The phone interview can be a time saver in your candidate evaluation process. Applicants' answers over the phone can allow you to quickly identify the most promising candidates who you may want to bring in for an in-person interview.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of a phone interview:

1. Do your homework

Once you've reviewed resumes and have your applicant pool narrowed down, dialing up candidates to ask some initial questions – and further narrow down your list – can be more efficient than inviting them all in for in-person interviews. But since talking on the phone is very different than meeting in person, you may need some telephone interview tips to follow when calling your top job candidates. Here are a few:

  • Prepare and practice. Before you pick up the phone, make sure you’ve reviewed the candidate’s application and have it in front of you. Having reviewed the job description and discussed with your team the staffing needs going forward, be sure your notes and the questions that you want to ask the candidate are within arm’s reach as well. It’s a good idea, before picking up the phone, to get comfortable with what you want to convey, so that you don’t stumble over your words or clutter your speech with “um”s. A quick practice run should be sufficient.
  • Cover the background material. When the candidate is on the line, thank him for his time and let him know what you plan to discuss during the phone call. Introduce yourself and briefly discuss what your organization does and the role of the current open position. Let the candidate know how the position fits within the organization’s goals.

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2. Act as if you were meeting the candidate in person

Do as you would with an in-person interview. Be punctual, show enthusiasm; also ...

  • Speak professionally. Yes, the candidate is the one being evaluated on the call. But the way you talk matters, too, because it says a lot about you and your firm. Speak as professionally as possible. It’s fine to be friendly and relatable, but don’t let down your guard too far. Leave out jargon and slang.
  • Take good notes. Since you will call more than one candidate, take the time to write down notes right after each phone call. Memories can do tricky things, leading people to later forget what actually happens during a telephone interview. Instead they rely on general impressions when making final choices as to whom they’ll invite in for in-person interviews. Taking notes helps you avoid this common pitfall and increases your chances of making a good hire.

3. Let the phone interview provide an added layer of insight

During the phone call...

  • Address any concerns about resume red flags. The phone interview is the perfect chance to fill in the blanks. Give the candidate a chance to explain these types of red flags before you form any premature negative opinions about him.
  • Be consistent. While you’ll want to tailor questions to each candidate based on his resume, you may want to ask some questions of everyone you interview so you can fairly compare job qualifications. For example, you might ask each candidate what interests him most about the job to see whether each has taken time to think about his skills and the job’s required tasks.

4. Practice proper interview etiquette

Your manners in handling the call and bringing the conversation full circle reflect on you and your company so be sure to dot your I's and cross your T's.

  • Close the conversation. Thank the candidate for her time and ask if she has any questions for you. Let her know the next step of the process, such as when you plan to follow up and whether she should expect another interview.
  • Follow up. Raise any concerns you may have written down when you reviewed the candidate's resume. Did he leave out any mention of a software proficiency that you specified on the job description? Is there an employment gap in her resume chronology that you want to know more about?

We hope these telephone interview tips give you a boost of confidence and help you to make the most of your time when you next pick up the phone to call a candidate.