The phone interview is quickly becoming the go-to method for a first round of interviews. Phone interviews are cheaper for everyone, faster to conduct, and don't waste as much of the time of the people who inevitably won't get called back for an in-person interview.
Like in-person interviews, though, phone interviews have their own procedure, style, and etiquette. If you've never conducted a phone interview before, or you're not sure if you've been doing it right all along, here are some tips to guide you:
1. Prepare a Script.
Because you're not meeting a candidate in person, you can read from your notes -- something that would be terribly awkward in a face-to-face interview. The Hireology Blog advises, "[Y]ou want to make sure that you follow the same script for every candidate so that you eliminate variability from your interview process." Unlike an in-person interview, you have way more control, so use it to your advantage.
2. Set a Finite Time Period.
In-person interviews seem to drag on because, hey, this person schlepped all the way down to your office to interview, so it seems rude to take to them for 15 minutes and then tell them to go away. On the phone, though, going on for too long is the rude thing to do. Limit your phone call to no more than 30 minutes.
3. Ask General Questions.
The phone interview, like any first-round interview, should just clarify a candidate's qualifications. By this time, you've read a bunch of resumes and flagged some that look promising -- but that doesn't mean the candidate truly has the experience you're looking for. Remember that you're not looking to hire anyone at this stage; you're just gathering a bunch of actually qualified candidates for another round of interviews where you'll get to know them much better.
4. Interview From Your Office.
You should conduct a phone interview in your office on a land-line phone for a couple of reasons. First, the employee has a number to call back if necessary. Second, you can be assured that any problems with the connection aren't on your end. And third, there's no background noise and you can take notes comfortably and talk as loudly or as quietly as you want. So no interviewing from home or on the go.
5. Be the First to Advise About Next Steps.
Since you're the one in control, you should advise a candidate about what happens next as you end the interview; don't wait for him or her to ask what happens after the phone interview. If a candidate has been eliminated at the phone interview stage, let him or her know via email once you've determined that the candidate isn't moving on; there's no need to call back just to deliver bad news.