How to conduct a good phone interview | Heat Recruitment

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How to conduct a good phone interview

Technology is changing the way we recruit, and with the recent shift towards more remote working, we’re all becoming increasingly au fait with having less face to face interactions in our working life. As a result, the phone interview has come to be an expected part of the recruitment process.


Phone interviews are a practical step to include in recruitment as they’re a great way to sort through a large number of applicants quickly and give you and your team a clearer idea of which candidates would be the best fit for the job. An initial phone interaction can help you consider whether it’s worth inviting a candidate in for a face to face – saving both parties time and resources.


Conducting interviews by phone also means that you can explore a larger pool of potential candidates as you’re not restricted by location during the initial screening process. At Heat, we know how to conduct compelling interviews that leave candidates excited and keen to move forward.

Our top 10 tips for running a good phone interview 

1. Always be prepared 

Preparation is one of the most important things you need to do when planning for something. First, you need to ensure you’ve arranged a time that suits both of you. It’s helpful to send a reminder email a few days before to check your candidate is still free and help to avoid awkward situations and crossed wires. It’s also a good idea to decide who’s calling who; this will mean there’s less time wasted hanging around and you can clear up any uncertainties. 


It sounds obvious, but remember to charge your phone and position yourself near a power source just in case. Nothing will disrupt the momentum of an interview or smacks of unprofessionalism more than if you’re running around in a panic frantically asking everyone in the team if they have a spare charger. 


Try to minimise any noise or distractions that could impact the flow of the interview. If your office isn’t ‘phone friendly’, move to a quiet space or book a meeting room. It could come across as disrespectful to the interviewee and create a poor impression of your company as a whole if you’re both having to shout over loud pumping tunes, or your colleagues discussing what they did at the weekend. 


Have all your notes and any research like information from their LinkedIn profile, their CV, the job specification and questions ready, and don’t forget to have a pen and paper handy so you can take notes.  


Phone interviews are much shorter than your average interview. But, you still need to ensure you’ve got a good structure. Something like this works well:

     – Introduce yourself and the company and the role

     – Dive straight in with the questions 

     – And, before you hang up, you need to let the candidate know what the next steps are.



2. Treat it like a professional interview 

Even if you’re interviewing from home or a more casual setting, like a cafe, you still need to be professional. That means being on time. Candidates will more often than not be taking calls during their lunch breaks; a late call may mean they’re put in an awkward position at their current job, or they won’t pick up at all. 


If you have numerous interviews, make sure you’re keeping your diary up to date and leaving enough time during and between calls. If your day is jam-packed with interviews, you can avoid slipping into autopilot by scheduling quick breaks between appointments, otherwise you may risk coming across as uninterested or bored. 


Don’t try to do other things while the interview is taking place – give the candidate your full attention. We’re all busy, and it can be tempting to try and multi-task during the call, so remove all distractions from the room where possible, or choose a space where you can focus and always let coworkers know that you can’t be disturbed while you’re interviewing.



3. Introduce yourself and make small talk 

Humans are social beings, and small talk is a significant part of creating a social connection, as well as being an act of politeness. When you have brief conversations about topics outside of the work that you’re doing, you create a bond with another person in a way that makes conversations flow more smoothly. 


Spend a couple of minutes with introductory small talk that will put the applicant at ease. Ask how their day is going and let them know what to expect during the phone interview, and ask where they saw the role advertised and what attracted them to it. Introduce yourself and explain briefly what your position is within the company. Once you’ve shared a few friendly comments, you’ll be surprised how much more insightful information you’ll get out of a candidate. 



4. Take detailed notes

With multiple interviews taking place, it’s easy to forget who said what. By keeping accurate, up-to-date records, you can share them with your team members and also provide the candidate with valuable feedback after the call.

5. Ask important questions

A phone interview may be more informal, but this is your chance to separate the wheat from the chaff, so make each question count and don’t ask questions for the sake of filling time.


If you establish who the most suitable candidates are to take forward at this early stage, it will save a lot of time further on in the recruitment process. That means getting vital information right at the start of the process. There’s nothing more frustrating than deciding on a candidate you need to start immediately, only to find out that their notice period is three months. 

6. Pay attention to the candidate’s voice 

During a phone interview, you won’t be able to watch your candidate’s body language, but pay attention to the tone of their voice. How comfortable do they seem while giving their answers? The tone and manner they use will be able to give you an indication of how confident, honest, or friendly they seem. 


Make sure you listen for the majority of the interview. While you will need to give a brief introduction to the job and ask questions, you should spend 80% of the phone interview listening to the candidate. Refrain from interrupting and provide them with a chance to expand and elaborate on their answers. 



7. Ask the candidate if they have any concerns 

Once you’ve given an overview of the job, ask the candidate if they think there will be problems with the qualifications, expectations or role itself. 


The candidate may have no concerns or might highlight some reasons or issues why they might not be a good fit for the role – ones that you may not have previously considered. 



8. Ending the call

Don’t worry if you have to cut the phone call short, if necessary. If it’s clear to you that the candidate isn’t right for the role, be polite and thank the applicant for their time and end the phone interview as soon as you can. 


Whether you’re taking the candidate through to the next stage or not, always let the candidate know what the next steps are. Most candidates will want to know how long it will take you to make a hiring decision. 



9. Sort your candidates 

After all of your interviews, look over your notes from each and rank the candidates in order of suitability. You can then contact your candidates to let them know if they’ve made it through to the next stage of face-to-face interviews.



10. What do you do if the candidate doesn’t answer their phone?

Leave a voicemail. Some people like to screen their calls. This can be avoided by scheduling the call ahead of time and providing the phone number that you will be calling from. If the applicant does not call back within a few minutes, it’s time to move on with your day.

If you need any help with finding the perfect employee for your business, don’t hesitate to contact the Heat team today. 


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