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Getting the most out of phone screening interviews
  • Interviews should be brief and focus on questions for the applicant.
  • Employers should save in-depth questions for an in-person interview.

Interviewing can be an arduous process, not only for employers and their hiring managers, but also for job applicants. Creating a streamlined process for screening candidates that is respectful of all parties involved can save employers both time and resources, and may have the added benefit of making a good first impression on applicants.

Many companies conduct phone interviews as part of the initial screening process, but these calls are not always used to their most effective advantage. To efficiently use phone interviews to identify top candidates from the wider field of applicants, employers should:

  • Keep it short. They should strive for a brief interview, no more than 30 minutes. A good outline is to:
    • Spend the first five minutes explaining a little bit about the organization and where the open position fits within the company,
    • Spend the next 20 minutes on questions for the applicant, and
    • Spend the last five minutes answering any questions the applicant might have.
      • Employers should remember that the phone interview is just the first step to help identify final candidates, not to make an actual hiring decision, so they shouldn’t worry about trying to conduct a complete interview in a short time and should save more in-depth questions for an in-person interview.
  • Confirm qualifications. The screening interview should confirm whether the applicant has the minimum required qualifications for the open position.
    • Employers should review the applicant’s resume and ask for any clarification on the person’s skills or experiences as they relate to the position.
  • Clarify expectations. This is a good time for employers to get a feel for what the applicant might be expecting from the job and ensure it matches their expectations of a candidate. Often, such discussions are about:
    • Environment,
    • Fit, and
    • Salary.
      • Employers should confirm that their compensation is in the applicant’s expected range.

Two questions that often reveal interesting insight into an applicant’s expectations are:

  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • What interests you about this job?

Employers may discover that the applicant wants to leave an environment that is very similar to the one offered at their company, or they could find that the applicant has a misunderstanding of the duties involved in the open position. Using the phone screening as a brief conversation to confirm that employers and applicants share an understanding of the position’s opportunities and expectations will give both parties the chance to confirm or reevaluate their interest before the process continues.