4 Essential Elements of a Productive Phone Interview

Keely Teynor

A business owner conducting a productive phone interview

For a variety of reasons, top candidates may not be able to meet in person for interviews or maybe you are hiring for a remote position and finding the best candidates means looking past the confines of physical walls. Conducting a productive phone interview can be a daunting prospect, because so much of what makes a good interview in person – like taking a tour, introducing the candidate to the team, showing the culture of the company, etc – is complicated by, if able to be done at all, remote interviewing.

We know that attracting top talent in this employment landscape requires a positive hiring experience from A to Z, so our team has put together a phone interview cheat sheet of essentials to get you prepared.

Refine your process

Interviewing on it’s own can be stressful, much less by adding the complication of interviewing remotely. Don’t try to wing it, make a strong plan. We know that in the hiring process, a candidate places a lot of weight on the initial meeting and you do not want to come off as unprepared, uninterested, or lazy.

  • How is your interview structured?

An interview blueprint can help you make sure that you cover everything relevant about the company and get the information from the candidate that you need. In the moment it can be easy to forget something small, that can become a problem later on.

  • What is your elevator pitch for your business?

Good candidates will do research ahead of time to find out information, facts, and figures about the business, however no one knows your business like you do. You do not want to fumble over this one, so make sure that you know what you want to say beforehand. Especially great if you can give the candidate specifics of the department or job that they would be stepping into. If you are conducting an accounting phone interview, let the candidate know the number of accounts they are expected to track or the number of employees whose payroll they will be processing. Also make sure that it is concise and to the point, everything feels a bit longer when you are on the phone.

  • Which questions will you ask and what is your objective?

Phone interview questions and answers are not so very different from in person, but you cannot observe body language and it can be easier to be distracted during a particularly long answer. Make sure that you have several points of focus sketched out ahead of time to see how many the candidate hits in their answers. Consider creating behavior based interview questions that will help you determine if they have the right temperament to work remotely or at your office.

  • How can you build a picture of company culture?

You cannot take a phone candidate on a physical tour of the company, so plan out how you can paint a picture of the work, the company, and the benefits over the phone. If the candidate has brought up specific things that they are looking for, or are excited about, in their cover letter then be sure to have a note so that you can address that candidate’s points of interest.

Get the Right Tools

Nothing sets the tone quite like a technical hiccup in your plan. Make sure that your phone is charged if using a cell phone or that your line is working for a landline. Are you taking notes? Make sure that whatever you are using for note taking, be it a pen or a computer, are nearby, on, and functional. Small checks like this will save you stress when the actual interview begins.

  • Do you have everything you need?

Feeling overly prepared with a checklist is never a bad idea. Being late for a phone interview because you cannot find the number or asking the candidate to delay an answer while you look for a pen is not going to be your best foot forward.

  • Have plan B ready

Be sure that you have their phone number in an easily accessible place, just in case you need to switch phones due to a technical issue. Having a plan B on hand can turn a technical failure from a high stress situation to an example of how you can pivot successfully.

Learn Remote Interview Etiquette

We are all aware of the type of business etiquette when meeting someone face-to-face for the first time and having a phone interview requires a few extra steps. Just because you cannot see the candidate does not mean you do not have staging responsibilities before and during the interview. It can be very easy to be distracted while on the phone, that distraction can usually be felt by the person on the other end of the line and no one likes to be answering questions during a phone interview only to realize the other person is not listening.

  • Create a quiet space free of distraction – Try locking the door if possible and turn off any audible alerts.
  • Communicate – time & date, who will call who, who will be on that call, phone numbers, etc.
  • Be on time – Just like if the candidate isn’t ready for the interview, not respecting their time could set off a bad tone for the rest off the interview
  • Be Aware of  your tone of voice – Often times, this is all the candidate will have to gauge how the interview is going and the connection they’re making.
  • Active listening the best interviews are two way street conversation

Keep Up the Momentum

No one likes to be left on unsure ground without direction. While the initial communication is an important part of a candidate building an impression of the company, so too is how they are treated after the interview. While you may not be able to tell them immediately after that they are hired, you can give them a timeline and a sense of what comes after you hang up for the interview.

  • Next steps

Should the candidate expect a follow up email or complete a test task? Will a link or questionnaire be emailed to them? Don’t leave your candidate hanging on what comes next.

  • Communicate

Regardless of if you hire this candidate or that one, each of them deserves a communication from you if they are not selected and why. Not only will it give the candidate closure on this opportunity, but it can help them feel that their time was not wasted and no one has had a good opinion of a company that left a decision up in the air. If you have given the candidates a timeline of when they will hear a decision, be sure to stick to the timeline.