Business person on phoneThe Art of the Phone Interview

Managers often dread the amount of time they spend reviewing numerous resumes and applicants for an open position within their company. At ESC, we recommend that applicants be screened prior to an in-person interview.  Not only does it save the time of the company, but also the candidates.  Screening applicants by phone allows employers to sort through the applicant pool and disqualify more than half of those interested.  This saves time from taking a lengthy in-person meeting.

A valuable initial phone screen provides insight to employers on the candidate’s talents, experience, enthusiasm, salary expectations and most importantly professionalism.  Phone screens also give those candidates who don’t jump out on paper an opportunity to elaborate and shine through with something a bullet point can not reveal.

Successful Screens

To do a phone screen successfully, it takes preparation, organization, focus, personalization, documentation, and practice.

First, a manager or recruiter must prepare for a phone screen.  They must be familiar with both the candidates’s resume and the open position.  Understanding what skills are important for the position is necessary to incorporate questions into phone conversation.

Preparation leads to a more time effective conversation.  Typing out the pre-set questions and a specific allotted time for each one keeps you on track.  It may be a good idea to e-mail the candidates to schedule a phone screen, especially if the candidate is currently in a job.  The candidate will notice that you are organized and prepared; this will give them the idea that you know what you are looking for in a candidate.

You should do a phone screen in a private setting, just as any interview should be done.  If the candidate has taken the time out of their schedule to conduct a conversation with you, you need to be sure you are fully present as well.  In the age of multi-tasking this can be very challenging.  Often times, interviewee’s are more open with their answers when they are at ease in their own comfort zone. This will allow you to better determine who they are a little more than in a traditional interview.

Take Notes

One of the most important aspects of the pre-screening process is note-taking.  Because you do not have that face-to-face meeting to help you remember someone, keeping notes is essential.  Have a questionnaire form for each position to ensure you are asking appropriate and consistent questions with each candidate.  Rate the candidate upon the role they will be filling, taking into consideration their education, experience relating to the position, their communication and conversational skills and their attitude.  Once they have been rated against the company and the role, they can be rated to one another.  Doing this will eliminate candidates who you do not see fulfilling the position productivity.

Answer Their Questions

Finally, remember to conclude the interview by answering any questions the candidate may have and let them know what the next step of process will be.  If the candidate seems like a good fit, this is where you can sell the company to them and let them know when you will be in touch with them.

Stick to a Timeline

The phone screen should be no longer than 15 minutes.  Always remember you are the one in charge of the conversation.  If you sense that they may continue on, redirect them or cut them off if need be.  You do not want to lose sight of the importance of pre-screening by taking up too much time.

If you are an ESC client,  your HR consultant can assist you with developing a phone screening and recruitment process.