Telephone interviews are an ideal way to narrow down your search for a perfect candidate and get an initial impression of whether they are a right fit for your business or not, without having to invite them into the office.
Of course this means that phone interviews will also help you save valuable time as well.
However, they do come with an array of challenges too.
For example, you won’t be able to assess a candidate’s body language during a phone interview. And portraying your business as a fun and exciting place to work will be hard when they can’t see it or you in person.
The key to a successful phone interview is simplicity. Adopt direct questions which enable you to get as much of the need-to-know information as quickly as possible and then, if they’re right for the job, invite them in for a more detailed discussion where you’ll see more of their personality and dig deeper into their skills.
To help you get started, take a look at this quick list.
1. Did you have a nice weekend? / Have you got any exciting plans for the weekend ahead?
This icebreaker phone interview question may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. If you take an interest in the candidate’s life, and don’t jump straight into the seriousness of an interview, they’ll instantly feel at ease.
The candidate may also reveal their favourite hobbies, so you can quickly form a conversation based on this information to keep things relaxed.
2. Where are you currently living? / Are you willing to travel?
A variable, depending on what answer the candidate gives to the first phone interview question.
These are standard (but essential) screening questions to make sure the candidate is geographically suited to the role or is willing to make the commute. This could also open up another line of conversation about where they live.
For example, if a candidate says they’re based in Bristol, you could talk about the Clifton Suspension Bridge or the zoo.
This may seem trivial, but it’s another way to make the candidate feel at ease and help them avoid giving you systematic answers.
If your business offers a cycle to work scheme or discounted rail fare, this is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate how amazing it is to work at your company. For more inspiration on employee benefits, take a look at our previous blog.
3. Do you have any hobbies outside of work?
If a candidate has included a section on their CV regarding hobbies, simply amend this phone interview question so it’s more specific to the individual.
The most important factor here is to give the candidate an opportunity to express themselves and showcase certain attributes in other fields, which could be useful for the particular role you are interviewing for.
A light-hearted icebreaker question like this also gives you the chance to assess their body language.
When they are talking, listen closely to detect whether they are smiling or not.
You can usually tell by the tone of their voice, with the pitch and tone typically higher.
Any monotone responses could indicate that they are simply counting down the minutes until they can put the phone down.
Listen to the way they communicate. Do they interrupt you? Or do they take a brief second to collect their thoughts?
The latter suggests they are a smart individual who likes to make a calculated response.
If they crack a few appropriate jokes, you know you could have a friendly, team-player who will fit into the DNA of your business instantaneously.
Recruiter top tip
When it comes to asking candidates about their hobbies, listen intently to hear if they mention any key phrases that match the job description.
So if the candidate likes to play football or rugby on the weekends, ‘sociable’, ‘a great team player’ or a ‘determined attitude’ could be perfect examples.
A top candidate will remember the job description and tell you why their hobbies can help them fulfil the position more successfully.
The Balance offer some great candidate tips on phone interview etiquette which you can use as a checklist to assess them.
4. What made you leave [last employer]?
A simple phone interview question which requires some level of thought and honesty.
Whether a candidate replies with the answers “money”, “progression” or “location”, you can start to understand what makes that particular individual tick.
Money and progression suggest that they are ambitious and hungry to succeed.
Whereas location could either mean that they have trouble settling down in one place, or they simply prioritise the needs of their loved ones.
Depending on the nature of the role will determine which of these answers is the more appropriate.
However, if they start talking negatively about their previous employers, you may want to consider discarding this candidate as this suggests that they could be hard work in the future. It all depends on the situation… but it’s all good info to know!
5. What made you apply for this position?
This phone interview question is another perfect one to ask if you want to assess their body language over the phone.
Can you hear enthusiasm in their voice?
An honest answer with detail and thought is the key here.
Similarly to the previous question, you can also get a better understanding of what makes that particular candidate tick.
Is it the opportunity of progression? The brand itself? Or perhaps the nature of the job detailed in the job description?
You can also use this to showcase the cool perks and environment your business has to offer the candidate.
Give them a taste of what to expect and they’ll be eager to progress their application to the next stage.
6. What motivates you?
From the outset, this question could provide similar answers to a couple of the others regarding motives for working.
Although, if the candidate is being honest, open and savvy, they will dig a little deeper with their answers.
Whether it’s to take their family to loads of places around the world or the desire to feel like they are a part of something, you can tell a lot about a candidate when they add a level of depth in answering this question.
7. If we were to ask you in for a face to face interview, when would you be available?
This phone interview question may not be a deal breaker, but it does give you a strong insight into how hungry they are for the job.
For example, if they’re currently employed, are they willing to use a day of their holiday just to attend the interview? Or are they willing to come in the following day?
Candidates who truly want the job will bend over backwards to get there.
Regardless of whether you are carrying out a phone or face to face interview, it’s always essential to make the candidate feel at ease.
Simple questions will give you more opportunities to establish whether they are a good fit for the business or not.
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