The phone screen interview stage is an important part of the selection process.  It typically checks candidate’s work experience, work history, availability and communication skills. You can tell a lot from a phone screen interview, such as is the individual genuinely interested in the role. Plus it’s a quick process to consider candidates with potential. It’s well worth the effort.
In this post you’ll find:

  • CV Review Tips
  • Phone screen Interview Process
  • Phone Screen Interview format and example questions

CV Review Tips


It can be difficult to determine from a CV alone whether an applicant matches your job criteria and is a good fit for your company. However, many hiring managers base their interview shortlist solely on CVs. Assumptions are often made resulting in talent being overlooked.

The following guidelines provide some useful tips:

  • When reviewing CVs keep job brief, position description and advert open to easily refer to and help you match the applicant’s CV against key job criteria. Keep in mind what is essential and what is nice to have.
  • Rather than trying to find a perfect match consider whether the candidate can meet the goals and objectives of the job. They may have transferable skills and experience, which will deliver results given the right training.
  • Top performers do not always have the best CVs! They may have secured previous jobs through their network referrals and not had to market themselves via a CV or LinkedIn profile. Sometimes their CVs are light in detail which a phone interview can help draw out and expand on.
  • A common perception when reviewing CVs is to think that applicants who have held a number of jobs over a short period of time are unreliable. If unsure, it’s worth clarifying with the applicant what type of employment was held over the timeframe – as they may have been a professional temp, contractor or freelancer.
  • If a CV matches the job criteria exactly it’s worth asking why the candidate wants a similar job. Why are they interested in a side step in their career? Will they be open to doing things differently? How motivated will they be? If they are not genuinely stimulated by a job, they are unlikely to succeed. Past results are not always indicative of future results! A phone screen interview will help you learn more about why they are looking to leave current job, what motivates them etc, before progressing them to the interview stage.

Phone Screen Interview Process


Phone screen interviews help you quickly identify candidates worth considering further. It typically checks work experience, work history, availability and communication skills. It also provides a better candidate experience by sharing more information with candidate about your company and job opportunity. And confirming the job is genuinely of interest to them before investing time in a face to face interview.

We recommend phone screening up to five applicants per job, with the goal to shortlist three candidates to interview stage. (Depending on number of vacancies).

The following covers tips on how to prepare, book, conduct and conclude a phone screen interview.

1. Prepare Phone Screen Interview

  • Keep the phone screen interview questions consistent for all candidates. This helps create a sound benchmark for a candidate’s suitability, and a fair and transparent review process.
  • Prepare the phone screening interview questions before you go to market, so there are no delays when you identify a candidate to phone screen.
  • Remember you are not completing an in-depth interview. The purpose of the phone screen interview is to determine whether a candidate meets the initial job criteria and to gain some insight into their personality and communication style. When creating your questions prioritise what’s most important to find out at this stage.
  • Include information you want to relay to the candidate about the job and recruitment process so they know what to expect. You are still selling the job opportunity – be ready to answer their questions and share why they should want to work for you over your competition.
The quality of the phone screening is very dependent on the quality of questions. Use the Job Brief to help create questions to cover the key criteria.
Job Brief Template

Further down this page we’ve shared a Phone screen interview format with example questions to help get you started.

2. Book Phone Screen Interview

  • Book phone screen interview time with candidate by phone, email or SMS.
  • Your message should advise their application has been selected to progress to the next stage in your recruitment process, what this involves, available phone screen interview times and a call to action to confirm their availability.

3. Conduct Phone Screen Interview


At the beginning of the phone screen interview, it’s important to put the candidate at ease. Explain the process and how the phone interview will help support their application. Encourage them to participate.

As you work through the phone screen interview questions you may find some candidates aren’t particularly forthcoming with information. Some won’t like parts of the process and would prefer to just skip forward and get the job! You may need to help them understand why participating the phone screen interview is an important part of the process.

