Make Your Phone Interviews for Jobs in Technology Worthwhile

Tiffany Smallback, Senior Resource Development Manager

You’ve selected a quality group of potential candidates for your organization’s open role, what’s next?  The next step in the process for many organizations hiring for jobs in technology is a round of screening phone interviews. This may seem like merely a preliminary step in the process, but when done correctly, it can provide valuable information to a hiring manager while maximizing the return on their effort.

Including phone interviews in the hiring process will save time for all parties, hiring managers, and candidates. The calls should be concise while allowing hiring managers the ability to verify if the candidate meets the foundation criteria critical for the open job in IT. It also allows an organization to quickly weed out those not qualified and fast track their ideal candidates.

When conducting phone interviews for jobs in technology, your end goal is to assess if the candidate is a technical fit. This is done by evaluating the candidate’s technical core skill set. To do this well, I recommend that interviewers don’t multi-task during the call and keep focused on the task at hand. Interviewers should also have a description of the role and the candidate’s resume in front of them during the call. Furthermore, take notes during the call and immediately after the call, insert your notes into your computer system.

The most important task for the interviewer during a phone screen is to collect a list of data points. Before you begin the process, outline all data points that are critical for you to capture while speaking with the candidate. This list of check points will not only ensure that you remember to collect all important information but it will also provide you with the same data points across candidates. Having comprehensive data for all of your candidates will allow for easier comparison when narrowing down the field as you hire for jobs in technology. Some data points can seem granular but are essential for the next round of interviews such as asking for a candidate’s Skype I.D. or their willingness to travel.

I recommend that a hiring manger saves the personal screening questions such as inquiring about the candidate’s target salary range until the end of the call. Building rapport throughout the call will allow you to establish a buffer before asking personal questions. Occasionally, a candidate does not feel comfortable answering personal questions right away, especially when being asked by the hiring manager.

There are various skill based questions that are important to ask during screening interviews for jobs in technology. For example:

  1. Ask about their overall tech portfolio.
  2. Ask the candidate what he or she does to keep their technology skills current.
  3. Ask what technology the candidate learned in their last role. This question will show you what technology they are most up-to-date on.
  4. Lastly, ask what technology or knowledge the candidate hopes to gain in their new job in IT.

Screening for jobs in technology is difficult due to the highly technical nature of the roles. I think it is very helpful for the interviewer to have two or three, “ask the expert” questions. These questions are technical but do not require a visual aid for the candidate to answer. For example, a candidate can’t simply describe a code sequence over the phone but they would have the ability to answer a question like, “What is the difference between an inner join and a left outer join?”

Closing a phone screening interview for jobs in technology is also tricky. To combat this uncomfortable situation, it is imperative that the interviewer sets the expectations for the call at the beginning. This is not only a great way to start the conversation but it also provides the interviewer a way out at the 30-minute mark. In the beginning, outline the call by stating that it will last 30 minutes and that you will begin by discussing an overview of the position, the organization, and then the candidate’s experience. Finally, state that you will explain the selection process to the candidate at the end of the call. If you provide the agenda in beginning, you then have a less abrupt reason to halt the conversation. Mention that you have met the 30-minute point of the conversation and that you will wrap up the call by explaining the organization’s selection process. During this time, give the candidate a timeframe for next steps. A line I typically suggest using is, “I will share your information with our team and someone will follow up with you within the week.”

With a little preparation and planning, you can efficiently begin the candidate evaluation process for your organization!

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