I’ve been a fan of phone interviews even before the pandemic drove many tasks in the LBM world—from office work to product training—online. But of course, COVID-19 has made remote conversations more necessary, more accepted, and more accessible. And I don’t think that needs to completely change when things go back to normal.
How to leverage phone interviews
The phone is a great option for a first interview because it can save time and hassle for both you and the candidate. It’s an easy way to ensure the candidate is actually interested, has the experience and basic qualifications you’re looking for, and isn’t turned off by deal breakers such as the commute or compensation. Plus, if you quickly discover that the person isn’t a fit to move forward in the hiring process, you’ll have avoided wasting their time commuting to an in-person interview that was over in a few minutes (even if you kept interviewing them for 15 more minutes out of courtesy).
It’s important to remember that this interview is designed to determine if the candidate warrants a second interview—not if they should be hired. Begin asking some qualifying questions that can help determine if they can do the job in its most basic form. As I discussed in a previous column (May 2018), these are “functional questions,” such as “Have you ever had profit and loss responsibility for a $3 million budget?” or “Have you ever done retail or inside sales?”
Once you’ve provided an overview of the job, covered the deal breakers, and determined they have the basic skills required, move on to walking through their resume. I ask about each job the candidate has had so I can learn a little bit more about their experience and career progression. As we go through each position, I ask for clarification or more information as it relates to the position I’m interviewing for.
Along with addressing these first-round necessities, a phone interview also gives you insight into how the person will communicate and how they will come across to your customers. Are they hard to understand? Do they talk excessively loud or fast?
All of these factors can help determine if the candidate should move on to the next round. And in many cases, the next round can be done virtually, with a one-on-one video interview.
How to leverage video interviews
I typically recommend a phone interview followed by a face-to-face interview; but an in-person interview isn’t always possible due to time and travel costs. Don’t let a good candidate’s location or limited availability deter you from moving them forward in the consideration process. A video interview can still provide the additional insights you would get in a face-to-face interview, such as your rapport and how well they present themselves.
As a bonus, asking candidates to do a video interview also can give you some insight into how tech-savvy they are as well as their ability to problem-solve. If they call you numerous times for help getting it set up, that’s not a good sign. In addition, you can record the interview to share with other team members.
Like face-to-face second interviews, video interviews should delve deeper into their cultural fit for your company and how they would handle likely situations. These come in the form of behavioral and situational questions.
If you recall from my June 2018 column, behavioral questions give you a glimpse into the job applicant’s work ethic, their approach to challenges, and their ability to work as a team, such as “Tell me about a time that you went above and beyond for a customer” or “Describe a situation when you had to resolve conflict in the workplace.” Situational questions require candidates to respond to a situation they may face on the job, such as “Walk me through how you’d build a relationship with a potential customer who just came through the door.”
If it’s one thing the pandemic has shown, it’s that we can do more remotely than we originally realized. The days of letting scheduling delays slow down your hiring process (causing you to risk losing the best candidates) and paying for job candidates to fly out to meet you could be over—while still ensuring you can hire the strongest candidate.
Rikka Brandon is a leading recruiting and retention expert for the LBM industry. She’s the CEO of BuildingGurus.com and founder of RecruitRetainRock.com where she helps business leaders solve their recruiting and retention challenges.