The Ultimate Guide to Phone Screens
You’re one step closer to discovering your ultimate candidate. To help you get the most out of your initial screening calls, we’ve put together some helpful guidelines to keep it productive, meaningful and fun.
TL;DR: Be an active listener & stay curious.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, here are some general considerations:
- While a general rule of thumb is to screen 6 – 10 candidates per active position, consider getting on a call with candidates who could be a good fit for the future.
- Screens are a great employer branding opportunity. While it helps pushing a candidate into the interviewing process, it is also a chance for you to learn more about a candidate, and for the candidate to learn more about you + the company.
- A phone call should only be 15 – 30 mins, which should be enough time to capture all that you need and probe when appropriate.
- Double check that it’s a good time for them to have a chat. You don’t want to catch them at a bad time (even if it was planned previously, things come up unexpectedly all the time) and you don’t want to have them feeling flustered or uncomfortable during the chat.
Keep it Friendly
The goal of a phone call is to build rapport with the candidate. You want to get to know them better and to get an idea of who you and your company are. Consider how you approach the first 30 seconds, as this is an opportunity to make sure the candidate feels comfortable and relaxed to share their story, interests, and aspirations.
If an opportunity presents itself, connect over some common ground. This will make the conversation feel easier when you bang out some personal questions (e.g., desired salary, what they’re looking for in their next position, etc) later. Take your time, actively listen, and jot down some notes.
A good way to keep the candidate engaged throughout the call is to provide a loose agenda at the beginning, so they have an idea what to expect. For example:
- “I checked out your LinkedIn and it looks like you’ve worked on some great projects with pretty broad industry exposure. I thought it’d be good to learn more about you and your experience, and I can also share a bit about myself and the work that we do at [company].”
Talent Pool: In or Out?
Naturally, you are going to determine whether the candidate is going to be someone you would deem a good enough fit to progress to the next stage — Interview, Nurture, or Not a good fit.
To make this process easier, ask questions about their work experience and what interests them. Centre questions around their LinkedIn or CV to ensure the information is up to date and accurate. For example:
- “Blockchain enthusiast” is listed among their LinkedIn, but it turns out that they’re a casual cryptocurrency investor.
- “Internet of Things” (IoT) is listed among their top skills, but it turns out it’s more of a weekend hobby.
Remember, this isn’t an interview so some technical questions are okay, but don’t invest too much time into learning about their technical ability. Focus on getting to learn about them — where they see themselves next, who they aspire to be, and what they like to do, etc.
Don’t forget to consider culture add vs. culture fit. Stay curious and have these up your sleeve:
Project focus:“[Company X] sounds like an interesting company to work for, what kinds of projects were you on?”
Tech focus:“Working with [Company X] would have been super cool. How did you find it? What key technologies did you use?”
Skills focus: “The role we’re currently trying to fill has a particular focus on [X skill]. What’s your exposure to this and is this something you’d like to do more of in the future?”
Aspirational: “Where do you see your career going? Are you interested in the [X industry] space?”
Gauge Whether They’re in the Market for a New Position
If they seem receptive to your questions, press on and gauge their priorities. For instance:
- Active candidates: “Sounds like you’ve got some pretty great experience! Are you interviewing with other companies?”
- Passive candidates: “Sounds like you’ve got some pretty great experience! Are you currently looking for new job opportunities?”
What if you don’t think they’re a good fit at the moment, and do not wish to proceed to an interview? Continue to ask if they’re in the market for a new position or whether the company might interest them in the future. Gather such information for the talent team and advise next steps (e.g., reach out in 6 months time).
Continue to put the candidate experience first and push onto sharing more about yourself and the company — it may spark some interest for the future, or for a referral. Remember, how this relationship ends reflects on your team and the wider company.
However, do not end the call before they get to know more about you and the company. How this relationship ends reflects on your team and the wider company — always think about creating a positive candidate experience.
How the Turntables…
You’ve done the groundwork, and now you have a better understanding around what the candidate is looking for, as well as their interests and values.
It’s now time to share more about the company, the role, and perhaps more about you. Make sure to practice your elevator pitch before the call!
What we do: “Our company does…”
Collaboration: “We’re doing exciting work with…”
Relate it back to the candidate: “You mentioned earlier that you wanted to do [X skill] in your career, this aligns well with the part of our company that does [X project/initiative].”
Notice and Expectations
❌ If the candidate is not looking for an immediate change, skip to the next section.
✅ If the candidate sounds positive and wishes to continue further, find out some final screening questions to wrap up the call.
Salary expectations: Unless the candidate mentions their current salary first, there is no need to ask. However, you do want to ensure that the candidate is within or out of your salary cap — you may need to request additional budget if this person is a stand-out.
Notice period: This information will guide a timeline of the interview process and the future onboarding process – when the time comes.
Convert: Coffee or Interview
You’re approaching the end of the call, so let’s organise some next steps.
If the energy has been reciprocated and they’re interested in a role,
First: “Moving forward, is this role something you’d be interested in exploring further?”
Coffee: “Great, how about we meet for coffee next [suggested day of week] and I can tell you a bit more about what we’re looking for and where the company is heading.”
If you want to go straight to interview: “Great, how about we get you in for an interview next [suggested day of the week]?.”
What if they’re not interested in a role, but are happy to keep in touch. Nurture them for the future! Add reminders and keep the relationship warm for when they’re ready to jump ship.
After the call
Don’t forget to make sure you send a thank you message and the details of what the candidate should expect next.