Bridge Insights

The Differences Between a Phone Interview and a Phone Screen

Nov 20, 2020

If you have ever searched for a job, you’ll know that a prospective employer won’t make a hiring decision based on one interaction with you; there are stages to the interview and hiring process.

In today’s world, because so many employers use the telephone to make crucial hiring decisions, it can be tough to understand and recognize the differences between the different interview stages –especially if they are all conducted over the phone.

Most commonly, we see job seekers confuse the phone screen and phone interview steps. As a job seeker, it is important to know the differences between the two so you can successfully navigate each step successfully and secure a job offer.

Let’s break them down:

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The Initial Phone Screen

The biggest difference between the two interview stages is the purpose of each phone conversation. The phone screen isn’t about deciding who to hire, its purpose is to identify the candidates who will make it through to the phone interview. In other words, the goal is to pick out the candidates who have the best chances of being successful in a position long-term.

Typically with a phone screen, a recruiter will reach out to you; you will not have time to prepare –and that’s OK! A recruiter is seeking general information to determine if you are a good fit for their role and also gauge how well their opening meets your professional needs.

Common information a recruiter is looking for during a phone screen is:


The recruiter is looking to see if you meet the availability requirements of the role.  For example, if this is a full-time position and you only have part-time availability, this will be a deal-breaker.

Salary expectations

Before a job is even posted, a salary range is assigned to a role based on a company’s budget. This means that there is a limit to how much salary an employer can offer for any given position. If you’re asked about your pay expectations, be sure to choose a salary range that you would be comfortable making and that your experience backs up.  Your response to this question helps a recruiter determine if they can realistically offer compensation that would make you happy and stay within budget. If you ask for a salary that is unrealistic for what was budgeted and/or that your experience does not warrant, chances are you will not be invited to that final interview.

Required experience

The recruiter will ask general questions about your resume to see if you have the experience required for the role. This is where it is important to be detailed in your answers.  Although you don’t need to give as thorough a response as you would in the interview room, if you are too brief, the recruiter may not get the information they need to decide if you are qualified enough to move forward in the interview process.

Candidate interest

It is easy to forget that you are not the only person a recruiter is reaching out to. Do not be surprised if you are asked questions about your general interest level for the role. A good recruiter will give you a brief summary of the job along with some basic information about the company to see where your engagement level is.  If you do not ask questions or seem disinterested, they will not move forward with your application.

[blockquotes color=”blue” logo=”yes”] Phone screens and phone interviews serve different purposes, but both are equally important in the interview cycle[/blockquotes]

The Phone Interview

If your phone screen went well, the recruiter will schedule a formal phone interview with you.  This will be scheduled at a future time and date, giving you the ability to prepare. The purpose of a formal phone interview is to determine, who, among the candidates interviewed, will be offered the position.

 Here are some tips to help you demonstrate to your interviewer that you are the candidate they should hire:

Take it as seriously as an in-person interview

Bottom Line: If you do not take your interview seriously, you will not get the job. It’s easy to get lazy when you’re not face-to-face with your interviewer. Just because you are not in the same room doesn’t mean this is not a causal interview; be sure you are being professional at all times.

Focus and cut out all distractions

You need to be in a quiet place where the interviewer cannot hear any background noise and where you will not become distracted. If your interviewer feels that you are focusing on something else, they will logically conclude that getting this job is not a priority for you.

Do some research before the interview

The candidates that stand out to hiring managers are the ones who show initiative. Look up the company and the role you are interviewing for.  Interviewers like to know you did your homework and took the time to do some research before your interview. Not only does this show an elevated level of interest, but it also shows you are engaged in the process and are capable of going above and beyond.

As a bonus, doing research makes it easier for you to prepare some questions for your interviewer. This, in turn, will allow you to determine if you would want to accept a job offer, should you receive one.

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Be ready for phone interview questions

During a phone interview, usually, the interviewer will go through your work history and then ask specific situational questions about the role. When you respond to these questions, you need to be detailed and thorough in your answers.  Not only is your interviewer looking for what you’re saying, but they are also looking into how you are saying it because they are trying to gauge how you would interact with both colleagues and customers, should you secure the position.

Send a thank-you email

After the interview, follow up with a thank-you email.  This will highlight your professionalism and serve as one last chance to hammer home why you are the best candidate for the job.  Write your thank you email in the style of a formal letter with three paragraphs that are 3-5 sentences each.

Be sure to thank the interviewer for taking the time to interview you in your introductory paragraph. In the body of your letter, recap what you learned about the role along with the skills you bring to the table that make you the best candidate for the role.

The Bottom Line

Looking for a new job can be a nerve-racking and time-consuming process. Even though it can feel like a necessary evil, it is important to understand the purpose of each step in the interview process in order for you to put your best foot forward.

Phone screens and phone interviews serve different purposes, but both are equally important in the interview process.  If you know their differences and what a recruiter is looking for at each stage, it can help you get to the next step, and, ultimately, help you land your dream job.