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Home Questions for Top Job Candidates to Ask at a Phone Interview - Unified Career

Questions for Top Job Candidates to Ask at a Phone Interview - Unified Career

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You are a hiring manager and know the importance of a cover letter and a great resume. It is possible that they may not deliver the candidate you require, despite all their promises. This is the first round of vetting and will determine if you are able to narrow down the field and make a hire.

It is important to be efficient and strategic when making the initial phone call. Screening interview questions will ask about the candidate's education, hard skills, and certifications. While you are checking off the boxes, be mindful of the soft skills and the way the candidate presents themselves during the interview. You want to feel confident that a candidate is capable of performing the job, and that they will fit in with your organization culture.


At this stage, it is not necessary to ask in-depth questions or open-ended questions. A screening interview typically takes between 15 and 30 minutes. This interview is designed to narrow down your pool of potential candidates to those you are interested in formal interviews. This is when you can really dig in.


Here are some questions you can ask your phone interviewer during the first call. Also, there are tips on what to look out for (including red flags) and what to do next.


Plan the interview by phone

You should practice good manners when scheduling and conducting a telephone screen interview. Respect the interviewee's schedule and respect their time. Respect their availability for the call. Even if a candidate is working remotely, it's possible that they won't be available until after hours if they have a job.


Treat every candidate equally and approach each conversation as if it were your first. Ensure that you are fully engaged on every call. It can be difficult to do all that. When conducting phone screen interviews, it is easy to get bogged down in the details. If this sounds familiar, don't stack up the calls. If you are not in your office, set aside a time and a place where you can conduct the screening interview without distractions.


You're communicating with an external audience. An interview that is thoughtful, professional and thorough will help you build a good reputation for your company. A rushed process and a gruff approach won't be a good fit for your company. Remember that the top candidates will be evaluating you just as much as you. If they feel uncomfortable, some might decline to be invited to a formal interview.


Once you have settled on your shortlist of candidates, go through them again before scheduling calls. Next, create a list with questions for each interviewee to be asked by phone. When deciding who to hire, you want to be able to compare the talents.


Asking the right questions during a telephone interview is a great idea

The questions for the phone interview can be tailored to your industry and the job you are hiring. Consider the professional history of the candidate. While recent college graduates cannot refer to their career achievements, screening questions can be designed to allow candidates to draw from their past experience in class seminars and team projects as well as their volunteer work or self-taught skills. You can demonstrate leadership, industriousness and talent in many different ways.


Candidates with gaps in their work history (e.g., a parent returning to the workforce after having a child or an ex-worker two months following a layoff) will be given the same consideration.


1 - The basics

Start with questions that will make the job candidate feel comfortable. Keep it simple. Many people find screening interviews stressful. You'll see a better picture of their potential contributions if you start it easy.


Could you please tell me more about your past?

Are you looking for a job change?

Are you looking for a job?

What is the best time to start working?

TIP: Simple questions can help you decide whether or not to hire a candidate. Are they available for hire when you need them? If a candidate says they are unable to start a new job in a month, it is not going to work when you need someone right away.


2 - Salary expectations

Money is a sensitive topic that can be difficult to discuss. You want to find out if the salary expectations of the candidate are within the range of what you can offer.


What salary would you be happy to make in this job?

Do you have any particular benefits?

Is it a deal-breaker for you if you don't get _____ benefit or the salary you quoted?

TIP: Candidates are often reluctant to provide more than a range of salary at this stage. You can always revisit the subject of salary later if you are unsure if there is a financial fit. If you are concerned about the gap between the salary they expect and the budget you have in place, don't waste your time or the candidate's. Tell them the range and ask if they are still interested in the job.


3 - You are looking for a job

Your phone interview questions should be used to gauge interest and assess the candidate's skills before you discuss training. You can find out about candidates' interest in the job by asking them questions about their current role and why they are leaving it.


Why would you leave your job?

What attracted to you to apply for this job?

Please describe your current job responsibilities.

What drives you to do a job well?

TIP: Pay attention to workplace culture preferences. This includes interpersonal skills, problem solving skills, leadership qualities and other soft skills. For example, a candidate looking for greater challenges might be a good candidate to consider for a job that is more challenging than their current position.


4 - Information about the company

Candidates can't be expected to read the annual report of your company or have a history of the company. But anyone serious about the job will have done some research before going on the interview.


What attracted to you to our company?

What do you know about our services or products?

