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Glossary: HR & Recruiting Definitions

What is Phone Screening?

Phone screening is the term used to describe a brief telephone interview with an applicant whose application documents indicate they are suitable for the role. A phone screening interview allows recruiters to get a better picture of the applicant’s personality and interests before investing resources into an on-site interview and other steps.

Phone screening interview definition

Phone screening interviews are short telephone calls (approximately 15-30 minutes long) with potentially suitable applicants as an early part of the screening process, which in turn is part of the wider interview process. They usually take place after the submitted documents have been reviewed and the candidate is deemed compatible with the role. The purpose of the telephone interview is for the recruiter and candidate to get to know each other briefly and to clarify, among other things:

Whether a candidate is still interested in employment.

In today’s fiercely competitive job market, after all, the status of skilled workers can change quickly. It is not uncommon for skilled applicants to receive attractive offers from competing employers in the time it takes for a recruiter to review their application. Therefore, applications can quickly lose their relevance.

Whether the motive behind the application is serious.

Information about the reason for an application provides indications of how serious applicants are about their desire to work for the company and whether they may be pursuing higher goals (e.g. taking their next career step).

Whether the values and interests of the applicant and the company are aligned.

Ideally, cooperation is based on shared values, convictions, and interests. If this is not the case, difficulties can arise, later on, occasionally resulting in another costly vacancy.

Whether the position matches the applicant’s ideas and requirements.

Phone screening allows the candidate to better understand company working conditions, holiday days, benefits, salary, etc. and establish whether it is the right move for them.

Why should a company perform phone screening interviews?

A phone interview is a useful tool for recruiters as it takes unnecessary work out of the hiring process. It offers the opportunity to find out not only some basic character traits, but also initial soft skills (such as communication skills and mental agility) of an applicant. 

These cannot be checked purely from the application documents and therefore require personal contact, but will be a huge deciding factor on whether a candidate is suitable for a role.

  Advantages of the Phone Screening Interview

In addition to getting to know a candidate, initial phone interviews offer other practical benefits to companies:

  • Resource savings

    Application processes (especially multi-stage ones) involve a great deal of organization and resources. Phone screening interviews are a resource-saving way to filter out suitable talents.

  • Better overall picture of an applicant

    By their very nature, application documents are of limited value and often raise questions. Clarifying these questions during an initial phone screening interview allows recruiters to get a holistic impression of the applicant.

  • Faster shortlisting

    By getting to know each other first (without the need for extensive travel and with little time required) applicants who are unsuitable in terms of character or behaviour can be filtered out without much wasted time or effort. Therefore, the shortlist of candidates can be narrowed down more quickly.

Typical procedure of a telephone screening interview

The process of a telephone screening interview is usually similar to that of a regular job interview, albeit a little more general:

  • Interviewer and interviewee introduce themselves to each other
  • Recruiter introduces the company
  • Recruiter asks questions about:
    • Hard skills
    • Candidate’s values
    • Goals
    • Motivation
    • Way of working
    • Career experience
    • Work experience
  • Clarification of formalities:
    • Availability
    • Possible starting date
    • Salary expectations
  • The candidate is given the opportunity to ask questions 

Once all the questions have been clarified in a satisfactory manner (for both parties), the next step in the recruitment funnel can be taken. This generally involves a more in-depth interview on-site or via Zoom call.

For inspiration or advice on the types of questions that can be asked during a phone screening, see our interview questions.

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