Commonly, large companies have their HR team vet potential candidates with an interview before letting them speak with department leads and managers.
It saves the company time and energy, allowing managers to spend less time hiring and more time managing. However, as a candidate, it also means jumping through yet another hoop to land your dream job.
Screening interviews are deceptively challenging and require quite a bit of preparation. So if you haven’t already, read Gearing Up for Interviews, and work your way through Steps 1 through 3 before proceeding with this guide. The screening interview relies on having firm foundation to build on.
Attributes of a Screening Interview
Although plain as day, there are three primary differences between a screening interview and standard interview:
- It’s short, just 20-minutes
- It’s with an HR associate (although possibly a manager)
- It quickly weeds out the meek and unprepared
If you’re uncomfortable with any aspect of your narrative–no matter who you’re speaking to–you might stumble and ruin your chances–remember Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. So avoid complacency, and get ready to work.
How Should You Prepare?
1. Develop the Screening Interview Mindset
A screening interview should be taken neither too seriously, nor too lightly. Imagine yourself meeting this person at a local Starbucks and leaving them with the grand impression that you’re the most spectacular person on the planet. That’s exactly what you want to happen.
Fancy words and philanthropic foundations dedicated to your name won’t do the trick–it might help. It’s done by being as genuine and friendly as possible. Focus your energies on simply being a swell person.
Striking the balance between casual and professional can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. With practice, i.e. 3-5 interviews, you’ll have it down pat. So if you’re first interview is coming up, don’t be disappointed if you stumble–the best of us have.
2. Develop an Artful Presentation of Your Skillet
Nothing imbues more trust in someone’s abilities than their ability to speak to them effortlessly. If you can carefully weave your talents, skills, and interests into every answer, then you’ll have any recruiter wrapped around your finger.
Unfortunately, the only way to do this is to really know your talents, skills, and interests. If the material comes easy, then you’ll have little trouble navigating the rest.
Brainpower is precious while under pressure. So offload as much as you can to autopilot.
3. Give Up Being Humble
There exist two occasions in life where beating your chest is okay:
1. Performance Reviews
2. Job Interviews
I understand that for most, deliberate bragging brings intense discomfort. The fear of looking like a know-it-all, or a pompous charlatan is just too great. However, when your only shot necessitates that you do what you fear most, then it won’t stop you–or it shouldn’t.
Hit a couple poses, strut a few times, and let them know what you’re working with. No one else will so it’s on you to let that recruiter know you’re qualified.
Another way to think about it is this: if you allow them to not hire you, then you’ve done everyone a disservice: you’ll miss out on a great job, the company will miss out on a great candidate, and the world will miss out on what you could have done. So do what’s required of you, and let the recruiter know how great you are.
4. Rid Your Mind of GPA Worries
As nervous as you’ll be about this question, I’m 97.5% sure you won’t be asked in a screening interview:
1. The question of GPA is just as uncomfortable for the interviewer as it is for you. While you worry about an eloquent answer, they worry about a delicate response. Remember most co-workers have no idea what each other’s GPAs are. It’s touchy for everybody. So all in all, the question is widely avoided.
2. Generally speaking, if you’ve been reached out to for an interview, and they’ve seen your GPA-less resume, then they’re not going to ask in person or over the phone. Shocking, but if a low GPA was the issue, they wouldn’t have even reached out. They’re looking for you to confirm they can continue overlooking GPA.
Now, while I’m confident you won’t be asked for your GPA, I know nearly nothing can calm those nerves. And being a site all about poor college credentials, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the question.
There’s no better way to feel prepared than to be prepared, so if you’d like to know for certain you can handle the question, read How to Explain Your Low GPA to a Recruiter for a deep dive.
At the end of the day, remember your audience and your ultimate goal to be likable. You’ll be rewarded for making it easy for them to recommend you to their manager. HR reps are people just like you, and they are talking to a complete stranger. So be authentic, amiable and make the conversation worth their while regardless if you’re the right candidate or not. Good luck!
Feel free to share how you did and your story in the comments below!