5 Critical Phone Screen Questions & Tips

phone-screen-questions

On average, a corporate job posting attracts 250 resumes. With such a large pile to sift through, it can be difficult to discern your best candidates from those unfit for the role.

To quickly distinguish your most qualified candidates, it's critical to conduct phone screens. A phone screen is a quick, five-to-15 minute interview to determine who should move forward in the interview process.

You don't want to waste time and effort on people who don't have the necessary skills, aren't willing to accept the role's salary, or simply aren't interested. Fortunately, there are a few questions you can ask to gain those insights quickly.Click here to download our free guide to hiring and training a team of  all-stars.

To ensure your hiring process is as efficient as possible, take a look at these five phone screen questions you should ask each candidate, as well as tips to ensure you're correctly identifying the best candidates to bring to your office for in-person interviews.

Phone Screen Interview Questions

1. Can you tell me where you are in the job search, and what you hope to accomplish?

You'll want to start by discerning whether they've had other interviews or offers, and whether they're still interested in the position. Asking this question enables you to get a sense for what your candidate is looking for in a role or company. Ideally, your candidate will give some details regarding her job search, including other companies at which she has applied. This information can help you identify whether your company, and the role, is a good fit.

Tip: If your candidate seems all over the place with her job search, it's not a good sign. For instance, if you're hiring for a writing role at your marketing firm, and she says, "I'm interested in writing, but not sure what direction to take it. I've been looking at journalism roles, and roles in the advertising industry, as well," it might not be the best time to move forward with this candidate. You want a candidate who is confident the role for which she's applying is the right one for her.

2. What attracted you to this role and our organization?

It's critical you learn what your candidate wants out of the role and organization, so you can determine whether she'll be happy in the position. This is your candidate's chance to prove she has done her homework. If she can outline specific aspects of the role and unique characteristics of your company that excite her, it shows she has researched your company and studied the job listing, an indicator she's genuinely interested.

Tip: Listen for your candidate to mention specific keywords listed in the role's description. This indicates she's interested in your role in particular. For instance, if you're hiring for a marketing manager, you'll want your candidate to say, "In particular, I'm interested in working closely with your top-tier partners to manage co-marketing efforts. I have prior experience doing that, such as …". This type of answer illustrates her understanding of the unique benefits of this role, over other leadership opportunities in the field.

3. Why are you leaving your current position?

To ensure you're not wasting anyone's time, it's critical you know why the candidate is unhappy in her current role. If she outlines aspects that are also likely to occur in this new role, it's a good indicator she's not a good fit.

Tip: Look for a candidate who is able to discuss their current frustrations with a level of optimism and professionalism. For instance, you don't want a candidate to say, "I don't like the company culture, and I feel stifled in my role." This type of negativity is toxic to any work environment, and could be an indicator of someone who complains instead of trying to improve her situation.

Instead, you'll want a candidate who frames her frustrations in a positive light -- "While I'm very appreciative of this company and everything I've learned in my current role, I feel there aren't enough growth opportunities here, and I'd like to expand my knowledge on X, Y, and Z." This type of answer allows her to highlight why your company is an excellent next step, without bad-mouthing her current employer.

4. Detail the most successful idea you have you taken from concept to launch.

This question can give you a good idea of a candidate's skills and what she has been capable of achieving in the past. Additionally, it should give you a sense for the candidate's problem-solving skills and ability to work around obstacles. Ideally, your candidate will describe how her idea benefited the business.

Tip: Listen for a candidate who is results-driven. The ideal candidate will focus on results for the business at all stages, from ideation to implementation. You want to hire someone who can brainstorm solutions to your company's problems, and better yet, execute on them.

5. What is your current and expected salary?

This is a good question to filter out any candidates who are overqualified for the role. If your candidate lists a salary well above the listed offer, you know you can't move forward with her. Additionally, it tells you how senior they are -- a developer making $150k is more experienced than a developer who makes $70k. This can help guide your conversations, and the types of questions you ask, moving forward.

If you find most candidates ask for well above the role's current salary, you might consider rethinking your offer.

Tip: Generally, you don't want to move forward with candidates who discuss money as their only true motivation. While it's natural for your candidate to expect a slight increase in salary in her next role, it's critical she is motivated by other benefits, like a good training program or the option for tuition reimbursement on classes she'd like to take. 

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