Phone screen interview: 9 steps for effective screening


Rachita Jain


Word Count
The Covid 19 pandemic has turned the world upside-down. It has made possible those things which humans couldn't even imagine. But the biggest transformation that took place was the entire world going digital. The digital ecosystem is so huge that it encompasses almost everything including food, shopping, exploring, editing, and interviewing.
Now, the complete process of interviewing, from screening to onboarding, is conducted online over the phone or behind the computer. This method has distinguished advantages such as saving cost, time, and effort. Just imagine the time you could save by replacing an entire screening schedule with a phone screening interview! But what is a phone screening interview?

What is a phone screen interview?

The answer to what is a phone screen interview is quite simple.
A phone screen interview, like the name suggests, is a brief job interview conducted over a phone call where a company's talent acquisition team asks phone interview questions to the potential employee. Phone screening interview usually lasts between 15 to 30 minutes. It is conducted during the initial stages of the hiring process and once the candidate qualifies, then the later steps of the hiring process are initiated.
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Phone interview questions

During a phone screening interview, you can ask the candidate questions related to

1. Their background

A brief background check is necessary at the start. If you find some discrepancies or gaps on their resume, then this is a good time to discuss that. From how confidently the candidates answer your questions, you get an idea of whether or not you want to pursue the candidate. You may ask:
  1. Tell me something about yourself
  1. There is no mention of what you did from 2018-2020. Why is it so?
  1. Please tell me about your work experience.

2. Their qualifications

Even if the candidates have mentioned their qualifications on their resumes, you should always ask them. This way, the candidates get some space to feel comfortable. Moreover, from the way they answer, you will know whether they have actually studied something or merely collected their degree.
  1. What are your educational qualifications?

3. Availability

If your company wants to fill up an open position urgently, then it will not consider applicants with longer notice periods such as two or three months. Additionally, you need to know whether the candidate is available full-time or part-time. Make sure you identify and understand your needs so that you can find the right kind of candidate.
For instance, you may ask;
  1. When can you start?
  1. We are looking for a full-time employee. Are you available for that kind of work?
  1. How long is your notice period?
  1. We want to hire on an urgent basis so will you be able to join immediately?

4. Salary requirements

Make sure you ask for their salary expectations in the very beginning so that if they ask for unnecessary amounts, you can let them go in the beginning. Candidates, however, try to avoid and dodge this question to keep space for negotiation. You may ask them:
  1. What is your expected salary?
  1. Do you have some numbers in mind related to your salary?

5. Whether they are willing to relocate

If you are interviewing for an on-site job, then this question is highly significant. Not everyone is comfortable with working in a different city. Furthermore, it requires a lot of consideration while migrating to another city, even if temporarily. You should ask:
  1. We are looking for a candidate to work on-site job. Are you willing to relocate?
  1. Would you be needing relocation assistance?
  1. We provide 70% relocation assistance. Are you comfortable with that?

6. If they have any questions for you

In the last, make sure you ask them if they have any kinds of questions for you. It enhances your candidate experience as the candidates feel considered when you ask them if they have something on their mind. This way, you ease the discomfort and nervousness.
  1. Do you have any questions for me?
  1. Do you want to ask something about the firm or work structure?
  1. If you want to ask anything, then please go ahead.

Questions to avoid

1. Personal questions

You should not ask personal questions during a phone screen interview. A phone screen interview should be extremely professional and compact. Avoid asking them about their:
  1. Mental health
  1. Religion
  1. Marital status
  1. Ethnicity
  1. Sexual orientation
  1. Disability
  1. Plan to conceive

2. Avoid asking questions that waste time

A phone screen interview should be short and to the point. It isn’t an elaborative time where you inspect the candidate thoroughly. Therefore, avoid asking questions and avoid engaging in long conversations.

Benefits of phone screening interview

1. Time-efficient

Phone screening interviews are time-efficient as they save you the time you would have otherwise wasted on interviewing unsuitable candidates in the office. After the basic screening, you can lay off the unsuitable applicants so that later you are left with the potential candidates only.

2. Lower cost per hire

Interviewing someone on-site includes several costs such as:
1. Higher cost of hiring a lawyer
2. Cost of lunch and travel expenses for the interviewee
3. Higher cost for following up per candidate
4. Cost of setting up interview space
5. Amount of resources and efforts wasted that would otherwise yield optimum results like using office space for interviews which is meant for employee use.
With a phone screening interview, you can save on all these expenses.

3. Improved quality of hire

Phone interviews with recruiters lead to improved quality of hire as unsuitable candidates are eliminated during the initial stages of the interview. Also, you get an idea of how confident, composed, and knowledgeable the candidate is at the start. This makes the later eliminations easier.

