Phone screening candidates is an underrated piece of the recruiting and hiring process. In many cases, you hear about resume stacks and interviews but nothing in between. In reality, phone screening bridges the gap between deciding who catches your eye and who you want to actually interview in person. But what does a phone screen actually entail and how do you know if it’s a good one? How do you know what to listen for when phone screening?
As I said, phone screens serve as an intermediate step, helping you determine who is worth interviewing on-site. Those on-site interviews are long and often take time out of several schedules in order to run smoothly. Phone screens, on the other hand, are quick and painless. A typical screen should last 10 minutes and be a handful of thought-provoking, open-ended questions.
You can ask all kinds of questions (within the realm of legal questions, of course, and there are plenty of illegal questions you can ask) as long as you’re asking the same questions to everyone. You should have a template pre-made and use it for each of your phone interviews.
Once you have that template of questions, you know what you’re going to be asking. But how do you know what to listen for when phone screening?
What to Listen for when Phone Screening
The one thing that should always be on your radar when conducting a phone screen is confidence. The type of confidence will vary based on position – think charismatic confidence for a sales representative vs. knowledge-based confidence for an accountant – but it remains important that the person makes you believe that they know what they’re doing. A candidate who can’t make you believe that they’ll succeed is one that you probably don’t want to hire.
Of course, some people just get nervous over the phone or in interviews. It happens. That’s okay, too.
Bear in mind that your perception will be influenced by what position you’re trying to fill. A customer service rep will need to be friendly, outgoing, and some level of cheerful in their job so it stands to reason that they must come off that way during an interview. If you’re speaking with someone who doesn’t exude confidence and it’s for a position that requires hard skills more than it does personality traits, you can find out what you need to know by asking knowledge-based questions.
Does your applicant know how to use Quickbooks? Can they explain how they would handle a certain software malfunction? Can they tell you about a project they’ve led in the past?
Each of those answers will present you with an impression of their confidence (or lack thereof).
But be warned; confidence is best in moderation. A phone screen candidate who picks up the phone and says, “Cancel the rest of your calls – I’m getting this job!” might be a bit overbearing. Phone screen candidates who ignore your questions to tell you how great they are have a way of finding themselves in the “thanks but no thanks” pile real fast.
Be sure to consult your original job advertisement and look back at what your key accountabilities are for the job. Set up your phone screen to ask about those things and take notes as the candidate talks. You might not remember everything they say, but your notes will fill in the blanks and you’ll have a strong understanding of the kinds of people you’re seeing.