• Mike

Phone Screen Preparation

Updated: Jan 23

Book excerpt from Acing the Machine Learning Interview (coming soon)


Since you may not know when to expect the telephone interview, it is critical that you do not wait to prepare for the interview until you have the interview scheduled. You must accomplish your goal – selling yourself, your skills, your experience, and your value – with only the words that come out of your mouth now.


Let’s cover the steps you can do before the interview.


  • Have a professional voicemail. Your resume should have your phone number on it. Here’s an example. "You've reached Mike West at phone number. I'm unable to take your call right now. Please leave your name, phone number, and the reason for your call. I'll call you back as soon as I can." Use your first and last name. The interviewer doesn’t know you, using first and last name will ensure he/she hears your full name. Here’s what not to do. “Hey, it’s Mike, drop a message and I’ll call back soon.” You aren’t in college anymore and if you are, you’ll need to act like you aren’t. Once you get the job, you can change your voicemail back to something that fits your personality. You only need a professional voicemail until you’ve bene hired.


  • When you schedule the phone screen, choose a time that fits your comfort zone. If you aren’t a morning person, don’t schedule the phone screen in the morning.


  • Know the answers to the most common questions. You’ll get many of those answers from this book. If one of the job skills is SQL, you should be able to regurgitate the basics without thinking.


  • For example, if the interviewer asks you, what is a database? Your answer should be, “A database is a container for objects. The core object is the table. A table holds structured data.” The answer is short and comprehensive.


  • Be prepared for follow up questions to your answers. For example, the interviewer might take this opportunity to ask about the difference between structured and unstructured data. You’ll learn how to answer that question later in the book.


  • Study. This book will provide you with an in-depth look at what to study. However, you’ll need to do the heavily lifting by learning the technologies and being able to communicate to others you understand how to apply the required skills in the applied space.


  • Provide the interviewer with specific days and time windows for the phone screen. Most interviewers will be accommodating as their schedule allows. By providing the interviewers with at least three different options you’re showing your flexibility.


  • Don’t put anything on your resume you don’t want the interviewer to ask you about. Many candidates pad their resumes. While this might look great, experienced professionals may ask questions to see if you did indeed pad your resume. If you are asked about a technical skill listed on your resume, be honest about it. Tell the interviewer what you are strong in and what you are weak in specific to that skill.


  • Don’t take the phone screen at your current job unless you have your own office with a lock on it. Most interviewers will want your undivided attention. Interruptions during phone screens are unprofessional and can be conversation killers. Do everything you can to isolate yourself in a comfortable location.


  • Don’t be late. Sounds like a no brainer but most interviewers will take any tardiness as a sign of disinterest.


  • Know who is interviewing you. It’s often one person. If you think you might forget their name, write it down.

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