Advertisers advice

How to conduct a phone screen interview: a guide

Here’s how to get it right.

Phone screen interviews are a useful tool in a hiring manager’s arsenal. Particularly when you’re dealing with high volumes of applicants, they allow you to screen candidates quickly, and can save hours that would be spent in face-to-face meetings.

However, this is only true if you know how to conduct phone interviews effectively. In this guide, we’ll look at the prep you need to do, how to get the conversation flowing and the questions to ask in a phone screen interview.

Running a phone screen interview

1. Don’t go in cold

One of the dangers of using phone screen interviews is feeling you can hide behind the fact the candidate can’t see you. This isn’t true. Most candidates will be able to tell if you’re not prepared properly for the call and will start mentally writing off your company.

The best advice we can give here is to treat a phone screen interview like an in-person meeting. In particular, make sure you’ve got a good grasp of the applicant’s core skills and experiences, and how you’re going to pitch your role and organisation.

Do your prep ahead of the call.`

2. Introduce yourself properly

You need to know how to introduce yourself in a phone screen interview – don’t just give your name and jump straight into the questions.

Give the candidate some basic info about yourself, and your role within the company they’re applying to. This will put the applicant at ease, and set you up for a more natural and relaxed conversation.

3. Have your elevator pitch down

You need to tell the candidate what you’re looking for. This should mirror and build on the information you provided in the job ad.

Why do this? Not only does it serve as a reminder to yourself, this can also spark questions for the candidate and help them start thinking about how they can apply their past skills and experience to the role.

Keep this part of the interview brief and provide the following info:

  • The essential skills required for the job.
  • Bonus skills that would be helpful, but aren’t 100% necessary.
  • The role’s key responsibilities.
  • Where the role sits in your team structures
  • Information about shift patterns, or location of work, if applicable.
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs).

4. Ask the right questions, and in the right order

The heart of your phone screen interview – the questions you’ll ask candidates.

We advise splitting these into two distinct sections:

1. Deal breaker questions

This includes questions like, “Do you have the right to work in New Zealand?” or “Will the described shift pattern work for you?”. You should be able to rattle through these quickly and, if the candidate answers ‘no’ to any, you know it’s a waste of both your time to go any further.

2. Competency questions

These are your more standard job interview questions, and should relate specifically to the role you’re hiring for.

Bonus tip: make sure to engage with the interviewee’s answers to your questions to make it an interactive conversation. Not only will asking follow-ups provide you with extra info about the candidate’s suitability for the role, it shows you’re taking a genuine interest and makes the conversation more natural.

Structuring your interview questions will make the process more efficient.

5. Give them time to ask questions

Just like in a face-to-face meeting, you need to let the candidate ask questions of their own. To make this section of the interview run smoothly, make sure you prep for the types of things they’re likely to ask.

The easiest way to do this? Put yourself in their shoes – what would you want to know? Common candidate job interview questions revolve around more details on the role, wide questions about the company and its values, and development opportunities.

6. Tell them about the next steps

Before the candidate hangs up the phone, they should have a firm idea of what to expect in terms of next steps. This is particularly important if you’re experiencing high volumes of applicants, and the candidate might be waiting longer than normal to hear back. Clear comms are an integral part of creating an excellent candidate experience.

This is also important for your sake. If you don’t tell candidates when to expect to hear about next steps, you’ll likely be bombarded with heaps of individual queries, which can be a real time suck. On top of this, you might lose great candidates to other opportunities if they take your silence as a rejection.