Editors Note: This is a guest post written by Paul Slezak - Cofounder at RecruitLoop 

7 Essental Telephone Interview Questions for Interviewers

I’ve seen far too many people fall into this trap over the years and you may well have found yourself in a similar situation either as a hiring manager or as a recruiter.

You’re inundated with applications. You skim through the plethora of cover letters or maybe have a quick glance at the front pages of the resumés starting to clog up your inbox.

A few key words, relevant job titles, or ‘nice-to-have’ company names jump out at you and you immediately pick up the phone to book a candidate in for an interview.

If you’re feeling too swamped, you may even ask someone else to call the candidate on your behalf to invite them in.

No questions asked. It’s just a call to book them in to see you.

So far so good?

Ah … not quite!

It’s crazy how often a recruiter or hiring manager will then walk into the interview only to quickly realise that the candidate in front of them is totally wrong for the role (or company) in question.

And yet had they spent even just 5 – 10 minutes on the phone assessing the candidate, they certainly wouldnot have invited them in for what turned out to be a complete waste of (everyone’s) time.

Phone screening is certainly one way to determine whether a candidate might be suitable for a role and therefore whether or not they should qualify for a face-to-face interview.

But knowing what to keep an eye (or ear!) out for during a phone screening call could also prevent the odd catastrophe.

1. Do they even remember applying for the role?

The first question I always ask during a phone screen (after I introduce myself and let them know where I am calling from) is whether they can actually recall applying for my role. You can tell a lot from how they respond to this question.

2. What was it about the role (or ad) that attracted their attention?

I remember asking this question once to a candidate whose work history actually looked damn good on paper.

She literally burst out laughing. “Are you serious? I’ve probably applied for about 50 roles in the last 2 weeks. Do you really expect me to know why I specifically applied to yours? Probably because I desperately need to find a job. Does that answer your question?

Let’s just say I didn’t even need to go on to Question 3!

3. Where are they up to in their job search?

Are you the first person they are speaking to? Is yours the only position they have applied for recently? Or have they already been for five interviews this week?

The answer to this particular question could help you assess any possibility of you working with them exclusively if they’re an A-grade candidate (especially if you’re a recruiter) or reveal just how quickly you should get them in to meet with you.

4. What are they ideally looking for in their next position?

Ask them to create a wish list for their next role and get them to talk through it right there with you over the phone, including:

  • What type of manager they want to work for;
  • What hours they ideally want to work;
  • Whether they want any more flexible working arrangements (eg to work from home one day per week).

Assuming you then decide to bring them in, you will also be able to refer back to their wish list during the face-to-face interview.

5. What are their salary expectations?

It’s an unfortunate fact but the majority of applicants will typically ‘stretch’ the truth slightly in response to this particular question. It’s also important to ascertain what salary they are currently on.

So you might also want to ask, “If I were to ask to see a pay slip, what salary will it indicate you are on now?”. Whilst it might cause an awkward silence or a nervous cough, you are more likely to get a straight answer.

6. What is their notice period?

If someone is immediately available (and not working), you need to find out the backstory. Similarly if your need is urgent and when you ask your applicant for their notice period they say “six weeks”, well there’s no point in wasting anybody’s time on this occasion.

Asking this question can also suddenly make the whole job hunting process become very real for any job seeker. If they say “Gosh I’m only just starting to put the feelers out” (or words to this extent), well then they certainly shouldn’t go straight to the top of your interview shortlist.

7. What is their availability like for an interview in the next few days?

You might get a similar reaction here to the question about their notice period. But if an applicant says they’re just really busy and wouldn’t be able to meet you until next week at the earliest, then again you need to question how serious they are about the whole process. If they say they can meet with you before or after work or that they’ll “do anything to make it happen” because the position looks perfect, then you might just be on to something.

The way an applicant responds to each of the above questions can tell you a lot about them and about just how serious they are about finding a new job. So listen very carefully to what they have to say.

Remember you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. It’s only a 10 – 15 minute telephone call. So make sure you’re listening twice as much as you’re speaking!

Of course if you still feel you might not have time to telephone screen your applicants, then asking them to record a video interview is certainly another option.


RecruitLoop  gives employers a smarter way to recruit through technology and services that dramatically reduce the cost and time it takes to find new staff.

The model consists of two primary components:

1. Recruitment marketplace:

A highly curated network of expert independent recruitment professionals available on-demand.

This gives employers access to professional flexible recruitment support, at an 80% lower cost than a traditional recruitment agency.

2. Recorded video interview platform: 

A game-changing innovation in the recruitment process.

RecruitLoop has developed a proprietary technology for recorded video interviews. This is not a ‘live’ video-capability like Skype, but an automated one that records candidate responses to customised questions, via their webcam. 

They call it ‘Elastic Recruiting’ . 

 A detailed explanation of the RecruitLoop process can be found here .