Save time…. Conduct a phone interview

Ange Connor

I’m always surprised by how many hiring managers don’t bother to undertake a phone screen or initial phone interview with the candidates they shortlist for their vacancy. Depending on the level and skill required for the position being recruited for plus high unemployment rates, many companies are being inundated with applications when they advertise their vacancy. Time is precious and many hiring managers are skim reading applications to sift through the pile of them as quickly and efficiently as possible. They then simply call the candidates with the best looking resumes and book them straight in for interview or even have an assistant book the interviews with no time invested in making the most of this initial screening opportunity.

Spending a little more time at this end of the recruitment process I guarantee will give you a better outcome down the track and will even save you time. Have you ever walked in to an interview and within the first couple of minutes you know that scheduling this interview was a mistake? It’s a situation we can all relate to and it’s frustrating because we sit there going through the motions of the interview but are thinking this time could have been better used. It’s not an effective use of your time and you’ve wasted the candidates time as well.

By taking the time to ask a few simple questions prior to inviting a candidate in for an interview, you can save yourself a whole lot of time at the face to face interview stage and increase your success in finding a suitable candidate. The point of the phone screen/interview is to get the candidate talking and to do this we need to use open ended questions. To make the most of this conversation here’s some questions to get you started:

  • Do you remember applying for the job and if so, what motivated you to apply?

You’ll be shocked at how many people respond with “ I’ve applied for 50 jobs this week and I can’t remember what job you’re talking about”  followed by “I don’t care what I do, I’ve been applying for any job and every job.” For me the alarm bells are ringing. Why are they so desperate to get a job and why aren’t they having any success in finding a job?

  • What are you ideally looking for?

This question is designed to understand the candidates true wants and needs so you can determine if this is job application is just a gap filler until they can find what it is they are really looking for. You can dig by asking more about the hours they want to work, the level of responsibility they are seeking, what they enjoy and don’t enjoy doing and other specific information relevant to the particular job you are recruiting for.

  • What is motivating you to look for another position?

Many candidates will indicate on their resume that their most recent position is still current but often they may have actually finished up in their last position. Understanding where the candidate is at in their job search and why they are seeking a new position will help you determine if you can offer them what it is they are seeking. Also by knowing where they are at in their job search and their urgency to make a change will provide you with valuable information on how quickly you need to move if they are a candidate that appeals to you. Or maybe you’ll realise they are just a tyre-kicker and testing the waters to see if they can get themselves a pay rise with their current employer.

  • What do you think this job involves?

I use this question to see if the candidate has really thought about what the job entails. Have they reviewed the position description (if available), have they done some research and have they really thought through what type of tasks and responsibilities they’ll be performing on a day to day basis. Again this will help you gauge their level of interest, motivation and enthusiasm. I’m always impressed when a candidate answers this question and follows up with well thought through questions about the job, it shows they have initiative.

  • What is your availability for an interview?

This is a simple but great question. So many times I’ve asked this question and been told “oh I can’t meet with you for a couple of weeks I’m very busy” or the candidate will be difficult and inflexible in scheduling a mutually agreeable time. Yes you do need to be flexible too, particularly if the candidate has current work commitments but if a candidate really wants to attend an interview, generally they’ll do what it takes to make themselves available.

Throughout the phone screen you need to be paying attention to and assessing not just their responses to your questions but their communication skills (tone of voice, degree of attention – are they distracted or vague, the language they use), their level of engagement and their enthusiasm. If they can’t engage you and sell themselves on the phone how are they going to engage your customers or stakeholders when they are in the role? Basically you are assessing if they deserve an hour of your time at a face to face interview.

If you are really under the pump and just simply cannot squeeze in the time to conduct phone interviews with your shortlisted candidates, get them to record a video interview. That way you’ll be able to watch them at any time of the day or night and not waste your time bringing in a candidate for a first round interview who doesn’t match what you are looking for.

Is phone interviewing working for you and saving you time? I’d love to hear about your experiences and how you are using phone interviews to be more productive and get a better outcome. Feel free to leave me a comment and share your experience.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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