Phone and/or Skype screening interviews

Cut time and costs to shortlist and still get great candidates

Phone or skype interviews are often used to screen candidates in order to narrow down the number of people you interview face to face. They are also used as one of the ways to minimize the expense involved in interviewing out-of-town candidates.

Many of our clients tell us that they have conducted phone or Skype interviews to shortlist candidates only to find that the candidate didn’t measure up to expectations at the face-to-face interview. Yes, there are pitfalls involved, however at getselected we have developed guidelines for use to help you avoid the problems and to maximise your results.

Most of the phone or Skype interview pitfalls can be avoided by following a few simple tips:

Standardise and document your questions.

Prepare a standard list of background and job related questions that you will ask each candidate. You can then structure the interview well ensuring you cover the critical and desired things you need to know and be in a position to assess and compare the candidates’ responses in an objective manner. We often recommend to clients to use a ‘hiring grid’ (based on Kepner Tregoe Decision Analysis Technique) as it allows for identification of essential and desired attributes, competencies and experience and the assignment of a reasonably objective and transparent weighted score for each candidate as an input to shortlisting and the ultimate selection process.

Value the importance of first impressions; Task a professional to conduct the phone interview.

The phone interview is the important first contact step in the recruitment process. It is vital that the phone interviewer be skilled in relationship building and interviewing techniques and knowledgeable about the role and the organisation.

You also need to be sensitive to the fact that the ‘technology experience’ can also influence thoughts and feeling about how things went. Voice distortion, Skype camera quality, poor background context, bad reception / dropping in and out, failing batteries or internet connections happen! Analysis of the preliminary phone or Skype interview needs to be tempered in the light of these dynamics related to communication medium per se that may be in play and distort ‘first impressions’ on both sides.

Take time to prepare before the call.

Always set aside time to review the job advertisement, position description and standard questions before the call. Read the candidate’s resume and identify and note the areas that you need to probe during the preliminary interview.

Scheduling the preliminary interview with the candidate.

Some Skype and many phone interviews are made ‘on the fly’. Give yourself, your company and the candidate the opportunity to present in the best possible light. If you ‘wing it’ the outstanding candidates may well be unnerved by first impressions. Always schedule phone or Skype interviews, set and agree realistic expectations and provide relevant information to candidates so they can prepare. Be respectful of candidate’s privacy, confidentiality and availability and be responsive to out of hour’s communication if necessary to achieve that.

Understand what you are dealing with.

Both phone and Skype interviewing mediums are largely devoid of body language and many other important communication queues necessary for understanding who and what you are dealing with. On the other hand they can also over-emphasise (for better or worse) vocal and other elements which in the scheme of things may or may not be all that important in terms of attributes or job relevance.

Once again, analysis of the preliminary phone or Skype interview needs to be tempered in the light of these dynamics related to communication medium per se that may be in play and distort ‘first impressions’ on both sides.

Remember to take the opportunity to cast a wide net.

When it comes to screening candidates, add the opportunity to cast a wide ‘company’ focussed net as you may catch a big fish. In the past professional experience we have uncovered and redirected ‘gems’ who might have been totally missed in a completely rigidly focused screening process.

Set practical and realistic expectations.

Always advise candidates of recruitment process. It’s best to notify them of their suitability for a role ASAP as this will eliminate lots of wasted time and energy for both parties.

Phone and Skype interviews are a great help to busy managers and HR operatives and when used correctly they will yield a quality shortlist of candidates, on time and at a low cost to the business.