When Opportunity Calls: The Candidate Screen

Chaloner and PRSA have teamed up to write a series of articles on how candidates and clients can best navigate the recruiting process. Each post of the series chronologically follows the steps of a search process, with direct insights from Chaloner recruiters, clients, placements and candidates who Chaloner has partnered with during the recruiting process. Throughout the series, readers will have the opportunity to learn about how to best partner with a search firm and recruiters. 


As we begin an autumn season following the Great Resignation, it is unsurprising to see the continued, post-pandemic hiring race identifying, securing and retaining talent. Job seekers today have a unique advantage with plenty of opportunities. The first step of the recruiting process is an invitation to the Introductory Conversation, otherwise known as the candidate screen.

Most often, a candidate screen is a gateway to a more extensive interview process. It is an efficient means for the hiring company or recruiter to screen candidates before passing them along to the rest of the team.

Whether it’s by phone or video, don’t let the casual nature of this call fool you into preparing less than you would for a face-to-face interview. With thorough preparation and focus, this conversation can encourage your candidacy.

Prepare for the interview.

Though you may not have to get fully dressed up or travel anywhere for this meeting, you should still approach the candidate screen with the same care and attention of an interview. Indeed, all relevant research about the company and the person you’ll be speaking with still applies: LinkedIn company and individual profiles, ‘About’ website pages, recent press or articles featuring the company. It is also a good idea to have the job description and a copy of your résumé on hand. As you and the interviewer discuss your career moves, you can literally be on the same page.

While preparing for the conversation, Chaloner Senior Associate Tina Dugas advises candidates to reflect on the large, if not most essential question of ‘why’ when considering the opportunity.

“Refamiliarize yourself with your own story and journey as an overview and introduction to the conversation. We, as communicators, often fall short on focusing that spotlight on ourselves so that we can be efficient at telling our own story as well as we handle it for our clients,” Dugas says.

On the other end of the phone — whether it’s a search firm, in-house recruiter or hiring manager — a client is being represented to find the best talent to join their team. For clients who speak with highly ranked candidates, Dugas recommends “to be prepared to speak to the short and the long-term benefits of being part of your organization and team. No matter who it is that is representing you, that should be a consistent message.”

Control your location as best you can.

It’s more important than ever to have control of our work environments and routines. Making the phone or video call in a private space with good reception, a clutter-free, lit background if on camera, and minimal distractions enables you to be yourself and convey enthusiasm without restraint. We all know what it feels like when the person on the other end of a call is multi-tasking.

The interview should be the absolute focus of your attention. However, there is a need for flexibility, communication, and empathy with people across many realms of our professional and personal lives. While we slowly regain normalcy, it’s respectful to communicate any anticipated and unplanned noise that may occur while speaking with your recruiter.

Engage in the conversation.

The confidence and ease you would bring into a room can be conveyed in your thoughtfulness and speed. The interviewer is most likely taking notes. It’s good to monitor your pace. Allow a beat after a question to ensure that the interviewer has completed their thought and give yourself time to formulate a response.

It might be helpful to jot down the question to keep your response on track and come in with a list of your questions for the interviewer. “On the candidate’s side, they are being tougher and asking the hard questions,” Dugas says.

Candidates are much more forthcoming. They want to know what the history of a position is. If it was backfilled, was the person promoted? The history of a job is important to communicate in a way that resonates with the candidate. Is there diversity among leadership? When you look around, are there others like you who can understand your journey and what you’re going through?”

With that in mind, you want to have a good closing that confirms your interest and confidence in your ability to do the job. For example: “It has been great talking to you. I have learned a lot about the position and the company and am even more interested now and confident that I am the right person for the job.” Remember the goal of this call is to advance in the process.

While some elements of every interview are out of your control, manage what you can to present a polished, enthusiastic candidate before they ever get to meet you in person.

[Photo credit: adobe art]

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