Can I prescreen candidates with a telephone interview?

Telephone screening calls and online interviews can be a practical defense to the sheer numbers of people applying for positions. These introductions attempt to determine candidate suitability in ten- or fifteen-minute increments rather than one-hour, in-person intervals (and without the validated parking, coffee service, and small talk). Telephone screening calls are essential when setting up interviews across the country. When you have only a little time in faraway hotels to meet with potential staff for a remote office location that you re trying to staff, your initial candidate choices become critical. Therefore, telephone profiling techniques help you determine the optimal candidate pool for off-site interviews before you fly out of town.

Your strategy for handling telephone and online interviews, similar to in-person meetings, is twofold: First, employ a questioning matrix to cover all the basics of a candidate's suitability. Second, prepare to sell your company to the candidate and provide the individual with additional resources and information to prepare for the meeting. (Refer candidates to your company s Web page, forward annual reports, or fax them recruitment brochures with details related to the hiring process.)

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There are three major segments of the candidate telephone or online screen: (1) your company and the job specifics, (2) the candidate's success profile, and (3) assessment of candidate's needs. All three are critical because any one area could knock a candidate out of contention. Therefore, simply make copies of the candidate pre-screening interview matrix in Appendix E and attach them to candidates' resumes (if available).

After your initial information gathering session, ask candidates what questions they have about the position or about the company. Close the phone call by stating, ''We've got a few more candidates to speak with before we set up in-person meetings. Allow me to get back to you by tomorrow afternoon if we re in a position to invite you in for a meeting. This will gently allow you to end the conversation and possibly heighten the candidate s interest level in the opportunity.

How do I interview a candidate when I don't have a resume in front of me?

Interviewing candidates without a resume is a critical skill. First, it's a necessary skill: If you're telephone screening a candidate referred to you or ''direct sourcing candidates from the competition, you won t have the luxury of a resume from which to generate your questions. Second, interviewing ''from scratch'' allows you to gain a more thorough understanding of a candidate s background because your information gathering is more like filling in the pieces of the puzzle. As such, you'll naturally heighten your candidate evaluation skills.

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The key to interviewing a candidate ''cold lies in your ability to build structure around a naturally amorphous process. If you have never done it before, try interviewing candidates without looking at their resumes for about a week. After eight or ten tries, you ll get the hang of this unique skill and increase your self-confidence in the entire selection process.

To get you started in building the structure of an interview from scratch, use the interviewing matrix found in Appendix F. The advantage of this matrix structure lies in its ease of use: Gaps in employment, changes in industry, and salary and title progression (or regression) reveal themselves easily. In addition, you can easily focus on the reasons for leaving past positions. Remember, the reason for leaving one job should be fulfilled by the next position; the reason for leaving the current position should be "fulfillable" by joining your company. With these key ''pressure points'' accounted for, you should feel confident that you'll have captured the essence of the candidate's career progression.

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