Saturday, January 19, 2013

How To Conduct A Telephone Screening Interview?

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More and more employers are using telephone interviews for their initial screening of candidates. Job candidates should be prepared for such interviews just as they would for an interview in person. In other words, they should:
  • Be ready to interpret and sell every achievement noted on their resumes.
  • Have available a clear, appealing outline of their research, if they are graduate students or practicing scientists.
  • Offer a well-rehearsed presentation of their work and academic achievements.
  • Understand their goals, abilities, skills, and developmental needs, and their expectations of an employer.
A telephone interview can be a relaxed and effective experience. In some ways, it can be more comfortable and natural than a face-to-face interview, especially if you have access to a speaker telephone to free your hands for note taking.
Telephone interviews have other advantages. Interviewers and candidates can schedule the interview based on their mutual convenience - conducting only morning interviews, for example, if that is their best time. They can also avoid back-to-back interviews, and concentrate more closely on each interview, increasing likelihood of success.
A telephone-screening interview operates as follows:
Set the stage. Contact the candidate by e-mail or telephone to explain the job opening, elicit the candidate's interest, and schedule a screening interview to occur within the next three business days.
Conduct the interview. A good interviewer starts on time, stays on time, and ends on time. Since you and the candidate have already met once by telephone, the usual small talk to get an interview rolling may be kept brief.
The outline of the interview. Use the candidate's resume to formulate specific lines of questions, and take notes during the interview to document key information. Research by the National Association of Colleges and Employers and by Dr. William Swan, a leader in interviewer training, advises probing a candidate's background in the following order:
  1. Work experience. For a new graduate, spend about 25 percent of the time on this topic; for an experienced candidate, up to 50 percent. The work history may consist of summer and part-time jobs dating back to high school. Start at the beginning but spend most of the time exploring recent experience. Try to learn what the candidate actually accomplished, liked or disliked, and learned in each job. If teamwork was involved, determine the candidate's role. How were obstacles overcome? Your goal is to grasp the candidate's various talents, growth in experience, productivity, interests, and transferable skills. Since undergraduate and graduate research, as well as cooperative assignments, are part of education, many recruiters include those topics as part of the discussion about education.
  2. Education. For a new graduate, devote 30-35 percent of the time to education; for an experienced candidate, perhaps 20-25 percent. Start with college, including how the candidate selected his or her institution and major. Explore areas of academic achievement, interest, and challenge. Include extra-curricular activities. If the candidate is a new Ph.D. or a postdoctoral scientist, request a fifteen-minute review of graduate (and postdoctoral) research. This is a challenge but can go smoothly if the candidate truly owns the research. Be politely firm about limiting the presentation's time. This is an opportunity to measure the candidate's output, creativity, independence, drive, maturity, and, sometimes, the direct applicability of the work to a current job opening.
  3. Outside activities. Productive people have scant free time. How they spend it can reveal their deep-seated values. These may include desire for advancement, autonomy, balanced life, challenge, security, and service to some important goal. An interviewer who devotes 10 percent of the time to explore outside activities and their meaning to the candidate can often gauge how the candidate's values are aligned with the employer's.
  4. Self-assessment. Now test your impressions of the candidate. Ask the candidate to state three leading strengths and, for each, give an example of how that strength led to a success. As you listen, check what you hear against your impressions. Next, ask what specifically the candidate is doing for self-improvement, to advance to a higher level of performance. Investing 8-10 percent of the interview this way can reveal much about the candidate's maturity and ambition. Conclude your part of the interview by asking if the candidate wants to bring up anything else. If so, cover it quickly. Then ask, as your last question, what the candidate wants to do next in a job and what he or she wants from it. Now invite the candidate to present questions to you.
  5. Candidate's questions. Candidates want jobs where they can succeed and employers where they can be happy and fulfill their goals. Their questions are important to them. Allot 10-15 percent of the time to address them. If, at this point, you are trying to attract the candidate, give truthful and enthusiastic answers to persuade him or her to come for a site interview. Otherwise, give truthful but matter-of-fact answers. Every candidate deserves respect and should feel treated fairly. If they don't work for you, they will likely work for a supplier, customer, or competitor. You want their good will, no matter what.
  6. Conclusion. Briefly explain what comes next in the review process and when to expect a reply. Thank them for investing their time with you, then hang up. Finally, complete your interview report while the information and impressions are fresh.
The telephone interview is an invaluable tool to the recruitment process. The primary advantage of telephone interviewing is cost-effectiveness: you can screen a wide pool of candidates and select the right few to invite back for a site interview. Another advantage is timeliness, when you are trying to fill immediate openings. While the telephone interview lacks the benefits of seeing candidates in person and assessing them visually, by listening carefully you can still make confident predictions of future performance from your evaluations


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