Are you a customer of our products and services?

TIP: Candidates who support the company's mission and are interested in its products can be a great asset. You want people who are passionate about the job and not just interested in the paycheck. The same goes for professionals who share a positive outlook on the company. This can be a key factor in employee retention.


5 - Resume details

This portion of the phone screen interview will take up most of your time. Ask the candidates about their goals and what they envision the company and themselves doing. Are they able to demonstrate the skills, knowledge and abilities you are looking for? Ask any questions about the resume and cover letters of job candidates.


Which skills have you just acquired or consolidated recently?

What are your skills to match this job?

What were you doing during the yearlong gap between your employment and your last employer?

Your internship at _____ gave you the experience you need to apply for this job. (If they are recent college graduates.

What questions can you ask me?

TIP: Allow the candidate to speak freely here. Allow them to complete their resume, including their work history, education, and training. If you require more information, ask for clarification.


Red flags for phone interviews

Always approach every phone screen interview with an open and positive mind. Consider the best candidates and their honesty and integrity. Keep in mind, however, that sometimes candidates might misrepresent their professional skills or background. Sometimes, they might not be able to accurately assess the impact they have had on a job or in their past. Assess the answers to your hiring questions, and listen for signs that they might not be a good fit for your company. These are potential red flags to look out for:


Lack of enthusiasm -- Does the candidate seem enthusiastic about the possibility of working for your company, or are they just going through the motions during the screening process? If you don't feel the love, bring it up. You can ask candidates to answer the following questions during a phone interview: "What excites and about this job?" "Why would you like to work at our company?"

No questions -- This is not a deal breaker. However, candidates should ask a few questions about the company, team or job towards the end of the interview. This can indicate not only their interest in the job but also their preparation for it. Search online for "What's a phone screening?" or "What's a phone screen interview" to find a lot more advice.

Distracted during an interview -- Sometimes life interrupts a phone screen interview. For example, a job candidate may be asked to answer an unexpected call at the door or to tend to a crying child or dog. Be patient and fair in such situations. If the candidate seems to be scrolling Instagram while they speak, it could indicate that they aren't really interested in you.

Negative remarks about former employers -- Interviewees who make negative comments about a former employer are not a good sign. This behavior is not professional and demonstrates poor diplomacy and tact -- essential soft skills for almost all roles. This can also indicate that the candidate does not take responsibility for their role in workplace dynamics.

Money -- Not everyone is comfortable talking about money early in the hiring process. Some people are laser-focused on the topic. It could be an indication that a candidate is primarily focused on the benefits and money, and not the job or company, if they keep returning to the subject of salary and benefits repeatedly during a screening interview.

Cursing -- Although cursing is not a common behavior in the workplace it's important to avoid using foul language when discussing job opportunities. Bad language in a phone screen interview can be another sign of unprofessionalism. It is also a sign that the candidate lacks soft skills and should be questioned about how they would present to clients or senior management.

Follow up on the phone conversation

After you have completed your phone screen interview, there are some difficult decisions you will need to make. Who among your top candidates should you invite to a more formal interview? No matter what the state of the current market for hiring, you must make the right decisions. You want the best talent in your team, not the rest.


The next steps in the hiring process will also need to be decided. You'll need to discuss with your team what type of questions you will ask, how many people you'll ask and who you'll be scoring candidates.


You must act quickly to schedule interviews with candidates and the hiring staff. Ask the candidates to provide work examples that you can examine in advance, if applicable to the job.


Even though the country is recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic you may still wish to schedule a remote interview. This is a new twist, and possibly a complication, to an already familiar part of the hiring process for most job seekers and managers. Although you might be familiar with the technology and the platform, they are often the same tools that you use every day at work. Interviewing on video can be very different from a face to face interview so it is a good idea to learn some tips about conducting remote interviews.


Do you feel like you are back at the beginning line? In a sense, it is. You will need to conduct a phone screening interview before you can begin what can be a labor-intensive and time-consuming hiring process. You will then dig deeper into the background of the candidates, evaluate (and possibly test their) skills, get feedback from staff who have met the finalists, and review references to determine the salary offer. You can be sure that the top candidates for the first round of formal interviews will have been interviewed by you if you conduct a thorough phone screening. This is a good place to begin.

Questions for Top Job Candidates to Ask at a Phone Interview - Unified Career
Yves Lafleur Jr

Yves Lafleur Jr is an administrator at Unified Career.

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