Why You Should Always Phone Interview Candidates Before Bringing Them In

Kevin Nye —  July 31, 2012 — 1 Comment

Phone Interview

When talking with companies who have identified talent, we often hear the following question: “Should I do a phone interview or should I bring them in to the office, face-to-face?”

The answer is you should always phone interview them before bringing them in for a face-to-face interview.

After looking at resumes and determining who is worth learning more about, a phone interview (or “phone screen”) is the next most important step of the hiring process. Conducting a phone screen can save you a lot of time in the hiring process and help you identify who is or isn’t worth interviewing in person.

What does a phone screen entail?

Phone interviews typically last 15-20 minutes and you can usually identify a strong candidate very quickly. It’s a chance to learn how the applicant thinks and speaks on his/her feet so having a prepared set of questions is key. Questions should explore their work experience, skills and goals so you can get a better handle on who the candidate is. Oftentimes employers will find that a person they were unsure of before conducting the phone screen turns out to be a strong candidate, whereas other times someone they thought was a promising candidate turns out poorly.

Based on your phone interview, you can make much better assessments of your candidates, weed out unqualified candidates, and decide who should come in for a face-to-face meeting.

How many people should I phone interview?

At NewHire, we suggest choosing between five and eight candidates for phone screening as it usually yields three to five candidates who are fit for an in-person interview. Rather than choosing eight people whose resumes looked qualified and bringing them in for full interviews, a phone screen can elicit more information and a general enthusiasm that might be coming from the candidate. Once you’ve decided who is and isn’t worth continuing contact with, you can hone in on the interviews that you do want.

Phone interviews vs. face-to-face interviews

The face-to-face interview, of course, is when you’ll get a true sense of who would make the best fit for your company. You can tell a lot about someone by how they sound over the phone, but getting them in person fills in all of the blanks. For instance, a candidate could be great over the phone but show up for an interview with an un-tucked shirt and looking a mess. Conversely, a candidate can separate themselves from the pack based on how they perform in an interview – even if they weren’t the leading candidate after the phone screens.

While committing to doing phone interviews will take some time up front, it’ll save you time and money in the long run. It is significantly better to spend a few extra hours up-front on getting the right people in the door the first time for interview by phone screening, than it is to waste your time with the wrong candidates in face-to-face interview and having to interview even more people in result.

To help you with your next phone screen/interview, check out our phone screening template.

What questions do you like to ask in phone interviews?

Kevin Nye


Kevin Nye was an account manager here at NewHire and pro at understanding clients’ hiring needs. He performs stand-up and improv at comedy clubs around Chicago.

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Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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    […] of “they” is one way a candidate might express this sense of belonging and ownership.  End the phone interview with clear information about follow-up and decision making […]

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