11 phone interview questions to ask (and the strategic reasons why)

Does your organization’s hiring process include phone interviews to filter the flood of job applicants? Many hiring managers use this screening method to ensure that in-person interviewing will feature the candidates with the most promise. Let’s focus on the best phone interview questions to ask next time you’re hiring…

When planning phone interview questions, carefully consider your goals for this new hire. What do you want to accomplish? Check out these 11 tips...

The best initial phone interview questions are fairly simple. Your goal at this stage is not to go into depth with candidates, but rather to learn or confirm the basics in a relatively short conversation. You are qualifying them to move further along in your hiring process. Questions asked should be consistent across all applicants to ensure objectivity. It’s also important to remain flexible and not treat your list of questions so much like a list to check off that you forget to listen to their responses or answer their questions.

What are the best phone interview questions to ask? And what can they accomplish?

When you are planning phone interview questions to ask, carefully consider your goals for this new hire. Consider, first, what you want to accomplish.

Gauge the applicant’s actual interest

Job seekers often send out multiple resumes in response to job board listings. Hopefully they will remember yours, but don’t assume that’s the case. The best candidates will have researched your company enough to know they want to work for you specifically.

Questions to ask in a phone interview:

  • “Why are you interested in working with our organization?” Their answer will reveal either specific knowledge of your company or lack of diligence in their research.
  • “What drew you to apply for our open position?” As they answer, listen to their tone. Do they sound eager or indifferent?
  • “How did you learn about our job opening?” The answer to this phone interview question will tell you two important things. First, finding the listing on your website shows more specific interest than finding it on a job board. Second, you will get insight into which of your recruiting avenues is reaching people.

Clarify the resume

Frame some questions around what’s contained in the resume, but not in ways that sound like you haven’t read it, since being less prepared than a diligent job seeker is not a good look for your company. This is also a good time to probe about any gaps.

Phone interview questions to ask:

  • “Tell me more about the time between Job A and Job B” – if there appears to be a gap.
  • “How do you think your skills are a match for this job?” Candidates’ answers to this will also reveal how well they understand the job description.

Weed out mismatches

Here is where you can protect your interview team from wasting their time interviewing applicants whose requirements don’t match your needs.

Ask these questions:

  • “This is a full-time position; is that what you are seeking?”
  • “What salary range are you hoping for in this role?” Asking for a range gives the applicant and you some flexibility and still allows you to ascertain whether their expectations match your budget.
  • “Why are you looking for a new job?” Candidates’ answers to this will also provide clues to related questions to ask in the next round of interviewing, if they progress.

Learn availability

If you need to start onboarding someone in two weeks, but the applicant needs three months to exit their current job or move, it is not logical to move them forward in the hiring process. Another availability question might relate to whether applicants will be available for evening or on-call work if that is a job requirement.

Phone interview questions to ask:

  • “If you were to be hired for this job, how soon could you start?”
  • “This job requires travel one week each month; would you be available for that?”
  • “Do you have anything pending that would interfere with our interview timetable?”

Stay away from these phone interview questions

Employers can get in trouble by asking questions that do not relate to the job at hand. For instance, it is illegal to ask a candidates their race or ethnicity, gender, religion, age (other than to ensure they are old enough to work if they appear to be a teenager), sexuality, disability, marital status, pregnancy plans, and more.

In fact, don’t even bring those up in casual conversation during the interview process. Ask about physical abilities only if they directly relate to the job requirements. When in doubt, direct your questions to an expert in labor law. See this SHRM article for more on questions an employer can and cannot ask.

Phone interviews are excellent opportunities to use and observe communication skills. Interviewers set the tone, from a friendly introduction to a wrap-up explanation of what to expect next in your process. No matter what the interview mode, good listening skills are paramount to successful hiring.

Work with a recruiting expert

Working with an expert recruiting partner like Bradsby Group will start your company out with a pre-qualified pool of talent to choose from. Our agents take care of the screening, so you don’t have to. Reach out to us today to learn more about our process and our track record of success. We believe we can help you build a winning team

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