How to Phone Screen a Job Candidate

by Bronwyn Timmons

When employers receive a large number of applications, many choose to pre-screen applicants by phone to minimize the number of interviews they need to conduct. Phone screening can expedite the hiring process by helping employers identify top candidates and narrow down their options to only the most promising applicants. If you plan on phone screening candidates to find the perfect fit for your company, it's essential to conduct the pre-screening effectively.


Prepare yourself before you sit down to start calling applicants. Grab a pen and paper for taking notes, and file the resumes in the order you plan to call. Review each resume in advance so you are familiar with the contents, and keep the resumes available for your own reference while you're on the phone. Go to a quiet place that's free of distractions and where you're unlikely to be disturbed while you're on the phone. If possible, schedule phone screening sessions in advance to allow candidates the opportunity to prepare themselves and to ensure they're free when you call.


When you call each applicant, take a moment to introduce yourself and tell them the reason you're calling. Ask if it's a convenient time for them to talk, and give them a moment to gather what they need for the pre-screening session if you neglected to schedule in advance. Briefly go over the description of the position and its position in the department or company. Tell candidates that you'd like to discuss their individual interests or qualifications for the position.


All applicants should be asked the same set of questions during your pre-screening sessions. You can ask any questions you desire, but it's essential that you ask them about their reasons for being interested in the position and their qualifications. You may also ask about their salary expectations, job history, or work ethic and values. Take note of responses that stand out -- both positively and negatively. According to Inc., you should aim to ask about 25 questions and each pre-screening session should last 20 to 30 minutes. If you like what you hear and want to invite the person for a formal interview, let him know what to expect next in the hiring process.

Tips and Considerations

Stick with strictly job-related questions during you pre-screening and avoid asking questions that could be seen as discriminatory. Don't ask candidates about their personal lives and keep your conversations strictly professional. Always follow-up with candidates one way or the other, even if you decide not to pursue a formal interview.

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