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Why You Didn't Make It Past the Pre-Screen

By Kristine Penning, Creative Marketing Specialist –



A pre-screen interview, often otherwise known as the “phone interview,” is an important precursor to the formal in-person interview process. Recruiters or HR assistants will often perform these interviews via phone or sometimes video prior to sending promising candidates on to the hiring manager for further consideration and interviewing. This helps save an organization time and money.


So, you had a phone interview, felt like you did a nice job, but later receive a message saying that you did not make it on to the next round of interviews. What went wrong? The following may give you an explanation for why you didn’t make it past the pre-screen interview.


  1. You didn’t sound like you cared.

    This is always a personal kicker for me when I interview candidates, as it is for most recruiters. If you cannot hear the passion and excitement in a candidate’s voice about the open position or the organization, why bring them in? Your interviewer should be able to hear you smiling through the phone. Speak positively and passionately. If you are too passive, you won’t be getting the job much less the next interview.

  2. You were overwhelming.

    Sometimes the exact opposite is true, however—you can show too much enthusiasm. Maybe you spent the interview talking too much or talking too fast. Did you even sound like you may have been bragging? While the interview is about you, it’s also about the organization and the role, and the interviewer is trying to determine if they should pass your resume along or not. Watch your eagerness and make sure you are not overwhelming. If you’re that intense on the phone, who would call you back?

  3. You seemed entitled.

    I’m not necessarily speaking to you, millennials, but rather anyone who thinks they are a bit too important for a lowly phone interview with the office secretary. The phone interview is an important step that most all candidates experience. You are not exempt from it, whether you have prestigious titles written all over your resume or you have other job offers waiting for you. Don’t conduct your interview as though you are above the process and the person you are speaking to.

  4. You didn’t come prepared.

    While the pre-screen phone interview is likely to be shorter in duration than an in-person interview, and you may not be speaking with the hiring manager, you still need to make an impression. Part of that impression is coming prepared with good questions to ask at the closing of the interview. If you don’t have questions prepared, it will make you look, again, passive and as though you are not truly interested. Also, don’t underestimate researching the role and the organization. Your interviewer will be able to tell in the way that you answer questions that you have done your homework.


Again, the pre-screen interview is an important step and not one to treat otherwise. Go into your phone interview the same as you would an in-person interview: with excitement and passion, prepared with questions and kindness.


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