COVID-19 and the hiring process: Conducting phone interviews

As companies begin asking employees to work from home to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, phone and video interviews are quickly replacing face-to-face job interviews.

One of the best ways to extract the most value from your phone interviews is by making sure that you ask insightful, thought-provoking questions. So, our recruiters have rounded up five key questions that you should ask in phone interviews to help you find the very best candidates for your team.

5 Phone Interview Questions to Find the Candidates You Really Want

1. “Why are you looking for a new role?”

With resume in hand, you already have a decent sense of this particular applicant’s professional history. However, there’s one thing you won’t find in those perfectly quantified bullet points—why exactly this person is searching for a new position.

According to Mitch Goldstein, President of The Mason Group, this question should be the very first you ask when conducting a phone interview. “Although seemingly simple and straightforward, it’s a tricky question to help you scratch the surface and read between the lines of your interviewee’s answers to get to the true drivers behind why the candidate wants to make a career move,” he explains.

Mitch warns that most interviewees will give you politically correct answers. However, to get them to open up—particularly over the phone—try using yourself as an example to make the question more approachable. The important thing to remember is that knowing why a candidate is looking for a new job is key in making a successful hire.

2. “What attracted you to this role in particular?”

Yes, you want to know why a candidate is searching for a new role in general. But, you also want to dig in deeper to discover what drew him or her to this particular job.

This question is helpful at the phone interview stage, because it can give you a really great sense of an applicant’s motivations in just a couple of words. Are they unable to provide a clear answer to the question? That could be an indicator that they’re simply scrambling to find any sort of employment to escape their current position.

However, if the interviewee’s answer details numerous specifics of the job or company that excite them, that demonstrates that they’ve done their research and are chasing a role they’re passionate about—and not just a paycheck.

3. “At your last performance review, what were some of the things that your manager said you did really well, and what did he or she recommend you continue to work on?”

While it might not be something that initially crosses your mind, you can learn a lot about a candidate by inquiring about previous performance reviews. After all, finding out what past employers thought about an employee’s performance is typically a good indicator of what you should expect.

“If they brush the question off or seem upset by it, you can either assume they come from an unstructured environment that didn’t do performance reviews, or they just didn’t take them very seriously,” shares Alex Barker, CPA, CA, and Partner at The Mason Group, “If a candidate doesn’t take their performance reviews seriously, that could mean they’re also not serious about long-term self-development or career growth, which is something you should be looking for when adding to your team.”

If the candidate does manage to respond to this question with a comprehensive answer, you’ll get some great insight into where the applicant excels, as well as where there’s some room for improvement. For example, a candidate may say that they always meets their deadlines and have been told they’re a great team player. But, in order to really move forward in their career, they might consider taking additional management courses to help them grow their leadership skills.

Additionally, a high quality answer to this question indicates that the applicant has come from a company that often conducts regular performance reviews. Knowing what type of work environment an applicant is used to (and thrives in!) can be helpful in order to identify the best fit for your own culture.

4. “What are three key things you value in an employer?”

When you’re so used to being on the hiring end of a phone interview, it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in trying to find the very best fit for your company. However, it’s important to remember that the candidate is trying to do that very same thing—find the organization that best suits his or her wants and needs.

This question is an effective way to get on the same page about what you’re both looking for. The applicant was already able to get clued in about what you’re ultimately searching for by combing through the job description. But, asking this question is your opportunity to find out what qualities the candidate values in his or her employer. Do they thrive in a more relaxed environment with open-door communication? Or, do they rely on the structure and formal hierarchy of a more corporate workplace?

Cultural fit is incredibly important to make a successful hire, and this brief question is your first step to ensuring a mutually beneficial fit for the both of you.

5. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Yes, this question can often be enough to cause job seekers to break out in a cold sweat. But, regardless, it can be a particularly revealing prompt for you to initiate in a phone interview.

With this question, you can see if the candidate has a clear vision for him or herself and confirm that he or she’s not after the job for the wrong reasons.

It also helps you to see if the candidate is thinking about staying long-term at your company and has outlined a plan for growth and career development. An employee’s ultimate career goals are important for you to be in the loop on, as they set the scene for a more positive relationship from the very start.

Currently hiring? Contact any of our offices today to speak to one of our consultants about your staffing needs, and learn more about working together.


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