By Joyce Lain Kennedy

A positive attitude goes a long way in getting hired


Nowadays it seems that about 90 percent of the initial job interview is done via phone -- questions asked to see if you "make the cut" for the in-person interview.

I hardly ever get any further than the phone interview.

Some interviewers catch you by surprise, although most ask for a good time to contact you. I keep track of all the applications I make, but the information may not be at my fingertips when interviewers call unexpectedly. If I sent in the application a month ago, I may not even remember what the position was about. I think you should include the phone interview in your next book.

-- C.D.


I already wrote about job-winning phone tactics (and other screening technologies) in my "Job Interviews for Dummies" (Wiley) book.

But you're right -- screening interviews have become epidemic in today's job-finding frenzy. Here are quick tips to use when the screener is not the hiring authority:


Choose a quiet place with room for interview essentials, including resumes, accomplishment sheets, interviewing company's background sketch, questions you'll ask, and a calendar with open dates.


Prepare rigorously. When surprised, say you have to leave immediately for an appointment, and pleasantly ask if you can you schedule a time to talk, perhaps later today or tomorrow, when you can do justice to the interviewer's requirements for your undivided attention.

If you don't already have a position description for the job you'll be discussing, ask the interviewer to e-mail it to you. You'll be interviewing blindly if you don't know what qualities the interviewer hopes to find.

When the interview time comes, remember to turn off the call-waiting feature on your phone. Interruptions are unprofessional and show that details get away from you.


The screener may be an inside human resources specialist or admin, but often is an outside contractor. Obtain the interviewer's name, title and contact information.

Not authorized to hire you, the screener is responsible for collecting data about things such as your experience, education and skill set. Can you do the job or not? And do you sound competent and collected, or like trouble ahead?

Give quick, positive answers to questions measuring whether you can do the job. Be ready with several polished, results-oriented stories that back up your assertions of being the right choice, and prepare a few job-related questions of your own.

Conventional wisdom:

Don't waste time trying to establish rapport with a fact-focused screener, a person who is looking for reasons to vote you off the island.

Why volunteer too much unnecessary information that could strike the screener the wrong way?

New wisdom:

Go for rapport! Take a chance that your charm will result in kinship with a screener.

If you succeed, you may learn something useful about the hiring manager's style and hot buttons. And if the interview reveals that you're wrong for the position, a third-party screener might refer you to better-fitting jobs.


Ask, "Do you see any reason why I will not be called in to sit down with the hiring manager?"

If a gap in your qualifications is discovered, reach for a compensatory factor. Suppose your roadblock is education and the interviewer says: "I'm sorry, but a college degree is required and you have just three and a half years." Come back with a rationale: "True, but I believe my successful experience more than balances out the sheepskin requirement. Moreover, I'm enrolled online to receive my degree in the near future. Does my equivalency work for this assignment?"

Always ask about the next step:

"Will you call and arrange a time for me to meet with the hiring manager? Would that be next week, or when?

Thanks very much for your time today."


Formalize your thanks in a one-page e-mail -- a sales letter, really -- restating what you can do for the employer and why you're looking forward to being interviewed for a job that's a great fit for you.