How to Conduct a Recruitment Phone Interview

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Posted by: David Garcia March 21, 2024

The phone interview is often the first barrier to cross during hiring. At best, it helps gather preliminary information from qualified candidates. Recruiters can use the phone interview to decide which candidates will make it to the next round of the interview process.

But a phone call can also become an inefficient conversation that doesn’t reveal any information about the applicant. At worst, it might even turn away the top-tier candidates if not handled well.

With the right strategy, phone interviews can be highly effective. Not only do they help break the ice before a formal interview, but they also give your company a chance to make an excellent first impression. Learn more about the best practices when conducting phone interviews below.

Tips to Follow When Conducting Recruitment Phone Interviews

Like anything else in business, you don’t want to go into a phone interview blind. Use the tips below for a successful recruiting call:

1) Prepare Yourself

If a candidate hasn’t prepared for the interview, how would you feel about their organizational skills? The rules apply on both sides, and preparation before the interview is crucial.

Not only will preparation make the interview more effective, but it will help validate you and your company’s professionalism.

As a recruiter, you must know the technical purpose of phone interviews. Getting ready before you call will make the discussion smoother and more comfortable.

Read through the candidate’s resume to learn more about their top achievements and fit for the job. You can also check out social media profiles like LinkedIn for valuable insights. However, it’s best to use these sparingly. They can create an unconscious bias.

2) Choose a Time

Make sure that you consider the applicant’s time when scheduling an interview. Choose a time for the phone screening convenient for both of you. Then send a follow-up to confirm they can make it.

Even if it’s just a short phone call, the applicant may have other priorities and obligations that day. Time is valuable for companies and candidates — don’t waste it.

In some cases, you may schedule a time outside the range of regular working hours. If the applicant reaches out to you with any questions, be sure to respond as quickly as possible.

3) Start by Introducing Yourself and How the Interview Will Work

Start the call off by giving yourself a formal introduction. You can include your name, job title, and a brief description of your company’s preferred experience.

It’s also helpful to let the applicant know how you’ll conduct the interview to make the ordeal smoother. Giving a quick roadmap of the conversation ensures everyone is on the same page.

You can also open with a bit of small talk to build rapport. However, try not to get too off-topic to avoid wasting time. Remember, the first recruitment phone call should be brief.

4) Ask the Questions You Have Planned

Once you’ve broken the ice, you can start asking the candidate the questions you have planned. If possible, try to have a fixed set of questions to avoid biases.

Some questions you can ask are:

  • Can you tell me a bit more about yourself?
  • What does an ideal workday look like for you?
  • Can you elaborate more on your education?
  • What makes you interested in this role?

Take notes on each response so you can find any discrepancies during the initial screening. Moreover, make sure you’re in a quiet environment so you can hear all their answers.

5) Give Them a Chance to Ask You Questions

Both parties should ask questions during the initial screening. After asking your most essential questions, give the applicant a chance to ask you anything about the company or position.

A serious candidate should have at least one question. You can learn more about the applicant by the kind of questions they ask.

Be sure to answer the questions clearly and truthfully. This step is crucial to see whether or not it’s a good fit for both you and the applicant. If you don’t know the answer to any of their questions, inform them that you’ll find out and let them know as soon as possible.

6) Tell Them What’s Happening Next

Once you wrap up the interview, explain what to expect next to the applicant. You can tell them the timeframe they should expect a response and who to contact if they have any further questions. Try to be as specific as possible as to when they should follow up.

What Should You Look for When Conducting Phone Interviews?

The first recruitment call should be to test the water with qualified applicants. The purpose is not to get their entire life story or a thorough description of their professional experience.

Instead, use this as an opportunity to learn about their essential skills. Ask why they think they would be a good fit for the role. You should also check to see if they fit into your company culture.

You can focus on asking more detailed questions further down the interview process. If you like what they had to say during the first call, you can invite them in for a formal interview. The second interview is where you should focus on their specific skillet and how it would benefit your organization.

Common Red Flags

It’s also an excellent time to spot any red flags during the interview. These behaviors will likely determine whether a candidate is a good fit for your company’s role.

  • No Enthusiasm. If a candidate shows no enthusiasm during the interview, chances are they aren’t enthusiastic about the role either. Check to see how much they engage with you over the phone, and pay attention to what questions they ask (if any).
  • Lack of Focus. Does the candidate seem distracted during the call? If so, it could be because they lack interest in the position. Moreover, it could say a lot about their work ethic.
  • Too Focused on Money and Benefits. The paycheck and benefits are a big reason why most people take a job. However, compensation shouldn’t be the only reason they are applying. If all they seem to care about is money and benefits and show no passion for your company, that’s not a good sign.
  • Negative Comments About Their Previous Employer. It’s normal for people to have negative thoughts about their previous job. It’s even justified in some cases. However, that shouldn’t be something to discuss during the first interview. If they talk negatively about their previous company, they’ll probably do the same once they leave your organization.
  • Inappropriate Behavior. Although the first phone interview can be casual, the candidate should still showcase good behavior. Any cursing or offensive comments show a lack of professionalism. It may not be a huge problem if they accidentally slip in a curse word. However, excessive foul language and immaturity are massive red flags.

Types of Questions to Ask

The most important thing to remember is to keep the call simple. Asking too deep questions might make the candidate nervous and prevent you from eliciting the answers you want. That said, you still want to learn as much as you can during the first interview.

With that in mind, what are the best questions to ask? Here are some questions you can ask during the initial phone interview that will give you valuable information about your applicants:

What About This Role Sparked Your Interest?

Most candidates will only apply for jobs they feel passionate about or are dedicated to performing well. However, it’s not always the case. Screen out candidates serious about the role and people applying for every listing they see by asking them why they applied in the first place.

If they show enthusiasm about your organization, chances are they will be loyal if offered a position. It also shows that they are confident they have what it takes to be selected.

Can You Accept This Job if Chosen?

You need to check if the applicant meets the basic requirements to accept the job. For example, you can ask if they are willing to travel or have a valid driver’s license and means of transportation. It might also be appropriate to ask about security clearance for some jobs.

These questions will depend on the kind of job. Think carefully about what the candidates need to take the job.

Doing so will help you screen out unsuitable candidates and book a formal interview with qualified applicants only.

How Will Your Work Experience Help You in This Position?

This question will help see whether or not the applicant has done their research into the position. If they read the job description, they should know how their work experience aligns with the company goals.

One significant factor to look for here is measurable results on previous accomplishments. Hard facts can reflect their expected performance in your organization.

Why Are You Looking to Switch Jobs?

Knowing the applicant’s reason for leaving can help you estimate how well they’ll fit in at your company. Observe how they speak about their previous employer. An applicant who starts going off on their old boss or coworkers can be a significant red flag.

What’s Your Ideal Work Environment?

Asking a candidate’s ideal work environment will help determine if they’ll enjoy working at your company or not. You can ask if they prefer working in teams or independently.

Remember, a candidate can be talented but not a good fit based on their habits and work preferences.

Types of Questions NOT to Ask

A huge no-go is asking them about politics, religion, or questions that are too personal and unrelated to their professional lives. These questions can indicate interviewer bias or even issues of nepotism within the company’s internal structure. Whether valid or not, such appearances can impact the company’s reputation.


Conducting recruitment phone interviews can be daunting, but you can make the process much easier. Follow the tips above if you want to have effective phone interviews with your applicants.

For more resources for recruiters, get in touch with our team here at ScoutLogic. We offer valuable services to recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers.

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