10 Phone Interview Tips for Recruiters

Recruiting Phone Interviews


Phone interviews allow you to screen candidates before you decide whether to invite them for in-person interviews. A short phone call will ultimately save you the time you would otherwise spend on arranging for on-site meetings, but phone interviews can be nerve-wracking for both you and the interviewee: without the benefit of body language, you can only engage a candidate with your words and tone. Make sure you choose how you communicate over the phone carefully to ensure you have an effective conversation.

10 tips for conducting phone interviews

1. Connect with the candidate

As you scan a candidate’s LinkedIn profile, look for any interests you share. Talking about commonalities will help the interviewee feel more comfortable. Other ways to connect with the candidate include staying positive and injecting a bit of humor into the conversation.

2. Ask open-ended questions

The best questions to ask an interviewee are those that allow the candidate to talk about his or her qualifications and experiences in detail. A candidate citing specific examples when answering open-ended questions shows whether he or she has the experience needed for the position. If a candidate speaks only in generalities, he or she likely lacks applicable experience.

3. Ask follow-up questions

Although follow-ups are typical interview questions, they should not be overlooked. When the candidate finishes a question, ask questions such as, “Can you explain that point further?” or “Can you give an example?” Follow-up questions force the candidate to elaborate on pre-prepared (canned) answers.

4. Inquire about interest in the job opportunity

Asking an interviewee about his or her interest in the job opportunity will help you determine what aspects of the job appealed to the candidate. The candidate’s answer will give you insight into what motivates the applicant and what he or she is searching for in a job as well as provide you a better understanding of how the job description is perceived by applicants.

5. Smile!

Though the candidate can’t see you, smiling will encourage you to speak with enthusiasm. Position a mirror with a sticky note on it and watch yourself when you're on the phone. 

6. Be conversational

Don’t read your interview questions like you’re conducting an interrogation. Instead, chime in with your thoughts and give feedback. Remember that you aren’t just looking for a candidate that fits the job description; you are also looking for an employee who will get along with the people at your company. 

7. Leave time for the interviewee to ask questions

The applicant’s questions will help you understand his or her primary interests in your company. Is he or she interested in the company culture? Is the candidate interested in the team he or she will be working with? Does he or she seem more interested in time off than working?And if the interviewee doesn’t have any questions, he or she probably isn’t interested in the job.

8. Reveal the next steps of the hiring process

At the end of the interview, let the interviewee know where you are in the hiring process and the next steps for follow-up. Detailing the next steps and timing will help eliminate unnecessary calls and emails. It also shows you are considerate of the candidate’s time and effort —plus it reflects well upon your company.

9. Take notes

As you conduct the interview, note the candidate’s specific strengths and weaknesses. When the candidate says something especially insightful, transcribe the quote verbatim. These notes will help you to accurately recall the interview and to decide whether to move forward with him or her.

10. Score candidates

Complete an interview scorecard for each position you are hiring. Create different categories such as “previous experience” and “good fit in company culture.” After an interview, use your notes to score the candidate in each category. Then weed out lower-scoring candidates and identify which candidates to interview in person.

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