Both employers and job hunters can undervalue the telephone interview, but it’s a great screening tool for the hiring process. Regardless of what side of the call you are on, phone interview advantages and disadvantages are numerous, but phone calls are ultimately worth your time since they can save a lot of hassle. Phone interviews should be a part of the hiring process but should supplement in-person interviews.
Advantages of Telephone Interviews for Employers
Hiring a new employee is a costly, time-consuming endeavor, not just in onboarding the new employee but also in the lost income from time spent finding the right person. Anything that can speed up that process is advantageous, and that’s where telephone interviews come into play. They should be the first step in the hiring process, and here’s why:
- Saves time. A receptionist can set up a telephone interview at a mutually convenient time. It can transpire anywhere the parties happen to be, and it can be conducted casually and without any costs incurred. Several potential candidates can be interviewed in an hour, meaning a morning spent on calls can be extremely informative.
- Trims the fat. There can be a deluge of applicants with a struggle to get through them all, but what’s on paper doesn’t always translate to reality. A phone call can reveal if the applicant is actually intelligent and competent enough to warrant bringing him in for an in-person interview.
- Fills in the gaps. A promising resume may have some gaps or lack of clarity, leaving the headhunter vexed. A simple phone interview means being able to ask about specific experiences or things left out, giving a more complete picture of whether that candidate is worth further examination.
- Gets you on the same page. Issues like salary, work schedule, location and availability are all important to both sides. By having a conversation and asking about salary expectations, seeing if the work schedule is amenable and discussing other potentially non-negotiable details, it’s easy to learn if the candidate may not be a fit.
Disadvantages of Telephone Interviews
For employers, telephone interviews can be only a part of the process. It is important to meet in person too. These are the shortcomings of phone calls:
- No body language. There’s something about the way someone looks you in the eye or how she moves and gestures while talking. It’s easy to read a lot into a person’s mindset and values just by being in her presence. Not everyone is comfortable in person, which can be informative for jobs needing a people person and public skills. On the phone, this isn’t apparent.
- Get left hanging. If the applicant doesn’t like what he is hearing or is frustrated by questions, he can end the call with no warning. On the upside, it is one less in-person interview to conduct, and his resume can get shelved.
- Chemistry questions. While it’s possible to strike up a rapport during a phone interview, it is often hard to peg whether there’s chemistry or not.
- Technical struggles. Skype and other apps can be used for calls, especially if the applicant is traveling and conducting the call from abroad, and connections can be sketchy and noisy. Similarly, the person can be in a bad location that makes it difficult to hear the finer points of the call. Sometimes, this can be evidence of how resourceful or intuitive the person is because if she's not trying to find a good setting for the interview call, then how badly does she really want the job?
Advantages for Job Seekers
Some of the employer advantages apply to job seekers too since it is important that the job pays what the job hunter is looking to earn and that the job makes use of his skills. Finding out all of that in the phone interview means knowing whether to invest more time and effort into that job or whether it is time to cut losses and move on to other opportunities. Other advantages include:
- Comfort. There’s no need to get fancy for a phone call. However, if asked for Skype or other messaging addresses for a web-based call, they could use video calling, so at least wearing a nice shirt and killing the bed head is a good move.
- Time effectiveness. With no travel time, this is the easiest way to find out if the job is a potential fit. The call can be taken at home (or in a secluded spot at work) while doing other tasks before and after so it doesn’t interrupt a potentially productive day.
- Cheat sheets. With no eyes on the applicant, it’s easy to prepare a list of questions, answers or other notes that can be beneficial during the interview.
Disadvantages for Job Seekers
All those chemistry and body language issues plague the job seeker too because you're unable to gauge the interviewer for his personable nature on the phone. Technical issues are concerns for both sides of the call. Other disadvantages include:
- No reaction. It’s hard to tell how replies are landing with the interviewer when there are no expressions or reactions over the phone.
- Awkward. It’s harder to hide behind a smile or other nervous activity when you're unsure of how to reply to a question. Being on the spot with nothing but that deafening silence in between answer delays can be mortifying for someone who is not quick on the replies.
- Time crunch. With telephone interviews typically being shorter, applicants are left with less time to sell themselves.
Tips for Better Telephone Interviews
Phone calls aren’t just for job interviews. There are pollsters and marketers who do data collection through telephone calls too. Whether you’re hiring, looking for work or just trying to be better at collecting data, these tips can be useful:
- Stand or pace. Moving around can give you more energy and make you sound more engaging and compelling, and it also dispels some nervous energy too.
- Hydrate. Before the call, make sure you’ve hydrated, as dehydration can give you both a fuzzy brain and unclear speech. Don’t eat or chew gum during the call, but a sip of water is fine.
- Be prepared. Read and hold any materials with which you need to be familiar, such as the applicant’s resume and information about the company. Have a pen and paper ready for any notes worth taking during the call.
- Don’t fall silent. Silence is a momentum killer on the phone, so be sure to keep gaps in conversation short.
- Be charged up. If the call has to be on a mobile phone, then make sure you’ve charged up enough for the call.
- Be punctual. Whether you’re making the call or receiving it, be there in time to answer the call. Turn off the TV or radio and make sure the phone is set to ring and not just vibrate so you definitely hear it ring.
- Choose a good spot. Be sure you won’t be interrupted during the call. Close the door and windows too so outdoor noise is limited. Distractions can be damaging when coupled with nerves.
Steffani Cameron is a professional writer who has written for the Washington Post, Culture, Yahoo!, Canadian Traveller, and many other platforms. Some writing projects have included ghost-writing for CEOs and doing strategy white papers. She frequently writes for corporate clients representing Fortune 500 brands on subjects that include marketing, business, and social media trends.