Phone Screening: To See or Not To See

November 27, 2012
Phone Screening: To See or Not To See

Phone screening: a way to get to know your candidate before anyone has to travel for a face-to-face interview.

It’s Tuesday afternoon. I have finally managed to carve out an hour to call potential candidates and invite them in for an interview this week. About fifteen resumes are spread out in front of me, and my goal is to schedule at least five phone screening interviews.

Finally! I get to actually talk to someone instead of just staring at a bunch of bullet points and fantasizing about my new top producer hidden in the pile.

Paper Vs. Person:

All of my potential candidates look great on paper. But, any manager who has done recruiting in the past knows that you can’t hire a piece of paper (and believe me, sometimes the piece of paper has more depth than your candidate).

So how do I initially qualify my candidates? What I’ve found works best is treating it like a sales process and asking them the right questions.

Phone Screening Questions:

Creating the right questions has to start with the position I’m trying to fill. My questions are specifically based on the job description for that role, not just general questions. Before reaching out to anyone I make sure I at least have four killer questions ready to go.

Here is an example of a list of questions I might typically ask. These are all a bit generic, but they are a way to start a quick qualifying conversation.

  1. Now that I described the role we are looking to fill, please tell me a little bit about yourself and what interested you about this role?
  2. How have you dealt with _______? (Name 3 common challenges associated with the role you are looking to fill)
  3. What are the three most important things you look for in an employer?
  4. Tell me about your biggest accomplishment in sales.

My conversation is intended to be brief and not a full-blown interview. I want to ask specific questions that will reveal the key traits I am looking for and move on.


If my candidate is articulate, upbeat, and exhibits professionalism, my next step is to invite them in. However, we are not always prepared for what lies on the other side of that phone. If things don’t appear to be a fit, I clearly state why I don’t think it is a good match at this time.

Everyone has a different approach for how they implement phone screenings. I would love to hear some of your phone screening best practices. What questions do you ask? How do you handle if someone is not a good fit?

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