Phone interview: cue card for recruiter

phone interview

Screening of the CVs at the first recruitment stage helped you to make a shortlist of candidates whose experience and qualification match the vacancy requirements the most and you are ready to invite them for an interview, aren’t you? Hold it! Save yours and applicant’s time using the phone interview as a tool to screen unsuitable candidates.


The phone interview is the second stage of applicants’ shortlisting on the way to a face-to-face interview. Its main purpose is to make the first (preliminary) judgement about the person through the one-to-one phone conversation and to clarify the information you are interested in. If from the first words you realise that a person is not right for your company it is better to end the conversation straight away, without wasting time and efforts. If you feel that the person is “yours” use the following cue card to make the phone interview efficient.



First of all, it should be borne in mind that there are telephone etiquette rules.

 Greetings and introductions

  • Change depending on the time of the day — “Good morning/day/evening!”
  • Confirm that your conversation partner can talk at this moment — “Can you talk right now? And about the work?”
  • Introduce yourself to a person telling your name, position and organisation.
  • State the purpose of your call.

 Tone and diction

  • Smile while you talk.
  • Adjust to the pace of speech of your conversation partner.
  • Speak clearly and intelligibly.

 Substance of conversation

  • Present the information concisely, do not deviate from the subject.
  • Focus on the conversation and listen to the person attentively.
  • Do not interrupt the person talking to you.
  • Your answers to the questions must be substantial but concise.
  • Do not use hands-free mode unless absolutely necessary and without notifying your conversation partner and getting his/her agreement to this.

Ending the interview

  • According to the telephone etiquette, the phone call should be ended by the person who initiated it.
  • Arrange for the next call or a meeting, if necessary, specifying all the details (time, date, place and purpose).
  • Thank the other person for the conversation.
  • To end the conversation, say goodbye and wait for the other person to hang up first.



When preparing the position summary (vacancy) and the list of questions for candidates for the phone interview you should remember that the primary goal of this conversation is to identify how the applicant is better than others and whether s/he qualifies for the vacancy.


In order to understand clearly what level of employee you are looking for and what tasks you want him/her to perform describe your requirements in the appropriate form, defining the following sections:

  • Scope of work
  • The qualification profile of an “ideal” candidate
  • Description of the employment conditions
  • Prospects for career growth and development for this position
  • Motivational schemes in the company



Ask all applicants the same questions — thus you will be able to compare the results of all interviews. Be sure to make notes and briefly write down all answers. It is better to use special phone interview form.



A standard phone interview includes the following mandatory stages:

  1. Greetings and introductions.
  2. Short description of the vacancy to identify the interest of an applicant in this position.
  3. Learning the information about an applicant:
    • Interest in work in general, as well as for your company and at this position in particular
    • Applicant’s expectations regarding the employment conditions (salary, work schedule, etc.)
    • Are applicant’s previous experience and qualification appropriate for the vacancy functions?
    • Applicant’s motivation
    • Timing when an applicant can start work
  4. Questions clarifying the information about an applicant, which was not specified in the CV or was unclear.

At this stage, it is necessary to come to a preliminary conclusion regarding the fitness of an applicant for the job. If an applicant for some reasons does not fit the job the objective of the interviewer is to stop the interview, extremely tactfully and honestly explain the reason for refusal, thank the applicant and say goodbye.

If the opinion is affirmative the phone interview is continued as follows:

  1. Detailed company presentation.
  2. Additional questions for the candidate.
  3. Brief answers to candidate’s questions.
  4. Discussing the details of the face-to-face interview (time, date, place, etc.).



  1. Here are the 3 key requirements for this job. Please, specify how your personality traits, qualification and experience meet these requirements?
  2. What, as you think, can be your input into the development of the company/project at this position?
  3. Name 3–5 expectations from this position/company?
  4. What, at you understanding, is a challenging/hard work?
  5. Using what criteria do you define and measure your performance?
  6. Can you specify any of your achievements at your last job?
  7. Can you specify any of your serious setbacks/mistakes at your last job?
  8. How many people were directly subordinated to you? What positions did your subordinates hold?
  9. What work style do you prefer? Do you prefer working independently or being part of the team?
  10. When working in a team, please, describe the role you are likely to play in it.
  11. How would your former colleagues describe your work style and your contribution to the common goal?
  12. Please, describe the working environment or organisation culture where you would have been the most efficient and happy.
  13. Please, describe business and personality traits of the best boss you would like to work or have worked with.
  14. Please, describe the best management style that will motivate you to “knock yourself out” at work to a 100%.
  15. Why have you decided to resign? (If an applicant continues working.)
  16. When and why did you resign from your previous job? What do you do since then? (If an applicant does not work at the time of an interview.)
  17. Do you have any more questions?



The phone interview is an efficient and cost-effective method of preliminary evaluation of the applicants. The experts have no doubts that for a professional recruiter one call would be enough to make the psychological profile of an applicant. And for some vacancies, this type of an interview can be a sound and optimal way to select employees.

Indeed, the phone interview helps to save time and energy but, all the while, it cannot fully replace face-to-face interviews.  This initial communication on the phone must be followed by a face-to-face interview, which would provide more in-depth and accurate assessment of personal and professional qualities of an applicant.


This article was first published by The Business Lounge magazine, Issue June 2018 #02


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