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How to conduct phone interviews

How to conduct phone interviews

As a way to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), many companies are altering their recruiting efforts to practice social distancing. In lieu of face-to-face interviewing, many job interviews are now being conducted over the phone.

When you’re used to the traditional in-person interview process, it can be challenging as a hiring manager or recruiter to get the most out of phone interview questions. While phone interviews don’t allow recruiters to pick up on things like body language and non-verbal communication quite as easily, they still present a good opportunity to ask important interview questions to get to know a candidate beyond their resume or social media profile.

Here are some tips to help employers conduct a successful phone interview:

  1. Schedule phone interview on the same day.
  2. Engage candidates in a conversation.
  3. Ask focused phone interview questions.
  4. Apply in-person interview strategies on the phone.
  5. Don’t multitask during the interview.

 Schedule phone interviews on the same day

When scheduling your phone interviews, evaluate your phone interview questions and estimate how much time you’ll need with each candidate. Provide a little extra room in your schedule, in case the candidate is especially talkative or has more questions than you anticipate.

As with any interview, it’s best to ask the candidate for their availability first, and try to work around it. This could mean being available during the lunch hour, or outside of normal business hours.

“Schedule all your interviews for the same day, if possible,” recommends Peggy McKee, CEO of Career Confidential in Gunter, Texas, and author of How to Ace Your Phone Interview. “Having conversations close to each other helps you remember things you liked and didn’t like about the answers you hear from candidates.”

Engage candidates in a conversation

Mastering phone interview questions will enable you to narrow down your candidate pool more quickly. But don’t overlook the opportunity to create a connection with every candidate.

“When you first reach out to a candidate, your goal should be to build a rapport with them before asking technical or in-depth questions about their experience,” says McKee.

Consider icebreaker-type questions, such as:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What do you know about this company?
  • What attracted you to this job?

Keep in mind that your role in the onboarding process starts with the interview. Just as you are assessing the candidates’ job skills over the phone, they are also assessing your organization.

Ask focused phone interview questions

Once you’ve established some rapport with the interviewee, focus your questions on the position’s most critical skills and knowledge. The phone interview questions you ask should help determine if a candidate’s qualifications, experience, workplace preferences, cultural fit, and salary requirements align with the position and your organization.

“There are certain things that are must-haves for you to make any hiring decision,” says McKee. “Ask phone interview questions about those deal-breakers: a bachelor’s degree, salary expectation, four years’ experience selling in a B2B environment, or a willingness to travel two days each week.”

If the candidate doesn’t pass muster with those initial screening questions, gracefully end the phone interview. For candidates who answered the questions satisfactorily, you can move on to the behavioral-based interview questionsthat delve deeper into the way the job seeker has used critical skills in past positions.

“Knowing the typical problems presented by each of the job’s deliverables, you’ll ask candidates how they do their work to anticipate and prevent those problems from arriving and how they solve them when they cannot be prevented,” says Martin Yate, author of the New York Timesbest-seller Knock ’em Dead Hiring the Best: Proven Tactics for Successful Employee Selection.

Apply in-person interview strategies on the phone

Many of the strategies you employ during in-person interviewsalso work well during phone interviews. For example, use strategic pauses as you would when interviewing face-to-face, recommends interview expert Doug Hardy. “Say, ‘Tell me more about that,’ and be silent. The candidate will feel an urge to fill that silence, and what they say at that point is often unguarded, candid, and revealing.”

Hardy recommends going beyond your list of phone interview questions if you need to. “When asking screening questions, we all tend to stop listening, and we don’t pick up on clues that might otherwise be revealing,” he says.

Even body language can work in a phone interview. “I like to stand up and smile during phone interviews,” Hardy says. “The physical change from sitting makes me more alert and authoritative, and that comes through in my voice.”

Don’t multitask during the interview

It can be challenging to stay focused on the phone interview when the candidate isn’t directly in front of you, but it’s important not to become distracted. “If you start dusting the top of your monitor, you’re not interviewing, you’re multitasking,” Hardy says. You’re also running out of time.

When conducting a phone interview, McKee suggests to:

  • Have your thoughts organized.
  • Do the interview in a quiet space.
  • Use a headset instead of a speakerphone.
  • Be ready to record answers in an open document.

Close out the phone interview by letting the job seeker know what to expect. For example, you could say: “Thank you for your time. In three days, I’m going to make a decision about whom to move forward with in the interview process.”

Call everybody back—even those you’re not bringing back. It’s not only professional, but also smart—you may need them in the future.

Better phone interview questions bring in better talent

When your options are limited to phone interviews, it’s crucial to make the most out of phone interview questions. With engaging, focused phone interviews, you can find the right pool of qualified candidates for the job, but you also need to have the right hiring strategy in place. Get the resources you need, including expert recruiting insights and the latest hiring trends, by checking out Monster Hiring Solutions.