9 Phone Interview Tips for Employers

The phone interview is often the first step in the interview process, and serves to accomplish two goals. First, to determine whether the candidate should be brought in for an onsite interview. Second, to build a relationship with the candidate so they stay engaged in your recruitment process. Interviewing is a two-way street, and it’s important to determine mutual fit at each touchpoint. If you want to optimize the beginning of your interview process, try implementing some of these phone interview tips, afterwards, check out this list of phone interview questions to ask.

Phone Interview Tips

Tip 1: Build a structured interview process before conducting an interview

At the beginning of your recruitment process, hold a kickoff meeting with your hiring manager to determine the must-have skills and values you want to see in a candidate. Use those to create questions that your interviewer will ask each candidate during the phone interview. Doing so will ensure that you evaluate all candidates on the same criteria.

Tip 2: Be flexible with scheduling the phone interview

When scheduling interviews, it’s best to ask the candidate for their availability first, and work around it. This could mean being available during the lunch hour, or outside of normal business hours. Your candidates are just as busy as you are—if not more, because they’re juggling their current job with the job seeking process. Make it easy for them to schedule a time to chat.

Tip 3: Eliminate the phone interview, if needed

If a top-tier candidate isn’t sure about engaging in your interview process, offer to set them up for a quick phone call or coffee with the hiring manager instead. It will essentially serve the same purpose, but the candidate may be more likely to accept a meeting with someone who speaks their language.

Tip 4: Interview tips for your interviewers

Consider the scores your interviewer gives to each candidate, and whether they’re consistent with onsite interview scores. Also consider whether interviewers give high scores to candidates who were eventually hired, or low scores to those who were not. Some interviewers may be better equipped to assess candidates at the phone interview stage, while others may benefit from some coaching to help them better identify strong candidates.

Tip 5: Be prepared for phone interviews

Schedule time before each phone interview for the interviewer to review the candidate’s resume, the job description, and the questions you would like to ask. This provides a buffer to ensure the interviewer on time and prepared, so that each candidate can feel valued and leaves with a positive impression of your organization.

Tip 6: Learn your candidate’s motivations early

The phone interview is the perfect time to learn your candidate’s motivations for considering a new role. You can then use this information throughout the rest of your recruitment process to sell them on your opportunity. You may even find that their motivations align with your core values, giving you a better idea of culture-fit.

Tip 7: Give candidates the opportunity to ask questions

Candidates are screening you just as much as you are screening them, and it’s in your best interest to ensure a mutual fit. Allow the candidate to ask their own questions throughout the phone interview, and leave time at the end of the call for anything else they would like to ask. You may even glean some additional information about the candidate from what they ask, so pay attention to the things they’re interested in speaking about.

Tip 8: Let them know about next steps after the phone interview

At the end of the phone interview, let the candidate know what the rest of your recruitment process will look like, and when they can expect to hear back. Then follow through on what you say—even if it’s just a quick note to let them know you’ll need more time to make a decision.

Tip 9: Gather internal feedback quickly

Block 15 minutes on the interviewer’s calendar after the interview to get feedback while it’s still fresh in their mind. Then make sure the hiring manager reviews it in a timely fashion so they can weigh in on which candidates they’d like to see at the onsite. Gathering feedback quickly will keep your process moving along, so you can fill your role sooner and mitigate the risk of losing candidates to your competitors.

Phone interview tips: Conclusion

The phone interview is intended is to shortlist the right candidates for your opportunity, and engage them in your hiring process. It’s important to gauge the candidate for both skill and culture-fit, while also allowing the candidate to determine if your opportunity is the right one for them. When many companies are treating the phone interview as an administrative task, your organization can appeal to top-tier candidates by conducting a stand-out phone interview.


For more tips on building a stand-out interview process, download our free eBook:

Top Interview Tips: The Employer’s Essential Handbook