We’re still very much contending with social distancing right now, which has altered how the office environment works. With that comes shifts such as more working from home, and also different hiring practices. Conducting phone interviews in place of or before in-person interviews, is one way businesses are doing things differently. 
If you’re responsible for conducting phone interviews with potential job candidates, what should you know? How can you conduct the most insightful phone interview when you’re not face-to-face with a potential candidate? 
The following are some phone interview tips in the age of social distancing to consider applying. 


You should always prepare before any interview, and that certainly shouldn’t exclude a phone interview. You want to have specific questions that you’re ready to ask. These questions need to be expandable if necessary. Before you create the questions, go over the background of the candidate you’re going to speak to. 
If you’re interviewing with multiple people, you should aim to ask the same questions among all of them. This is how you’re going to be able to compare candidates best. 
Questions to consider asking include:

  • How did you find out about the position?
  • Why are you looking for a new job/role?
  • Tell me more about your career history and how it aligns with this role?
  • How would you rate your previous job performance?

Schedule Phone Interviews for the Same Day

If you’re going to have multiple interviews, it’s best to try and schedule them all on the same day if possible. This lets you compare candidates more because you’ll be fresh off other conversations. 

Facilitate Engaging Conversation

When you’re creating questions for a phone interview, you want to make sure that you’re framing them in a way that facilitates conversation. You want to get to know the candidate in an in-depth way. A good way to structure a phone interview is to start with questions aimed at getting to know the candidate less formally. 
Then, once you’ve broken the ice, you’ll need to ask screening questions to determine if the person is the logistical right fit for the position. For example, you’ll want to start by asking about things like whether or not they’ll travel if necessary if that’s relevant to the role. 
There may be people you can go ahead and screen out just based on the requirements of the role. Then, you can move into more technical questions. Aim to ask interview questions that are behavioral-based and go into the critical thinking skills a candidate may or may not have to make them a good fit for the job. 

Rely On In-Person Interview Strategies

Although an interview may be over the phone, you shouldn’t lose sight of in-person interviewing strategies. For example remember to use pauses strategically, which will allow you to see how the candidate might fill the space left by silence. Consider standing up when you’re doing phone interviews. That change in your body language could translate to a better interview. 
Listen for cues in the voice of the candidate while you’re interviewing them. For example, is their voice confident or shaky? Where do they hesitate?

Strategic Structure

When you’re mapping out how you’ll conduct a phone interview, think about basing it on the 80/20 rule. Under this rule, you spend 80% of the interview learning about the candidate and gauging if their skills are a good fit. Then, you spend 20% selling the job to the candidate. If you’re interviewing passive candidates who are going to be harder to sell on the job, then you should think about this in your interview strategy. 

Focus Only on the Interview

We’re all busy, and we’re all pushing to get as much done in a day as we can. Don’t let that ruin your phone interviews, however. Screening and interviewing candidates is important, so don’t give in to the temptation to multi-task. Do phone interviews somewhere quiet, and use a headset rather than a speakerphone if necessary. 
You should have your notes in front of you, and you might want to record answers as well. Phone interviews can be an art to learn how to conduct, but once you do they’re useful even outside of today’s social distancing environment. They’re a good way to screen candidates in a time-efficient way. 
Learning how to get to know candidates over the phone will create value for your organization, although it requires practice and a clear focus on strategy. 

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