Ah, phone screens! That special time for HR and job applicants to get to know each other over the course of an awkward call.
It’s the hiring equivalent of a phone call before meeting your Tinder match in real life. It’d be nice to get right to dinner and drinks, but first, you have to make sure your date is who they say they are… and not some random weirdo.
Phone screening is a vitally important moment in the hiring process, proving whether your candidate has what it takes to make it to the interview table. Optimize your screens by following these simple guidelines:
1. Consistency is key
This is more than a casual call—it’s a chance to see how your job candidates stack up against each other.
Make the most of each conversation by establishing a list of baseline questions to ask each candidate for the position. Ask all the questions in the same order during every call; it’s the easiest way to create an equal playing field and determine who performs the best during this initial step.
2. Start with understanding
One of the best questions to lead with is “What’s your understanding of the role?” Let the candidate explain to you what they think the role is all about, instead of you explaining it to them.
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Right out of the gate, this will show you if your candidate understands what you’re looking for. It will also separate the prepared, qualified applicants from those who are underprepared or underqualified.
This is an important moment to ensure you’re both on the same page about the position, and for you to clarify any misconceptions the candidate might have.
3. Be blunt about salary
In this day and age, there’s no need to be secretive about salary. Forget the old negotiating tactic of forcing the applicant to name their salary requirement first. You probably know exactly what the company is willing to pay for this position. The phone screen is the perfect time to mention it.
It’s as simple as: “The salary for this role is $95,000. Is that in line with your expectations?” If they say yes, you’re okay to move forward. If they say no, don’t get bogged down with a salary negotiation. Either part ways amicably, or, if the candidate is truly spectacular, find out if there’s wiggle room.
You’ll save time and headaches by being completely transparent and honest about what you can offer.
4. Nail down the basics
Don’t forget to answer those important questions that aren’t answered in a typical job application:
What’s your current employment situation—employed, freelancing, actively looking for a job, unemployed?
What are you looking for in an employment situation—full time, part time, freelance, offsite, onsite, a combination?
When is your ideal time frame to fill this role, if it were offered to you—immediately, two weeks, one month, longer?
5. Don’t overdo it
Keep your phone screen short. You don’t need to ask deep questions or go over extensive background qualifications at this point.
Your goal is to make sure the candidate who sent in an awesome resume or application is ready to come in and sit down. Let them save their best anecdotes and examples for the in-person interview, where it really counts.
6. Invite embarrassing questions
At the end of the call, ask the applicant if they have any questions—and let them know this is the time to ask anything and everything, no matter how embarrassing.
Perhaps a candidate has an ongoing health issue, and they want to find out whether your health insurance plan will cover their medical treatment. Or, maybe your company has been in the news recently—not for good reasons!—and they want to find out if the negative rumors are true.
Anything a candidate might not want to ask in front of a roomful of interviewers, they should feel free to ask you on this call. Be honest with your answers, and don’t judge.
7. Be ready to discuss next steps
Your next steps may vary, but be prepared to tell the applicant what to expect—whether you want to schedule an in-person interview right away, or you’ll send a follow-up email within two weeks.
If you already plan to invite them for an in-person interview, this is the perfect time to ask: “What’s a question you want to be asked in your interview?”
Their answer will give you a peek into their creativity, curiosity, and passion for the role.