Phone Interview

Ryan Archibald
Ryan Archibald
The candidate is preparing for the phone interview and you need to as well. It may seem like an easy task to conduct a phone interview, but your preparation will determine if it is successful. Read on to learn the advantages and disadvantages of a phone interview, the process of a phone interview and tips to elevate your phone interview.

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What Is a Phone Interview?

A phone interview is the first stage in the recruiting process after the recruiter reviews the candidate’s resume and application. The call allows the recruiter to better determine if the candidate is compatible with the position and the organization.

Should You Conduct an Interview on the Phone?

Yes. Phone interviews allow the recruiter to ask candidates prepared questions to narrow the candidate pool to a smaller group to be invited to an in-person interview. These candidates will be chosen on their alignment with the position requirements and the organization.

The Advantages of Phone Interviews

Conducting a phone interview has great advantages for you and your organization. Phone interviews can:

  • Eliminate geographical limits. Employers are not limited to a certain geographical area to source candidates, which leads to a larger candidate pool to find the best candidate.
  • Provide a better candidate experience. Candidates will have less anxiety over a phone interview than a face-to-face interview and will be able to speak more confidently in a comfortable environment.
  • Shorten time to hire. Phone interviews eliminate the need to schedule a convenient time for the candidate to travel into the office to interview. Hiring decisions can be made faster because interviews are completed faster.

The Disadvantages of Phone Interviews

Phone interviews may seem like they have no disadvantages but there are some to be aware of.

  • Limited time. Candidates have a small window to discuss their qualifications during a phone interview. They may not have enough time to discuss everything. The interviewer has a small window to ask prepared questions to determine if the candidate is a match for the position and the organization. There is potential for a candidate to be mislabeled as ‘not a good fit’ or a ‘good fit’ when they are not.
  • Hard to make a connection. A phone interview prevents the candidate and interviewer from assessing each other’s nonverbal language. Nonverbal language contributes to determining if a candidate will be compatible with the organization, so its absence will make it harder for both candidate and interviewer to gauge the fit.
  • A little too comfortable. Candidates get the benefit of staying home for a phone interview, which increases the possibility they may not pick up the phone or they may hang up the phone if they don’t like what they hear. This can be prevented by creating a positive candidate experience where the recruiter is warm and invites the candidate to ask any questions they may have.

How To Conduct a Phone Interview

Conducting a phone interview will add value to your organization if you are prepared. Check out the steps described below to ensure a successful experience every time.

Step 1: Before the Interview

Meet with the hiring manager to determine the technical need for the position you’re interviewing for. Go through each duty in the job description and determine which are essential and which are nice to have. You want to confirm the candidate is compatible with the essential duties. Finally, determine how quickly this position needs to be filled. This deadline will help you build a timeline for the rest of the recruiting process.

Step 2: Scheduling the Phone Interview

Be mindful of other obligations the candidate may have when scheduling the interview. It is recommended to ask them when they are available for the phone interview, even if this means that you interview outside of normal business hours.

Step 3: The Interview Questions

The Society of Human Resource Management provides phone screening questions that may be helpful in addition to any technical questions related to the position.

  • Why are you interested in working for our company?
  • What reasons do you have for leaving your current (or most recent) job?
  • Have you ever been involuntarily terminated? If yes, explain.
  • Based on what you know about the position we are recruiting for, what skills and experience do you have directly related to this position?
  • What would your previous supervisors say are your strengths? What about your weaknesses?
  • What work accomplishments are you most proud of?
  • What are your salary requirements?
  • This position is [Full Time/Part Time] with an expectation to work [40] hours per week. Are you able to work that schedule?
  • If offered a position, when would you be available to start?
  • What questions can I answer for you?

Step 4: During the Phone Interview

Call the candidate at the scheduled time and formally introduce yourself. Before you ask your prepared interview questions, let them know how the interview will be conducted and give them an agenda of what to expect.

As you get acquainted with the candidate, you can move into the prepared questions. Have standard questions that you ask every candidate — this will decrease the potential for bias and discrimination to affect your decision-making process. Give the candidate your full attention and take thorough notes when the candidate responds to each question.

Step 5: Answering Their Questions

A prepared candidate will have one or two questions. Their questions will help you better understand them and whether or not they would fit into your organization.

Before you hang up the phone, let them know the timeline of this stage in the process and if you will reach out to them regarding the decision. Do not tell them you will contact them if you won’t, especially if they are not moving forward in the selection process. Larger companies often use the line “due to a large number of candidates, we will only reach out to those who will be moving forward in the process.” This tells the candidate that no response from you is a response that they are not being moved forward.

Tips and Best Practices To Remember

The tips provided below will help you elevate your phone interviews. It is equally important that both you and the candidate get the information needed to determine if either party wants to move forward.

Create the Right Environment

It doesn’t matter if you are working in an office or working remotely, make sure you are free from distractions, including your work email. In the office, you may need to schedule a conference room to be free from distractions. This ensures the candidate has your full attention and you will be able to better determine which candidates are a better match to the position and the company.

Taking Notes During the Interview

Before the interview, determine how you will take notes. Once decided, tell the candidate you are taking notes and your responses may be delayed. Common note-taking methods are typing out notes or writing them with a pen and paper.

  • Typed notes. This method ensures you can quickly send your notes to the hiring manager for review. Nevertheless, make sure you mute the phone on your end to not distract the candidate by the sound of your keyboard.
  • Handwritten notes. A study has proven that handwriting notes improves your memory, which will be useful after the phone interview when you are reviewing your notes with the hiring manager. You may be able to remember additional details to support the decision of which candidate should move forward in the process.

Stick to a Schedule

You will have a long list of candidates to phone screen, so you need to determine a time limit (i.e. 30 minutes) and make sure you get the information you need within that time. Tell the candidate you have a hard stop at a certain time when you relay the agenda at the beginning of the call.

Feature the Company Culture

Candidates are looking for cultural alignment as much as you are as the recruiter. Before you begin asking questions, give two or three points that provide insight into what it’s like to work at your company. Examples of company culture include corporate giving programs, company diversity initiatives, or leaders promoting positive healthy relationships with their employees.

For more on what are candidates looking for in cultural alignment, check out the latest from Johnny C, Taylor.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Phone Interviews

How long does the average phone interview last?
The average phone interview should last between 15-30 minutes.
Who should call to start the phone interview?
The recruiter should call the candidate at the scheduled time. Include this information when you confirm the date and time for the phone interview.
What happens if the interviewee does not answer their phone?
Leave the candidate a voicemail and ask them to call you back within 24 hours. This gives the candidate a chance to still be considered without sacrificing your schedule to fill the position.
How should the interviewer end the phone interview?
Thank the candidate for their time and give them an accurate time frame when you will contact them regarding if they will move forward in the process.
Ryan Archibald
Ryan Archibald

Ryan is an HR Director with four years of experience and three masters degrees. One accomplishment he is proud of is the design and launch of a learning and development program for 800+ employees.

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