When you get that call from an executive recruiter or hiring manager that they would like to set up a pre-screening phone interview, pat yourself on the back. You have made it to the first step. But, don’t think this a relaxed and laid-back conversation. This is a very important phone call because the interviewer will be developing a profile on you. You will be judged on your attitude, personality, ability to communicate effectively, and how well you might fit into the company culture. If the call is Skyped, the person may also be evaluating your professional image and body language.
- Emphasize your brand. Highlight your value proposition to the interviewer, focusing on the components of your background and experience that closely match the job requirements. Talking points of the strong fit between your talents and skills, and the qualifications of the position make it easy for the interviewer to see the relevant parallels.
- Communicate job interest. Demonstrate to the interviewer your interest in the particular job they are calling you about (don’t be too general), pointing to specific job requirements that mirror your expertise and background. This might require some research on the company and the job.
- Clearly express why you are the best candidate. While the interviewer may focus on previous jobs and your responsibilities in executive roles, take this opportunity to show how this experience has prepared you to successfully contribute to future employers. Present yourself as the best solution to their issues/problems, focusing on how your background has helped you develop active listening, critical thinking, complex problem-solving, and decision-making skills.
- Clarify any possible negatives. An interviewer has laser vision into any negatives that might affect considering an executive for a position. It could be something as simple as discussing commute time, or as difficult as explaining multiple employment gaps. Whatever the concerns the interviewer has, give a straightforward succinct answer. Don’t over explain any situation or it could be perceived as “defending” or “covering up.”
The reality is that the employer is trying to screen out candidates that don’t match their specific needs. A lot of pre-screen interviewers use a spreadsheet with 10 or so criteria that they are looking for, and every point in your favor is critical. If you are prepared, practiced, polished and professional, you may make it to the next round of interviews.