How To Conduct A Phone Interview: A Complete Guide
November 10, 2022
November 10, 2022
Every effective hiring strategy involves conducting phone interviews with job applicants. At first blush, they may seem like a simple enough task: dial in at a scheduled time, ask a few questions, and compare the candidates. Phew! It does look so easy on paper. But is it really?
Phone interviews conceal important non-verbal cues such as nodding, leaning forward, or vocalizing. So it can be challenging for any recruiter like yourself to get the same results over the phone as they would be meeting the applicants face-to-face.
However, if done right, phone interviews can still reveal much more about a candidate than the information already gleaned from their resume, cover letter, and social media presence.
Also known as a “phone screen,” this interview happens on the phone, typically between a recruiter or hiring manager and the potential candidate, lasting between 15 and 30 minutes.
Phone interviews allow you to confirm basic requirements, give the job applicant more information about the role they have applied for, and get to know them a little before pushing them forward in the recruitment funnel.
As mentioned previously, a phone interview enables you to check if an applicant’s skills match your job requirements and whether they can fit in the company culture.
Through a phone call, you can confirm if the applicant’s salary request meets what your company is willing and able to pay. Plus, this method is also time-effective and cost-friendly. Let us look at its benefits in detail:
Have too many resumes to parse and just not enough time or resources? Phone interviews can help you filter out many candidates in the shortest period. Ask the ones shortlisted to take a pre-employment assessment test or do a face-to-face interview.
It is common for multiple people to be a part of the interview process. Phone calls help, especially when different team members are based in various locations. Getting them all to take an interview becomes easy.
Getting someone to agree to a 15-20 minute phone call is much easier than asking them to come down to the office for an interview. Phone interviews are convenient, particularly when you just want to get a feeler about how the potential candidate sounds.
How nice would it be if doing a phone interview was as easy as picking up the phone and chatting with the person on the other line? Well, it is if you keep in certain best practices for doing it right, including:
Become familiar with the person you are going to call before the interview. Go through their resume and portfolio, and make some points you want to touch upon before speaking to them.
Since phone screenings are mostly done to glean more information from the potential hire, let them talk! Keep what you have to say to a minimum.
Unfortunately, you cannot see an interviewee’s physical gestures or posture during the call. So it is best to look for clues in their voice, ranging from confidence and determination to hesitation and disinterest.
Please ensure you are sitting in a quiet place with minimum distractions. For a hassle-free experience for both parties, ask the candidate to find a quiet spot to take the call. You need to hear and remember what your candidates are saying.
Because the timeframe to take a call is so short, you want to get the maximum information out of the candidate. And you also want to make sure the questions are personalized as per the candidate’s skill, experience, and domain specialism. So, here are the questions you can typically ask:
Keep it simple and ask them something that puts the candidates at ease. For example:
Even the simplest of questions carry a lot of weight in the selection process. For instance, if the candidate’s notice period is three months, which is a bit too much for you, then the arrangement will not work out.
Money talk is always awkward for both the recruiter and the candidate. But still, you want to know whether or not the person you are hiring can be afforded by your company. Here are some questions you can ask:
Many candidates avoid giving an exact number early because they want to get their foot in the door, and you cannot blame them! However, even if you get a broad salary range from them, go ahead with the recruitment process. You can always revisit the topic later.
Once you have sorted the basics and the salary range, ask questions that can give you an idea about whether they actually want the job or how serious they are in the current one:
This is the space where you can look for their workplace and cultural preferences, including problem-solving skills, interpersonal traits, and leadership qualities. A candidate looking for a greater challenge may want you to consider them for a role more demanding than what they do currently.
You cannot expect candidates to have gone through your annual report, but you would like them to have some basic idea about what your company does. Ask the following questions to check how well they know the company:
Candidates who know what you do and support your company’s mission can be an ideal addition to the workforce. At the end of the day, you want your employees to have a favorable view of the company.
Do candidates have the skills, aptitude, and experience you are looking for? Phone interviews also help double-check the information they have shared on their resumes. Some questions you can ask include:
To get the full picture, let the candidate talk here and answer your questions in the best way possible. Ask follow-up questions when needed for clarity.
The whole point of this exercise is for you to assess candidates who meet your hiring requirements and look for warning signs that may tell you otherwise. Here are the top red flags:
Using foul language in the workplace is considered highly unprofessional and even worse when used in a job interview. When the candidate curses, it makes you wonder how they would behave in front of the leadership, vendors, and clients.
This does not have to be a deal breaker, but most candidates have a question or two to ask about the next steps in the hiring process, the team, office timings, and so on after an interview. Not asking questions could signify the person’s disinterest in the job.
In most cases, discussing salary is awkward. But for some people, it is all they care about. When a candidate repeatedly asks about or returns to the topic of compensation, it shows they are switching jobs only for money, which is not always a good sign.
Did the candidate seem excited about taking the call with you? Did they ask questions about the job and your organization? Did they listen intently? All these are positive signs and show their keenness for the new position.
It is never a good sign when the candidate bad-mouths the organization, team, or manager they are currently associated with. Such behavior is highly unprofessional and demonstrates poor team dynamics.
After you have done all the phone interviews, sit down and compare your notes - who among your candidates stood out and should be invited for a formal interview or to take the pre-employment assessment test?
Be objective and think with clarity. You want to choose the top talent for your company, so you must take this “call” cautiously. If you want additional information from the candidates, email them.
Please remember: the phone interview sets the stage for what can be a time and labor-intensive recruiting effort. So make sure you cover your bases and become more confident with your choices.
Some common questions asked during a phone interview include: “What are your strengths?” “Why should we hire you?” “Why do you want to leave your current job?” “Describe your current job responsibilities,” and “What is your management style?”
Asavari is an EiR at Adaface. She has made it her mission to help recruiters deploy candidate-friendly skill tests instead of trick-question based tests. When taking a break, she obsesses over art.