Effective Phone Screens: Tips for Hiring Managers
By Michael Paradise, CEO, Sysazzle, Inc.
Phone screens offer a speed-dating opportunity for both the candidate and the hiring manager to gauge whether or not they are a good fit for each other. They are an efficient and popular way to check out an eligible candidate, eliminate one, or put one on hold. However, if not conducted correctly, they could trick you into a bad match, ultimately wasting your time and hurting the reputation of your business.
Goals of a Phone Screen:
The most obvious goal of a phone screen is to get an understanding of the candidate’s technical and functional capabilities. You should gauge the depth and breadth of the candidate’s core skill set, industry, and job function. And, like any good speed-date, you should also pay attention to your intuition—how does this candidate come across? A baseline assessment of the candidate’s behavior and attitude are essential for determining whether this is a person your company wants to court.
One other key area to explore is the candidate’s ability to communicate effectively – a vital component in any good relationship. How does your candidate’s oral communication skills rank?
**Does the person speak with confidence?
**Does the person express himself/herself in an intelligent and thoughtful manner?
**Does the person focus on the question concisely and then offer to go deeper or address the more thoroughly?
**Does the person have the capacity to communicate on a lateral level, to his/her superiors, and at all levels of an organization?
By focusing on these areas you can create metrics to rank a candidate’s technical and functional capabilities, and communication skills.
Six Steps to Get Ready for Your Phone Screen:
Before you dial, take a bit of time to learn about your candidate.
1. Read the candidate’s resume word for word. Highlight key areas that offer opportunities for growth, as well as areas that might be of concern to you.
2. Calculate the duration for each project in the resume’s margins next to the dates or years of employment.
3. Thoroughly research the candidate’s current company and their industry. This will enable you to ask informed, relevant questions during the call.
4. Google each company the person worked for.
5. Study the candidate’s LinkedIn profile.
6. Google the candidate’s name to see what may pop up…but be sure you are looking at the same person!
Now that you are properly prepared, settle into an environment free of distractions and focus on your call. Keep the following tips in mind as you chat:
**Be inquisitive. You’ve done your due diligence, so put it to use.
**Speak in a way that builds rapport with the candidate.
**Make sure the candidate has at least 70-85% of the technical requirements for the job.
**Establish and understand which former positions were contracts and which were employee positions for an end client or end company.
**Identify the person’s capacity to learn and grow.
**Identify the person’s capacity to work well with others and bring others along also.
Ask the Important Questions:
Sure, you both may root for the same sports team and share an alma mater, but that isn’t going to ensure compatibility where it counts. Remember, a phone screen is not like a leisurely dinner and a movie, so reduce the amount of small talk and get the important questions answered.
**How long was the candidate in their current/last position?
**Why did they leave the last position and/or why are they looking for a new one?
**Who did the person report to in terms of title at the company?
**Who were the types of colleagues that they worked with regularly?
**What were the candidate’s key successes? Ask for examples, challenges faced, and how they overcame those challenges. What results were achieved, and how did it impact progress, the bottom line, the organization and their teammates?
Don’t forget – document all of the information you gather, and store it for future review and sharing with others!
5 Steps to Analyze Your Data
You’ve completed the phone screen and have some thoughts fresh in your mind—now what?
1. Using the metrics you created, score each interviewee in some capacity.
2. Use symbols at the top of the resume or documentation that visually gives you the overall picture of the person for a quick future reference. One client felt it was important that a person was ranked by “Heart, Mind and Hands”. So they used a stick figure and filled in Mind, Heart and Hands where they truly felt the person had the level of “Mind” (intelligence), “Heart” (care in their work and a passion for what they do), and “Hands” (belief that they have the experience needed and are willing to do the job). The client needed the candidate to possess all three characteristics at the level required for the position at hand. So a stick figure with a brain, a heart and hands was the client’s visual and if a person didn’t have all 3 they would not move forward.
3. Document key positive and negative findings at the top of the page.
4. If the person is a solid candidate don’t delay in scheduling the next step. You’ll need to sell to the better candidates on the position and your company as they typically have multiple opportunities.
5. Provide immediate feedback to your recruiter.
By following this process, you can use phone screens to quickly and effectively vet your potential suitors. This type of courtship done properly will present you with a closer match and get you closer to hiring that “perfect fit” candidate.