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How to Conduct a Proper Phone Interview – Part 1 of 3


A phone conversation is your first opportunity to converse with job candidates. It’s a crucial part of the hiring process. Here’s how to conduct a phone interview…

Image of a businesswoman conducting a phone interview

Knowing how to conduct a phone interview well will help you be successful in your hiring process, which will set your organization up for success with the right employees. Conducting a phone interview with a potential candidate is an absolute necessity. Why? In 15-minutes you can make critical screening decisions without wasting much of your time or theirs.

Phone interviews can reveal an enormous amount of information about potential candidates. Not only will you learn more about their background, employment history, intentions, and skills, but you’ll also get the opportunity to pick up on many more important factors. You can get a strong read on a person’s ability to communicate  without the distraction of face-to-face pressure. You are able to determine if the candidate sounds positive and enthusiastic. It’s possible to quickly assess if they have a grasp of vocabulary and can use words to effectively express their viewpoint.

Since this is  your first encounter with these people  and there is a lot to learn in a short period of time, you need to know how to conduct a phone interview properly.  This blog is a three-part series on how to do just that and get the most out of your phone interviews.

Part 1 – Prepare your list and your conversation goals
The first thing you should do with a candidate is conduct a short 15-minute phone interview. You need to size up the candidate and listen for the big issues that can quickly disqualify a person. To accurately assess this, you must prepare a list of questions in advance that will help you pin-point what you are looking for. Remember, your first phone meeting should not be a long, drawn out event. There will always be time for a longer conversation later in the interview process.

Carefully review the candidate’s resume in advance and look for any items on the resume that prompt questions or don’t make sense. Have a copy of the resume nearby while you are talking with the candidate. Then, schedule the call and conduct the initial pre-screening interview. Here is a list of example questions that can be used when talking to candidates:

  1. What puts you on the job market today?
  2. What have you enjoyed about/learned from your previous jobs?
  3. What do you know about our company?
  4. Why are you interested in the open position?
  5. Describe the top 3 qualities you possess that make you an ideal candidate.
  6. What does (Integrity, Accountability, Etc.) mean to you?
  7. How can you convince me that you are a team player?
  8. What do you hope to achieve in a roll like this?

Of course, you can customize your list of questions. Focus on having less than 10 because your conversation may move in a variety of directions prompting additional questions. Some goals, for example, in using this list are to determine:

  1. Why are they looking for a job? Don’t trust what is on the resume. Start right off by asking “What puts you out there today” and see if you get a real response.
  2. Actual interest in the position – Are they just looking for a job or do they want to work for you specifically? Did this person research my company prior to our meeting? Do they understand what we do?
  3. Why us? Why are you really interested in what we do? Is this really what you do for a living?
  4. What motivates you? It’s good to know why  they would be good at what they do.
  5. Where do your values lie? What are your values and can you explain what they mean to you? Are they even meaningful at all?
  6. Prove it. Everyone is a team player, right? So why is YOUR candidate a team player? How can they prove it and do so quickly? Don’t tell them how to answer this question – find out if they can answer it on their own.
  7. Where are you going? If you join us, to what level will you take your job?

Stick to your time limit of 15 minutes. If you need 20, then stick to that. Prior to your conversation, tell the prospect they have only 15 or 20 minutes to get through your questions. It’s only fair that they know the situation. This will help you determine if they can be succinct in their responses. That’s important because many candidates like to just ramble on and on. They think that 5-minute long answers are a good thing. They are not – especially during a short meeting. Your candidate must be able to respect the time limit and quickly, effectively reply to your questions.

Now that you’ve prepared to conduct a good phone interview, check out the next two parts in this series…

How to Conduct a Proper Phone Interview – Part 2 of 3 

How to Conduct a Proper Phone Interview – Part 3 of 3



This entry was posted in Business, Human Resources, Management and tagged , , , by Brian Gabriel. Bookmark the permalink.

About Brian Gabriel

As the Call Center Manager for Sound Telecom, Brian is responsible for overseeing the daily operations and long term success of the company while managing a variety of inbound customer support programs. He also has a hand in taking care of the Solaxis services division. Prior to joining Sound Telecom, Mr. Gabriel held management positions with several prominent Internet Services companies including and Brian started his career in advertising and sales before moving to Washington State. He joined AEI Music in 1995 and supervised their international customer service department and technical support call centers. Brian received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism with a minor in Spanish languages from San Diego State University. Brian teaches adult education at his church and actively supports Christian ministries.