With the emerging popularity of phone interviews, hiring managers and recruiters often find themselves speaking to candidates who are either half awake, boiling eggs for breakfast, or in some cases, driving at 100km/h, all while on the phone. Not the most effective way to conduct a phone interview is it? So what can a recruiter do to make it more effective given the out of control factors on the other side of the line? Here are some tips:


 Before the Phone Interview:

Always Inform The Candidate Of The Interview Time

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Your candidates have lives too, and chances are they’re not waiting for a surprise interview because they applied for a position two weeks ago. Let your candidates know when you intend to conduct the phone interview and reschedule if needed so that they have time to prepare.

You want your candidate with that rockstar resume to answer you confidently and properly. We aren’t here to listen to them stutter are we? Create a proper environment for them and you’ll find your A-player ready to answer your questions.

After spending a couple of minutes going through CV’s you’re confident this candidate is an A-player and it’s time to call. Before you pick up that phone like a real estate agent who just got the Glengarry leads, do you even know what to look for in your prospects?

Get An ‘A-player’ In Your Company

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You’re an A-player in my eyes but why?

What is an A-player in your company? A talented sales executive who has a high conversion rate? A designer with exquisite taste and creativity?

Create a profile by using your existing A-player and be clear about it. Have an idea of what an ideal candidate is and let your team members know. They could help give you insight about what to really look for when trying to find that new A-player candidate to fit into the team. A combined consensus from the team (or department) provides clarity and will clear any doubts when looking for that new A-player for your company.

What Are The Things You Need To Know?

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He definitely needs to know how to make coffee.

From industry standards to how well can they play pool, there are always specific details that you may want to know about your new candidate. Creating a clear line to what questions you want to ask to see if the candidate would be a good fit for the role or company is always good to have in front of you when conducting the phone interview. This ensures that you have a flow, and also not to miss out on any important questions.

So what kind of questions can you ask?

What made them interested in the position? Are they well versed in said language? How did they know about your Company? Why did they take a gap year? Proper questions give you information of the candidate that fits in your A-player profile and sniffs out the ones that don’t. Keep in mind that these questions should also tie back to the main goal of the phone interview – to see if they are fit for the real life face-to-face interview.


During the Phone Interview:

The Interview Length


How long do you want to be talking to your candidates? The time spent conducting phone interviews wholly depends on what position you’re looking to fill. Less time is spent if you’re hiring for an entry position and the opposite applies if you’re hiring for a position that holds more responsibility (ie. senior staff, upper management positions and etc.)

However, do take note that phone interviews are meant to decide on whether the candidate should or should not be called for a face-to-face interview. While the time spent talking to a candidate may vary, keeping your phone interviews less than an hour regardless of position is a good rule to abide by. Always keep in mind that this is a pre-screening interview, not the actual interview and that you should try not to dish out too heavy questions that should be answered face-to-face instead.

Note For Note

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Don’t miss out on the details and write it down. How does the candidate fair on your questions? What are the strengths of the candidate? Is he/she the living embodiment of the next 21st-century Mozart? Write it all down word for word, note for note. The details help you and others assess the candidate after the phone interview.

Memory can be limited and can you afford to miss out on your Mozart because you may have forgotten the candidate made a 60% profit for a rival company.

Score Your Candidates

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Seeing as how you’ll be asking a somewhat standardised set of questions (may vary for different roles or positions) for the candidates you’ll be calling, it’d make sense to make a standardised scoring system as well. Some go for the usual 1-5 rating but as long as you’re quantifying them appropriately any kind of system will do. Score them based on their strengths and weaknesses in areas that are relevant to you and the company.

Keep it objective and keep it fair. This helps you pick candidates based on their experiences and skills rather than how sweet they sound on the phone.


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Hey ,hey, hey! It’s getting heavier here!

Just like a face-to-face interview, a phone interview goes both ways. Are you speaking with enthusiasm? If your friendly voice on or off? Do you elaborate on the company’s objectives, visions, and so forth? Are you paying attention to the candidate just as much? Do you answer their questions as fluently as they answer yours?

When you expect proper etiquette from the candidate, bear in mind that the same applies to you. Preparation goes both ways and it’s imperative that you leave a good impression for the candidate to consider working for you. First impressions first!

Asking For Salary Expectations

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I can’t accept the offer when I earn more making coffee!

Ok, everything went well during the phone interview and you decide to ask the big question of salary. Do note that in some cases, you may or may not ask for a salary expectation because it highly depends on the role you are trying to fill.

The question about salary is usually used when trying to screen for positions where you know the company has a tighter budget on, and it is your job to make sure that all candidates that make it to the face-to-face interview will fit within that budget. This will then enable you to know earlier on whether your company can even afford the candidate, without having to bring the candidate over and then wasting everyone’s time.


So get on dialing and find yourself some great candidates!



Posted by Naz

A young writer with the musical taste of an old scrooge.