Screening phone calls is an art. Most think of it as a mechanical process, but it’s much more than a switchboard operator job. That starts with a clear, distinct understanding of the phone screener’s role on the show.

A Phone Screener’s Role On The Show

Callers are a terrific addition to a segment, but only if they’re great callers. It’s hard to get good phone calls, let alone great ones. Phone screeners are critical as long as they understand where they fit on the show and what they are for.

This is the single most important point:

Screening phone calls is an off-air position.

Don’t hire a screener whose goal is to be on the air. This is not an entry-level position for an aspiring personality or a reward to a good employee willing to do the job to get their voice on the air. The role could eventually become a producer or on-air job, but only hire a screener who wants this job.

See also  Get Off Your Phone and Answer the Phone

Maybe they’re fans of the show and have the right skill set for this position, and that’s fantastic. But they must be proud to set up great phone calls.

This Is A Performance Role

However, a good screener is a performer. He or she is active in the show, interfacing with fans who want to be on the air and setting up callers to make the show sound great.

Preparing a caller to contribute requires a sense of showbiz and an understanding of how to communicate on the radio. That starts with keeping bad callers off the air, so personalities shouldn’t be responsible for answering the calls. It’s easier for a screener to say “no” than a personality.

Callers are valuable only if they make the segment better.

Telling the caller they can’t be on the air requires tact, creativity, and performance skills. The screener must be able to do all of those quickly and without being rude.

See also  Producer Is a Management Job

It’s Also A Service Role

The phone screener must provide great service to three sets of people, and make both feel they are the top priority:

The Audience: Those who call a station are more passionate listeners, and must be treated with respect and care. It’s a customer service job.

The Personalities: Air talent depends on the screener to set up callers to be ready to perform. You have to maintain a focus on the personalities at all times to provide the right callers at the right times.

The Ringers: Great phone screeners keep a database of eager listeners who are willing to participate when needed. They’re a great resource for content you can count on when the phone isn’t ringing organically or you need a particular type of caller. Managing this group is another balancing act!


A phone screener’s role is difficult. They are talent managers who coach (and babysit) callers as they wait to be broadcast. This makes the talent sound great and helps the show flow well. Many broadcasters take this challenging role for granted, but a great phone screener is an indispensable part of an interactive radio show.