Transcript of ESBHR Podcast #3: How to Phone Screen Job Candidates
Listen to the audio version here
In an earlier podcast, “Want To Hire The Best? Pick Up The Phone” I shared with you the reasons why it is important to put a little effort into pre-screening job applicants by phone. Now let’s focus on the types of phone screen questions that you should be asking.
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Many of the questions that you should be asking will be job specific. But there are other questions that you should ask that will apply to most applicants that focus on the job applicant’s soft skills.
Soft skills are also referred to as people skills, which are skills that help you assess the applicant’s ability to communicate, to problem solve, to give and accept feedback. It helps you to assess their level of motivation, their listening skills, their judgment, and their decision-making skills among other things.
Now let’s walk step by step through a typical phone screen using a hypothetical customer service representative job.
If I were interested in hiring a customer service representative, based on my job criteria, my ideal candidate would need to have the following experience:
- At least 2 years of experience working in a customer service role
- Experience or at least a comfort level with responding to questions and providing information both over the phone and in person to clients.
- Experience with dealing with difficult customers.
- My candidate would also need to have experience and be comfortable with databases since they will be entering information on their customer interactions in my company database.
- I’m also looking for a candidate that is calm and gracious under pressure. And the candidate would need to be able to use good judgment so that they can make basic decisions that are in the best interest of a customer and in the best interest of my business.
- I’d also need to determine whether I can afford to hire the candidate based on their salary requirements.
Now I’ve reviewed the resumes that I received and I’ve selected ten possible candidates based on the information that they provided me in their resumes.
Now it’s time to phone screen these candidates so that I can determine whom out of the ten I want to bring in for a face to face interview with me.
When I call these ten candidates, I’ll be asking the following questions based on my job criteria to help me to determine whether or not to invite them in to meet with me.
1. Why did you apply for the Customer Service Representative position? What is it about your background that makes you uniquely qualified for this position?
2. Tell me about a time in your current or past job where you were confronted with a very difficult customer who would not take “NO” for an answer. Describe the situation and the outcome.
3. What systems do you use to track information in your current or in your past jobs?
4. What are your salary requirements?
I chose these four questions because these questions cover many of the basic things that I need to know about the applicant’s experience based on the job criteria that I’ve outlined.
Now let’s focus on why these questions are important to ask as part of the phone screen.
Question No. 1
Why did you apply for the Customer Service Representative position? What is it about your background that makes you uniquely qualified for this position?
If this question is answered correctly, it will give me a sense of not only the applicant’s interest in the job but a general sense of their overall experience as well as what the applicant sees as his or her strengths.
Question No. 2
Tell me about a time in your current or past job where you were confronted with a very difficult customer who would not take “NO” for an answer. Describe the situation and the outcome.
The response to this question requires the applicant to provide a concrete example of how he handled a difficult situation as well his judgment under pressure.
Question No. 3
What systems do you use to track information in your current or in your past jobs?
The response to this question gives me a sense of whether they have used databases before to track information.
Question No. 4
What are your salary requirements?
The response to this question gives me a sense of what the applicant is expecting to be paid which is important.
I recommend that phone screens not be more than 15 minutes. Remember, the purpose of the phone screen is really to determine whether the experience on the applicant’s resume resonates with you in the phone conversation. You’ll have plenty of time to ask additional questions during your face to face interview.
I wish you the best of luck in your hiring efforts!
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