation for you guys to continue the conversation if it doesn't meet what you're both looking for. So if they really want you, they will at least continue on with the conversation. And if you're still interested, this is a good way for you to ask for that next step. As we're finishing up this episode, remember, recruiter phone screens are two-way conversations. Notice I didn't call it an interview, the recruiter or hiring manager or whoever's calling you about this job, they just want to know a little bit more about you before they commit to doing a full-on job interview. So this is more of a casual conversation. So even though it is a little bit more casual, you still want to make sure you come prepared. So we've gone over a couple of things like how to introduce yourself, even how to change your voicemail if you're in job search mode. I've talked to you about answering the question as it relates to your experience. And then if you're asked about compensation, or salary, how to answer those questions. Usually, to finish the call most recruiters or hiring managers will ask you if you have any questions. So here's another way that you can impress them. You want to be prepared to ask them a few questions and not just hang up the phone. Remember, they called you so it's your turn to change the flow of conversation so that you can learn more about the position or about the company. Candidates who don't ask questions usually interest me because they always follow it up with an email on a ton of questions they should have asked me while they had my attention, and I was on the phone. So if you can try to get all of these questions asked upfront, I'm going to add a list of questions and then an outline of everything that we've shared in this episode to my website. So if you want to follow along or feel like you should print some of this out to practice, I'm going to have it on my website, just get hired calm. So a few questions that I like to hear or have people ask if this wasn't already addressed. During your whole phone conversation, you can ask about the hiring process. So you can ask what does the hiring process look like from start to finish? How many interviews or interview types can I expect? Do you do panel interviews? Or will I be meeting with a hiring manager? This is also another great way for you to kind of ask for the next interview without really asking for the next interview. So you can also ask about interview types. Will there be another phone call? Or will it be a video call? Or am I going to be expected to be on-site for this interview? So you can also ask those types of questions. Another good way to make sure that the recruiter or person on the other line gets all of the correct information and enough detail is just asking them. Is there anything else in my background? Or in the answers that I gave you that you want me to talk a little bit more about? Or that you feel like I did not share enough detail? So this is another good way for them to follow up with maybe some questions they had about something you said earlier? Another good question would be if I'm recommended for another interview, what are some things that you feel I can do to prepare? So again, this is another way that you can ask for the interview without truly asking for the interview. So how are things? What are some of the things that you can do to prepare for that next

Jess Get Hired! Podcast 24:19

step? Another thing is you want to get the recruiter's email and contact information. So ask them what is your email and what's your contact information? Is it okay if I follow up with you, you also want to make sure that you send them a thank you note a lot of people don't do this anymore. But a thank you note goes a long way. We talked to a lot of people so just getting a nice thank you note after your call means a lot to people. I know it does to me. So if you get their email and contact information, send them a quick email after your call. And then another question that I always like to ask is, "Is there any reason you can think of right now that would prevent me from moving to the next step of your interview process?" So that's another way that I kind of close things out. I ask them and put it in their court. Is there anything that they think that I might be lacking that they wouldn't recommend me to move forward?

If you want to download and practice these questions, like I said, I'll post them on my website. I also want to hear from you. So if you have additional questions that you'd like to ask on a phone screen, let's share them, and then maybe we can put them in a future episode. Don't hang up the phone without feeling like you're also getting something out of this conversation. So ask as many questions as you can to determine whether this is the company or process you want to continue with. I hope that you're able to get some helpful tips on the recruiter phone screen practice makes perfect and if you need help, I'm here to help so reach out on LinkedIn, you can find my website or shoot me an email at What are some of the other phone screen tips and tricks that have helped you? So I'd love to hear from you and hopefully, we can help others. My name is Jessica. Fiesta George. What do you want to talk about next? I will catch you on my next episode.


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