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Troubleshooting Your Job Search (Part 2 of 5): How to get past the initial interview

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You applied to a job, received a reply, and had an initial phone conversation—often with a recruiter or HR, but sometimes directly with the hiring manager. Then, a week or so later, you receive a message that you’re not moving forward. What could you have done differently?

First, don’t be too hard on yourself. Most of us don’t have a lot of experience interviewing for jobs! To get good results, you may need to work on a specialized skill: explaining your work experience.

Here are three “P”s to help you do better in your next initial interview: Prepare, Post-Mortem, and Practice.


In a tiny percentage of interview processes, you will receive the questions ahead of time; however, it is rare. Fortunately, most first-round phone interview questions are quite basic and cover a few essentials. For example, “Why do you want this job?” or “Please explain your experience that aligns with this job.”

I suggest searching the Internet for “first-round interview questions” or “phone screen questions.” Then, review the generic questions you find in a handful of posts and think about your answers to each one.


After a failed interview, the first thing that might surface is the thought, “I wish I had said this instead.” Take advantage of that natural tendency and operationalize it. First, go through your memory—even better, your notes from the interview – and review how you would answer the question now that you’ve had time to think about it. Next, write it down, or say it out loud a couple of times. Now you’ll be ready with your better answer the next time.


As I said, interviewing is a skill. That means you can practice! Enlist a friend or loved one, or pay an interview coach, to ask you generic interview questions so you can practice your answers in live time. Some organizations even have volunteers who work with folks on these skills. (For example, I once volunteered with Upwardly Global to conduct mock interviews with their job seekers.)