We often provide coaching for how to nail your interviews. We share how you should prepare and respond to questions. But now we are turning the tables and talking about when you are interviewing others. It can be very tricky to evaluate a candidate in the limited time you have with them. In this post we will talk about the value of phone interviews and how you can maximize your use of them. If you haven’t interviewed anyone yet, you surely will soon, so read on!

Have you ever identified a candidate who seemed perfect for your open role based on their resume and cover letter, then turned out to be a total dud when you brought them in for an interview? This process can be even more frustrating when you’ve spent a ton of time coordinating your interview panel and rearranging schedules so everyone can be present. If you can relate, you’re not alone – but there is a crucial step to your interviewing process you might be neglecting. Phone and even video interviews are becoming increasingly more popular, and they’re a great tool to screen out candidates before investing a lot of time with them. Here are our best tips for how to get the most out of your phone screening process so it’s not just a formality but a true filter for bringing in the best-aligned talent.

Don’t treat the phone screen as a full interview. This isn’t the time where you have multiple interviewers on the line asking tough, technical questions. A preliminary phone interview shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes (15-20 minutes is more common). These can be done on the fly if a candidate answers the phone on the first try, or could also take place at a scheduled time within a few days. Sometimes recruiters are best at conducting these phone screens, but if your team is small, consider utilizing the hiring manager, team lead, or supervisor in this role.

The phone screen should be a two-way street. This first conversation is the perfect time to give candidates more information about the specific role you’re hiring for. Some job descriptions are vague at best, and it’s easiest to convey necessary information over the phone. This is a way for candidates to self-select out of the interview process if the job just won’t be the right fit. Likewise, you’ll get to learn more about their interest in the role and gather some preliminary data on why they might be a good match for your team. During this phone conversation, you can also clarify salary band, office location, or other technical concerns.

Ask a few vital questions to get a thorough picture of your candidate. The phone screen is not the time to make sure the applicant is absolutely perfect for the role, but you can use this brief conversation to get a good feel for their qualifications and personality. The standard questions like “tell me about yourself,” “what excites you about this role,” and “why are you leaving your current position” are fine places to start. Take note not just of their responses, but also their communication style and ability to get their point across. Use the phone interview to gather data that you couldn’t obtain just by reviewing a resume, such as culture fit.

The preliminary phone interview is a quick and easy process to eliminate wasted time and resources from conducting in-person interviews with tons of candidates who end up not quite fitting the bill. This strategy is advantageous for job searchers and employers alike. Drop us a line and let us know your favorite phone screen questions and techniques!

If you are interested in learning more, here are some of our favorite resources:


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Teague is a certified career and lifestyle coach with Ama La Vida. To learn more about her and book a free consultation with her, visit: https://alvcoaching.com/team-teague.