Use a Phone Interview as a Job Applicant Screening Tool

What Questions Are Asked in a Phone Screen Interview?

A woman is holding a phone intervew with a prospective employee.
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A phone interview allows you to call your most promising job applicants before bringing them in for a job interview in your organization. The phone interview enables you to screen the applicant's skills, knowledge, experience, and salary expectations before you invest company employee time in onsite interviews.

The phone interview allows you to eliminate applicants that sounded right on paper and in their application cover letter, but who fall short of the qualifications that you seek.

Save Time, Money, and Employee Energy

The phone interview saves the company time, money, and the energy that your recruiting team invests in every applicant. A phone interview is a time well spent by your hiring manager as it saves your employees' most significant resource—their time.


You can fast track or shortlist your most qualified applicants for your interview process. The phone screens allow you to hold off on interviews with your seemingly less-qualified candidates. They eliminate the applicants who appeared to be less qualified or poor cultural fits for your organization during the phone interview.

Who Conducts the Phone Interview?

The best employee to conduct a phone interview is the hiring manager. He or she is most in tune with the qualifications and experience necessary for successfully performing the job. The hiring manager also understands the technical knowledge necessary to perform the job.

If not, when assessing technical skills, it is essential that the person holding the interview is familiar with the skills. Otherwise, you risk bringing unqualified candidates in for an interview.

The hiring manager will also have to work most closely with the selected employee. The hiring manager often has the needed qualifications to assess the cultural and social skills of the prospective employee.

You might also consider a three-way interview with the hiring manager, a technical expert, and the prospective employee.

Human Resources Phone Interviews

As a second choice, the Human Resources staff can conduct a phone interview with the candidate, but it is difficult for HR staff members to know exactly what the hiring manager needs. If technical skills are paramount for success in the position, the HR staff is not the first choice.

If the most significant component of the phone screen is the cultural fit of the applicant, however, the HR recruiter is qualified to conduct the phone screen. In fact, she may be the best person to conduct the phone interview. But, if technical qualifications are a significant component of the job, the hiring manager or a potential coworker in a similar job is a better choice.

Questions for the Phone Interview

Questions for the phone interview can comprise a subset of the interview questions that your team has prepared for use at the onsite interviews. You should also create phone interview questions as part of the recruitment planning process.

The basic questions asked in the phone interview should be the same questions for each prospective employee. Follow-up questions to clarify or obtain more information will not be the same, of course, but ensure that the basic questions are the same.

This interview is what allows you to assess the candidate's answers without discriminating and allows you to compare their responses with the responses of your additional candidates that you interview on the phone

The employee who conducts the interview should take detailed interview notes just as he or she would in an onsite interview.

A phone screen usually takes half an hour to an hour depending on the questions and responses. To honor the candidate's time, and that of the interviewer, the recommended time is thirty minutes. You can cut down on this time if you start with several questions that can narrow your field of candidates.

Specific Questions to Ask During a Phone Interview

The following are suggested questions for you to ask in a phone interview.

  • Begin the phone interview by asking the candidate what attracted them to apply for your open position.
  • Ask what they consider their key qualifications that make the role a good fit for their skills and experiences.
  • Tell the candidate to describe in detail what they did in their current or most recent job.
  • Follow up by asking them to describe their most significant contributions in the role.
  • Ask what three contributions they would expect to make to the overall company if they were offered this job.
  • Ask the candidate for the salary range that they hope to receive in a job offer. This is a good early question during the phone interview. You can assess quickly whether you and your prospect are even in the same ballpark. You can expect that most candidates will express their desired salary or tell you what their compensation package is worth in their current role.

After the Phone Interview

Review and assess the qualifications of each candidate who participated in the phone interview with HR staff and other members of the recruiting team to determine which candidates to involve in your onsite interview process and when.

Want to Know More About Conducting Productive Interviews?

Find more information about conducting phone interviews. You need all the information that is necessary to select the most qualified applicant for your open position.