Become a Phone Screening Interview Expert

Mastering a phone screen process can maximize your and your hiring team’s time, and avoid wasting the valuable time and effort of your applicants, thus improving your employer brand in the mind of the public.

A phone screen or pre-interview call gives your team a chance to reduce candidates from the in-person interview that may seem like a fit on paper, but may not be in real life.

The Next Level

Phone interviews are an excellent method for quickly qualifying the must have attributes and for verifying that the resume provides an accurate representation of the employees’ skills and experience level.  Lastly, it is just a start at getting to know their personality.  The telephone interview is not the best method for determining attitude and culture fit with your team however.  Focus on:

  • General personality
  • Ability to arrive on time each day
  • Education requirements
  • Software or technical requirements
  • Specific tasks that are not transferable by other experiences


By confirming skill and background on the phone, you are able to reduce the number of candidates you will interview in person, and your in-person interview can focus more important and harder to determine behavioral and cultural traits for fit.

Put Them at Ease

Since you lack visual cues, and conversations don’t always flow as naturally over the phone, you need to go the extra mile to help the interviewee relax. Remind the interviewee to reply as naturally as possible, and that if you need extra information about one of their answers, you’ll ask. This can prevent the subject from feeling that they have to drone on in order to fill airtime or provide all the info you’ll need at once. Open-ended questions and a friendly tone can go a long way towards turning what can be a stiff and awkward affair into an informative and pleasant conversation.

Skills, Skills, Skills

Job number one for you is to confirm that the skills they represented on their resume are skills they truly possess. While not many candidates overtly lie on resumes, many roles can seem superficially the same on paper, but may actually be nearly unrelated in practice, so you are trying to assess how quickly this candidate can hit the ground running and ramp up to productivity within your organization.

Develop a question set that will assess the experience of the candidate specific to your needs. Question asking to get actual depictions can be accomplished with starters such as:

  1. Whom did you do that with?
  2. For whom did you do that task? 
  3. Whom did you get instructions from?
  4. Who approved your work?
  5. How much?
  6. When?
  7. How often?
  8. Who else…? 
  9. And how was that a benefit?
  10. What did you learn?
  11. What did you improve…?


Finish Strong

It’s important to end your interview by providing a clear communication as to what to expect next. If you aren’t going to be bringing them in for an in person interview, let them know that you have other candidates who are a better fit for the position.

“After speaking to you and hearing about your experience, it seems that this position isn’t the best fit for you. I deeply appreciate you taking the time out of your day to speak to me, and I will keep your application on file if a role opens up that better matches your skill set. Thank you very much and have a wonderful week.”

Making the Cut

If you are going to be bringing them in schedule the interview on the call or let them know when they could expect to be contacted about a follow-up interview.

By the time you’re conducting in-person interviews, you should already have a pretty good sense of each candidate’s core strengths, weaknesses, career goals and value for your team. You and your company may be working alongside this person, so the in-person interview is the time to really get to know them in terms of who they are and how they interact to really assess how they would fit into the company culture you’re working to create and protect.

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