Tag Archives: hiring

Screening away talent. Why the phone screen is a bad idea.


Life is just getting faster and faster.  One of the ways organizations are trying to make the job search faster is with the ‘phone screen’.  The phone screen is something of a pre-interview, done over the phone to screen out applicants who are not qualified.  While I understand the reasons behind doing this, I don’t agree with them, and I’ll explain why.

The interview is a business meeting between two parties.  The potential employer being one party and the prospective employee being the other.  You are negotiating a business arrangement.   I’ve been on both sides of the table, interviewing potential hires and being grilled by a hiring panel.  Regardless of which side I’m working from, I want to be able to look that person in the eye as I dialog with them.  I want to read their body language.  I want to get a feel for whether I want to do business with that person.  If you are looking for a job, don’t go in with an attitude of just hoping that someone will hire you.  You’ve got to have an attitude that you  bring something to the table that a potential employer wants.  You have to know what you bring to the party and be prepared to communicate to them why you in particular will solve the problem they have.  In essence, you are a business owner and the service you are selling is you.  In order to do that, you need to be able to get a read on them, and they need to be able to see the message you are delivering.   That is just not as effective over the phone.  When I’m interviewing for a position, I want to see the next place I could be working.  Is the environment nice?  Do the employees look like they are genuinely happy to be there or do they look like they’ve just had an injection of pickle juice?  Is the place well kept?  These are things that must be seen with ones eyes.

As a manager, I’ve never been a fan of the phone screen.  Again, I want to look that candidate in the eye and see what they are made of.  I want to see how they carry themselves.  I want to see how they react under stress.  I want to know the things that I can’t know in a phone call.   Often the best candidate is not the most qualified candidate.  The best candidate is the person that will best fit in the company and help solve the problem at hand, as perceived by the person doing the hiring.  The best candidate is a complex decision that involves many factors and discarding potential candidates over a phone call is a great way to ‘let the big one get away’.  Now, granted there are exceptions.  Before you spend the money to fly someone across the country (or possibly across the globe), you should do some initial homework.  A tough look at the résumé and a phone call would be wise.  Also, if you’ve got a very large applicant pool, then maybe some simple filtering would be good, but in most cases, the résumé and cover letter are going to tell me whether I want to see this person or not.

As someone familiar with both chairs, I prefer to drop the phone and head straight to face to face dialog.  Trying to establish candidacy over the phone short changes both parties.  Lets go back to using the phone in the proper way.  Let’s use the phone to set up a face to face meeting.