Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

How to Successfully Conduct A Telephone Interview And Speed Up Your Recruitment Process

By James Ball | Jun 22, 2015 | Assessing Applicants

Time is money – do you really want to waste it on unsuitable candidates?

To speed up your recruitment process and to stop meeting blatantly inappropriate candidates, you need to take advantage of the telephone interview!

Recruiter Pro Tip:

The main advantage of telephone interviewing?

You can check that candidates have the necessary pre-requisites, before actually inviting them in and wasting your time (and theirs).

For example:

– Do they have a driving license?

– Have the completed the necessary training?

– Do they fulfill any legal requirements of the role?

So, our advice would be to use telephone interviews as a way to stop wasting your time on the under-skilled, the deliberate time-wasters, and the downright strange!

(Did you hear about the woman who refused to leave for 90 minutes, following her unsuccessful interview?)

Below you’ll find out everything you need to know about telephone interviewing, along with your very own plan to steal and deploy.  Get dialling!

Why Should I Conduct A Telephone Interview?

Telephone interviews are hugely valuable for speeding up any interview process by minimising time-wasting and culling your weaker candidates earlier on.

That may sound harsh, but it’s also fairer for candidates too!  They don’t want to waste their time on an interview that’s never going to work out (consider all that interview prep they’ll go through, the outfit, the journey…)

There are, of course, some negatives to telephone interviewing, so it’s important to assess your options!  Check out the table below to make a more informed decision.

The Pros & Cons Of A Telephone Interview

When Should I Conduct A Telephone Interview?

Telephone interviews work best when used as the first stage of your interviewing process.

You see, a CV only tells part of the story, but hearing the candidate’s tone of voice and assessing their direct, natural answers will provide a much more detailed insight into their personality.

The down side?

You will almost certainly have to schedule telephone interviews out of working hours or around lunchtime, as candidates who’re currently employed may struggle to answer whilst at work.

(In most cases, current employers won’t know that they’re planning to leave!)

How Long Should A Telephone Interview Last?

Think of a telephone interview as a mini gym session.

In general, they should last about half an hour, giving you both a chance to “warm up” for 5 minutes, “workout” for 20 and then “warm down” for 5 minutes afterwards.

Of course, if a candidate manages to keep you on the phone for longer than 30 minutes with engaging conversation, that’s a very good sign.

(I know what you’re thinking – that’s a very short work-out – but you get the gist!)

Section Two

Does Location Matter?

You might be tempted to conduct a telephone interview on the go.  Don’t.  Ever.

You must make sure that you have enough time to conduct the interview (which may overrun) and that you’re positioned somewhere quiet, with a good signal if you’re using a mobile phone, and where you won’t get distracted.

Candidates are bound to lose patience with interviewers who ignore, interrupt or hang up on them.

We’ve actually heard horror stories about employers who’ve conducted interviews whilst on the toilet (the toilet flush betrayed them)!  Not advisable when trying to portray a professional image…

What Should I Do to Prepare?

Telephone interviews may be a lot less formal than a face-to-face interview, but that really doesn’t mean that you can or should go into one under-prepared.


Interviewing is a two-way street and however much your candidate will strive to impress you, you’re also going to want to impress them if they’re the perfect candidate.

With that in mind, take the time to thoroughly research the individual in question using their CV, cover letter, LinkedIn and possibly even other social networking sites.

Not only will this help you to structure questions around a candidate’s actual experience, it will also show them that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say.


You must then decide what form your interview is going to take:

  • The surprise telephone interview.

If you want to catch someone off guard, then you could call them up for an unscheduled telephone interview.

They won’t have prepared any answers, so you should be able to suss out their personality, skills, communication and interest more naturally.

Don’t just fire off a bunch of loaded questions; this will make the candidate feel unnerved and isn’t really fair, considering they haven’t had chance to prepare.

Just relax and have a chat!

  • The planned telephone interview.

In theory, if you’ve scheduled a formal telephone interview, your candidate should be more prepared so you can ask more detailed questions to assess them.

Of course, you’ll also have to expect structured, rehearsed answers too!


Coming up with a telephone interview checklist is a great way to ensure that you keep on topic and get all of the information you need to make a decision.

If you’re feeling savvy, you could even incorporate a list of ‘must-ask’ questions to that checklist…

Introduce yourself  and the Company.

Q1: Do you remember the role?
Q2: Why did you decide to apply?
Q3: Could you tell me a little bit about yourself and your current situation?
Q4: Why are you leaving your current workplace?
Q5: Why do you think you’re right for the role?

Ask the candidates if they have any questions.

“Thank you for your time, we’ll be in touch.” and then describe exactly what will happen next (with no ambiguity).  It’s really important to correctly set expectations in the eyes of the candidates.

Of course, depending on the job, the candidate and the information that you’ve already been provided, these questions may vary, but the essence will be similar.

Your approach to the telephone interview should be a lot softer than the face-to-face interview.  It really should be a fact-checking exercise and a way to suss out a candidate’s personality, rather than a grilling 30 minutes, filled with left field questions. 


At Coburg Banks, we adopt a three-stage interview process.

Step one includes a telephone interview with each candidate, to check key requirements for the role and to suss them out from their voice (we practice what we preach).

We’ll then only invite the candidates that impressed us for second and third stage face-to-face interviews which will include a mixture of behavioural questions and then our 6 staple interview questions.

Recruiter Pro Tip 

The telephone interview is perfect for you if…

  • You have heaps of great CVs and you need to cut down your potential candidate list.
  • You don’t have a lot of time on your hands.
  • The job that’s on offer requires great telephone communication.
  • You want to make your interview process as efficient as possible.

Some hiring managers prefer video interviews as an alternative to telephone interviews. This gives you a chance to (at least attempt to) read body language, actually see the candidate and build rapport more easily.

PS.  To discover more recruitment insider secrets, click here and we’ll pop over an email to you each week (some light-reading to take those terrible Tuesday blues away!)

- James Ball

James Ball

James is the founder and owner of Coburg Banks and a recruitment expert from Sutton Coldfield in the UK.  He regularly advises companies on how to improve and get the maximum ROI from their recruitment processes.

> More blog posts by James Ball

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