The Phone Screen Interview: Best Practices and Questions to Ask

Feb 10, 2015

The Phone Screen Interview

Most interview phone screen calls are made without notice to the candidate, but you can email the person ahead of time to give them the time frame you plan on calling or set a time based on availability. This blog post will outline some interview best practices for phone screen interviews.

Only one individual should conduct the interview. In most cases, it should be a designated and prepared HR representative or a recruiter specialist. Having more than one person on the line can cause confusion and can cause your company to tie up more staffing resources than needed at this point in the interview process.

It is ideal that a phone interview will last between 20 to 40 minutes and a set of structured and guided questions should be ready before the call. These should be written out in a simple interview format, leaving space for notes and impressions of the candidate. A few sample questions could be:

  • How did you learn about this position?
  • Why are you currently looking for a new position?
  • What are the key skills and recent experience you have as they apply to this position (assuming the candidate has knowledge of the position)?
  • Briefly walk me through your accomplishments in your current and previous positions.
  • Why does this position interest you?
  • If there appears to be good interest in the candidate, explain your interview process going forward, and ask about the candidate's availability to meet as the next step.

If you do choose to reach out to the candidate prior to the phone call, make sure to exclude specific questions. In this early phase of the interview process, candidates should be given the chance to show some level of thinking on their feet. The interview should show you clear responses that indicate their verbal communication skills and possible interpersonal skills. In your email, feel free to include a brief overview and expectation of the phone call. The email could include the following, as an example:

Mary, I plan to call you Monday between 2 and 4 PM to introduce myself and National Bank to you. I would like to cover your work history and experience that relates to the basic requirements of the position for which you applied. I can also answer any questions you may have regarding this position and National Bank. If this time is not convenient for you, please let me know several other options that would work for you.

There is always a possible risk of a personal prejudice against race, place of origin, or sex, from an EEO perspective, that can sometimes even be determined over the phone. But, in this initial phase, prejudices can be minimized through a phone call over a face-to-face meeting considering you're not laying your eyes on the individual. For the entire pre-employment screening, interview and selection process, everyone involved must be trained to exclude illegal questions and personal biases that could place you and your company in a liability category. The best defense for this is preparation. Using targeted information, legally defensible questions, and a fair and consistent process that everyone must follow is key.

Phone screen interviews are very common and used daily by many other organizations. The EEOC is aware of this and expects a well-prepared, consistent, and documented process where all participants have a thorough understanding and will follow the process. For more help on this process, ZERORISK HR offers a course in equipping your managers in interviewing techniques. Check out more information on this here.

ZERORISK helps organizations build great cultures by identifying, developing, and retaining top talent. The ZERORISK Hiring System blends a revolutionary behavioral science with state-of-the-art technology to reduce unwanted turnover and improve employee performance. For more information contact us at (800) 827-5991.

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