Phone Screens versus Phone Interviews: What You Need To Know

Interview Tips

September 06, 2021

Owing to the pandemic, most job interviews have migrated to Zoom or over the phone. Many job applications are lengthy, and they can include two very different types of calls: one being a phone screen (not an actual phone screen — though it might take place on one), and the other being a standard phone interview. Never heard of a phone screener before? Read on.

What is a phone screen and how is it different from a phone interview?


A Phone Screen is a short screening interview aimed at assessing the suitability of a candidate for a specific job role. Think of it as an elimination round or audition for your job role. The recruiter only wants to confirm if there’s a match between the job role & the candidate. If you pass this screening, you will move on to the next stage of the application process, which is either an online test or a video interview. 


Now, you must be wondering how a phone screen is different from a virtual interview. After all, the devices being used are the same.


One way that a phone screen is different to a phone call interview is that it is typically a lot shorter, lasting between 15-30 minutes, no longer. A key difference is that a recruiter or HR professional will conduct the screening call on behalf of the hiring team in order to narrow down applicants ahead of the deeper interviews. Phone interviews tend to come later down the line and are held by the hiring manager, or even the likely future boss of the successful candidate. 


Phone interviews are more in-depth attempts to figure out whether a candidate is a good fit for the job, and will include questions that cover experience, skills, and will need the candidate to provide examples for their past performance in previous jobs or studies. 


Phone screeners on the other hand include straightforward questions about availability, education history, and why you chose to apply for the job. As an international student, questions will likely also include your visa status and eligibility to work in the UK. 


How to answer specific screener questions:


What’s your eligibility to work in the UK?


Every international student must be well versed when it comes to answering this question, as it will come up in every interview. We understand it can be tricky to give a straightforward answer, too. The best tip is to be prepared: know your visa status, or if you’re in the midst of applying for a graduate visa, let them know and be honest about your situation. 


How much do you know about this company?


A question like this will likely be asked in a phone screen interview, and it is why you must be prepared before the interview. Research what you admire about the company, and find facts about it that are lesser-known. The goal is to surprise the interviewer with your knowledge. 


Tell me about yourself


With this question, it’s important to realise that they’re not asking you to provide a life story, nor a rigid career backstory that omits any personality. To answer this question best you should briefly cover your education and career history so far, and what drives you as a human being. It’s also worth bringing up your skillset. Remember to keep it brief, because this is just a test of suitability. Read our complete guide on how to answer this tricky interview question. 

Student Circus Tip: Remember to ask questions at the end of the interview!

Regardless of whether it’s a phone screen or interview, you must have questions ready to ask the interviewer about the company. If you don’t, it might come across that you don’t care as much about the role as other applicants. It’s good to analyse the job description a couple of times in detail beforehand, in order to find anything that you want to clarify. Note these questions down before the phone screen or interview so that you have them at the ready. 


Some questions that you can ask include:

  • Do you offer any personal development programmes for your employees?

  • What do you enjoy most about your job and working for [name of the company]?

  • How often does the team get together and socialise outside of work?


Now you know the difference between the two, you’ll hopefully be set when an email comes in telling you that you have a phone screen interview! Good luck!

By Marco Marcelline
Photo by René Ranisch on Unsplash


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