7 Talent hunters share how they run effective candidate phone interviews

Phone interviews are a great way to get to know your candidates without having to go through the process of arranging meeting rooms or having to be all dressed up head to toe for the occasion.

However, running phone interviews that allow you to get all the details you need to make the right hiring decisions consistently can be tricky.

So, how can we do this? We spoke to some of your peers to find out. What do you think? Use the comment section to share your thoughts!

Jemma Greenwood
National Talent Acquisition Manager at The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood

The most important piece of advice I give my team about conducting phone interviews is to treat candidates the same way we treat customers.

This may be the first (and last) interaction a person ever has with our organisation and it is imperative that we leave a positive impression with everyone we meet.

Remember this is a two-way conversation and it is important to share information about the role and organisation in a way that is warm, welcoming, authentic and respectful.

The more we can share to help the candidate to relax, the more likely they are to be open with us about their past achievements and how they might be relevant for our organisation, which is ultimately what we want to achieve when conducting a phone interview.

Steven Burrows
Talent Acquisition Manager at Treasury Wine Estates

Keep it simple: my phone interviews normally go for about 15 to 20 minutes and are pretty straightforward, but I’m constantly assessing during the chat if the candidates are going to be the right fit.

For example, do they (verbally!) present with the right energy, drive and enthusiasm? Can they clearly and succinctly articulate their experience? Are they listening and responding to the question appropriately, or are they going off on a tangent?

And I always make sure I do a “pre-interview” call with my candidates, i.e. I will call them for an initial quick chat and if they are still suitable, I will book them in for a structured phone interview at another time.

Michael Virgo
Talent Acquisition Manager at Coles

I’d say there is one thing that provides a platform for the rest – structure.

Having a structure and an approach for your phone interviews will ensure you are driving a conversation that will give you all the information you need to make an informed decision on a candidate, without spending too much time on the call.

Having a planned structure and communicating that to a candidate also makes for a better candidate experience by giving them a clear understanding of what is going to be discussed and setting expectations which you can then deliver against.

All in all, having a structure for your phone interviews provides a stronger first impression to your candidates, keeps your conversations on track to make sure you gather all the information you need and ultimately leaves a candidate with confidence that you have a strong understanding of their skills and experience.

Mark Pearce
Senior Advisor – Talent Acquisition at
Water Corporation

Understanding what is important to someone in their next role is critical if we are to match them with the right opportunity. There are normally a few things that are important to people in their career/next job so it is important to understand these (and record them).

From those important matters, it is good to find out which of them is the MOST important. Naturally, you would follow this up with understanding why it is the most important.

This approach helps create a favourable impression to someone that you are interested in them. It means you can confidently relay this information to a client or your hiring manager. It also ensures hiring companies don’t waste their time interviewing people who they may not be able to employ.

It is basic, but it works.

Kyle Hurley
Talent Acquisition Manager at 7-Eleven

PLANNING is essential to these phone interviews to be effective.

Dedicate time prior to customise a ‘job specific’ phone screening guide with a small selection of ‘opened ended’ questions to assess previous experience, growth potential, level of interest and motivations while ensuring time for candidate questions.

This allows a fair and consistent platform for selection and reduces the potential for phone interviews to become ‘life story’ conversations.

You must not forget to allow time for candidate questions – candidates are validating your role and the company’s alignment for their careers too.

Cassandra Quak
Senior Manager, Talent at Mars

I believe in order to have a really effective phone screen, you need to do the following:

  1. Provide context first – let them know about the role and what is important. That way they can talk to what is most relevant and put their best experience forward. Always allow room for them to ask questions too.
  2. Be really prepared and know the candidate’s background, read the CV/cover letter beforehand so you can ask more specific questions and not what has already been covered.
  3. Always check it is a good time for them to talk openly and try to book the time in advance, so they have time to prepare and be ready for the chat.

Thalia Thomas
Product Owner – Future Finders at ANZ Bank

Be prepared.

I read the candidate’s CV/ LinkedIn profile/online posts and understand them and their career progression as best as I can, then take some time to validate my assumptions and ask any clarifying questions.

I can then use the rest of the time to probe into motivations (push/pull factors), remuneration, and current role, and answer any questions they have about my role and our organisation.

As a bonus, if I’m across their CV I can usually find a personal ice-breaker, which helps ease the candidate’s nerves and lets them represent themselves as accurately as possible.

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