You have a list of candidates that made it past your resume screening process. Eager to make that next great hire, you’re excited about the possibilities in front of you. Now what? Do you immediately schedule them for an in-person interview? Or, do you conduct a phone interview first? If phone screens are not in your current process, you might want to reconsider. They can be an effective way to save time while learning a lot about a candidate.
The purpose of the pre-employment phone interview is to quickly assess the candidate’s ability to meet the minimum requirements of the position, as well as their ability to communicate clearly over the phone - super important if you are considering them for a job with lots of phone contact, such as sales or customer service. If your customers are only going to hear this employee talk on the phone, so should you. Nothing is more frustrating than getting fully into the in-person interview before discovering they can’t articulate themselves. Take it as a great opportunity to evaluate phone etiquette and communication style.
Tip: Pay attention to tone, inflection, and clarity of the candidate when answering questions as well as background noise
I once interviewed an accounting candidate who sounded like she was calling from a rock concert. She wasn’t. When I told her that it was very difficult to hear a word she was saying and asked where she was, she said, “I’m home. My roommate has some people over.” Who? Guns N’ Roses?! At any rate, she did nothing to change the situation, and I never was sure what she said. I figured I learned some useful information about her problem-solving abilities and professional phone etiquette (or lack of them).
The phone interview allows you to streamline the interview process and eliminate candidates that may not be a suitable fit to the position because of work schedule, location, salary requirements (should it make sense to discuss that), education and/or license requirements, etc. Perhaps they aren’t a match for a simple reason that you could have uncovered in a 5-minute phone call. For example, they want to telecommute but the job is 100% in the office. Perhaps they didn’t realize their commute would be so long, or maybe you’re just too far apart on salary expectations. Why not get that stuff out of the way early before you both invest valuable time, energy and, ultimately, money? It’s as respectful of their time as it is of your own.
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But, if all goes well and you know you want to meet this candidate for an on-site interview, you can set it up at the end of the call. If you need time to review your notes with another person on the hiring team, you can let the candidate know when they will hear back from you and what the rest of the process will look like. PS – If you talk to someone on the phone, you should follow up with them even if you aren’t moving forward. Don’t leave people wondering if they’ll ever hear back; it goes a long way towards earning respect as an employer of choice in the community.
When assessing the call:
By integrating a phone screen into your pre-employment hiring process, you are sure to save yourself time and more than a few headaches, unless your candidates insist on calling you from an impromptu rock concert.