This Phone Screen Checklist is the Swiss Army Knife of Recruiting

This Phone Screen Checklist is the Swiss Army Knife of Recruiting

Over the years I’ve discovered that by obtaining the information shown in this phone screen checklist, a recruiter can confidently recommend a candidate to be interviewed onsite. More importantly, by getting a hiring manager to conduct a similar phone screen, the manager would only need to personally interview 3-4 people to make one great hire.


The impact of this strategy is huge. Based on multiple studies spread out over years, here’s what we discovered:

  • Saves a lot of time. By screening on factors that best predict fit, ability and career interest, you'll seldom need to meet more than 3-4 candidates in-person to hire one outstanding person.
  • Reduces bias and increases objectivity. A properly conducted phone screen minimizes the impact of first impressions on assessment accuracy.
  • Increases diversity hiring. Shifting to a "performance qualified" assessment process expands the talent pool to include more diverse, high potential and non-traditional candidates.
  • Improves the candidate experience. Candidates feel positive after being assessed on factors that actually predict their ability to do the work required.
  • Saves money and maximizes talent funnel yield. When the focus is on the career growth opportunity, few top-tier people opt-out prematurely and more accept offers without money being their primary criteria.
  • Provides better referrals. Candidates not selected for the role are more likely to provide referrals when they feel they have been professionally assessed.
  • Improves quality of hire. Whether active or passive, talented people are more likely to stay fully engaged when given the chance to participate in an exploratory conversation with a recruiter and hiring manager as the first step in the process.

How to run your phone screens using this check list

This type of phone screen starts with a 1-2 minute summary of the job and why it’s an important role. Reduce the time pressure by suggesting you want to make sure the job offers the person a true career opportunity. Define this as a 30% non-monetary increase consisting of a combination of job stretch, faster learning, a bigger impact and a mix of more satisfying work.

Spend about 15 minutes on the work history review going through the candidate’s major jobs. Focus on the scope of responsibility, the person’s role and his/her major accomplishments to see if there is a fit with your open job. If so, look for the Achiever Pattern to see if the person is in the top tier of his/her peer group. Some clues for this are: being consistently assigned to handle stretch projects, being asked to be on important teams, getting promoted more frequently, and having a pattern of getting special recognition in different jobs.

As long as everything is positive, describe an important task the person will be handling if hired for the role. Then ask the person to describe something he/she did that was most comparable. Spend 10 minutes clarifying the who, what, why and where about this project getting specific evidence to understand the person’s role including dates, metrics, challenges faced and how the person made decisions.

A good proxy for cultural fit is to compare the open job from a pace, people and process standpoint to situations in which the candidate has excelled. You’ll get this insight during the work history review and the accomplishment question by asking how changes were made, who the person worked with and how they interacted.

This approach provides enough information to determine if the candidate could become a semi-finalist for the role and if the job meets the career move threshold mentioned early. But you still need to test the compensation. By delaying the salary discussion until this point you’ll be able to get some strong referrals if the person is not a fit.

However, if there is a fit and the candidate is interested in proceeding, just ask what the person thinks would be a reasonable salary range for the job given his/her current situation and other opportunities being considered. If it’s a bit high, suggest it might still be worthwhile to have an exploratory call with the hiring manager to validate the career move opportunity. Condition this by saying it only makes sense to proceed if the person is willing to seriously consider the move despite the potential for only a modest comp increase offset by a major career boost. This is a subtle yet critical recruiting step. It keeps the strongest talent engaged in your process by having these people acknowledge that the criteria for accepting an offer is career growth, not compensation max.

This type of structured phone screen is an important part of any professional hiring process especially given the big picture impact in cost and time savings and in improving quality of hire. Try it out for yourself during your next phone screen using this yes/no/maybe scorecard to make the recommendation. You’ll be surprised that it works exactly as described.

Posted in: Passive Candidate Recruiting, Recruiting & Closing

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