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Phone Screen Interview Mistakes

Eric Wilinski, Wetfeet

Some recruiters and hiring managers underestimate the importance of the phone screen in making good hires, when in fact it can be a key component of the recruiting process.

Of course, the phone screen is an opportunity to weed out candidates who are looking for more salary than a position pays, or non-local candidates who are unwilling to relocate.

But good recruiters and hiring managers also know that the phone screen is an opportunity to learn more about a candidate than you can from his or her resume. You can determine, for example, whether the candidate is worth bringing in for a face-to-face interview. And if you do, you won't be starting from zero.

To get the most out of a phone screen, though, you'll need to avoid these common mistakes:
Not understanding the job you're talking to the candidate about
Writing off seemingly unenthusiastic candidates too quickly
Being overly critical of candidates who speak English as a second language
Missing scheduled phone interviews
Not being aware of open positions at your company other than the one for which you're recruiting
Understand the Job You're Trying to Fill
The phone screen is your chance to get a better idea of how well a candidate has the specific skill set required for the opening you're trying to fill. If you don't understand the job and don't know what skills it requires, you can't conduct an effective phone screen.

If you are a hiring manager, take the time to define precisely what skills the job requires before posting the job opening.

If you're a recruiter, make sure you get thorough job descriptions of the positions for which you're recruiting. If you still don't have a strong grasp of a job and the skills it requires, take some time to speak with the hiring manager to get answers to your questions about the job and what skills the ideal candidate would possess.

Don't Write Off Seemingly Unenthusiastic Candidates
Candidates who are actively looking for a job can be dealing with a barrage of phone calls. For those who are working full time—as most good candidates are—coping with all those phone calls can be exhausting.

The key in such a situation is to take the next step. If you're having a hard time filling a position and a candidate's resume makes it clear that he or she has the skills needed to do the job for which you're recruiting, invite him or her in for a face-to-face interview.

In today's difficult hiring market, give candidates a chance to research your company and work up enthusiasm—and give yourself a chance at getting the best candidates available.

Be Patient With People Who Speak English as a Second Language
Make sure you don't unnecessarily write off candidates who don't speak English well.

In some cases, the job you're trying to fill will not require excellent communication skills. Many technical positions, for instance, do not require people who are fluent speakers of English.

In other cases, the phone screen may not provide you with a fair assessment of a candidate's communication skills. Eye contact and gestures can do a lot of the work in communicating, and you'd be foolish to eliminate, on the basis of a phone call, candidates who may later impress you in person.

Don't Miss Scheduled Phone Calls
Good candidates are usually busy people who have gone out of their way to block out time to speak to you. It's quite likely they'll lose interest in working for your company if you neglect to call them as scheduled.

To avoid this problem, treat phone screens as important as in-person interviews.

Be Aware of All the Areas in Which Your Company is Hiring
Often, during a phone screen, it will become apparent that a candidate does not have the right skill set for the position you're discussing. While he or she might not fit into that position, though, there could be another place in the company where the same candidate would fit in well.

Before recruiting for an open position, take the time to learn about other positions your company is hiring for. That way, if you speak to a high performer who is not quite suitable for your open position, but would fit in at another open position, you won't miss an opportunity to bring a quality hire on board.



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