Phone Interview Tips that Reveal if Candidates are a Fit

by John A. Mussatto on May 8, 2019


phone interview


Although they have been a staple of the hiring process for quite some time, conducting phone interviews can be difficult to master. Most recruiters have a handful of tried and true interview questions to pull from, and these usually result in an effective conversation. But are these conversations really helping to determine if a candidate is a good fit?

As the Director of Technical Recruiting at Resource 1, and throughout my 20+ years in the staffing and recruiting industry, I have developed a list of best practices for conducting phone interviews. Listed below are some of the tactics our teams here at Resource 1 leverage to better identify ideal candidates for our clients’ open positions.

Eliminate the Deal Breakers

Before going into an interview, our recruiters are prepared with a list of candidate “must haves” for a position and a list of potential deal breakers. If the list is too rigid, our qualifications could cause us to overlook potential star performers. Conversely, if we are too lax, we risk wasting our clients’ time with candidates who will not be a good fit. This is a delicate balance and one that our recruiters have perfected over the years.

From the start, our candidates must possess exceptional communication skills. They do not need to have the wordsmithing prowess of an entire marketing department, but it is critical that they are able to explain their work to colleagues, supervisors, and clients. This also includes having a good attitude and being a team player, key attributes we will touch on in a moment.

Ask About the Details

If we schedule a phone interview with a candidate, it is because their resume had all the signs of being a match for a position. Required degrees and certifications? Check. Relevant skills and proficiencies? Check. Impressive professional background? Check. However, saying you are well-versed in a technology is one thing, while being well-versed in that technology is another. This is where details and the due diligence of our recruiters come into play.

During phone interviews, we ask all of our candidates to expand on their technical knowledge beyond what is included on their resume. What projects did they use their technical skills for? What issues did they run into and how did they solve them? If they are defining the technology but not explaining how they have interacted with it, or if their answers are too vague, this raises red flags for our recruiters. Someone who is proficient in a certain programming language or software will be able to speak in-depth on the topic and recount specific experiences with the technology. Well-versed in technology themselves, our recruiters rely on their industry expertise to truly understand the depth of their candidates’ experiences.

Focus on the Attitude

It is critically important to fully evaluate a candidate’s technical proficiency in order to deem them qualified for a position, but our recruiters do not stop there. Gauging a candidate’s attitude and personality is a critical step in ensuring they are a good fit for our clients. First, we try to measure their commitment to the hiring process. Did they research the company we are hiring for and come prepared with questions? If not, their mind might be elsewhere (like with another company or position). Phone interviews can be tricky because you cannot rely on visual body language cues to gauge a person’s intentions. That said, skilled recruiters are sensitive to verbal nuances and use them to determine whether their candidate is hesitant about something.

As part of our high-touch partnership with our clients, we gain a deep understanding of their business and their culture. It is because of this that we are able to accurately identify which candidates would mesh well with each client. Our recruiters will ask candidates to describe their ideal working environment and where they see themselves in 5 years. If their responses do not align with the companies they are interviewing for, we will always be transparent and let them know the position will not be the right fit.

My favorite conversations with candidates are the ones where I can really sense that they are passionate about the world of Information Technology. Candidates who live and breathe tech won’t be able to stop talking about it – projects they have worked on, passion projects they want to start, how they see tech shaping the future, etc. Their excitement will be palpable. When I find a qualified candidate like this, I cannot wait to introduce them to our clients.

Using the phone interview tips above, as well as a list of other best practices, our recruiters at Resource 1 successfully connect our clients with top technical talent that complement their organizations’ unique needs. When you are ready to grow your teams, we are ready to get to work. Let’s talk!


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