Phone interviews are becoming increasingly popular as working from home is starting to become the norm. Obviously with vaccination numbers increasing with each passing day, offices are also reopening. But when it comes interviews, people prefer initial screenings to be over Zoom or the phone.
In recent months, most new hires will have had to take part in either phone or video interviews, and these can be daunting for a lot of people. Technology and the internet are fast becoming the most used tools for finding new candidates to hire, and it’s important that companies are able to keep up with these changes by being able to conduct interviews in innovative and safer ways.
For employers who aren’t used to having to carry out interviews in this manner, they can sometimes seem confusing to navigate. The protocol for phone interviews isn’t always clear, so it’s useful to have some guidelines.
They are most often used as a way of pruning a large candidate pool to save time and effort in order to make sure that candidates who are doing in-person interviews are the ones that are more suited to the job. However, in certain situations, such as in the midst of the global pandemic, they may be needed to hire a candidate, without ever meeting them.
This can seem like a strange concept, but right now it means that companies can safely and effectively carry on hiring while they might be unable to be in the offices themselves.
Benefits of Phone Interviewing
While they might have been less common in the past, phone interviews do have their advantages. Most telephone interviews even deliver similar quality responses and data to an interview done in person, as the questions can often be similar or the same. Telephone interview techniques don’t always have to be too different from the techniques you might use in a normal interview, and so in most cases, they should still run smoothly and get you the information that you want and need about a candidate, without the drawbacks that in-office interviews can sometimes bring.
Telephone interviews are not always used as a stand-alone method of interviewing – they can also be used to slim down the candidate pool efficiently. This means that employers aren’t taking too much time conducting face-to-face interviews for candidates that wouldn’t be a good fit for the job, and can save these for a smaller pool of more suitable candidates later on. It’s a quicker and easier method of finding out whether a candidate will be suitable for the job. If they’re not, both the interviewer and interviewee’s time have not been wasted by having the applicant come into the office, potentially disrupting their day.
Being able to do phone interviews means that employers can recruit people from all over the world and widen their search for new hires. It doesn’t narrow them down to having to recruit from local areas and means they can find someone who may be better suited to the job. For those employees who are willing to relocate, the interview and hiring process can be done before they need to make the move, which means they don’t have to do long commutes across states to interview for a job they might not get. Phone interviews mean that nowadays, employers don’t have to rule out candidates based on their ability to travel to the interview.
Phone interviews are also less time-consuming than regular, face-to-face interviews, as more people can be interviewed in less time. Without having to have people come into the office, interviews can be done almost back to back with little break, so multiple candidates can be interviewed in a day. Telephone interviews take much less planning and are easier to do – they can be done outside of an office’s official hours, which is especially helpful if the candidate is currently still working and unable to take the time off their job to travel into another office.
Disadvantages of Phone Interviewing
While you might be able to ask the same questions during a telephone interview as you would in a conventional office setting, it still isn’t quite the same. You don’t get to see the interviewee’s body language – a big factor in assessing how genuine a person is as well as how well they would fit into your company as an employee. This can be both an advantage or a disadvantage for the interviewee themself; if they’re a smiley, relaxed, confident person but this doesn’t come across in their voice in the interview, they could be misunderstood and turned down, while if they had come into the office, their body language and demeanor would have put them at an advantage. On the other hand, if someone is particularly disagreeable, they can hide it well through the phone as you can’t see them frown or be disgruntled by any points you make.
Without face-to-face communication, it’s also hard to gauge whether they would work well with you, which is definitely a disadvantage of telephone interviews when you will be working closely with the candidate if they are hired. Employers obviously want to be able to recruit people that they will work well with, and who will fit into the company well. It’s hard to establish whether or not someone is genuine from just a phone call, which is difficult when this is the case. Telephone interviews are much less personable and can make people feel more on edge at times – they can’t be reassured with a handshake and you can’t work off each other in the same way that you can in person.
Not being able to see the other person means you can’t be sure whether they’re reading off a prepared script or have information in front of them. For the most part, candidates will want to seem more prepared, and having this information in front of them can significantly help get that impression across, but it also means that there’s a chance you’re not getting the real, genuine answers from them that you want. However, this can also be seen as an advantage for the interviewee, as behind a phone, you can have sheets of paper and relevant candidate information to work off of without it becoming messy. It’s also easier to write notes without the interviewee peeking at them or becoming uncomfortable, which can put you both more at ease.
Using visual prompts is also almost impossible in video interviews. Only almost impossible because they can be emailed across beforehand, but it’s hard to use sheets of paper or objects as part of an interview if you want to make a talking point about them. Video interviews are better for this, as screen-sharing is a possibility, and it’s also possible to see what people are holding in video calls, but it’s still difficult.
