Face-to-face interviews are the best way to get to know job candidates, assess their ability to perform the job, and gauge whether they are a good fit for your organization. But before committing to an in-person interview, you may want to learn more about a candidate. This is where telephone screening comes in. Telephone Screening as a Hiring Tool

Gather First Impressions and Narrow the Field

Telephone screening is not an interview… think of it instead as a fact-checking exercise that bridges your initial resume review and the face-to-face interview.

The primary purpose of a phone screen is to verify the information on the resume and obtain a few additional details about the applicant. A phone screen can also give you an initial impression of the candidate… letting you judge qualities like how well-spoken he or she is, and whether the person appears truly interested in both the job and your company.

Phone screens can also be used to sort unsolicited resumes that you’d like to hold for future open positions.
Ultimately, the phone screen is designed to save time by eliminating candidates, without having to conduct a more comprehensive in-person interview. It allows the employer to narrow down and quickly identify the best candidates for the job.

Stick to a Script

As with every step in the hiring process, phone screens should be conducted in accordance with industry best practices and federal and state law. This means that each candidate should be asked the same set of basic, job-related questions to ensure equal treatment. It’s a good idea to prepare a phone-screening form or checklist to be used for every job candidate, and take thorough notes. A downloadable sample of this type of form can be found in the Forms & Policies section of the HR360 website.


Start your phone screen by introducing yourself and explaining that you’re calling to follow up on the submitted resume. Clarify that the purpose of your call is to verify information. Confirm the candidate’s name and current employer, and ask about his or her main duties and responsibilities in that job. Ask why the candidate is interested in your open position, and about relevant skills. Also ask for the person's salary requirements.

Move through the candidate’s resume, confirming the dates and duties of previous employment and the reasons for leaving those jobs. Finally, verify the candidate’s education and any professional certifications listed on the resume. Be sure to address any concerns you may have.

Close by giving the candidate an opportunity to ask any final questions and thanking the candidate for his or her interest. If you are certain you’d like to bring the person in for an interview, it is fine to schedule it while on the phone… but if you have any questions or concerns, say instead that you will follow up within a stated time frame.

Avoid Questions that Might Discriminate

Because job applicants are protected from workplace discrimination at federal, state, and local levels, you should avoid any questions that might veer into this area. These include inquiries related to gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, disability, marital status, pregnancy, national origin and more. Familiarize yourself with federal nondiscrimination laws, as well as those that apply in your individual state and city, which may be broader in scope.

Also, disregard any irrelevant or inappropriate information the candidate may volunteer that could be considered a basis for discrimination… for example, a candidate's casually mentioning that she is pregnant. As a general rule, information obtained and requested through the pre-employment process should be limited to that which is essential for determining if a person is qualified for the job.

Follow Through with Follow-Up

After the screening, document your follow-up plans and communicate back to the candidate in a timely fashion. If you are not moving forward with an interview, send an email thanking the applicant for his or her interest and, if appropriate, explain that you will keep the resume on file for future consideration. Finally, sign and file the document and retain the record for at least one year. This can be helpful for any future position that becomes available, or in the event an applicant claims his or her candidacy was unlawfully passed over.

Secrets to Successful Hiring [Video Blog]

Topics: Hiring Process

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