7 steps to a successful telephone interview

telephone interview

Conducting a telephone interview is just challenging for the interviewer as it is for the interviewee. Yes, the onus is on the candidate to make a good impression (they are trying to get the job after all), but you are also working to sell the company and the role. This is especially important when trying to land top candidates.

To make the most of a telephone interview – and to get the best out of each candidate you are interviewing – follow these steps:

1. Be friendly

When you get the interviewee on the phone, introduce yourself, tell them which company you are from, what job you are calling about and when you received their application. Be formal and professional, but don’t overdo it. More than anything, you want to establish a cordial conversation that lets you get a sense of the candidate’s personality.

2. Be respectful of their time

Ask the candidate if this is a good time and be respectful if they cannot speak on the spot. Tell them how much of their time you need, and be understanding if they need to call you call back. Remember that not every candidate is unemployed. Many people are moving from different companies, which means they’ll often still be at work when you speak to them. Be understanding and do your best to work around schedules.

3. Clarify the must haves

Unlike a video interview, which gives you a better chance to gauge a candidate’s soft skills and personality, a telephone interview might be better served focusing on the hard skill questions. Does this candidate deserve to make the next round? Know what skills the role absolutely requires, and ask the hard skill questions. Find out about technical knowledge, experience, acquired skills, training, education, and credentials.

4. Ask “knock-out questions”

The knock-out approach is designed to eliminate candidates from the running. Sound harsh? Hardly. Remember that the idea here is to screen for candidates that best suit your role and company. Use an intake meeting and hiring questionnaire to best define your ideal hire, and then devise questions that will help you find the right person. Examples of these types of questions can vary, but they can be something as simple as “Why did you leave your last job?” to “Do you think you’re being paid enough?” The idea here is to get a sense of the person’s character, and if they’re a good fit for your company.

5. Assess the candidate’s interest

Remove your rose-colored glasses describe the job, warts and all. Be upfront and frank, and gives candidates a good sense of the position and its responsibilities. You can say something like, “I am impressed with your qualification, I think you need to assess whether this job is the right fit for you. Please call me on Friday and tell me what you have decided.” This gives candidates a chance for themselves to think things over and decide if they are comfortable with the role and the company.

6. Ask if they have questions

As part of being upfront about the job, give your candidates a chance to ask as many questions as possible. Not only will this help candidates make an informed decision about continuing with the interviewing process, it will also make a good first impression of your company and its practices. It should go without saying, of course, that you should answer all questions as honestly as possible. If you don’t have the answer to something, make a note and promise to get back to them within a certain period of time.

7. Explain the next steps

Thank the candidate for their time and interest in the position. Tell them what to expect going forward. For example, “We will be comprising a short list of candidates whom we will want to meet in person. Those people will hear from us by Monday morning. Once again, thank you for your interest in our company and the position.”

Be aware of the tone of your voice and steer clear of anything that might be misconstrued as inappropriate. Remember that sarcasm may not translate well, and there is no body language in which to gauge a person’s reaction. Be friendly and professional, and stay focused. You are representing the company as both an extension of its employer brand, and as a recruiter, is this person a good fit?

See also:
The 10 most revealing interview questions
What you should be asking in a video interview


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