How to Conduct an Interview: Over the Phone

By Adam Robinson,
November 27, 2012

It’s often the first impression you will have of the candidate and for some reason it’s the most overlooked interview in the entire hiring process. The phone interview can tell a hiring manager a lot about the candidate but many interviewers don’t take full advantage of this necessary hiring tool. 

Most hiring managers are unsure of what questions to ask. Others don’t have time to focus on a phone interview. This could be the biggest mistake in your hiring process and could lead you to a road of bad hires (which we all know are bumpy!) So whether you are interviewing for a sales position or a new CEO, telephone interview success comes from 3 necessary steps to follow while conducting the interview. 

1. Keep Your Mouth Shut!

Sorry if that comes off a little harsh… But the reality of it is, many interviewers like to use the phone interview as a way to tell the candidate all about the job and the company. Hello! The candidate knows about the job and the company, they applied for the position remember? Your main goal in this interview is to gauge whether or not you should bring this candidate in for an in-person interview, and by talking their ear off the entire time, you are not getting a good feel of the person’s experience and attitude. 

Use the 90/10 rule. You should only be talking 10% of the time which is the introduction, the actual asking of the questions, and the wrap up. The candidate should be talking 90% of the time which should give you enough information to decide whether or not to bring them in for an in-person interview.

2. Ask About Their Career Plan

Seems weird right? Asking a candidate about their future career plans seems a little premature for a phone interview however it serves two insightful purposes. The first is that it will get the candidate to open up and begin to relax and talk about where they see themselves. 

The second is that it will not necessarily be something the candidate has prepared for and you will not get those cookie-cutter answers that candidates think you want to hear. Instead you will get a good idea of what the candidate is looking for and you can make the judgment call of “is my company a good fit for this candidate,” when deciding the next steps.

3. Look for Red Flags

Like we said earlier, the main goal of the phone interview is to determine if the candidate should come in for an in-person interview. When you conduct a phone interview you should keep a look out for any red flags that would cause you to not move forward in the hiring process of that candidate.

Red flags will narrow the talent pool and reduce your risk of making a bad hire. The most common red flag seen during a phone interview is during the job history discussion when a candidate “forgets” the name of their former boss or can’t describe in detail their experiences.

Hireology CEO, Adam Robinson, wrote a blog post about what to look for when conducting a phone interview with a sales candidate. It’s worth the read if you are hiring in sales!

In conclusion, the phone interview is a crucial first step in the hiring process. Although often overlooked, it can give you the most insight about a candidate and whether or not they should be brought in for an in-person interview. Don’t forget to follow these 3 steps during all of your phone interviews for maximum success!

Need phone interview guides? Try a free 2 week trial of Hireology, no credit card needed!

Make sure you don’t ask any of these common illegal interview questions! 

About the Author

Adam co-founded Hireology with the mission to help growing companies make better hiring decisions through data and better technology. Adam is passionate about entrepreneurship, donating time to a number of organizations that support the entrepreneurial cause. Adam completed his undergraduate study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and received his MBA from DePaul University in Chicago, IL.

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