Recruiters’ Best Phone Screening Techniques

Online Recruitment SystemPhone screening is, or should be, synonymous with recruiting. It saves you and the job candidate time, optimizes the interviewing and hiring process, and heightens the chance of a truly worthwhile hire.

If it often doesn’t seem that way, it is probably because you aren’t doing it correctly. It is far too easy to fall into the busy-recruiter rut and end up being the not-as-good-as-you-should-be-recruiter.

Read on to learn how to perfect your phone screening skills. Want to avoid costly mistakes with your hiring process? Want to save money and time? Check out our free online recruitment system. Recruiteze makes hiring easy!

Recruiters’ Best Phone Screening Techniques

The Purpose Of Quality Phone Screening

The phone screen helps you look into a job candidate without investing everyone’s time, and possibly money, in a face-to-face interview. With a little strategic questioning, you can instantly rule out a candidate or you might discover a candidate you were going to rule out is a perfect fit. Both outcomes can keep you from wasting time wading through unnecessary job candidates. You might also prepare candidates for the most rewarding in-person interview by discussing things they need to bring and setting up the most advantageous time for both of you to talk.

It is easy for busy recruiters to fall into the trap of skipping phone screenings altogether. Or they choose to do them, but make the poorly planned phone screens that provide little help and may actually run off qualified candidates. This may happen because you ask too few or too limited questions. It is also possible to come off as too pushy or too salesy. A good phone screening should be a strategic but comfortable discussion. You are trying to get a 3-dimensional image of the candidate’s skills, personality, and situation not simply checking requirements off of a list.

How To Prepare For The Phone Screening

Your first tendency is probably to acquire a name and number and just give a quick call to touch base. After all, you want to save time right? Wrong! A poorly planned phone screening is a waste of time, and wasting time is not saving it.

Take out a promising job candidate’s resume, social media profiles, etc. and look over them again. (Next time, consider making notes while you read the resume for the first time to save yourself double readings.) Have all relevant information on them at the ready to use while you’re on the phone so you can speak to them knowledgeably and professionally.

After looking over their resume, what questions do you have? No one can fit into a resume or even be aware of all the facts about them you may need to know to make a good hire. What mysteries lurk between the lines? Make a note to ask about these points in the phone interview. You may be able to weed out this candidate, jump them to the top of your consideration list, or realize this candidate you weren’t all that interested in is a surprisingly perfect fit.

Go over your must-haves and nice-to-haves. Compile questions intended to collect the first round of information on these points. This should cover things that influence what you will talk about during the office interview and help you decide how to prioritize your candidate meetings.

Plan how you will speak to them and how you will word your questions. Is your usual tactic one that would get you as the candidate to talk or make you want to work for a company? What techniques have worked for you in the past? Do you look at the screening process as cultivating job candidate relationships or quickly sifting through weeds? You want to be doing the former. What would you wish the phone screening process was like if it were your job on the line?

How To Do The Phone Screening

Have a clear goal in mind for this phone call. This isn’t just a vague preliminary call, it should serve a set purpose. You want to determine how excited to be about the candidate and set both of you up for success in the rest of the interview process. This can be done by getting answers to questions that were raised from the resume, determining the candidate’s enthusiasm for the position, and going over things you two should expect in the face-to-face interview.

Ask them now why they are interested in this position/company.

This one question can give you valuable insight into the candidate’s goals, mindset, interest level, and knowledge of the company. You want to know right away if you have a well-researched and/or enthusiastic candidate on the line. The company may be the client’s first choice among its competitors or the candidate may only be interested in a new job if it is at this particular company. Conversely, you may discover the client knows virtually nothing and is perfectly okay with that.

Find out about their schedule and job search.

Ask them about their schedule, when is their last day of work, when are they available, and what kind of travel preparations do they need to make. You will need to know all of these things to plan the next interview and get them ready to meet the hiring manager at the company. It will also give you a glimpse into their professionalism and eagerness for the job.

online recruitment systemUse the phone interview as a way to give a shot to candidates you were unsure about.

Some candidates may have certain criteria that you really like but their salary, location, or missing experience hinders your enthusiasm. A quick phone call might prove to you that these concerns were inaccurate because the candidate is much more flexible than you thought, they wish to relocate, or possess experience or a skill that they didn’t realize was relevant. Sometimes what a candidate lacks in professional skills or experience they can make up for in enthusiasm, non-work-related experience, or cultural fit.

Ask them about their current work situation.

Let them explain what they’re doing and how they feel about it. If they aren’t working, the same points apply. How do they use that time? What is their attitude? Do they have a hard-working, goal-oriented, and positive personality?

Ask open-ended questions that get the candidate talking, rather than yes or no questions so you check an item off your requirement list. When dealing with people, it is impossible for you to predict all of the unique ways a person’s skills, experience, and personality may come together to be a good or bad fit for a company. Don’t put such a fine point on your questions. Open a dialogue on points of interest and let the candidate fill in the blanks for you.

Make notes of your original impressions of the candidate to help you compare candidates later. You should also consider a universal scoring system to make comparing candidates as quick and fair as possible. Writing these impressions down right away is important so the information and interactions are fresh in your mind. You don’t want to try to go over this stuff again from memory a week down the road when you’re comparing them to a new candidate.

What Not To Do

Don’t limit yourself to checking off the bare minimum requirements, such as salary, experience, and education. Personality and cultural fit are just as important. You also never know how a person’s unique assets go together to create a perfect match. Get to know their combination of skills, experience, and personality.

Don’t get carried away trying to sell the job. Just think of it as a discussion; what the candidate wants and what the company wants. You can’t learn about the candidate and their fit for the job if you don’t listen to them and you might get so pushy about the job that you make the company look bad.

Don’t rush through it or give the job to someone else. It’s your skill, knowledge, and hard, or rather intelligent, work that will make this hire. Use all the things that make you a recruiter to their fullest.

Don’t go into it without a plan, though you might want to quickly get the formality of the phone interview out of the way so you can get onto bigger and better things. A good phone interview should have a specific purpose in the interviewing process, not just be one mindless step. Treat it like one.

Don’t get too specific with your questions or focus too much on yes or no questions. Think of your questions more as prompts. Rather than asking them outright what kind of management style they prefer, ask what motivates them and when they feel most productive and/or appreciated on the job.


The phone interview serves a unique and important purpose in hiring because it helps you prioritize and strategize your interviews. Go into each phone screening with this idea in mind so you avoid wasted face-to-face interviews, have more profitable face-to-face interviews, and get the best candidate in the role more quickly. There is one simple step to a good phone screening: do more prompting and listening than selling.

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