A client of mine recently landed a great in-person interview with a top Seattle construction company by acing the phone screen. Passing the phone screen is essential to getting an in-person interview, as more companies today are conducting them to save time and bring in only the best candidates. Succeeding at a phone screen is something you can learn. Here’s one powerful method you can use in your next interview.

When the hiring manager asked my client, “Tell me about yourself,” my client said:

“Before we get started, I would like to ask you a couple of quick questions to better understand this role.” Without pausing, he continued: “For example, what would you say if I were to ask you, ‘What are the top three challenges for a construction project manager at your company?'”

The hiring manager went on for more than 10 minutes, telling my client the ins and outs of the company, including what challenges the company was facing, and then focused on specifics about the projects for which my client was being interviewed. When it was my client’s turn to talk, he explained his experience and expertise in relation to the exact needs of the hiring manager. Had my client spoken first, he would have missed a great opportunity.

Job openings usually result from a company’s needs not being met or satisfied, hence the creation of job descriptions. Unfortunately, most hiring managers aren’t good at writing job descriptions, or they’re unable to articulate their needs in writing. Without knowing these specific needs, it’s hard for the applicant to talk about himself, because it’s likely he won’t say what the hiring manager is looking for – even if he can do the job.

As phone screens tend to be very short – usually five to 20 minutes – it’s essential that you understand the needs of the employer right away. One way to do this is through extensive research; the other is the technique illustrated above.

My client found out from human resources who would be doing the phone screen and looked the person up on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, only a handful of connections showed up. He decided that either this person was senior in the organization or wasn’t comfortable using social media. He then did an Internet search and the hiring manager’s name came up several times on specific construction projects my client was able to reference during the phone screen.

The hiring manager was impressed by my client’s specific knowledge about the company and asked how he knew so much. My client said he was so intrigued by this employer that he did his research to make sure he could put his best foot forward.

At the end of the interview, my client was told, “We still need to talk to several candidates before we move forward to scheduling the in-person interview.” My client used this opportunity to provide a friendly closing statement by saying, “I appreciate our time this morning and the opportunity to discuss this position in detail. I look forward to meeting and working with you in the near future.”

In psychology, this last sentence is known as “future pacing.” Future pacing creates a mental image in the receiver’s subconscious mind about how you want that person to perceive the future. In this case, it was an image of meeting and working together soon.

The hiring manager immediately changed his response from, “We still need to talk to several other candidates,” to “Let’s go ahead and bring you in for an in-person interview. What does your schedule look like early next week?”

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