In our region’s highly-competitive engineering market, hiring managers must continually seek suitable candidates to fill engineering positions to round out their teams and grow their businesses.
A critical step in the process of efficiently screening a potential new employee is a phone interview.
Successful Phone Interviewing for Managers: Tips from a Recruiter
In my decades of experience working with employers and candidates throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island to fill challenging Engineering positions, I understand the process firsthand, including what managers need to know in order to prepare for, conduct, and conclude a phone interview.
When managers apply proven tips for successful employment conversations, each interview becomes an opportunity to create a mutually-beneficial professional relationship.
Phone Interview Tips for Managers
Interviews by phone are a common means for employers to screen candidates – and for candidates to screen potential employers.
As a manager, your primary goal is to learn about a candidate’s, knowledge, experience, and work history, and discern whether they fit your needs and corporate culture.
Your secondary goal is to showcase your company and leave the candidate with a positive first impression of your firm’s brand and culture, and you as its representative.
Remember, even if you decide not to pursue a candidate, he/she can be a great source of referrals and positive word-of-mouth for your firm.
Remember that even if you decide not to pursue a candidate, he or she can be a great source of referrals for your firm.
Tips for Preparing to Interview an Engineering Candidate
Prepare for a phone interview as you would an in-person interview, and be mindful of these tips:
Make an Appointment with the Candidate
Establish a specific day and time for the call. Don’t leave the timing vague or open-ended, such as “I’ll call on my way home tomorrow” or “I’ll call some afternoon this week”. A set appointment time will ensure that you don’t catch the candidate at an inconvenient time and that the candidate is in the right frame of mind for the employment conversation. Follow up with an email to confirm the date and time of the call.
Be on Time
Remember, the candidate is evaluating you and your company as much as you are evaluating him/her. If you’re late – or worse, if you forget to call – the candidate is left with a negative first impression that can be difficult to overcome.
Take proactive steps to ensure that you don’t receive phone calls, or other interruptions during the interview. Consider sitting away from your computer, as incoming emails, etc. can be distracting. Don’t use a speakerphone, since the quality of the line generally leaves much to be desired and many candidates find it unsettling.
Prepare a General Outline of Questions and Topics
Even the most seasoned manager can benefit from referring to a written outline of general questions and topics to discuss with candidates for an engineering role. The added benefit of a hard-copy outline is that it enables you to take notes about your impression of the interviewee, and flag anything that you deem important for future reference or follow-up. This method is particularly valuable when you must talk with several candidates for the same role, as it can help you “compare your notes” about each candidate.
Prepare to Promote Your Firm and the Position
To be ready for questions from highly-qualified candidates who are likely to have multiple opportunities in today’s competitive marketplace, it’s a good idea to review and jot down your firm’s key strengths, accomplishments and goals, and what differentiates your corporate culture.
Tips for Conducting a Phone Interview
Don’t Call from Your Cell Phone while Driving
Use a landline if possible. If you must use a cell phone be in quiet location where you can concentrate.
Make a Proper Introduction
Introduce yourself and your company and let the candidate know what to expect during the phone interview. Start managing expectations early in the conversation.
Don’t Surprise the Candidate
It is preferable to have only one person interviewing over the phone. If you must include another person, make sure the candidate is informed in advance so he or she can prepare accordingly and do a bit of research on each person’s background. This research can help technical candidates to frame their answers suitably for their audience. For example, an HR manager generally doesn’t prefer to delve too much into technical areas, whereas a hiring manager will be very comfortable with technical answers.
Don’t Ask too Many Technical Questions
While it’s certainly necessary to probe the candidate’s technical experience during a phone interview, try not to get too technical with questions via phone. It is better to explore the depth of a candidate’s technical knowledge and experience during an in-person interview.
Using the general outline you prepared earlier, jot down notes as the conversation unfolds. Note-taking is valuable to the flow of your conversation, and can help you remember and reference key points discussed throughout the interview. Hand-written notes are always recommended, since the sound of typing can be a distraction.
Let the Candidate Know You’ll be Taking Notes
This will help to explain in advance any brief periods of silence that could otherwise feel awkward for your interviewee.
Be Especially Clear in What You Say
Remember that during a phone conversation, a candidate cannot take cues from your body language, so you must be clear in what you say and ask. Avoid misunderstandings by periodically asking for feedback, to ensure that the candidate understands what you are discussing, describing, or asking.
Tips for Concluding a Phone Interview, and Next Steps
Wrap up the Conversation
At the conclusion of the phone interview, set expectations for feedback and next steps. Be as specific as possible in providing details and timeframes.
Keep an Open Mind
Remember that some of the most talented candidates simply don’t present as well on the phone as they do in person, and you don’t want to miss out on them. Don’t discount candidates who didn’t “check all your boxes” or with whom you weren’t completely comfortable via phone. For example, a person’s enthusiasm and body language can be an important facet of their character, but are difficult to gauge on the phone. If you’re unsure, invite them for a face-to-face meeting.
Strong Interview Skills Can Promote Your Firm and Attract Referrals
In today’s candidate-driven employment market, it takes strong interview preparation, skills, and follow-through to attract qualified candidates in the engineering fields.
When you apply the principals outlined in the above phone interview tips for managers, you will efficiently identify the best candidates to pursue for the positions you need to fill. You will also establish rapport with an engineer in your industry, and create a positive impression of your brand and corporate culture with each candidate. Whether or not you hire someone, the positive impression you create can have an advantageous effect as they discuss your firm with their peers, co-workers, and family.