Phone interviews are helpful to hiring managers who are up to their eyeballs in resumes and need to gather a bit more information before lining up in-person interviews. 

Phone screen interviews confirm basic information on the candidate's resume and cover letter so that hiring managers can make an informed decision.

In this article, we'll discuss the merit of phone interviews, when to consider using them, and how to conduct a phone interview (with tips and sample questions).

Are Phone Interviews Productive? 

Phone interviews are a productive way to start the recruitment process because they require a minimal investment of time and energy. From the right screening questions, you can produce a shortlist of the best candidates where it is more helpful to invest time. 

Using a phone interview to weed out candidates who have unreasonable salary expectations or show other red flags can save the company a lot of hassle down the line. 

To make the most of a phone screen interview, you have to be strategic and well-versed on the right interview questions.

How to Conduct a Phone Interview: the Basics

To get the most from your phone interview process, here are the basics to keep in mind:

  1. Your goal is to eliminate the least qualified candidates.
  2. Your phone call shouldn't stretch beyond 20 minutes per job candidate.
  3. Throughout the phone screen conversation, you're looking for parallels between what the role offers and the candidate desires.
  4. Only contact the top candidates. 
  5. Listen closely. Since you can't see their body language, you'll have to rely on vocal indicators. You can get some tips on interview techniques here.
  6. Thoroughly review the candidate's resume and cover letter before making the phone call.
  7. Take detailed notes on the job candidates you intend to invite to the next round of in-person interviews.
  8. Choose a quiet space to conduct the phone call. Listening more than talking will be critical to uncovering qualified candidates.

How to Conduct a Phone Interview (With Tips) 

Conducting a good phone interview is key when it comes to first impressions with in-demand talent. You'll want the job interview to flow smoothly and reflect the company culture — this won't go over so well if you're multitasking or late for the phone call. 

Here are five steps that can help you make the most of your time with job seekers.

Prepare

Even if job candidates can't see you, they can tell when you're reading off the page last-minute. 

Phone screening should feel like a regular interview condensed. Your list of questions should be prepped and ready to go. You should have a pen and paper ready to take detailed notes.

Tips:

  • Schedule a buffer of 15 minutes before each telephone interview to review the resume, cover letter, and prepare a quiet space as you need. Prelude does this automatically.
  • Silence all technology to help you stay focused and support active listening.

Use a Structured Interview Format

Part of a successful interview process includes taking all necessary steps to reduce unconscious bias. Even recruiters have biases and must do everything possible to remain aware of them throughout the hiring process. 

By asking job candidates the same interview questions in the same order, it provides some structure to the conversation and focuses more on the work history versus social niceties. 

Tips:

  • Prepare a document for each interview complete with a scoring system to make it easy to evaluate and rank answers of each candidate.
  • Get inspired by structured interview questions that work for our team and prepare a few that work for yours.

Explain the Recruitment Process


Even at this early stage of the hiring process, it can help to describe the recruitment process with each candidate. 

You'll want to get buy-in from the candidates on your shortlist. If one of them drops off, you'll be glad that you've given all candidates the rundown. 

Tips:

  • Simplify the steps and pare them down as much as possible so as not to overburden candidates.
  • Reconfirm the recruitment process in every email follow-up. Seeing it in writing makes it easier to retain details.

Schedule Next Steps

An actionable ending to the interview can save you loads of time later. If the candidate impressed you, schedule that in-person interview or let them know you'll be sending them an invite. 

If the interview wasn't so hot, let the job candidate know why and let them move on with their job search. Every job candidate should feel like you have their best interests at heart, no matter the outcome. 

Tips:

  • Don't leave anyone hanging. It's bad manners and will reflect poorly on the company. Use Prelude to automate follow-up emails if you're too busy to send personalized notes. This can save time and your reputation.

7 Common Phone Interview Questions 

These questions will only be useful once you have taken the necessary time to review the candidate's work history and qualifications via their resume or LinkedIn. By knowing a little bit about the candidate's background, you'll be able to focus your attention on subtle motivators. 

1. Why are you leaving your current role?

If they are leaving for culture fit reasons, it might be best to know what those are. If those same issues are present within your company also, it will save you both some time.

2. Where are you currently in your job search?

This can help to align expectations and determine whether there is alignment. This can also help to identify passive candidates who may take more convincing when it comes to advancing to the face-to-face interview.

3. Tell me about your experience doing X.

This is a good place to raise any concerns you might have within their resume. You will spend most of the phone screen getting clarification on the candidate's background to ensure they have the required work experience. 

4. What are your salary expectations for this role?

It's good to get this out of the way early because it would be a shame to waste time coming to your hiring decision only to realize the candidate's salary expectation is unaffordable. 

5. What other job benefits would make this role easy to say yes to?

If the candidate's salary is slightly higher than the role's budget, you might be able to attract them with other perks that the company offers. This question will also give you more insight into their motivators, which can help hiring managers down the line.

6. What recently learned skills are you excited to use in this role?

The answer to this question is twofold. From this, you'll understand steps the candidate has taken to up-skill as well as their interests and hobbies. It will also identify red flag candidates who don't seem to properly understand the job description and what their role will be faster than you can say, "Thanks but no thanks." 

7. What questions can I answer for you?

If the candidate doesn't have at least one question about the role, team, or company, consider it a red flag. Almost every article on phone screen prep encourages candidates to come prepared with questions. If they have none, they either haven't done their research or aren't that interested.

Hire the Best Candidates Quicker With Prelude


Hopefully I’ve answered the big question of how to conduct a phone interview. When you're organized, the interview process is always stronger and results in a more positive candidate experience. 

One way you can free up the administrative duties of hiring managers and recruiters is with helpful automation tools. 

If you want to see how to conduct a phone interview using Prelude's features, try a free demo. With hassle-free scheduling that simplifies the process and locks in top candidates, the benefits are clear for the hiring team and candidates alike.