How to Do a Great Phone Interview

The phone interview is typically overlooked because managers want to move straight to the in-person interview.  However, you can learn a lot from a 15 minute phone call, enough perhaps to save yourself the trouble of entertaining an unsuitable applicant for an hour or two at your office.

The Ins and Outs

The purpose of a phone screening is to determine if a candidate has the basic qualifications so that you can make an educated decision regarding an in-person interview.  Once you’ve set aside resumes that show potential, arrange for a quick call to meet each candidate.  You don’t necessarily have to make all of these calls yourself.  Employees on your staff can be trained to conduct phone screenings for applicants at their level or below.

Your first questions should address any critical questions you have as a result of reviewing the candidate’s resume.  If you’ve circled a potential deal breaker, you’ll want to get clarification on it before bringing that person into the office.   Here are a few additional conversation ideas from Martin Yate’s excellent book, Hiring the Best, for getting a top-line, well-rounded view of the candidate in a short period of time:

  • Track Record: Of all of the work she has done, where has the applicant been the most successful?  Look for answers that demonstrate her ability to contribute in your most crucial areas.
  • Current Job: How does his current job relate to the overall goals of his department or company?  This response should demonstrate that the candidate understands how her efforts fit into the big picture.  If the candidate is currently unemployed, his answer can reflect his last full-time position.
  • Preferences: What aspects of her job or company does the candidate like best, or what would she change?  This answer will help you determine if she will enjoy and will be successful working within your culture.
  • Future Direction: What is the applicant looking for in his next job?  Look for a match between the candidate’s needs and what your opening can genuinely provide.

When you’re satisfied with the answers you receive, then it’s time to bring the candidate into the office for a longer, more in-depth interview.

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