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The recruiting team at Social Patient asks, “Do you have any good resources to prepare us for phone interviews?”

First, notice your own attitude toward the candidate. Maintain a conscious balance between selling and screening. So you are excited to have a candidate who looks good on paper and maybe was referred by someone you trust. Therefore, you are tempted to just sell, invite and pitch why this job, for your organization, in this location is the best thing for this prospective employee.  Yes, do that but also…

Balance selling with intentional screening.  Decide whether this candidate is worth spending 4 to 8 hours of staff time face-to-face interviewing. It is a big investment. (This is why sometimes the step between a phone interview and an on-site interview can be some kind of skill and/or assessment.)

Second, so here’s an outline for the call.  Aim for 15 to 30 minutes. Don’t forget, even if you are end up not being interested in this candidate, they might be friends or co-workers with the person you later find and are very interested in considering.

  • [Restate your name, org name and the job title; confirm it is still an ok time to talk].
  • [Say enough to refresh their memory on what the position and company are about; don’t assume they know.]
  • How did you learn about this position? Why are you looking? [You should understand their motivation and why they are looking.]
  • In one minute or less, walk me through your current responsibilities. [Then ask several follow up questions as needed to assess whether the person has the experience and skills expected.]
  • What are you looking for in your next position/employer?
  • What sets you apart from other people doing the same kind of work? [Person ought to be able to articulate some of the value she or she brings to your organization; typically, if they can’t answer or answer well on the phone, they’ll never be able to do it once hired.]
  • What do/did you like about the kind of work you are doing now / did in your last job?  Dislike?
  • In your areas of strength [such as, in your selling experience…], why are you successful?
  • If you continue further in the selection process, I will at that time ask for your permission to call your manager.  What is her or his first name?  When I do call, what will [name] tell me about you?
  • What is your current [or most recent] total compensation, including overtime, bonuses, etc.?  What do you expect to make in your next role?
  • What else should I know or would you like to know? [If you are very sold on the candidate, you can go into more detail at this point.]
  • [Discuss next steps or wait for candidate to ask what they are.]
  • [Thank candidate for their interest, time and openness.]

Third, remember you are looking to uncover a few basic fundamentals:

  • Does the candidate have the skills that you’re looking for?
  • Does the candidate speak and communicate effectively?
  • Are you getting straight, honest and engaging dialogue?
  • Do you sense a healthy self-esteem and positive spirit … confidence that is paired with enough humility to work with your team, clients and vendors?

Thanks to Social Patient for the question!

Scott Trossen, SPARK Talent Director,