if you aren’t screening job candidates by phone, you must start now

I’ve been asked a few times recently if it’s really worth spending the time on phone interviews before bringing job candidates in for in-person interviews, and the answer is a loud, ear-splitting YES.

Phone interviews are a massive time saver for you and for job candidates, because you can quickly eliminate people who aren’t right in a 15-20-minute conversation rather than investing an hour in an in-person conversation. It’s a hugely important way to test for basic fit.

Moreover, it’s more considerate to candidates too. You shouldn’t ask someone to take time off work, spend time the night before researching your organization and preparing for the interview, maybe buying a new suit, and generally going through the stress of an in-person interview without first doing them the courtesy of having a phone call to check for basic fit. It’s not reasonable to put people through all that, only to find out in the first five minutes of the interview that it’s not the right fit because of some basic question around logistics, skills, or other stuff that you can screen out in a quick phone interview.

A good phone interview will sniff out deal-breakers in these three categories:

1. Skills or experience deal-breakers: By asking candidates to tell you more about their experience in the key areas you need, you can often pretty quickly see if someone’s experience isn’t as much of a fit as it appeared to be on their resume. For instance, you might discover that Key Experience X looked like a major part of their most recent role, but actually they only did it on occasion and not very recently … or that they have a totally different philosophy about it than would work for you.

2. Logistical deal-breakers: You can find out about these by asking questions about when they’re available to start, salary expectations, relocation, etc.

3. Interpersonal deal-breakers: Talking with someone for 15-20 minutes lets you do a first-round check for overall smarts, communication skills, professionalism, and sanity before you both invest more time in a longer conversation.

If you’re bringing candidates straight in for an in-person meeting without phone-screening first, you must stop it immediately, unless you have no regard for your own time or theirs!

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