Telephone Screening


Candidate Screening

If you've scanned the applications and your shortlist is still inconveniently long, conducting a round of telephone interviews can cut down the numbers without taking days of your time.

This is still a preliminary screening, and the full selection committee doesn't need to be involved. Even so, you should take it seriously. Remember:

  • schedule appointments with your shortlisted applicants for the telephone interview
  • don't conduct on-the-spot interviews
  • each telephone interview should take 10-20 minutes per applicant.

For this to work properly, there should to be some baselines.

  • Your prospective choices should be fairly closely grouped. If one or two really stand out, don't waste everybody's time just so you can have a range for the committee to interview.
  • You ought to use the same process to cover everyone on the list; it's too easy to indulge your prejudices by only checking out the ones you don't like.

Ask some questions that raise further questions, so you can pursue areas where the applicant may be trying to play down weaknesses. These could be questions like:

  • What attracts you about this job?
  • Why do you want to leave your current job? (or "Why did you leave your last job?" if they're free at the moment.)
  • What value do you think you can add to our organisation?
  • Where do you see your career going?
  • What skills do you want to develop further?

Use the opportunity to chase up less-than-fully-responsive answers. Cut through to concrete examples, described in detail.

You should also take the opportunity to note down some procedural points.

  • What's their immigration status (Australian citizen, permanent resident, working visa)?
  • What days would they be available for interviews?
  • Are they prepared to do a police check?

Take comprehensive notes. At the end of the process, see who's moved up the priority list and who's moved down. Is there now a clear dividing line between the sheep and the goats?

Don't obsess over it. You're looking for a rough-and-ready best guess, not absolute certainty. Drop anybody who doesn't have some area in which they're the best of the lot, and then call the remaining candidates in for a face-to-face interview with the selection panel. See what some different perspectives have to offer. And pick someone you'd be happy to work with in a crisis.

Click the button below for our Telephone/Video Screening Template to assist with documenting your screening interviews. 

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