Phone interviews are a great way to connect with a candidate without the time and effort investment (on both sides!) that an in-person interview requires. If the position you’re hiring for includes time on the phone with those you serve – even better! You get to test drive the experience.
Below are a few best practices for nailing the phone interview process, whether you’re the interviewer or the interviewee:
Best practices for the interviewer
Utilize a scheduling app:
Let’s say you’re interested in a candidate’s resume or LinkedIn profile, OR they came highly recommended to you and you want to schedule a phone call to learn more. The most efficient way to find a mutually available time for a phone call to discuss the opportunity is to use a calendar scheduling app. Whether you utilize a tool like Calendly or an applicant tracking system with the functionality included, selecting available options from a calendar will save both you and the candidate from a lot of unnecessary back-and-forth.
One perk of a phone interview is that you can (and should) be in front of your computer during the call. Use a hands-free headphone option to free up your hands for typing notes. Have the candidate’s resume and LinkedIn profile, if available, pulled up and ready to view. Read the candidate’s resume before the call and have questions prepared. You want to leave the candidate with the impression that you were looking forward to speaking to them specifically! Additionally, use the candidate’s name to show your intentionality and demonstrate curiosity about their background and goals moving forward.
Sell your organization and the position:
When interviewing, start by introducing both yourself and the organization. Remember, the candidate may be applying for several jobs, and this phone call may be your only shot at really selling this opportunity. Provide context on your personal experience there. What are the goals of the organization? What is your mission and the “why” behind what you do? Regardless of what happens after the call, you want everyone you come in contact with to walk away with a favorable impression of your organization.
As the call comes to a close, set expectations for next steps. Did it go well? If so, express your desire to move forward with an in-person or video interview. Not so sure or need to speak to additional candidates before committing to a next step? In that case, give the candidate an appropriate timeline to hear back from you – and stick to it! As a general rule of thumb, if you’ve spoken to a candidate, you owe them at least an email letting them know you’re not moving forward with their candidacy for the position. We’re all busy, but the effort of closing the loop shows respect.
Best practices for the interviewee
When interviewing for a position, always start by looking at the company’s website and your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile, if available. Make a note of the company’s mission statement and values. If they’re shared online, they’re important to them! Does the organization have a presence on Glassdoor or social media? If so, review their online presence so you’re ready to ask genuine questions or pass along sincere praise. Specific questions like, “I see your organization recently had a volunteer day! How long have you been a part of that charitable cause?” can really open up the interviewer – and make a good first impression!
Ensure a clear connection:
Yes, a phone interview is more casual than an in-person interview, but it’s still an interview. Even if you feel like you can show who you are better in person than over the phone, this phone call will likely determine whether or not you’ll even get that opportunity. Take the time to make sure you have a quiet environment for the call with no distractions. If taking the call from a cell phone, check to make sure your connection is strong. And because this must be said – absolutely no eating or driving during the call! You truly want to give the conversation your full attention.
Enthusiasm is conveyed over the phone just as much as a lack of it is. That said, before the interview starts, make sure you’re wide awake and feel lively about the call. Smile and be excited about the company and the opportunity. At the end of the day, they want to give the position to someone who really wants it!
As the call is wrapping up, ask for next steps. It’s a great touch to ask for the interviewer’s email address if you don’t have it already so that you can follow up restating your interest and adding in specific feedback from your conversation. Send a LinkedIn connection request to your interviewer if not already connected. And if you haven’t heard back in two business days, it IS appropriate to follow up and restate your enthusiasm for the position, while also asking for a next step.
So there you have it. Tips for nailing your next phone interview – whether you’re the candidate or the person looking for the right candidate. And if you are the person looking for the right candidate, once you do find him or her, be sure to have a plan in place for onboarding them once they start.