For reasons that will be obvious to most HR professionals, conducting phone interviews remotely has become more common place in recent years. While it may not provide you with quite the same sense of the person as a face-to-face interview, remote interactions can still carry value.
Automation through LinkedIn or other business-centric sites can be a great option for initially connecting with potential candidates, but it can only take you so far. Understanding who these individuals are is still a largely human endeavour.
At the end of the day, positions need to be filled. You can write the best job advert, but if you can’t trust the process to find the right respondents to fill that role, you may as well not bother.
As human beings, however, we communicate for the most part through body language and non-verbal signals. When this is taken away, perhaps through a phone interview, it can make the interview itself all the more tricky to get right.
But it is possible…
Why Conduct Interviews via Phone?
With this being the case, you may be wondering what the point of using phones as an interview facilitator is. Well, here we find advantages to counteract the disadvantages.
Taking away visual cues allows for a less distracting experience. You can judge someone on the content of their answers alone instead of less important factors surrounding their appearance or mannerisms, which might be influenced by interview-day nerves.
As a screening device, phone calls using small business phone systems also work well. You can still gather the information needed to develop a basic understanding of who the interviewee is and whether they should progress, but at the same time, you’re leveling the playing field as unconscious biases around someone’s appearance aren’t influencing the outcome.
How to Conduct a Phone Interview?
Now, let’s take a look at how you can go about making telephone interviews the most effective they can be.
“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”, or so the age-old adage goes. From process mapping to interviews, there are very few sayings that hold more truth in the world of business. Arriving on a call with a candidate without knowing their details or the details of the job creates a sense of immense unprofessionalism.
When this happens, the better candidates may decide that your organization isn’t for them. Failing to prepare for interviews can thus lead to substandard outcomes and a failure to optimize your talent pool.
2. Be Transparent
No one likes to second guess themselves, especially in an interview. Conducting questioning in a way that feels transparent and less like a way to catch someone out often results in you getting a better idea of who they are.
You can begin manifesting this transparency even in the pre-interview stage. Relaying information about how it will be conducted – via video call or fixed phone number, for example – and providing a summary of what will be discussed is a great way to put candidates at ease.
If your questioning and conversation around the advertised role and the company more widely is also transparent, candidates will be less guarded. The whole point of an interview is to ascertain someone’s suitability for the role. You can’t do this unless they feel comfortable engaging as the most honest version of themselves.
3. Choose Quiet Surroundings
This is less to do with the content of the interview itself and more to do with things that can make the process frustrating. Setting up shop in a busy, loud environment can lead to miscommunications and distractions for you and the interviewee.
When this occurs, the accuracy of the information you’re given can be diminished in all sorts of ways. Setting up in a quiet space, free from potential disruption, is a simple but effective step to make the virtual phone interview process more effective.
4. Avoid “Overtalking”
As we’ve said previously, the whole point of holding a phone interview is to understand who the candidate is and their suitability for the role. It’s difficult to do this if you’re the one spending most of the time talking.
Not only does this mean they have less opportunity to discuss themselves, but it can result in you asking leading questions. When this happens, the answers the interviewee gives will have been influenced by your verbiage in a way that could lead them to represent themselves less authentically.
5. Use a Checklist
There’s no worse feeling than getting to the end of a task – regardless of what it is – and discovering you’ve missed something. Doing this in an interview can be as costly as it is embarrassing. Having to get back in contact with an interviewee not only creates an air of unprofessionalism but can delay the process too.
Using a checklist of points you want to hit in the phone interview and not wrapping up until they’re ticked off is a simple way of avoiding this. It also means that if you’re interviewing many candidates, the playing field is level as everyone has the chance to respond to the same questions.
6. Always Plan for Surprises
If you’re the kind of person who thinks about a conversation before they have one, consider this question for a second. How often, in reality, do chats occur in the manner you expect or plan for? The answer to that question is rarely.
As this is often the case in conversations, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s the same for interviews. While you can’t rehearse or production test these events, you can allow for variables.
Allowing time for any surprises that might crop up or discussions that veer off course means you won’t finish the interview without covering the necessary ground. While you may take a detour along the way, you’ll still find your way back to the path you’re meant to be following.
7. Avoid Food & Drink
It’s a simple one, but eating or drinking during a phone interview is a massive no-no. In-person or video interviews have more leeway. Whilst we wouldn’t advise working your way through a three-course meal, there’s a chance you will need a drink from time to time. You can get away with it without distracting a candidate when they can see you.
When it’s a case of hearing you only, this can prove wholly more disruptive. So, make sure you’ve had something to eat and drink before your call if you’re likely to get hungry or thirsty during it.
In Final Words
Throughout this article, we’ve taken a look at what phone interviews are, when you’d use them, and why. We’ve also laid out some tips to tell you how to make these as successful as possible.
There are likely more things you need to think about to execute a successful phone interview. Using these tips as a basic foundation means you won’t go too far wrong though.
Richard Conn – Senior Director, Demand Generation, 8×8</stron g>
Richard Conn is the Senior Director for Demand Generation at 8×8, a leading cloud PBX phone system with integrated contact center, voice, video, and chat functionality. Richard is an analytical & results-driven digital marketing leader with a track record of achieving major ROI improvements in fast-paced, competitive B2B environments. Here is his LinkedIn.