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.
How does a phone interview work?
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.
What makes conducting phone interviews important?
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:
1. Higher volume screening
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.
2. Decreased travel expenses
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.
3. Convenience in scheduling
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 to conduct a phone interview
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:
1. Study your interviewee before the call
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.
2. Let the candidate do most of the talking
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.
3. Listen for voice cues
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.
4. Take the call in a quiet environment
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.
Types of phone interview questions to ask
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:
- “Can you give me a sense of your background?”
- “What are your current job responsibilities and duties?”
- “What is your notice period?”
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.
2. Salary expectations
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:
- “What is your expected salary?”
- “Are there any specific benefits you want from the company?”
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.
3. Intent for the job
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:
- “Why do you want to leave your job?”
- “What made you apply for this position with our company?”
- “What motivates you in your job?”
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.
4. Company knowledge
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:
- “Do you know what we do?”
- “Do you use our products or services?”
- “What attracted you to join our 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.
5. Resume details
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:
- “How are your skills a match for this job role?”
- “Did your internship at _____ give you specific experience that can help you do this job better?”
- “What skills have you recently improved or gained?”
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.
What are the phone interview red flags?
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.
2. Asking no questions
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.
3. Focusing on money talk
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.
4. Lacking enthusiasm
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.
5. Speaking negatively about the current or former employer
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.
Over to you
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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is a phone interview?
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. A phone interview offers an effective way for resume screening.
2. What questions are typically asked in a phone interview?
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?”