4 Phone Interview Tips From a Recruiter

Published: Dec 06, 2017

 Career Readiness       Interviewing       Networking       Salary & Benefits       
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It's important to be on your toes when answering a call if you have your resume posted online or are in the market for a position. A phone call with a recruiter is many times a candidate's first direct contact with a company, so it is crucial to make a good impression—especially because, in all honesty, some recruiters won't even have looked at a candidate's resume before calling.

Below are some do's and don'ts for handling common situations that have the potential to leave a bad taste in recruiters' mouths if not dealt with professionally.

Here are a few conversational pitfalls some candidates fall into on the phone to be aware of:

1. Mind your manners

Please don't defensively answer "Who's this?" to a "Hi, how are you?" from an unknown number—especially if you've been mass-applying all over LinkedIn. Many of my recruiting calls start with me asking for the candidate by name and then asking how they are, or stating that I received their resume and asking if it is a good time to speak. I try to start the conversation out very friendly because I want to make the candidate comfortable and show that I value them as a person.

I know we live in the age of telemarketing, but not everyone is trying to sell you something. It's also doubtful that someone is going to steal your identity by asking how your day went. Jumping to the defense gives the impression that you are impatient, rude, or receive a lot of phone calls from people you are avoiding. My first thought as a recruiter when I get a response like this is: who did you wrong? Especially for client facing positions, being able to confidently hold a conversation with someone new when you least expect it is important.

2. Turn your resume into a conversational sales pitch

If a recruiter asks for your professional background or what type of position you're looking for, don't ask if they read your resume or the application–it doesn't matter if they did or not; they want to hear you describe your professional background and strengths. Sure, it's redundant, but being able to explain something professionally and politely is a skill, and recruiters want to open your resume up for conversation. I would suggest talking freely and naturally about your past work or education and the type of position you are looking for (even better if you can relate it to the specific company you are talking to or use borrowed language from the company's site). Feel free to even talk the recruiter through your resume, and reference sections for them to look at. This is an opportunity for you to translate the text of your resume into your own personal sales pitch about why you're great.

3. View every connection as an opportunity  

Maybe the position you are being contacted about isn't something you are interested in. Maybe you initially applied for it, but changed your mind. But that's no reason to shut the conversation down—you have no idea what type of other opportunities may also be available, or who the recruiter on the other end of the phone could be connected with. Always be polite, professional, and open to conversation. Connections are everything. If a recruiter likes you, they will be much more willing to try to help any way they can. You never know who they might have the power to forward your resume to.

4. Ask about the position, not salary

Please do not jump to the compensation question. The point of an initial phone call from a recruiter isn't to offer you a position. It is to feel out if they would even want to offer you an interview. Asking about compensation right away comes off rude and assumptive. Three minutes into a phone call, recruiters want to know what you'd bring to the company, not how much money you want.

Of course, the compensation issue is valid and important to have answered, and your time is valuable. If you are a desired candidate why should you choose to interview with one company when you have no idea if the compensation is close to what you are looking for? But my advice is to not bring compensation up at all during an initial phone call because recruiters will typically not be the ones to offer you a position or determine your compensation. They are a gateway relationship into a company. 

Final thought

When making an initial impression over the phone with a recruiter do your best to be prepared, polite, and friendly. Focus on the social interaction you are in, rather than keeping yourself trapped within the words of your resume. Feel welcome to ask questions pertaining to the position. Most of all, remember that every question and connection is an opportunity.