Make the Call: How to Conduct Great Phone Screen Interviews

As a busy employer or manager, hiring is just one of the many important things on your ever growing to-do list. To make the right hires quickly and consistently, it can be helpful to outline a clear hiring process. 

Hiring process steps can include things like application review, interviews, candidate assessments – and really any other part of your unique hiring workflow that helps you hire the right people more confidently. 

If you’re not already conducting phone screen interviews somewhat early in your hiring process, we suggest adding this crucial step to optimize your hiring and save time down the road. 

hiring process steps

A phone screen is a short call with an applicant to determine (or “screen”) whether or not they are a good fit to move forward with your hiring process. This 15-30 minute call is for going over the basics of the position, confirming the applicant’s qualifications, and trying to discover any obvious red flags. 

Busy hiring managers might be tempted to skip the phone screen step in order to save time in the hiring process, but trust us, setting aside time for a brief phone call early can actually save you much more time in the long run.

Why you should conduct phone screen interviews   

There are many advantages to adding phone screen interviews to a hiring process. Here are just some of the ways in which phone screens can help you make the right hire sooner.  

Phone screen interviews help you get to know candidates 

Reviewing someone’s resume or application can give you a lot of information about a person’s work experience and skills, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. A candidate’s application should spark an interest and make you want to learn more by asking additional questions. 

You could jump right into a formal interview to get to know a candidate – or you could save time by conducting a preliminary phone screen to answer some of your additional questions before moving them forward. As an added bonus: this also saves time for your candidates, who are likely just as busy as you are. They’ll appreciate the courtesy!

Phone screen interviews help you engage candidates faster 

Phone screen interviews are less of a time commitment and allow you to create a touchpoint with candidates faster than other businesses. This is a huge benefit considering the tight competition for talent that many organizations are facing. Booking a phone screen interview is an easy way to show a candidate that you’re serious about considering them for the role. 

Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes. If they’re unsure about where they stand in your hiring process, they may become more invested in other opportunities they’re pursuing. By engaging them early, you can potentially keep them from saying “yes” to another company’s job offer first. 

Phone screen interviews narrow down your applicant pool for more streamlined hiring 

A few pre-screen questions on your application can help you narrow down your applicant pool and ensure only high quality candidates are hitting your inbox. From there, you can narrow down your applicant pool even further by using phone screens to ask some deal-breaker questions. 

Use phone screens to confirm things like desired compensation, availability, and relevant work experience, so that you can pinpoint your frontrunners fast and send a polite rejection to those that don’t fit the bill.  

When to conduct phone screen interviews

We recommend conducting your phone screen as the second step in your hiring process after reviewing an applicant’s resume, but before you send them assessments to complete. All too often, employers want to assign assessments to a candidate immediately after they apply, as a way to “test” engagement of applicants – in other words, they use assessments as a way to screen out unengaged applicants. 

But this can backfire on an employer by creating a less favorable candidate experience for the applicants they do want in their pipeline. A high-quality candidate will be better engaged by speaking on the phone with a real person expressing their interest in them, and less engaged by the prospect of having to spend their valuable time completing an assessment for an employer they haven’t even spoken to. 

Our advice: Use a phone screen to, well, screen the candidates and gauge their interest! Send the assessment after you’ve spoken to them and gotten them excited about your opportunity. You’ll get stronger engagement this way. 

How to conduct phone screen interviews 

Remember, the purpose of a phone screen isn’t necessarily to make a hire at that moment, it’s to decide whether or not you want to move someone to the next stage in your hiring process. 

Your phone screen interview questions will likely not be as in depth as traditional interview questions and will simply help you decide if someone is qualified for the position and if you’d like to get to know them further. 

Phone screen interview questions 

  • This role pays $X annually. Does that fit your salary expectations?
  • Do you have experience with X software? 
  • Do you have any years of experience in a similar role? 
  • Can you work weekends? 
  • Are you willing to relocate? 
  • What stood out to you about this position? 
  • Tell me a little bit about your resume. 
  • Why did you leave (or why are you leaving) your last position? 
  • What date can you start? 
  • Do you have any questions about the role or our company? 

Phone screen do’s

  • Keep the phone screen short – aim for 15 minutes and no more than 30. 
  • Lead with your best foot forward, make sure you use this time to showcase your company culture and employer brand by telling the candidate about who you are and what you have to offer. Our motto: hire like you sell! 
  • Pay attention to the way the candidate presents themselves. Are they excited about the position? Do they seem truly interested in your company? 
  • Review the job description with the candidate in detail so they understand what the role entails. You don’t want to find out later in the process that your expectations don’t align. We found that 21% of candidates reject job offers because the role and responsibilities ended up being different than they expected. 
  • Explain the next steps to the candidate. We found that 41% of candidates want to hear about the next stages of the hiring process during the initial interview. Transparency in a hiring process creates a great candidate experience and can help more candidates stay engaged with you throughout. 
  • Allow the candidate to self-schedule the phone screen interview with automated interview scheduling. With CareerPlug’s Autopilot, you can easily add phone screens to your hiring process, sync your calendar, and let your candidates book their call when it’s most convenient for them. Plus, with the Fastrack feature, you can automatically send an invitation to schedule a phone screen to applicants that check all of your boxes. 

Phone screen don’ts

  • Don’t forget to prepare for the interview. Even though phone screens are short and typically more casual than regular interviews, you should be prepared with your questions and thoroughly review a candidate’s application before the interview begins. 
  • Don’t be the only one asking questions – make sure you leave time for the candidate to ask a little about your company and about the role.  
  • Don’t forget to follow up! You should let a candidate know if you’re not moving them on to the next round. You can automate candidate rejections using an applicant tracking system like CareerPlug. 

To sum it all up 

The phone screen is a logical addition to any hiring process that can help you quickly determine whether you want to move forward with a candidate. 

Phone screens are also a great opportunity for you, as an employer, to make a good impression on candidates and  get them excited about your company and the position. This starts with an easy and automated scheduling  process and a strong introduction to your employer brand. 

So get out there and start dialing! Your next great hire might just be one phone call away. 

Schedule your next phone screen automatically with Autopilot

Phone screen interviews are a great way to optimize your hiring process. Want to know what’s even better? Having them automatically appear on your calendar! Click the button below to try CareerPlug’s automated interview scheduling tool today.


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