The telephone interview is a killer.

More potentially good candidates are eliminated from consideration based on their performance at this stage of the recruitment process than at any other time.

Everyone is blind.  You cannot see the candidate.  They cannot see you.  This gives the interviewer the advantage.  But badly executed, the telephone interview can lead to premature elimination.  

Game Plan:  The interviewer must be prepared.  Not only should they have carefully studied the resume, but an interview game plan is critical: What am I trying to accomplish?  What do I need to know about this candidate to make a decision for continued consideration or elimination?  

Selling-Recruiting: I believe that in the telephone interview stage, you are still very much in the selling-recruiting mode.  Be sure to give the candidate a chance to ask questions. I prefer to do this at the outset to avoid wasting time if in the Q&A time it is determined that the job is not a fit.  Remember, the candidate may be superbly qualified, but if you do not sell them, this interview could be a waste of time.

Provide the salary range:  This is of critical importance.  Be sure you provide the candidate with the base salary range. If there is flexibility, say so.  If there is not, make that clear as well.   I cannot tell you how much time is wasted qualifying candidates who would never accept a position with the established salary range.  This is far too common even with contingency recruiters. Never assume that the candidate knows this critical piece of information.  If there are other potential “deal breaker issues,” this is the least embarasing time to disclose those as well.

Interview agenda:  I am not a big fan of overly long telephone interviews.  You will reach a point of diminishing return around the 90-minute mark.  Most telephone interviews are much shorter – between 30 and 60 minutes in length. With time constraints, you need to have what I call an interview agenda.  When you start, tell the candidate what to expect in terms of the subjects that will be covered and in what order.

Interview forms:  After interviewing five or six candidates for the same position, they all begin to run together.  Having a complete, accurate record of the interview is important.  It is also important to ask the same types of questions of each candidate.  We develop a telephone questionnaire for each search.  The telephone questionnaire is digital.  It is comprised of a chronological “walk me through your resume” section as well as questions that relate to specific job challenges.  The questionnaire has protected form fields which allow the interviewers to tab through as they  type notes of the candidate’s responses. 

Candidate screening process:  You cannot be effective in recruiting without a defined processes.  At JohnGSelf Associates, our candidate screening process is based on Dr. Brad Smart’s Topgrading©, an exceptionally effective, but in-depth interviewing system.  We break it down into a three-stage interview process. The resume review is the first interview.  In the telephone interview, the second stage,  we focus on prior employment, selected behavior and values questions and several questions designed to measure whether the candidates can actually do the job for which they are being recruited.  The final stage, is a 3.5 hour in-depth face-to-face interview, a portion of which is videotaped for presentation to the client when they are selecting which of the recommended panel of candidates they want to invite for a site interview.  I will address that interview in my next blog.

Grading the candidate:  We grade candidate performance at each stage of the recruiting/interview process. That is why it is so important to have defined recruiting and screening systems.  The grading process is linked to the selection criteria, prior experience and accomplishments and the performance deliverables.  In a highly competitive search, this grade will determine which candidates are selected for continued consideration.  

Respect the candidate:  Finding a job is about dealing with rejection. Unless the position is super specialized, there will always be more candidates than positions.  Treat the candidates with respect from the moment they submit their resume to the moment they are rejected or employed. How you treat your candidates is a very important component of your organization’s recruiting brand.  If you have a reputation for not responding to candidates and of not regularly communicating with them regarding the status of the search, you will find over time your recruiting brand will suffer. 

There is no excuse for not treating candidates with respect.