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Improve your phone interview questions to find qualified candidates

Improve your phone interview questions to find qualified candidates

As a business owner or manager, you know that time is your most precious resource. Preserve it by using phone interview questions to discover the job candidates who are the most deserving of a face-to-face interview.

Just how much time can you save using phone interviews? Suppose you have five candidates who seem right for the job. A 15-minute telephone interview with each candidate (instead of a one-hour interview with each) could save you three-plus 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 Amanda Read, a recruiter with Talent Fusion™ by Monster.

Keep in mind that your role in the onboarding process starts with the initial phone interview. Just as you are assessing the candidates’ job skills during this initial chat, 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.

“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. Remember, a candidate who does not qualify now may do so in the future.

For candidates who answered the questions satisfactorily, you can move on to the behavioral-based interview questions that 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 Times best-seller Knock ’em Dead Hiring the Best: Proven Tactics for Successful Employee Selection.

Use interview strategies on the phone

Many of the strategies you employ during in-person interviews also 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 and you’ll finish on time

Don’t 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.

McKee suggests you:

  • 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 bring in for an on-site interview.”

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 candidates

Small talk only goes so far. 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.