6 Tips For More Productive Phone Screens

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James SiuMay 08, 2020

A phone interview is often the first stage of the recruitment process.  It allows an employer to get an initial feel for a candidate and assess their skills and experience. 

Recruiters who use phone screening face some tricky challenges.  These include finding an appropriate time to call candidates, getting the best out of a candidate in a short time and avoiding bias.

In this blog, we list 6 tips for solving these problems and conducting better phone screens.

1. Make sure you have a structure

Structured interviews are reportedly twice as effective as unstructured interviews. Using a structured interview will save time and keep you on track.  Structured interviews are also beneficial to candidates as standardised questioning helps to reduce bias.  It also makes it easier for recruiters to evaluate feedback.

2. Communicate 

Before your phone screen inform the candidate of how the interview process will work and the estimated time required. This transparency makes a great first impression and lets candidates know what to expect.  Once the interview is over, discuss next steps with the candidate and when they can expect to hear from you. 

Recruitment is a lengthy process and every second of it is felt by anxious candidates awaiting answers. Research shows the average hiring process takes up to 42 days, and leaving a candidate guessing for that long would negatively impact their experience. Poor candidate experiences can have a negative ripple effect on your company. Learn how you can create the best candidate experience here.

3. Break the ice

It’s difficult to talk to a stranger. That’s why as a recruiter you need to be able to get a candidate feeling relaxed, comfortable and engaged. Research by CareerWise shows that for every one-point increase in interview anxiety, interview performance decreases by around seven points, on average. And as time is money, you don’t want to be getting anything but the best from your candidates. 

One way to help break the ice is to introduce yourself the moment the call connects. Thank candidates for their time and tell them about your role, your experience with the company in question and the reason for your call. 

Another way to break the ice is to ask the candidate for fun information about themselves. Ask a question like “If you were to become a billionaire tomorrow, what’s the first thing you would do?”. Questions like this are not only fun to answer but can give you a deep insight into a candidate's creativity, thought process and other soft skills.  

Once you’ve got the conversation flowing and both parties are comfortable, it's time to move on to the main purpose of the call.

4. Acknowledge answers

Everyone loves a great listener, it makes the speaker feel engaged and motivates them to keep talking. So how can you show your candidate that you are listening? 

You can acknowledge answers with simple affirmations or repeat information back to them. Another method is to include information they have given you into your next question. For example, “Great, so you’ve told me you loved the culture at your last workplace. What else did you enjoy about your role?”.  

This simple yet effective method lets candidates know you are listening and creates a positive experience. 

5. Utilise AI recruiting solutions

AI solutions can help make your phone screens more effective and give you a deeper insight into candidates. 

If you have ever tried to coordinate a phone screen you will know the torture that is phone tag.  Finding a time when both you and the candidate are free can be tricky.  AI solutions allow candidates to conduct interviews at a time that suits them. This saves time for recruiters as interview scheduling is automatic and recruiters do not need to conduct interviews themselves.  

Curious Thing is an example of an AI recruiting solution. Curious Thing helps recruiters by automating the phone screen process while still providing a great candidate experience. After interviews, recruiters are provided with a comprehensive report that benchmarks candidates against each other.  This solution completely eliminates bias during the initial screening process, allowing you to get an unfiltered view of each candidate's abilities.

AI solutions can be especially useful in remote hiring scenarios and when there’s a sudden increase in demand for staff. They can also drastically cut down time spent during the early stage of the recruitment process. For example, we helped our client Stellar save up to 26 hours a week.

6. Be happy

Our final tip for more productive screening is to be HAPPY. People can infer your emotions through your tone of voice so it’s important to be genuine and create a positive vibe throughout the interview. A bad mood can affect candidate responses and their overall experience. Usually, phone screening is the first time a candidate will interact with your company and a poor experience will act as a bad first impression. 

Keep in mind that candidates can also be customers and a poor experience may deter them from endorsing your product or service or reapplying for a role with your company.

Practice, innovate, prepare

Improving your efficiency won’t happen overnight. You may experiment with a few different structures and try different interview techniques until you hit on what works for you and your company.