Phone Interview Questions – Dos, Don’ts and Examples of Great Questions by Mile Živković on Apr 22, 2019

Hello, is it me you’re looking for?

No, this post won’t be on the awesome music of the 80s, it’s about one of the most common elements in hiring – the phone interview. If you want to find out more about a candidate with a minimal commitment from both sides, it’s one of the easiest ways to screen applicants before inviting them in for an interview at your office.

However, a phone interview is much more than a simple call and to do it right, there are some basic guidelines, as well as a set of common questions you can ask. Here’s how to make the most out of your phone interview, get the candidates’ attention and find out exactly what you need to either move them to the next round or disqualify them.

interview process - receiving rejection
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Why have a phone interview in the first place?

There are several reasons why you need to include phone interviews as practice in your hiring process.

First and most important, they’re great for candidate experience. Your applicants will appreciate the fact that they don’t have to take a day off from work to travel for an in-person interview. You should only invite the most promising candidates to your office for an interview, because of reason #2 and that is…

Second, phone interviews are less time-consuming. If a candidate is coming over to your office for an interview, that means taking time away from a recruiter’s day to prepare an interview, conduct it and make notes. If someone else is present for the interview (HR manager, CEO, etc.), they need to free up that time as well. Instead, you can do a phone interview in as little as 15 minutes, or as long as an hour, and save considerable time.

The third reason is cost. If a candidate is traveling for the interview, you may have to pay for their travel and accommodation fees. Moreover, every additional person from the company in the interview will cost more in hourly wages. Instead, a phone interview will cost you very little to set up and perform.

Fourth, it’s a great way to screen your candidates before coming down to the final round for an in-person interview. In addition to a skills test, you can find out enough about the candidates here to make an educated decision on who goes to the final interview. You can confirm a candidate’s qualifications and experience and ask about a specific position in their resume. If they’ve done a skills test using a platform as Hundred5, you can discuss their results in the call.

Phone interview questions to ask candidates

Once you skip the small talk and make sure you can hear each other loud and clear, it’s time to get on with the interview questions. Don’t worry, we have some tips on how to conduct the interview later on.

1. How did you find out about our company?

See where the candidate learned about the opening. Write down which sources your most successful candidates come from (job boards, social media, LinkedIn, etc.)

2. Why are you interested in this position?

Find out if the candidate is just looking to earn a salary or has a inuine interest for the opening.

3. What is your salary expectation?

Even if the candidate is a perfect fit, it’s not going to work out if they’re expecting much more than you can offer for the position.

4. How would you describe your work style?

See how objective and self-aware the candidate is and what kind of traits they list as dominant at work.

5. What is the most difficult part of your current job?

If the candidate finds it challenging to do something that’s the main part of the position in your company, they may not be a good fit.

6. Why do you want to leave your current employer?

Learn the reasons why the candidate wants a fresh start. If they list too much work or incompetent management as the reason, it could be a red flag.

7. What kind of experience did you have that makes you qualified and skilled for this particular position?

What makes the candidate suited for this specific opening? What about their experience makes them stand out from the rest of the applicants?

8. What annoys you the most at work?

Learn what the candidate has problems with at work. For example, if you’re looking for a team player and the candidate can’t stand working with someone else, it’s a sign not to go forward.

9. What motivates you?

Find out what makes the candidate tick, besides a paycheck.

10. Describe your current job responsibility.

See if the candidate’s current responsibilities match your opening.

11. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Let the candidate show a bit of personality and ideally tell something that’s unrelated to their professional life.

12. Do you have any questions about the company or the position?

The candidate should have some questions about the company, the position, when they would need to start, who they will work with, etc.

The dos and don’ts of conducting phone interviews

Before picking up your phone and going through a spreadsheet with potential new hires, you need to know a few things on how to properly conduct a phone interview.

DO Take notes. You cannot absolutely remember everything from the interview, so jot down a few notes. Alternatively, you can record the conversation, with the candidate’s consent.

DO Describe the hiring process. Tell the candidates why you’re conducting a phone interview, what happens after it, how many interview stages there are and what happens in each of them. It’s a great way to improve the candidate experience.

DO Acknowledge you know who you’re speaking with. Show the candidate you’ve reviewed their resume, cover letter or skills test results. Discuss their experience or the answers from their test to show you’re actively involved with them as a candidate.

DON’T Ask about the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses and similar questions. Save character trait questions for the interview. At this stage, your main goal is to confirm the information from the resume/skills test.

DON’T Ask too many specific things about your product or the company. At this point of the interview, they may not be too familiar with your products and the company.

DON’T Schedule the call during the obvious working hours. Try to call the candidate before or after their working hours. If you can’t figure them out (using their company website, for example), try to call after 5 PM. If you’re calling someone in a different time zone, make sure you call at the right time and not wake up the candidate at 2 AM.

Conclusion

Love them or hate them, phone interviews are an easy, quick and cheap way to screen candidates before calling them in for an in-person interview. They make the hiring process easier for the recruiter and the candidate and as a result, they benefit your candidate experience and employer brand.

Have you been using phone interviews to screen your candidates? Let us know your experience in the comments!

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