Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone we brought in to interview was a real “A” player? That may be a bit of a hiring pipe dream but it’s closer than you think. Phone screening is a great way to vet your candidate shortlist but it’s an extremely underutilized part of the recruitment process.


An hour of pre-screens can save you a day of unnecessary interviewing.


So we’re here to champion the phone screen as a valuable step that you should be integrating into your process!


Phone Screen Best Practices

If you’ve never conducted a phone screen interview before, here are the basic best practices to make sure you’re screening properly:

  • Have all hiring decision makers define early on what makes an “A” Player and whether the criteria you set are must-haves or nice-to-haves.
  • After reviewing all the resumes based on that criteria, create a shortlist of candidates you’d like to screen.
  • Prepare a set of questions that you will ask all the candidates – you should aim to ask the same questions to all candidates to have fair benchmarks set.
  • Phone screens do not need to be as in-depth as an in-person interview – it should take 30 minutes maximum, normally less.
  • Your goal is to see if a candidate is worth taking to the next step in the recruitment process, not the last. Try not to get caught up asking about details that may not be appropriate at this early stage of the hiring process.
  • Your questions should focus on whether the candidate has the skills and experience required for the role (do they fit the “A” Player profile). Ask for examples and specifics that can build on what you already know and address any red flags you may have noticed on their resume.
  • If there are certain practical job requirements that are mandatory, make sure they are covered in the phone screen i.e. must have car, work weekends
  • If your budget is strict and inflexible, then ask about salary expectations. However, if it’s more flexible, you may want to save this conversation for later down the road.
  • Take detailed notes during or directly after the phone call – having direct quotes can be helpful for jogging your memory after numerous interviews.
  • Don’t forget to make note of their communication skills and how they handled the actual process, i.e. how did they answer the phone, were they on time?
  • Score each candidate based on how well they meet your “A” Player criteria.
  • Regardless of whether you feel a candidate should or should not be moved forward, end the interview on a positive and respectful note. Thank them for their time, answer any questions and explain the next steps in the process. Each touch you have with a candidate is affecting your employer brand and your ability to attract top talent.


After all the phone interviews are conducted, you’ll be able to narrow your pool to those who fit your “A” Player profile best. This will help ensure the time you invest in face-to-face interviews is well spent with qualified candidates.