3 common phone screen mistakes that cost companies top candidates

Conducting a phone screen with a candidate is an important part of the onboarding process.

Phone screens are an important first step in the hiring process. They help hiring managers identify potential talent before they bring the candidate in for a longer interview session with the entire team.

However, time and again, managers make phone screen mistakes that compromise their recruiting process. Here are three you need to avoid:

1. Not knowing what you want in a candidate
This might seem obvious, but it's critical to point out: You can't expect a candidate to be prepared if you're not ready for the interview. Before you dial their number, ask yourself:

  1. What kind of experience does the candidate need?
  2. What type of personality should the candidate have? (It's often difficult to answer this question from a simple phone screen, but some questions can give you an idea about how this candidate operates.)
  3. What kind of information must I obtain from the candidate to make an accurate assessment of his or her qualifications?
  4. What kind of materials should they provide before or after the material, such as writing samples or reference? 
  5. What problems do I want them to address the most? This could include asking them how they manage workplace conflicts, for example.

These are only five of many questions hiring managers or HR personnel must consider before they call up a candidate. It's critical you're prepared so you don't waste your time or the candidate's. 

Phone screening can help you find the right candidate to bring in for an in person interview.Phone screening can help you find the right candidate to bring in for an in person interview.

2. Failing to research the candidate
Researching the candidate before you meet him or her in person is a critical part of the screening process because it helps create a more well-rounded picture of who you're talking to. In turn, this can help you conduct a more in depth, quality interview with the candidate about his or her background.

If you're not sure how to research a candidate, begin by conducting a social media screening. Search the candidate's name on Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The latter will give you an idea about their professional background while the more social sites (Facebook and Twitter) will give you greater insights into how they act when they're not at work. 

"Researching the candidate is a critical part of the screening process."

2. Not prepping the candidate beforehand
While your career may have advanced over time, you can remember what it was like when you were taking part in phone screens. The hiring manager or HR executive slots away about a half hour to talk, and they begin the conversation by explaining the position and company.

This approach is impossible to avoid in some situations – such as when cold calling – but if you can, prepare the candidate well beforehand by emailing them the job description and information about the company. Then give them at least 24 to 72 hours to conduct research and jot down high-level questions. This does a few things:

  1. You're able to focus on the crux of the matter – how their experience can help your company.
  2. You can evaluate their commitment to the job by how much they've prepared by researching the company and position.
  3. Provide the candidate enough time to ask his or her questions. Remember, you want to make sure they're a good fit for the job and vice versa. Allow them to also conduct a thorough review of the position and your needs.

3. Ask specific questions to start the interview
One of your main goals should be to weed out unqualified candidates, and the best way to do so is to ask certain job-specific questions. For example, a hiring manager at an accounting firm might ask these questions:

  1. How do you stay update on current accounting-related legal legislation and policies?
  2. How comfortable are you using our specific accounting technology?
  3. What kind of experience do you have working with partners and C-suite accounting executives? 

These basic, straightforward questions can help employers quickly figure out whether the candidate is qualified for the position. From there, the hiring manager can ask more behavioral questions. 


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