Congratulations. Your resume (or LinkedIn profile) just captured the attention of a recruiter. Take a moment to high-five yourself, for real. You done good.
Now, you will likely be invited to participate in a screening interview—via phone, Skype, or Google Hangout or in-person—with the HR person or recruiter who just found you. Wowing this person is very important, because if you fail to, you’re not going to have the chance to dazzle the hiring manager with your mad skills at all. Your goose, as they say, will be cooked.
So, how do you stack the odds in your favor and ensure that you sail through this critical stage in the hiring process? By understanding what the recruiter’s role is, what he’s looking for, and what he stands to gain by finding the right candidate, and then strategizing accordingly.
Here are four ways to rock the screening call with a recruiter.
1. Demonstrate Quickly That You Cover the Basics
More often than not, HR people or recruiters aren’t going to be looking for nitty-gritty details about your technical aptitude. They’re more trying to see if you meet the baseline requirements for the job. That said, you should study the job description closely or talk with people working in the department, and then (before the interview) list out the things you think are the most important deliverables for the role. Be sure and touch on your strengths in these specific areas during the conversation.
2. Show That You’re Truly Interested (Assuming You Are)
Recruiters love when they realize a candidate is a strong match skills-wise for the role they’re attempting to fill. However, being a skills match means little if you give off the impression that you’re only so-so interested in the company or role. If they pass you through to the next stage of the interview process, recruiters want to feel confident that you’re enthusiastic and eager to learn more, not just wasting everyone’s time. And so, assuming you are reasonably interested in the opportunity, you’ve got to make that instantly clear to the recruiter during the screening call.
(Hint: Here are three steps to answering, “Why do you want this job?”)
3. Exude an Air of “Strong Culture Fit”
Companies hire candidates based on three things, not just one. Number one is the obvious, “Can she do the job?” This must be a “yes,” no matter what. But what typically clinches it for the candidate who lands the job is that she’s also a “yes” to these questions: “Do we like her?” and “Do we think she’s going to fit in around here?”
You absolutely must show—early on—that you’re a strong cultural fit. Thus, if you’re interviewing for a role within a company you know little about, you should study the organization’s online presence—the company website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, you get the picture—and figure out its brand personality, its tone, its vibe. And then, assuming you line up with that? Make it clear throughout the screening call.
4. Understand the Recruiter’s Role and Stake in This Process
By understanding the role of the recruiter in the hiring process, you will likely be better able to strategize this first interview. Most of these people are compensated—either entirely or partially—based on their ability to find and place people into open positions. That said, when they call you, they already want you to win. They want you to sail through the screening call because, if you win? They win. And if they fill this position quickly, they can also move on to another position (and make more money).
So, never be afraid to ask for the interviewer’s input on how you can put your best foot forward with the hiring manager or for clarification on any questions you don’t understand. Again, this person wants to send you through to the hiring manager. Make it easy to do so.
Interviewing is part art, part science. The art part requires you to bring forth your personality, enthusiasm, and interest. The science part? Requires you to study the process and the players and then strategize.
This article? Well, consider it your cheat sheet for getting to the “real interview.”