Do your research. This can sound derivative, but the number one reason interviews don’t move forward after a phone screen (besides poor technical fit,) is because the recruiter doesn’t believe you’re actually interested in working at their company. By doing even minimal research beforehand, you can greatly improve your chances of moving to the next step with a company. At the very least, you’ll want to make sure you’re familiar with:
- How the company fits within its industry
- What their current product does/looks like
- What the role entails
Set yourself up for success. Beyond the initial preparation in research, you’ll want to make sure you construct a physical space where you will feel most at ease on the phone or video call, and you’re confident of avoiding any technical issues. This can seem very basic, but life can sometimes get in the way of your planning. If you find yourself stuck in traffic, dealing with a noisy roommate, spotty wifi, having a bad day in general, or anything else that might throw you off, don’t be afraid to reschedule the call. Being in a good place/headspace is more important than sticking to a set time.
Basic research is key, but if you have the time, and are really interested in a company, you’ll want to expand on that. The main way to do that, is to dig deeper in a few key areas.
Beyond understanding their industry and product, you should look into how the company presents itself, and how it functions. You can do this by searching for press releases/statements from the company, researching what product iterations (if any) the company has gone through, and looking into the founders/executives. Look out for information about what changes might be on the horizon for the company, the values and culture of executives, previous projects the founders may have been involved in, and much more. The information you glean will be valuable for you to better evaluate if you want to work at the company, while also giving you plenty of conversational topics for the non-technical parts of the interview.
Find out more about the person who will be interviewing you. The more you know about who you’re speaking to, the better your chances of making a personal connection or impression on them. If you can single yourself out as a more memorable interview than usual, you’ll have a better chance of moving forward to the next step of the process.
Some key areas to look into: what is this person’s role at the company, how long has this person been involved with the company, what kind of roles/companies did the person work at before this one, what personal background does this person have that you might connect with. Digging into these areas before your call will give you a fuller picture of who you’re talking to, and help remove some of the stress from talking to a complete stranger for the first time. The recruiter has likely been looking into your background ahead of the call to better prepare, and it only makes sense for you to do the same.
Leveraging your knowledge
All the additional research you’ve done will help you to prepare specific questions beforehand. There will likely be lulls in the conversation, chances for follow-up questions, and open time at the end for questions. You want to be able to fill these spaces with questions that demonstrate the research you’ve done.
Beyond the chance to make a connection with your interviewer, these questions will make the interviewer think that you are really interested in moving forward and working at their company. These questions provide the signal recruiters are looking for when identifying the most compelling candidates.
Feel free to ask your interviewer about their work history, and what drew them to work where they do now. If it’s a smaller company, ask if they’ve met the founder and what insight they might have about their previous projects (or their company vision/values/etc.) If the interviewer has worked at the company for a long time, you can ask about what different product iterations/changes have looked like internally. Whatever your questions end up being, they should simply demonstrate that you have clearly gone above and beyond the normal preparations, and this isn’t just another phone screen to you.
If you can leverage these three strategies effectively, you’re almost guaranteed to make a good impression on the recruiter. Even if things don’t end up working out for the role you interviewed for, if a better role for you comes up later, that recruiter might think of you because of the impression you made, and reach out. Or if you decide not to move forward then, you might have a better chance of following up later based on that first call.