Using Phone Interviews to Improve Recruitment

80% of the roughly 1,000 CEOs we have spoken to on the subject say they do not get their money’s worth when working with outside recruiters. In this blog series, I’m sharing my tips on how to get much better service when you use executive search firms, contingency recruiters, and staffing companies.

My first tip to get better candidates from outside recruiters is to require recruiters to inform candidates that a final step in hiring at your company is for them, the candidates, to arrange calls with managers they’ve reported to.

In my second blog, I suggest that you reference check contingency recruitment firms and then offer an exclusive contract to one recruitment firm so they will conduct interviews and send you reports of the candidates they recommend.

The combination of these two methods will assure that the recruitment firms will only send you high performing candidates who will be transparent with you in interviews.

Now, onto my third recommendation, which is for you, if you are the hiring manager, Human Resources manager, or Talent Acquisition professional, to conduct phone screens of candidates presented by outside search and recruitment firms as well as candidates generated internally.

Search firms prefer that their high-level candidates visit you in person for at least a day for you to conduct your full interviews and other hiring steps. You’ll save yourself a lot of time by conducting phone screen interviews of ALL candidates before organizing a day for full interviews and other hiring steps you use.

woman on the phone at desk laptop

How to Conduct a Phone Screen Interview


Hi Pat, this is Chris Smith from Acme. Johnson Recruiters passed on your resume and their report. Do you have a few minutes to discuss the Sales Rep job you’re applying for or should we schedule a call at different time?

Assuming the candidate agrees to talk now…


Reminder of Candidate-Arranged Reference Calls

Before we discuss the job I want to remind you what Johnson should have told you — that at Acme a final step in hiring is for candidates to arrange reference calls with managers they’ve reported to in the past decade. This helps make sure that new hires will be successful and happy in the job. Is this process okay with you?

Assuming the candidate agrees, you can then briefly describe the job and offer to answer any of their questions. Following that, you should ask questions to gather key information about the candidate’s two most recent jobs, starting with the job prior to their current job. Those questions are:

  • Confirm the job title, company, and start and end dates.
  • Ask, Why did you take that job?
  • What were your major accountabilities and goals?
  • What were your accomplishments and mistakes?
  • Who was your manager?
  • What were your manager’s strengths and weaker points?
  • How would your manager rate your overall performance, and what would they list as your strengths and weaker points?
  • Why did you leave that job?


After the Phone Interview

You of course will follow your hiring procedures and conduct full interviews with the top candidates. We favor conducting thorough, chronological Topgrading Interviews, covering education years and then all jobs.

If you want to get much better results from outside recruiters, and confidently hire high performers, I recommend checking out my previous two blogs, linked below. In my next blog, I will show you how to conduct candidate-arranged reference calls, which is the best verification that you’re going to hire the right person for the job.


In this blog series, I am highlighting methods that you and your recruiters can use to save time and money and improve the quality of the candidates you interview and ultimately hire.

How to Get Top Performance from Search Firms and Recruiters

Use an Exclusive Contract to get Better Results from Contingency Recruiters

Improve your hiring success with Topgrading. Our proven hiring process will transform your selection methodology so that you get better hiring results.  Our leadership and candidate assessment tools will help you assess, hire, retain, and grow outstanding team members. Contact us to learn more!

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