A simple Google search reveals literally hundreds of articles with tips for job interviews over the phone – heck, we’ve written advice for phone interviews ourselves. In today’s world of hiring, phone interviews are pretty close to ubiquitous, as the huge amount of phone interview advice around the internet shows.
It makes sense why phone interviews – and their cousin, the Skype interview – are so common. It’s a low-overhead way for HR departments to do initial screening of job applicants without committing to setting aside space. If the candidate’s already working, they can be conducted in off-hours. It’s also a near-necessity when the candidate is located across the country. Most of all, if you’re hiring for areas that tend to have way more applicants than positions (administrative work, for example), it makes sense to help whittle down a candidate pool fast. But phone screens are also becoming increasingly common for executive-level and leadership positions in areas where candidates are in much higher demand than jobs. They’re becoming more of a default for jobs where companies are struggling to attract talent, for example in Strategic Sourcing, Procurement, and Supply Chain.
So it’s worth taking a look at phone interviews and whether an over-reliance on them might be holding back your hiring process.
A phone interview can be a great way to make an initial connection with a candidate and get them engaged up front – for example if you schedule one within 48 hours of receiving a resume. But companies run into problems when they start to treat phone screens as a replacement for a first round of in-person interviews, especially for hard-to-fill jobs.
What it comes down to is time to hire. So often, companies proceed as if they have all the leverage in the hiring process. With the economy heating up – Canada added 22,000 jobs in August – top candidates at the Manager-level and above are more active than ever. Companies can’t afford to sleep on candidates who are going to be fielding multiple job interviews and multiple job offers.
But hiring managers and HR reps at companies often insist on a “round” of phone screens with candidates that will take more than two weeks at the outset of a search, effectively the same amount or more time than you might dedicate to a first round of in-person interviews. Committing so much time to just phone interviews makes you more likely to miss out on the top talent who are in such high demand that other companies might snap them up. If you’re working with a skilled 3rd party recruiter, they’ve already gone to the process of screening candidates over the phone – and, typically, in person as well – so the process of a phone interview is a bit redundant, as much as you might prefer to do an initial screen on your own rather than just taking a recruiter’s word for it.
Beyond the time considerations, there are lots of benefits of starting off with an in-person interview, even in this more connected marketplace. It helps you establish a rapport with the candidate up front. If you’re hiring a potential executive, it helps you assess their ability to command a room, and to present, in a way that you’re not going to get over the phone. It shows the candidate that you’re serious about hiring and bringing in a valuable contributor. It’s also an opportunity: getting the candidate into the office is a great chance to show off your company culture that you just don’t get with an initial, impersonal-no-matter-how-hard-you-try phone screen.
By all means, phone interviews have their place – for high-volume jobs, and to make a quick connection with a candidate. But should they be a stand-in for in-person interviews, based solely on them being easier to conduct? At the manager level and above? For jobs where candidates are in high demand? Our opinion is no.
But what do you think? Let us know in the comments!