Hiring from Home: Perfecting the Phone Interview


Hiring from Home: A 3-Part Series


The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many organizations to transition to remote and work-from-home options. While some organizations are putting a hold on new hires, many are still moving forward with recruitment and adding new members to their teams. In the temporary absence of face-to-face interviews, what are the best alternatives? How can you roll them out quickly? Is it feasible to complete the hiring and onboarding process remotely? This 3-part series on hiring from home will provide answers to these questions and cover the following topics: perfecting the phone interview, video interviews done right, and remote onboarding.

Part 1: Perfecting the Phone Interview

A step down?

Phone interviews may be considered second-rate in the eyes of those involved in the hiring process, but there are some great advantages to the phone interview as well. Best-selling author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this in his most recent book: Talking to Strangers. Drawing from both research and experience he explains that his preferred method of interviewing is over the phone. Even when face to face is available, Gladwell recommends the phone interview as the best method to judge certain aspects of a potential hire. The reason? Minimizing bias. When we see someone in person and read into subtle facial expressions and body language (both consciously and subconsciously) we are prone to making errors in judgement, Gladwell explains. To be clear, we would not suggest that face-to-face interviews be put aside for the telephone, but what we can say with confidence is that phone interviews hold great value, regardless of the situation you find yourself in. Let’s explore how to maximize this tool.

The first stage

Phone interviews work beautifully as the first stage of an interview process. It takes less time out of your schedule, can be a great screening tool, and most importantly for the purposes of this discussion – it can be done from anywhere! Also, as discussed above it can help minimize bias in the early stages. The first crucial step to perfecting the phone interview is the setup.

Beware of background noise

If you are conducting your phone interview as a conference call or on speakerphone, it is strongly recommended to mute yourself when not speaking. Limiting the background noise is very helpful for both you and the candidate to have a clear and distraction-free conversation, especially considering the call may be taken at home or anywhere else remotely. Also, make sure to test your headphones or earbuds before the interview, as they tend to pick up extra background noise or make your voice sound more distant.

Eliminate distractions

Knowing you can’t be seen can make distractions easier to come by. Find a place that is quiet where you won’t be interrupted and have your desk space as clear as possible. Minimize what’s around you. Have all the necessary tools in front of you: laptop or paper and pen, glass of water perhaps, but nothing else.

Agenda for the interview

Outline your call ahead of time and discuss that timeline again at the start of the call. Having a clear, mutually understood plan for the call is helpful to maximize the efficiency and can help avoid awkward transitions. Without facial expressions or body language to read, a plan set out ahead of time is extra valuable to keep the flow of conversation between both parties.

Provide feedback throughout

Without body language it can be more difficult for both sides to understand how the other is responding or feeling through the conversation, so remember to practice some active listening when possible. If you are muted while the candidate is talking you can either let them know this in advance, or unmute for feedback throughout the conversation.

Targeted questions and tone

If the role they are interviewing for involves regular phone communication, consider a scenario-based question where you act as the client or customer that they may be speaking to in their role. This is an area where phone-based interview can really shine. While their knowledge of your organization or product might not be perfect, it’s important to understand how their tone will be with customers. According to Albert Mehrabain’s famous research, when determining whether we like or trust the person we’re speaking with over the phone, 87% is weighted on tone and only 13% on the words themselves.

Open-ended and conversational

In addition to asking all your standardized questions it is important to build rapport over the phone as well. Not being face-to-face doesn’t mean the interview has to be robotic or cold. Take some time to ask open-ended and conversational questions that get them talking. An example of this could be “tell me about a workplace that you really enjoyed and what made it so great?” This question allows them to open up into a topic that is positive in nature, and it’s likely that speaking about this will come easily.

Clear next steps

Outline the next steps to the candidate: when should they expect to hear back? From whom? If next steps are already known, determine the date and time right there while you have them on the phone. Discuss any follow up documents that might be sent. Ask them if they feel clear and if they have any final questions themselves.


Throughout the hiring process it’s important to make the most of every interaction with applicants. Having a robust phone interview process saves time, money, and offers valuable insights. Following the steps outlined in this article will help maximize the efficiency of your phone interviews and help rule-in or rule-out candidates early in the process.

Coming Soon

Part 2 of the Hiring from Home series will be released next week. The topic: Video Interviews Done Right.

For more information on our client services and how we can help you hire, visit https://platinumrecruiting.ca/client-services/

For any questions please e-mail justin@platinumrecruiting.ca