4. Reduced bias

Phone interviews with recruiters are more objective than subjective. The personal bias of knowing and being influenced by a candidate is stamped out. Since the impact of first impressions is minimized, the bias is also eliminated.

5. Improved candidate experience

Phone screening interview helps you enhance your candidate experience as it saves their time and cost too. Moreover, it decreases their anxiety levels and helps in establishing a comfort level.

What is the purpose of a phone screen interview?

1. Examine a candidate’s communication skills

Phone screen interviews are a good way of judging a candidate's communication skills. You get an idea of how a candidate communicates with you and whether or not are they capable of handling formal conversations.

2. To get the basic details about the candidate

A phone screen interview will help you get the information directly from the source. Moreover, if there are any discrepancies, you can get them clarified instantly.

3. To save time, cost, and efforts while screening candidates

Screening a candidate comes under the initial steps of the recruitment process. And if you use all the time in screening, then later, you will not be able to interview them properly. That is why phone screening interview is done to save time and effort.

Steps to conduct effective phone screening interview

1. Format

Phone interviews with recruiters should be formatted and well-structured. You should ask every candidate the same question in the same order to minimize biases. These basic questions will analyze the candidates on one level.

2. Phone interview questions

Phone interview questions should be short, simple, and should be capable enough to extract relevant information. Make sure you make a list of top interview questions to ask the candidates.

3. Scorecards

To analyze the candidates in an easy and fair manner, make scorecards. Scorecards will help you track and scrutinize the candidates thoroughly. Therefore, we recommend you create appropriate and authentic scorecards to examine candidates in a just manner.

4. Scheduling interviews

Scheduling interviews is highly essential in order to maintain decorum. By scheduling phone screening interviews, you can avoid chaos and boost your candidate experience. This will help you get the most skilled and talented candidates.

5. Make notes

Making notes help you to get a comprehensive idea of the candidate's performance during the interview. It shows your greater attentiveness and gives you a written record of the things that happened during the interview. Note-making helps you remember the minutest details and ensures that you have the right information.

6. Make better comparisons

Make sure you make better and fair comparisons among the candidates. Your opinions about them should not be biased. They should be strictly framed on the basis of their performances.

7. Tell them about the next rounds

It is significant that you tell the candidates about what they should be expecting after the phone screen interview. This will help them prepare for the next rounds and will bring transparency to your entire recruitment process which will improve candidate experience.

8. Follow-up after the phone screen interview

Following up is a crucial step. Sometimes, the potential candidates lose interest in a job when they are not approached after the phone screen interview. Not following up can also create a misunderstanding that you are no longer interested in them.

9. Give them the results

Candidates like having feedbacks and that is why you should announce the results as soon as possible to save your as well as the candidates’ time. If the result is positive, then continue with the recruitment process. Otherwise, the candidates can utilize that time in applying to some other position.

Phone interview tips

Mentioned below are some of the most significant phone interview tips that will help you conduct your phone interview professionally.

1. Scheduling phone interviews

Among many phone interview tips, the first one is to schedule all phone screen interviews on the same day. Enlist the questions and set the time you alot to a single candidate. Then based on that, make a continuous schedule to interview all candidates on the same day.

2. Knowledge about candidates

Before you begin a phone screen interview with a candidate, ensure that you have a basic idea about them. Read their resume and study their portfolios thoroughly. You should know who you are interviewing and what all questions you need to ask.

3. Interview in a quiet place

Even if it is a phone screen interview, make sure you conduct it in a quiet place. Background noises will create disturbances and eventually both of you will get irritated. Unnecessary noises will distract you and this can lead to misleading results.

4. Let the candidate talk

One of the best phone interview tips that we can give is to let the candidate talk. You are there to examine the candidate and not vice-versa. You can only inspect the candidate when you observe more and let the candidate do the maximum talking.

5. Pay attention to voice cues

One of the biggest disadvantages of a phone screen interview is that you cannot assess the body language of the candidate. But you can check out for voice cues such as shakiness, and hesitation to analyze the candidate.

6. Do not multitask

Multitasking during a phone screen interview will lead to disastrous implications and distorted results. If you are interviewing a candidate, then do that solely. Other things can wait but if this round gives inconclusive or inappropriate results, then you will end up hiring the wrong candidate which will lead to severe consequences.

Negative signs you should be aware of

  1. A lack of enthusiasm means that the candidate is not passionate about the job.
  1. When candidates don’t ask any questions, it means they lack interest.
  1. If the candidate is browsing social media or Google, then they will sound distracted.
  1. A candidate who makes negative comments about their former employees can do the same with you in the future.
  1. Some candidates are only focused on the amount of money they will get. Be cautious of such candidates.

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