Use a Phone Interview as a Job Applicant Screening Tool

What Is a Phone Screen?

A woman is holding a phone intervew with a prospective employee.
••• Yukmin/Asia Images/Getty Images

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, but who fall short of the qualifications that you seek. The phone interview saves the company time, money, and the energy that your recruiting team invests in every applicant. A phone interview is time well spent by your hiring manager.

You can fast track or short list your most qualified applicants for your interview process. The phone screens allow you to hold off on interviews with 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 will have to work most closely with the selected employee. The hiring manager often has the needed qualifications to assess the technical skills of the prospective employee.

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.

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

As a second choice, Human Resources staff can conduct the phone interview, but it is difficult for HR staff members to know exactly what the hiring manager needs. 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 screen 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 the basic questions are the same.

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

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

Asking the candidate for the salary range that they are hoping to receive in a job offer is a good early question. You can assess whether you are in the same ballpark.

After the Phone Interview

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

Find more information about conducting phone interviews.

Also Known As: telephone screen, phone screen, telephone interview