As an experienced hiring manager, you are naturally going to be able to identify a well written CV and its accompanying cover letter from an applicant, however you will also know that a promising CV doesn’t always deliver the candidate to match. Whichever candidate’s that you decide to proceed through to the first round of vetting, you must remember that your initial telephone interview questions that you ask your shortlisted candidates will be a very critical part of the recruitment process on your way to making a successful hire.
Your initial phone call with a candidate should be both efficient as well as strategic. During this conversation you will discuss topics such as their hard skills, professional experience and education in order to ascertain whether they are a suitable candidate for your open position. Whilst you are discussing these points it is imperative to pay attention to the candidates’ soft skills and how they present during the call. The reason for this is that by the end of the initial screening call you want to be able to feel confident that a candidate not only meets the technical requirements of the role but that they are also a strong fit into your organizational structure.
The initial screen call is typically a 20-30-minute phone call. Therefore, open-ended and in-depth questions are really not required at this stage of the recruitment process. Your objective here is to narrow your long-list down to a shortlist of candidates that you want to invite to attend a formal interview- That will be the opportunity to jump deep into their background and experience.
Preparing for the initial screening call!
As you would normally for any business conversation, you want to practise good etiquette both when scheduling and conducting an interview. You must make sure that you respect the candidates time by sticking to the agreed time schedule. In addition, you should always try and respect their availability too. If they are currently working, they may not be able to talk with you until after standard business hours.
With each new candidate, approach the conversation with a fresh approach, and remember to treat each applicant fairly and equally. It is important that you remain fully engaged for the entirety of each phone call. All of these points are easier said than done because when you are conducting one phone interview after the next, it is easy to race through the questions that you ask each candidate. If you fall into this trap try and refrain from scheduling back to back meetings.
It is also important to remember that you are engaging with an external audience. A successful, well planned screening interview with burnish the reputation of your business whereas a hurried, lacklustre process won’t reflect well on you as a manager or your firm. Keep in mind that during the recruitment process, your candidates are evaluating you almost
as closely as you are evaluating them. Some candidates may take it upon themselves to decline an invitation to the next stage in the process if they felt uncomfortable during the initial conversation.
Finally, once you settle on your candidate shortlist, be sure to review the resumes once more before you schedule the initial telephonic interviews. Go ahead and create a list of interview questions to be asked and be consistent with what you ask each candidate, this is because you want to make a fair comparison of the talent when deciding what candidates, you would like to progress to the next stage.
Good questions to ask for in an interview:
Tailor the below phone interview tips specifically to your industry and the role that you are recruiting. It is also important to remember the candidates professional background or in some cases the lack thereof. A recent fresh graduate for example cant refer to their career successes and achievements, however screening questions can be framed to allow candidates of this nature to draw on their experience in course seminars or team projects as well as highlight their volunteer work and self-taught skills. Leadership, motivation, drive, industriousness, adaptability, dependability and other valued qualities can be demonstrated in many ways. Follow this same rule for candidates who have a gap in their CV.
At the beginning keep it simple and start with questions that will set the candidate at ease. A screening interview for many candidates is a very stressful and nerve-wracking experience. By making them feel comfortable and easing them into the interview you will get a truer picture of them and what they can really bring to the table:
- Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
- Why are you currently exploring new career opportunities?
- Where are you at the moment in your job search?
- When would you potentially be able to join?
Sometimes even the simplest of questions will help determine which candidates to progress through to the next stage of the recruitment process. For example, if a candidate says they can’t start work for 3 months but you are urgently looking to fill the position with immediate effect, probably isn’t going to work out on this occasion.
The discussion surrounding compensation packages are more often than not an awkward topic to bring up- If not for you then for the candidate. However, this information is key as it allows you to ascertain whether the candidate’s expectations fall within the ball park of your budget for this role.
- When considering your next move, what would be your salary expectations?
- Are there any specific benefits that are important to you?
- What is the minimum amount you would accept in order to take up a new opportunity?
Most candidates (Especially those in senior level appointments) will be reluctant to divulge anything more than a broad salary bracket at this stage. If you are unable to get a clear picture of whether there is a financial fit, you can choose to revisit this question later. You should always be conscious however to waste the candidates time or your own time. If you suspect that there is a gaping difference between their salary expectations and the budget, you have for this role then make it known. Let them know directly the package you have in mind for this role and ask them if they are still interested in progressing.
Desire and interest in the role:
Before you jump in and discuss the candidate’s skill set and training experience, you phone interview questions should gauge a candidate’s interest in the role. Question about their current position and why they are looking to leave could also paint a clearer picture about their suitability for the job.
- What is your motivation for considering new employment opportunities?
- What has attracted you to apply for this specific position?
- Can you give me an overview of your current role & responsibilities?
- What motivates you in a job?
The key in this section of the interview is to listen out for the cultural fit of a candidate as well as interpersonal skills, problem solving skills, leadership capabilities, motivation, initiative and other soft skills. A candidate who is looking for a greater challenge, might give you reason to consider them for a job that’s more demanding than their current role.