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Seven tips for successful phone interviews

By Aaron Green, 03/1972008

An initial phone interview saves time for both hiring managers and candidates. It can also be used to screen out candidates not appropriate for an in-person interview.

To get the most out of your phone interviews, follow these seven tips:

1. Make a good first impression

Strive to be as professional on the phone as you would be in person. Hiring managers can sometimes let their guard down when it comes to phone interviews by missing scheduled call times, for example, by not being prepared, or by allowing interruptions while they are on the phone. It happens much more often than it should. Strive to treat phone interviews as importantly as you would an in-person interview.

2. Give unenthusiastic but qualified candidates a second chance

Let's say you find a candidate's resume online. When you call, they seem distracted or not very excited about the position. Don't rule them out just yet, though. You don't know what the candidate is doing at the time of your call and it may not be a representative test of their interest level. You may have called their cell phone ten minutes before they need to go to another job interview, or maybe they are in the middle of making lunch for their children. Give them a second chance if they are qualified.

If you have a difficult position to fill, the key is to take the next step and invite the qualified candidate for a face-to-face interview or even schedule another phone interview.

To hire the best candidates, it pays to give them a chance to do research on your organization and develop their enthusiasm.

3. Consider all of your organization's hiring needs

During a phone interview it may become clear that a candidate does not have the right experience for the position you are discussing. However, they might be right in another role. Being familiar with all of your organization's open positions provides you with more opportunities to bring on quality hires.

4. Be patient with applicants who speak English as a second language

Many positions don't require perfect English language skills. Candidates who speak English as a second language continue to make up a greater percentage of the workforce. You don't want to be too quick to rule out candidates who don't speak English well.

Consider that a phone interview might not provide you with a fair assessment of a candidate's communication abilities. For instance, eye contact and body language can sometimes make up for sub-par language skills. I suggest you consider giving such candidates a chance to impress you in person.

5. Cue up the in-person interview

Remember that a phone interview is just one part of the overall recruiting process and is not meant to take the place of the in-person meeting. Just like a good billiards player who sets up the next shot while making the current shot, leave in reserve some good discussion items to cover when you meet face-to-face.

6. Leave the door open and leave them happy

If a good candidate is not right for the particular job opening you have at the time you speak with them, let them know you are impressed with their skills and would like to keep them in mind for the future. It even makes sense to do this with under-qualified candidates. In many cases, the person you reject today might find a position and gain experience that makes them qualified in the future.

7. Get referrals

Those of us in the hiring business know that we should always ask for referrals. Have the discipline to do it every time.

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