How to Handle Screening Interviews

August 13, 2010 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

A fair number of email correspondents have been telling me recently that before they even get to speak to a hiring manager, they’re being put through a screening interview, usually conducted by someone in the organization’s HR department and often over the phone. With all the competition out there and with companies taking care with each precious opening these days, screening interviews give the company a chance to weed out those who may not have the necessary qualifications, and to focus hiring managers’ attention on those who likely will be the best candidates.

Yet a screening interview also offers an opportunity for the job candidate —  not only is this a chance to win over the first interviewer and get to the next round, but you may also be able to throw your hat in the ring for other openings in the company. So treat this as seriously as you would any other interview and make the most of it, rather than viewing it as a hassle.

Here are some tips on how to handle screening interviews:

*Plan and prepare for it. If you get a surprise call from a screening interviewer, ask if you can set up a time to talk in the next day or so, when you’d be prepared. Ask them — or whomever in the organization is setting up this interview — for their job title and the titles of others who may be screening you, and for the purpose of this interview. Ask what materials they would like from you. And then prepare as you would for any other interview — researching the company, the job and the interviewers; and getting ready to discuss your qualifications as well as coming up with some sharp questions to ask at the end. If this first round will be in person, dress appropriately and bring along extra copies of your resume and other materials.

*Treat this interviewer as you would other recruiters or hiring managers. A mistake some job seekers make in screening interviews is to act as though this step doesn’t really matter, and that this interviewer doesn’t have a serious role in the decision-making process. In fact, they are quite important because if they aren’t impressed, you likely won’t even get to the next step. Show them the same courtesy and respect that you would other interviewers, and be careful not to ask questions that seem like you’re biding your time in advance of the “real interview.”

*Ask questions and gain information in this round. Sharp job hunters can make this step work for them. Often these interviews are shorter — especially if they’re on the phone — than subsequent interviews will be, so use that to your advantage and ask questions about the job, the company and its goals, and the timetable for filling this position. Show real interest through your questions and attitude. And if it appears — as sometimes it will — that this position likely isn’t a good fit for you, seek to make the screening interviewer an ally in going after other positions in the organization that may better match your skills. If you do, you may well find that they are contacting you weeks or months down the road for another position with this company.

*I’m just back from vacation — thanks for all the good suggestions and leads while I was gone! And over the past few days — following the sour jobless report on Aug. 6 — there has been a fair amount in the press about how the sluggish recovery is causing employers of all stripes to be extremely cautious in hiring. Given that, here’s a good post from on how to target the sectors that are hiring:

Four Areas To Look For Jobs

And here are some fresh leads for communications and journalism positions to check out — even during the August slowdown:

*Kaiser Permanente in D.C. has an opening for a senior communications consultant:

Senior Communications Consultant
Kaiser Permanente – Washington, DC
complex communications consultation, communications… verbal communications or advice on communications issues to providing customized communications materials…

*Hilton Hotels, which has moved its corporate headquarters to McLean, has an opening there for a director of global corporate communications:

Director, Global Corporate Communications
Hilton Corporate – Global Headquarters – McLean, VA
with other team members in Global Corporate Communications and Brand PR to provide one consistent voice… college degree in Communications, Journalism, English…
From Hilton

*Georgetown University in D.C. is looking for a director of communications, online marketing and advancement systems:

Director Communications, On-Line Marketing, a
Georgetown University – Washington, DC
2009-0729N – Director Communications, On-Line Marketing… Electronic communication and tracking systems Core Responsibilities… Ongoing communication with all…

*Dutko Worldwide in D.C. has an opening for a senior vice president for public affairs and communications:

Senior Vice President for Public Affairs & Communications
Dutko Worldwide LLC – Washington, DC
Manage and coordinate communications campaigns aimed at corporate competitiveness positioning Manage and coordinate crisis communications campaigns Supervise…
From Hire Veterans

*The National Federation for Credit Counseling in Silver Spring, which is relocating to D.C. in early 2011, is looking for a VP of marketing and communications:
Vice President of Marketing and Communications
National Foundation for Credit Counseling – Silver Spring, MD
Marketing and Communications will have responsibility… communication strategic and tactical planning by developing and implementing effective communications that…
From ASAE & The Center

*Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) is looking for a full-time D.C. correspondent:

*Rep. Louise Slaughter’s D.C. office is looking for an online communications manager:

The Online Communications Manager is responsible for the online presence of Rep. Louise Slaughter. As part of the press team you will be responsible for her personal site, her pages on social media sites, and postings on third party websites. Previous writing experience is mandatory.

