Interviewing candidates by phone? Here are the four questions you must ask
By: Jean-Paul Diaz-Caneja
Reading time: 4 min

  Before the call, you’ll already have prepared a checklist that will cover:

  • Your purpose; is the interview to screen a mass of applicants, to create a shortlist or to select one person for the job?
  • Your questions.
  • How you’ll record your impressions; pen and real paper? tablet?
  • Time between calls; if you’ve overbooked yourself, the calls might become a blur and you judgements won’t be as sound.

Don’t forget to check your unconscious bias at the door. Yes, we all have unconscious bias but if you can work on becoming conscious of them (not easy but possible), you’ll be open to a more diverse pool of talent.

If you’ve a large pool of candidates you’ll want the maximum amount of information about the candidate in the shortest space of time. Here are four content-packed questions to ask:

These questions are designed to have quadruple value. They will:

  • Give you the facts, such as your candidate’s levels experience and qualifications.
  • Help you find out more about their personality.
  • Help you assess their soft skills such as confidence, communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Help you assess their attitude to work and employment.
  1. Tell me about yourself

It isn’t the most original question but it’s tried and tested for a reason. The answer will give you rich information, not just about the candidate’s life but also how they think, what’s important to them and also how well they’ve prepared for the conversation. You’re not looking for a life history but for things that are relevant to the role. This question will also reveal how developed their communication skills are, and aspects of the candidates personality – are they self-deprecating, good-humoured, relaxed?

A good candidate will have thought this question through and offered information that relates to the role they’re applying for.

  1. What are you looking for in your next role?

This question identifies whether your candidate is clear on what they want from a job and whether they’re serious about your role. For instance, if they want fame and fortune but the job is a cleaning manager position, it will show how uncommitted and clueless they are. Their answer will give you an idea of what kind of responsibility they want, what kind of work culture they work best in (busy? quiet?), whether they’re flexible and what kind of salary they’ll be looking for.

A candidate worth watching will frame their answer positively: e.g. they’re looking for a new challenge or more responsibility, to experience an interesting company (that’s you!), or feel it’s time for an opportunity to demonstrate their full range of skills.

  1. Why are you leaving your current role?

Ah, the question with the most squirm factor. Their answer may give you some clues about the candidate’s attitude towards employment in general. Think twice about a candidate who starts a tirade against a former employer (no matter how well deserved). They’re showing poor judgement in framing their answer this way and they may be a blamer. No one wants to employ a blamer.

  1. What would you like to ask me?

The average candidate might ask about working conditions, and this is fine if you’ve not been clear up to now. But the most interesting candidates will ask the most interesting questions. Questions that make you think or questions that demand honesty, such as:

  • Why do you like working for your company?
  • What’s the one thing you’d change about where you work?
  • What does a good day at work look like?
  • What does a bad day at work look like?

These kind of questions show that your candidate is genuinely curious about how you operate in real life, and wants to get to the truth of your company culture. Don’t forget, a job interview is a two-way process!