Pre-interview phone calls: 6 do’s and don’ts

Telephone interviews should be more than just perfunctory chats that break the ice before the face-to-face interview. Done right, they can help supervisors save hiring time, screen out obviously bad fits and provide valuable insights into candidates’ skills and values. Here are six tips for your pre-interview calls:

1. Don’t wing it. Before the interview, read the applicant’s résumé thoroughly and prepare a list of questions.

2. Don’t use a speakerphone unless several people conduct the phone interview. It’s impolite and can turn off a candidate.

3. Don’t throw softballs. Ask the same types of specific and challenging questions you’d ask in person. Examples: On your last job, how many times did you exceed your sales quota and by how much? Tell me about your familiarity with different types of software.

That sets the tone for the face-to-face interview … if the person advances.

Hiring for Attitude D

4. Do make notes about tone, not just words. Note whether the person sounds articulate, nervous, confident, authoritative or intelligent. Listen to the pitch, quality and speech tempo to pick up clues about the candidate’s attitude, energy level and enthusiasm.

5. Do listen for clichés, pauses and phrases the candidate uses to stall for time before answering. Such verbal crutches can indicate lack of preparedness or knowledge.

6. Do be on the lookout for candidates who try to control the interview by bragging about their strengths or focusing on certain issues. It’s easier for them to do that in phone interviews. To regain control, ask specific questions that require thoughtful explanations, such as, “What can you contribute to our organization that you think we don’t already have?”