Interviewers, Here’s how to conduct a telephone interview

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A smiling, casually dressed young man smiling while taking a phone interview outdoors.

Sometimes, once your recruitment agency has presented you with a shortlist, you may prefer to carry out a telephone interview ahead of a more formal face-to-face meeting or a video interview with a potential candidate. There are several reasons for this; for instance, you might be looking to relocate someone from another country or have an extremely busy diary and want to make sure that a meeting with a potential candidate is not going to be a waste of time.

In any case, should you follow this route, it is important that, as the employer, you get the most out of the conversation.

Treat the call as a screening process

Consider this first conversation with an applicant not as an interview, but as a “pre-interview” or screening process. In this way, you won’t try to cover too much ground in a short time span and you’ll concentrate on getting the really important answers, which will determine whether you invite them in to meet you face-to-face.

Pay attention to non-verbal signs

It is not all about the questions and answers. If you have called the candidate, how did he/she pick up the phone? Do they sound on the ball, enthusiastic? Sometimes the negatives can be telling – if you had arranged to call at a particular time and the candidate didn’t pick up the phone, what does that say to you? If they were meant to call you and didn’t on time, if there is not a good reason for this, then again this might raise an issue over timekeeping.

Keep it brief

Keep your questions short and to the point. It is a telephone interview so you don’t want to be on the phone for too long. Prepare five good questions and assess the answers to those. As a telephone interview is one dimensional, you’ll find yourself concentrating on how a candidate answers much more than you might in a face-to-face meeting. For instance, is he/she answering the questions in a concise manner? Are lots of good examples been given? On the negative side, is the candidate unable to answer your questions fully and is there too much waffle? At the end of the day, trust your gut instinct on the phone as much as you would in interview. For instance, does the conversation flow? This may be the most important thing you can take from the conversation as it will determine whether they can communicate in the way you would like with someone they haven’t met before.

Take time before committing to a follow-up

Finally, at the end of the call, keep your options open. It sounds obvious, but there is no need to commit yourself by telling the candidate that you will be in touch regarding a face-to-face meeting. Much better to thank them for their time and say you’ll be in touch either way.

Once you have put the phone down, take time to think about the interview and digest how things went. As always make sure you are speaking to a number of people on the telephone so you have comparisons.

On the hunt for new permanent or temporary staff? The Tiger team can help organise telephone interviews as a pre-screening initiative. Get in touch today.

Looking to find out more about hiring? Our complete interview and selection guide for employers covers best practice on many steps throughout the interview process.

Author Jane Leese Tiger Recruitment Team

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