Tip what to say: “Completing this questionnaire is part of our recruitment process and required if you are interested in pursuing a job with our organisation. I really appreciate your time and input in this process. Please can you help me to support you with your application by expanding more on your answers.”

If you can’t get the candidate to expand on an answer make a note. There could be a number reasons why information is not forthcoming. For example they could have a poor attitude, simply don’t have the experience, or don’t understand the question based on limited English comprehension skills.

This is what the phone screen interview process is for – to screen ‘in’ suitable candidates and screen ‘out’ unsuitable ones.

4. Conclude Phone Screen Interview

  • At the end of the call, leave candidates with a clear expectation of what will happen next and by what timeframe.  If you are not clear, the candidate is left in the dark and may become frustrated not knowing what is happening.
  • Complete your summary notes while the phone screen interview is fresh in your mind.
  • Review and benchmark phone screened candidate/s and select successful candidate/s to progress to interview stage.  See our Hiring Manager Interview Guide for helpful tips on interviewing.
  • In all likelihood your job vacancy won’t be the only position they’ve applied for – so speed is of the essence. Fast decision and communication turnaround times are imperative to keep your shortlisted candidate’s interest and beat the competition.


Example | Phone Screen Interview Format 


Note – typically an application form is used in conjunction, which covers a few preliminary questions around work eligibility, skill level/years’ experience etc. If you don’t include this in your application process, you can add more questions here.


Candidate Details
  • Name and contact details
Check Application Form
  •  Clarify any questions here.
Work Eligibility
  • Double check eligibility to work in NZ especially if they’re on a work visa. Ask for details such as visa type, duration, date of issue, date of expiry. Hours / months can work consecutively per week / year.
  • Request proof/copy of passport if not already provided.
Work History
  • Cover off employment history, duration of employment, responsibilities and reason for leaving. Go back past 7 years (minimum).
  • Employer, Job Title, Employment dates (from to), Day to responsibilities, What do you do on a day to day basis, Reason for leaving.
  • Find out what their reason for leaving is. If they are currently employed, find out why they are looking for a new job.
Job Specific
  • Tell me why this role is of interest to you?

Job specific questions such Customer service experience:

  • Give me an example of a time when you were able to provide exceptional customer service. What did you do outside the norm?
  • Tell me about a time when you handled a customer complaint?  Use the S.T.A.R formula to find out what was the situation, task, action, result.
  • What do you like about working in a team? Not like about working in a team?
  • What are your strengths? What can you bring to the role?
  • What’s an area of improvement? What do you need to work on, or require training/up-skilling in?
General questions 
Next role
  • What are the top 5 things you are looking for in your next role?
  • How do you like to be managed? What management style do you best respond to?
  • What are your hobbies/interests?  What do you like to do when you are not working?
  • This role is paying $ (or $range). Are you Ok with this remuneration?
  • What is your current salary?
  • If currently employed: How much notice do you need to give? If unemployed when can you start?
  • Holidays – Do you have any holidays planned in the next 6 – 12 months? If Yes – when and for how long?
  • If successful to interview stage – do you have a preferred time of day for interviews?
  • Have you applied for any other jobs?
  • If Yes – what stage are you at in the process?
  • Check referee details provided in CV and/or application form. Ensure you have contact details for last two employers, managers they directly reported to. Check you have permission to contact if candidate is progressed to reference check stage.
Screening summary
Communication rating
  • 1 Poor to 5 Excellent
Communication comments
  • Describe their communication skills. Did they communicate clearly and concisely? Did they build rapport easily? Were they easy to understand? Did you need to repeat your questions? Did they need help answering your questions?
General comments
  • General notes – overall do they match key job criteria. Do you recommend progressing to interview stage? Any alerts that need attention.

Wrapping Up

Follow this phone screen interview process and you’ll take the guess work out of interview shortlisting, provide a better candidate experience and potentially identify talent that may have otherwise been overlooked.

Chilli Factor Recruitment Software contains customisable phone screen interview forms and email templates to help you manage and complete this task easily.


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