How to Conduct a Phone Interview

Nov 17, 2015

The most practical method to learn more about a prospective employee is through a preliminary phone interview. A phone interview allows recruiters and managers to assess a person beyond a resume or social media profile. These nine tips will help you know how to conduct a phone interview.

  1. Prepare a List. Be it childcare interview questions or technical interview questions, there is a wide array of resources available online. Your candidate has gone through extensive sample interview questions before taking your call. Plan ahead and definitely prepare a list of questions you want to ask during a phone interview to keep the conversation flowing.

  2. Professional Atmosphere. Choose a quiet place that is free from the racket of electronic gadgets like fax machines, other phones and copiers so both parties can clearly hear each other. The interviewee should be convinced of your genuine interest in finding the right person for the open position. This will ensure that the other person takes the interview process serious enough to answer with due care.

  3. Chat it Up. Find a common interest with the candidate to ease their nervousness. Just chat for a minute. Then share what will happen during the preliminary interview process. Let the candidate know you’ll tell him or her about the position, ask a few questions, then give him or her a chance to ask you any questions. Chat a bit more. Chat in between interview questions. It’s in the chatting where the candidate will relax and let down their guard, per se. That’s where you can read between the lines and get a feel for him or her as a person and if they would make a good fit within your company culture.

  4. Be Friendly and Positive. It is just as important to convey accurate and detailed information as it is to convey it in a friendly and positive manner. Even though the candidate will likely not be able to see you during the call, your body language and facial expressions are still very important during a phone interview. Smile and sit up straight, even when you talk over the phone, so you sound pleasant at the receiving end. This portrays a friendly and professional image about your company and builds a strong positive reputation as well.

  5. Workplace Suitability. Whether it’s one of your main questions or not, you definitely need to understand what the candidate is capable of, what they expect, and what they consider to be suitable aspects of the position. You can ask candidates directly, “How do you feel about working every other weekend?” Or you can ask it in a subtler manner, “So, do you like to travel?” The main objective here is to find out about their ability and willingness to travel for the job, relocation, will they oppose working on weekends, or whatever else the job entails. The more information you gather, the better decisions you’ll be able to make.

  6. Revamp the Routine. Revamp routine interview questions to show genuine interest in people – add a dash of personal touch to common phone interview questions like “Tell me about yourself,” “What are your strengths?” and “What are your weaknesses?” to make these regular questions sound less monotonous. Instead you could rephrase the above questions to sound as if you have just made a new friend. For example, “So, tell me about a time either in your last job or a time before, when you helped the company in a way that went above and beyond your normal range of duties.

  7. Benchmark. While it is a good idea to know how you’d like the questions answered, it might also be good to have those answers jotted down as a reference point. This will aid in the initial screening process as you measure the effectiveness of each candidate’s response. The first person you do a phone interview with will likely set the benchmark for how you’ll judge all the other candidates. Be sure you know what you want and don’t take anything less.

  8. Skip the Stress. When you are hiring personnel for top management, customer service and other positions, a stress interview may become necessary. Since a phone interview does not enable you to fully assess eye contact, body language, gestures or even the actual interest level of a candidate, there is no point in trying to check patience levels over a call. It is wise to save all the stress-check questions for a secondary face-to-face interview to make better decisions.

  9. All Is Well That Ends Well. Once you are finished conducting a phone interview, it is time to make a quick judgment call. For those who sounded convincing in the phone interview, you can go ahead and schedule the next interview for a round of face-to-face interviews, scheduled a week or two out, to ensure you have enough time to talk to everyone. Send them a follow-up mail for their next scheduled interview. End on a friendly note even if a candidate is not selected; you can send a thank you email the next day to convey you will not proceed with that candidate. You could also let them know that their application and/or resume will remain in your company’s database to be considered for future openings.

Knowing how to conduct a phone interview and what to look for is easy when you follow these simple tips.

About the Author

Charlie Kimmel

As President and CEO, Charlie has dedicated his 25+ year career to executive search at Kimmel & Associates. Charlie began his career at Kimmel & Associates in 1990 as a Recruiter. In 1993, he graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he received a BA in History.

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