Successful Telephone Interview Tips
With remote working becoming more and more normal, especially in recent months, it’s important that employers can keep track of the best practices when doing them. When the world changes as much as it has recently, it’s essential that we are able to carry on with things as normally as possible, so phone interviews mean that employers are still able to carry out essential recruitment processes while adhering to rules in place. With these telephone interview techniques and tips, it’ll be easier to relax and conduct a successful interview over the phone when hiring!
Be Well Prepared
The most important tip, relevant to any interview, is to make sure that you’re prepared. You always need to know what you want to talk about and ensure that you’re ready for the interview to take place before it does. Make sure you’ve got all the information you need in front of you and you know what questions you want to ask before you start the telephone interview. Things like the candidate’s CV, LinkedIn page, or previous references are good things to have in front of you so you can refer back to them throughout the interview.
This tip is slightly less conventional, and it’s something you don’t get to do during a face-to-face interview, but using this phone interview technique can actually help your thoughts flow better and even make your voice sound more energetic. Walking around a room helps keep the pace of the interview high and constantly flowing which can put both yourself and the interviewee at ease, making for less tension and awkwardness especially as the interview goes on.
Take it Seriously
Just because it’s a phone interview doesn’t mean that it’s any less important than an in-person interview, and it’s important that it’s treated as such. Making sure to listen to your interviewee and act in the same professional manner you always would is a good telephone interview technique to ensure you come across well. Remember that it’s not just the interviewee trying to impress you, but you need to make sure you’re not putting off a desirable candidate and possibly high-flying future employee by being unprofessional. It’s good practice to make sure that you are conducting phone interviews in your office – even just wearing smart clothes and being in your working environment tricks your mind into believing that the interview is what you are used to and puts you in a business mindset.
It’s important to make sure your attention is focused on your interviewee, even when doing a telephone interview, as you want to be able to pick up on all the information they give you. Don’t let yourself get distracted by things on your desk or computer – avoid letting yourself look through social media, reply to emails or read through that document on your desk! If you’re interviewing over the phone because you’re working from home – try and make sure you’re in a quiet and calm space where you’re able to talk freely and hear your interviewee. If you let your attention wander, you’re not listening as much to what your interviewee is saying, and also not concentrating enough on your own comments and questions and the quality of the interview won’t be as high as it should be. Remember that any telephone interview should still be professional and be taken seriously, so get rid of those distractions and focus!
If you’re doing phone interviews to narrow down a large pool of candidates, you might be doing multiple in a day, and in this case, you need to make sure you know your timings, and that you know who it is that you’re talking to in each interview. One phone interview tip is to use apps such as Calendly and Google Calendars, which are good for keeping all your appointments in one place, as well as sending invitations, replies, and automatic reminders to all the people involved.
While it’s important to use notes about the candidate to refer to in the interview itself, it’s also a good idea during a phone interview to take notes about the candidate’s answers. Even during an in-person interview, you want to be noting down what the candidate is saying in order to remember it well and to compare candidates after the interviews have taken place, and telephone interviews are no different. Even if your schedule is full or you have back-to-back interviews, taking notes means that you can go back at the end of your day and more effectively remember what was said.
Ask Unexpected Questions
The idea with this phone interview tip is not to trip up candidates or catch them out and embarrass them, but to make sure that they’re genuinely prepared and well-suited for the job. As mentioned before, certain candidates might take the opportunity, while interviewing remotely, to read previously prepared information, which means that some of what they’re saying is not genuine responses. Asking them unexpected questions tests their ability to think on the spot.
Don’t Treat it Differently
Another phone interview strategy to remember is that you can ask almost all of the same questions that you would usually in any interview, and you can treat it in a similar manner. Like we’ve already mentioned, it’s important to treat it just as seriously as you would any other interview, and the same applies to the content of the interview itself. It’s good phone interview practice to introduce yourself at the beginning of the call and ask the candidate to tell you a bit about themselves, before carrying on into the interview as normal. This video contains a few more phone interview strategies to use in your interview and explains how you can also use questionnaires with phone interview candidates. You’re still likely wanting to get the same information out of each candidate as you would in an in-person interview, so there’s no point in trying to change the questions that you would ask unless they would require visual aids or wouldn’t work the same.
Phone interviews require more adaptability than in-person interviews as they’re different and less common than in-person interviews that we’re more used to. There can be problems with technology and connections and it’s always good to have a backup time arranged or be flexible to last-minute cancellations in these cases.
Are Phone Interviews Effective for Your Business?
All in all, telephone interviews shouldn’t be too scary, or even too different from in-person interviews. It’s important to stay flexible and adaptable and remember that there might be problems with them, just in slightly different ways than conventional interviews. They have a range of pros and cons and are often more convenient for a lot of companies and candidates, as they’re less time-consuming and can be over quickly without traveling. They’re especially great for narrowing down a candidate pool, and in most cases, interview meetings face-to-face are still useful, however, phone interviews are a great example of ways that we’re using technology in order to widen our search for the best candidates, and they can help recruiters get the best possible employee for the job.