Good Call: Five Tips to Get the Most Out of a Phone Interview

A phone interview is a great preliminary tool that hiring managers can use to narrow the list of applicants to call in for in-person interviews. This method is also a timesaver. It should take you no more than 15 to 30 minutes per phone interview.

Here’s how you can maximize those few minutes on the phone:

Standardize the Interview Questions

If you standardize the phone interview questions, you can evaluate each candidate consistently and fairly. Use the job description to create a list of questions. For example, you could ask about a candidate’s training in accounts receivable if that task is important to the job.

Developing a standard list of questions is particularly important if there’s going to be more than one interviewer. It’s also a good idea to run the questions by colleagues with the same or a similar job. By testing the questions, you’ll find out if you have the right ones, and you’ll get a feel for the answers you might get.

Focus on the Candidate

When you can’t see the other person, it can be tempting to fill silences with your own voice. Avoid this. Don’t talk excessively about the organization or yourself. You can always provide relevant details about your firm or company later if you decide to move forward with an in-person interview. For now, let the candidate do most of the talking, so you have a chance to judge how he or she would mesh with your organization.

Ask the Right Kinds of Questions

Prepare a few well-thought-out, open-ended interview questions that require more than “yes” or “no” answers. For example, “Can you tell me more about how you displayed leadership in your last job?” Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions that dig into the candidate’s work history, especially if you’ve noticed resume gaps that require clarification. You’ll get a better feel for what the person brings to the table and find out how well she thinks on her feet.

Keep an Ear Out for Enthusiasm

It’s not just what job candidates say during a phone interview that matters; it’s how they say it. Does the person seem engaged and interested? Is the individual quick to ask smart, informed questions that indicate he or she has researched your organization?

Close on a Positive Note

Always end the phone interview in a positive way by thanking the candidate for his or her time, even if you know the person isn’t right for this particular open position. If the interview went well and you’re interested in the candidate, feel free to note that you were impressed. Generally speaking though, the best policy is to mention that someone from the organization will follow up within a few days.

If you have other helpful tips for conducting a phone interview, please share them in the comments below.