Candidates should possess expertise in:

* Online political sites, esp. those that allow members to post;
* Social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter;

Experience with the following is helpful:

* Other third party online tools, such as YouTube and Google Maps;
* Project management involving web development contractors;
* Image and video editing.

Please submit cover letter, resume, and writing sample to ny28onlinemediajob@

*This lead has an application deadline of next Wednesday (Aug. 18) so if you’re interested, better hurry — the Medill School of Journalism’s Washington program in D.C. has an opening for a adjunct instructor in videography for this fall:

*Adjunct Instructor Videography, Washington, D.C.*

*Four days a week, flexible for 11 weeks, beginning Sept. 20 and ending
Dec. 8, 2010 *

*Deadline for Applications: Aug. 18*

The Medill School of Journalism seeks an accomplished video storyteller
with experience in public affairs, business or science journalism to
teach in the school’s unique program in Washington, D.C. The job is a
fulltime, temporary adjunct position.

The successful applicant will be an outstanding visual storyteller with
experience in original video production for broadcast and non-broadcast
platforms and a strong record of enterprise journalism.

He/she will be able to teach techniques that include, but are not
limited to, audio collection, voice coaching, field producing,
non-linear editing, creation of news packages and longer-form
storytelling for digital platforms.

He/she will work with a range of students who are studying
videography/broadcast, and/or specialist reporting in public affairs,
business or science/health/environmental journalism.

The position is not a fulltime faculty position. It is an adjunct
position for 11 weeks beginning Sept. 20. Schedule has some flexibility.

To apply, please send resume to:

Salome Angrand
Office Manager
Medill News Service
1325 G St. NW, Suite 730
Washington, DC 20005 <>

*The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) in D.C. is looking for a communications manager:

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) seeks an energetic,
creative and resourceful Communications Manager to be responsible for
IWPR’s outreach, media relations, identity management, marketing and
publications, events coordination, dissemination, communications and
outreach activities including press relations, producing and
disseminating print and online informational materials, and tracking
outcomes of outreach and dissemination efforts. The Communications
Manager will play a key role in developing IWPR’s outreach and
dissemination strategies, and in its effort to improve conditions for
women by sharing its information with a growing audience of advocates,
policy makers, thought leaders, and members of the public. The
Communications Manager will work with the Communications Fellow in
coordination with other IWPR staff to carry out of all communications
responsibilities. The Communications Manager will report to the
Executive Director.

The salary range for the Communications Manager is from the mid 40s to
the low 50s commensurate with expertise and experience. The
compensation plan includes generous health insurance, a 403b
retirement plan, flex-spending plan, transportation subsidy, vacation,
and other benefits. The position is full-time. IWPR is an Equal
Opportunity Employer and people of color are especially encouraged to

To Apply
Email a cover letter, a resume, three 1-5 page writing samples, and
three references with contact information to

*And last but certainly not least today,  Trust for America’s Health in D.C. is looking for a communications manager:

Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), a national non-profit organization dedicated
to advocating for the improvement of the nation’s public health system, seeks a
Communications Manager. Responsibilities include development and
implementation of integrated communications strategies; media relations —
preparing news releases and op/eds, promoting stories to news media, providing
rapid response to media requests, maintaining media contact database, and
maintaining news clips; assisting in the management, writing, and production of
communications materials such as issue reports, fact sheets, brochures, blog
posts, and annual reports; managing the organization’s web site; maintaining
organization’s social media presence; and event planning and management.
Minimum Qualifications: Minimum three to five years of communications
experience. A Bachelor’s Degree in relevant area is required. Note: this is
not an entry-level position.

Salary: Commensurate with experience and qualifications.
To apply: Send resume, cover letter, and salary history to: Public Affairs
Department, 1730 M Street, NW, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20036 or via e-mail

Due to a large volume of applicants, only successful candidates will be
contacted. Trust for America’s Health is an equal opportunity employer.

Happy hunting and have a relaxing weekend. I’ll be back with you bright and early Monday morning!



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