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7 tips to help you conduct an effective telephone screen

One of the most painful parts of the recruitment process for employers can often be sifting through dozens or even hundreds of CVs to get a handful of applications which best meet hiring criteria. 

This process is often time consuming, repetitive and at times confusing when new skill sets tempt us to change our original hiring criteria.

The typical course of action is usually to be call the most appealing applicants (based on their CVs), make sure they sound OK on the phone and ask them in for an interview. It is often not until after the initial interview is over, do employers wish they had conducted a formal telephone screen with structured questions, as a preliminary step to conducting a face to face interview.

Conducting an effective, structured phone interview that will give you an initial impression of the candidate, help you to avoid these timely and costly situations and contribute to a more efficient and virtuous recruitment outcome:

  1. Use the job advertisement in conjunction with the job description to highlight the most important elements of the role, which are necessary for the candidate to possess. Formulate these into questions in the body of interview. Eg. you may ask a Junior Tax Accountant to talk you through the process of working with a client to lodge a tax return.
  2. Include a question about salary. Ask the candidate what they are currently earning and what their salary expectations are for this role. This way you can clear up misunderstandings around salary or end the screen if there is a large gap in expectations.
  3. Don’t give away too much information. It is important to save your explanations about your organisation or the role until the end so that you can hear the candidate’s understanding of the role and responsibilities and so that they don’t contort their answers to give you what they think, you want to hear.
  4. Ask them to briefly give you an explanation of their relevant employment history as you have their resume at hand or on screen. Do not simply take their word for it. Candidates can often exaggerate their experience on their Resume. When you ask them about it, quite often you will be able to gauge how strong and relevant their experience actually is by making them explain their responsibilities in greater depth and detail.
  5. Ask open ended questions. Judge the candidate not only on their answers but their ability to think on the spot and respond to your question. While communication skills aren’t always the most important aspect of the job and you may not receive a thesis-length response, it is important to gauge if the candidate is confident in their own knowledge. Remember: it is not a black and white test, so try not to lead them to the answer that you want to hear.
  6. Be consistent. Ask every candidate you speak to the same questions. This brings structure to the telephone screen and allows you to compare candidates more effectively when reflecting.
  7. It’s OK to probe. Sometimes we can gauge that a candidate knows what they are trying to say, but due to nerves are having trouble formulating responses over the phone. Don’t forget that unlike a face-to-face interview, you often have caught the candidate off-guard and they can be distracted. Without telling them what you want to hear, you may try techniques such as asking the question in a more simple way, or reassuring them to take their time and that you understand you have put them on the spot. We want to bring out the best in the candidates, as we want to know what they truly have to offer and do not want to miss out on an opportunity to hire the best candidate!

Recruitment Coach is a unique coaching and consulting firm for small-medium businesses, specialising in simple, effective human resources strategies. Contact us for more information.

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Paula Maidens

Paula Maidens

Paula Maidens is Managing Director of <a href="http://www.recruitmentcoach.com.au/">Recruitment Coach,</a> a unique HR coaching and consulting firm for small-medium businesses.

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