How to Properly Screen Candidates Over the Phone

Picture this: you publish a job posting, full of anticipation and excitement. But quickly, as resume after resume starts pouring into your inbox, your mood begins to change. Excitement at the prospect of finding a brilliant new team member transitions to dread, as you suddenly face the question: "How am I going to screen and vet all these potential hires?"

Even after your initial sift through resumes eliminates the clearly unqualified contenders, you still have a significant list of "maybes" to consider. There are too many candidates to meet for formal interviews, but you don't have another differentiator you can use to whittle down the list.

Except, you do: the phone interview. A phone or video chat allows you to limit your time and energy investment. You can screen a larger number of candidates in a relatively short amount of time.

This type of screening can also benefit candidates. They don't waste time traveling to an interview, only to discover the position isn't a good fit. Also, the more informal vibe of a phone interview can bring shy prospects out of their shells; you might get a better read on potential diamonds in the rough.

Below are a few tips to screen candidates when conducting a meaningful phone interview:

Be Smart About Scheduling

Rank your potential candidates based on their resumes. Focus on the best prospects. Contact the top-tier first, letting them schedule times convenient for them. After that, you can fill remaining time slots with candidates who have less impressive resumes.

Know the Goal of Your Questions

Have a game plan going into the call. What kind of candidates are you trying to find? What traits are you attempting to weed out? Have a few concrete goals, and craft questions that allow you to make informed judgments.

Have Resumes Handy

Phone interviews lack the intimacy of in-person meetings. It's easier for the discussion to feel anonymous, and it can be all too easy to forget to whom you are talking. As such, it's essential to keep some personal information handy. Have each candidate's resume open in front of you and use it to customize questions and cultivate quality dialogue.

Take Notes

For similar reasons, ensure you take quality notes. You'll want to use these notes to write follow-up questions for candidates you interview in-person. Jot down pertinent information for everyone, even people who don't seem likely to make the in-person interview cut. You never know when you'll have to fall back on your second-tier candidates.

Stay Involved in the Discussion

It's tempting to multitask during a phone call. After all, the person isn't there in front of you. Why not check an email or two while they drone on about their college years? But by doing so, you risk missing critical information or an opening for an engaging question. Stay involved and give every candidate (even the long-shot ones) a chance to impress.

Keep the Conversation (Relatively) Short

Don't get sucked into a long conversation. Even if the candidate is engaging, even if you think you've found "the one," stay disciplined about your schedule. Consider the phone interview a preliminary discussion, a way to screen candidates in preparation for meaningful, in-depth interviews later. Weed the candidates down to the most promising group, and then bring those prospects in for further discussion.

Sorting through candidates is a long and often frustrating process. Partnering with a high-level staffing firm, such as United Personnel, can save you much of the trouble and expense.

Contact United Personnel today to find out more.