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How to Conduct a Phone Interview Step-by-Step Guide and Templates

How to Conduct a Phone Interview Step-by-Step Guide and Templates

Every effective hiring strategy includes hosting phone interviews with job candidates. Yet not every employer knows how to conduct the best phone interviews. From planning to process and great questions to ask, find out what HR and hiring managers need to know about conducting phone interviews—and eventually land the best new hires.


What is a Phone Interview and Why Does it Matter?

During the hiring process, a phone interview serves as an important screener for applicants. They’re inexpensive, require little time, and give hiring managers and candidates an opportunity to learn more about each other with relatively low stakes.

Phone interviews are also important because they’re fair. In many cases, interviewers conducting face-to-face interviews make snap judgments about candidates based on their appearance, their mannerisms, and other inherent features that the candidate may or may not be able to control. Each of these judgments impacts the interviewer’s evaluation of the applicant, either positively or negatively. Phone calls act as a way to bypass these biases and tune out the background noise. 


How to Conduct Phone Interviews: Step-by-Step Tutorial

Human resources personnel should follow a standardized approach to recruitment and employee selection. Not only does this make it easier for hiring managers to conduct job interviews but it also ensures that every candidate is being treated fairly and equally during the interviews. This interview process can be codified in the company’s Culture Guide, which operates as an enhanced employee handbook. 

The best way to conduct phone interviews is by following a step-by-step process. Each phone interview should include the following phone interview tips and components:

1. Phone Interview Invitation

The best way to kickstart the phone interview is for interviewers to send an invitation using an applicant tracking system—also known as an ATS. (BerniePortal has a built-in ATS that automates these communications to streamline the process.) 

HR should work with managers to develop a template that standardizes this communication for all hiring managers. Here’s how that should look:

Hi [Candidate Name],

I reviewed your resume and application, and I'm excited to connect with you for a phone interview. Would [day of the week], [date] at 9:30 AM CST work for you?


[Hiring Manager]

2. Phone Interview Prep and Kickoff

Once the candidate has expressed they are interested in the position and has accepted the interview invitation, hiring managers should begin preparing for a phone interview. Great phone interviews consist of three parts, each lasting about 10 minutes: 

  1. The candidate’s introduction
  2. The employer’s introduction
  3. Q&A

Here’s how that conversation should go:

Manager: Hi [Candidate Name], I’m [Manager Name], the hiring manager for the [open position] role. We’ve emailed back and forth a little bit, but it's nice to connect with you over the phone. I have 30 minutes scheduled for this call, and I’d like to break it up into three sets of ten minutes, is that ok with you?

Candidate: Sure. 

Manager: Great. For the first ten minutes, I’d like you to just tell me about yourself. If you want to hit the highlights on your resume, or if there’s something you didn’t put on it that you’d like me to know, take this ten minutes to tell me. I’d like to spend the next ten minutes telling you about BerniePortal, and then more specifically about the role. 

Then, depending on where the conversation takes us, I’ll spend the last ten minutes answering any questions you might have for me. Let’s get started. Why don’t you tell me a little bit more about yourself?

3. Phone Interview Part I – The Candidate's Introduction

Part I gives the candidate the chance to introduce themselves, explain their strengths, and walk through their resume. If the conversation doesn’t flow, managers should be prepared to facilitate it by asking questions about pivotal points in the candidate’s life. Examples include:

  • Why did you choose that school?  
  • Why did you decide to move? 
  • Why did you decide to leave that job?


4. Phone Interview Part II – The Employer's Introduction

Once the candidate has had a chance to introduce themselves, hiring managers should then introduce the company to the applicant. This step could include everything from explaining the organization’s mission and history to the nature of the role for which the candidate is applying. 

5. Phone Interview Part III – Q&A

It’s always considered best practice to leave time at the end of each phone interview for questions and answers. The candidate may have questions about the nature of the role and their daily responsibilities while the hiring manager could be interested in learning more about an applicant’s experience. 

The best, most qualified candidates typically ask questions about the role, company culture, and more.

6. Sharp Decision

Once the interview ends, hiring managers should be prepared to make a sharp decision about the candidate. The decision should be simple—either hire or don’t hire. As software developer Joel Spolsky explains, “it is much, much better to reject a good candidate than to accept a bad candidate.”


How Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) Can Improve the Hiring Process

ATS platforms can optimize every stage of the hiring process, including job post and job description creation, storage of important applicant documents (from resumes to cover letters), collaborative candidate review, and onboarding. This single system even streamlines applicant communications thanks to customizable templates that hiring managers can send directly to candidates. 

As a result, all recruitment messages and information is stored in one central repository instead of clogging up the works with pages of clutter. With an ATS, hiring managers can set up phone interviews, take notes during the call, and make a decision to proceed to the next stage of recruitment.


Additional Resources

You can stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with important HR topics using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news
  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance
  • HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics
  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit
  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics

Register Now for HR Hiring Guide CE Course

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