Are you using phone interviews effectively? Follow this guide to a productive phone interview

By April 6, 2018 April 27th, 2018 Uncategorized

You’re in the recruiting process. You’ve got some resumes you’re interested in following up on. You send an email to schedule a phone interview with the candidate in question.

So now what?

Well, we’ve said it before, but when it comes to hiring salespeople, it helps to think like a salesperson.

Know The Purpose Of The Phone Interview

Let’s say you’re trying to make a sale. You’ll probably start with an email. The purpose of an email is to secure a phone call. The purpose of a phone call? To secure a face-to-face meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to close the sale.

In the sales recruiting process, it’s much the same. You email to get the phone interview to get the in-person interview to hire a candidate.

All you’re doing is making sure that meeting with the candidate isn’t a waste of time. That’s all you need to worry about at this step. Really.

A common hiring misstep is to want to cram too much into the phone interview. Hiring managers want to close the deal on a candidate right away, so they talk too much. Give too much away. Ask too many questions.

Don’t forget, the candidate is interviewing your company, too. You’re presenting an opportunity to them! And any salesperson can tell you- the longer you’re aimlessly on the phone, the more likely you are to talk your way out of a sale. (Or, in this case, a potential recruit.)

So don’t ramble. Focus the whole conversation on either disqualifying the candidate, or moving them to the next step.

Don’t Get Too Deep

With that in mind, it’s important to know what questions you shouldn’t be asking over the phone.

Don’t attempt to gain a window into the candidate’s soul at the phone interview stage- it won’t work. There’s a time and a place for deep questions… just not here.

The phone is better than email for conveying tone, but it’s still extremely limiting when it comes to interpreting nonverbal cues. Any questions that are designed to gauge a candidate’s reaction will be wasted here.

So don’t ask anything deeper than basic, check-the-box style questions here. If the candidate moves past your basic disqualifying process to the face-to-face interview, that is the time to start getting reactions and learning about how they handle themselves under pressure.

How SHOULD You Conduct Phone Interviews?

So now that you understand the purpose of the call, and the limitations of the phone interview in general, you can put together a plan of action for a productive interview call.

We can break it down into three basic steps.

#1: Keep it short.

We’re talking 15-20 minutes max. Any longer than that, you run the risk of “talking yourself out of the sale.” You don’t want anyone to hit the wall of phone fatigue that happens after a long and emotionally charged situation like an interview.

The shorter you keep your call, the more likely it is to be a productive one.

#2: Establish an agenda.

To help keep things short and productive, it helps to set an agenda at the beginning of the call. Establish from the beginning a clear purpose for the call, highlight your main objectives, and make sure you both agree to them before continuing.

  • Establish the time you want the call to take. This keeps things on track, and communicates to the prospective recruit that their time is valued as well.
  • Talk about the purpose of the call. Set the stage for the type of qualifying questions that you’re about to ask, and open the door for the candidate to ask similar types of questions about your company.
  • Set expectations for the acceptable outcomes of the call: to learn whether your company and the candidate could be a good fit together and to determine whether it makes sense to meet in person.

If both you and the candidate have those expectations clearly established at the onset of the call, it provides logical conclusions for how to keep moving forward in the hiring process… or when it makes sense to disqualify the candidate and move on.

#3: Ask basic qualifying questions.

Again, we don’t want to go too deep here. We find that there are usually just a few areas that are best discussed over the phone. You may want to consider asking questions about:

  • Their reasons for looking for a new job. Are they looking to switch careers? Leave a negative environment? Make more money? This can give you an insight into whether the candidate’s motivations match the opportunity you’re offering.
  • Their ideal commute and travel requirements. No sense continuing to interview someone for a job that they are unwilling or unable to show up for.
  • Their expectations for compensation. This one can be scary, but don’t let the question intimidate you, because it’s an important one. There are only 3 possible answers:
    • they expect less money that what you’d offer,
    • they fall right in line with your salary, or
    • they expect more.

If they expect more, that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to be realistic about that negative, and push back on them. They may have other reasons for wanting a new job than money, and may be willing to take a decrease in pay in exchange for other considerations. When in doubt, ask! Never assume a candidate’s motivations over the phone.

  • Their qualifying industry experience. Specific industry experience shouldn’t be at the top of the list when it comes to seeing potential in salespeople, but if there are certain certifications, backgrounds, or product knowledge that any candidate should have as a baseline, make sure you establish that at this stage before you call them in.

Once you get the answers to those questions, it’s time to get off the phone. Congrats! You’re done with your interview.

Well, almost done. Make sure you go through your disqualifying process and determine whether the candidate should move forward or not. If they pass muster on the check-the-box questions, schedule them for an in-person interview, or a video conference interview, as soon as you both have availability.

Sound overwhelming? Do you have enough on your plate without juggling phone interviews? Worried that HR might not know what to look for in top-quality sales performers?

That’s why EAM Staffing specializes in recruiting the best salespeople, building effective and custom-tailored sales teams for any industry. Contact us to learn more about how we can help set up your sales team for long-term success.