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How Phone Interviews Can Sabotage Your Hiring Efforts

Hiring a person for a job means you have found someone at the right time and place in their career and personal life. If the stars have aligned and all the variables have fallen in place, hiring the right person often comes down to nothing but timing. But oftentimes, hiring teams sabotage their recruiting efforts by mishandling the interview process and timing. The candidate is just as much evaluating you and your organization as much as you are evaluating them. So when candidates are put through unprofessional, indecisive, or inefficient interview processes, it reflects negatively on your organization and you’re adding one more variable to the dozens that have to align for the candidate to take the job.

So today I’m going to focus on the phone interview. If you are a hiring manager, chances are you interview candidates by phone at some point in the process, if not the majority of it. The phone is no longer used as a preliminary screening tactic, and arguably, we’ve come to rely on it to a fault.

The overuse of phone interviews can cause you to lose out on top talent for a number of reasons discussed here. Consider the following questions to determine if you should pare down your reliance on phones to recruit your next great hire.

1. Are you trying to make the interview process more efficient?

The primary purpose of phone interviews is to make the entire process more efficient, however sometimes the opposite occurs. We are seeing many companies schedule three, four, and sometimes five or more rounds of phone interviews before a candidate steps foot in the office. If candidates have made it through multiple rounds of phone interviews with various people in your organization, we should be able to determine that, on paper, they meet the credentials. If so, then one lingering question should remain: is this person going to be a cultural fit for your team? If not, you should be able to tell within fifteen minutes. We advise our clients to save the time and energy spent on phone interviews and bring candidates in sooner in the process. Phone interviews in many ways have made the process much less efficient.

2. Is the candidate a passive job seeker?

Phone interviews can work to your benefit or detriment if a candidate is not actively looking for their next role. Talented candidates who are happy in their current positions but are willing to entertain a conversation with you often fall into one of two categories:

  • They do not want to take a half-day off work to get suited up and trudge across town to interview for a position they aren’t halfway sold on.
  • They do not want to step out of the office for endless rounds of phone interviews over the course of a month and a half for a position they may not be that interested in–it causes a loss of momentum.

Consider your office space and company environment. If that is something that will help sell a candidate, then bring them in earlier. Or how about asking the candidate if they prefer a phone or in-person interview as a next step? This alone will demonstrate to the candidate that you are cognizant of their time and their situation, and you might learn a thing or two about their interest based on the answer you receive.

3. Is the candidate an active job seeker?

If the candidate is an active job seeker and is in a specialty of high demand you should assume they will receive multiple offers and will be off the market in a few weeks. After the initial phone screening it is important to bring them in to the office as soon as possible in order for you to be competitive in the market.

4. Is the hiring team skilled in phone interview tactics?

Sometimes phone interviews are fruitless because hiring managers are unfamiliar with productive interview techniques. Poor phone interview styles range from conversations that are more personal than professional, drilling sessions that scare off passive candidates, uncomfortable conversations with awkward pauses, and one-way conversations with hiring managers that speak endlessly without getting to know the candidate, among others. It is important for interviewers to fine-tune their questioning to get to the answers they need and to the meat of the candidates experience while tactfully “selling” the opportunity to the candidate.

5. Does distance make it difficult to meet face-to-face?

When you work for a company with offices and hiring authorities in cities throughout the nation or around the world, obviously using a phone is necessary. Oftentimes interview teams are taking phone interviews while they travel for work or candidates are considering relocating for the job. In these circumstances it is best to keep momentum by providing candidates with quick feedback after interviews and scheduling the next round shortly after the last. Also, sprinkling in video interviews help the process progress and builds a stronger rapport with candidates.

Finding the right person for a job is a delicate dance which takes courting from both sides. When companies have inefficient interview processes they run the risk of losing candidates to a faster-moving organization. Allowing talent to slip through your fingers can reflect negatively on your company and have a long-term impact on your teams success.

We want to hear from you! What have been your interview process experiences–good or bad? What advice would you give to hiring teams?