Can You Judge a Candidate Solely by Phone Manners?

Julie Shenkman
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Allotting company time and money for face-to-face interviews may not be feasible if you're handling a large volume of applications or recruiting out-of-state candidates. Instead, let phone interviews make your job easier. If your department prioritizes manners and conduct during in-person interviews, don't hesitate to apply those same standards to phone interviews, which can be equally as helpful in determining someone's personality, professionalism, and communication skills.

Many hiring managers consider manners to be a make-or-break factor—and for good reason. Manners let you assess a person's ability to follow a set of prescribed rules, whether determined by society or a single employer. You might perceive bad manners as a sign of disrespect, ambivalence, or poor interpersonal skills, three qualities that can, and should be, deal breakers, especially when you have plenty of qualified candidates. Luckily, you don't need to meet in person—and waste valuable resources—to get a feel for someone's manners. Phone interviews are invaluable tools for screening candidates during the preliminary stages of the hiring process. Generally, a person's manners will remain consistent across communication methods. Candidates brazen enough to roll their eyes or sit wide legged during a face-to-face interview are likely to overlook basic telephone manners.

Exhibiting poor manners during phone interviews can overshadow a great resume and instantly take someone out of the running, so make sure your idea of manners isn't purely subjective. For example, talking over static may be annoying, but call quality is often variable and may not be the fault of the interviewee. You could consider, however, an interviewee's refusal to reschedule, switch phones, or otherwise resolve the problem as an obvious breach of etiquette and a small indication of a larger compatibility issue. Other signs that indicate a lack of manners include chewing or eating gum, talking over you, playing loud background noise, cursing, speaking casually, and sounding distracted. Whether or not these oversights are egregious enough to ruin a person's chances is entirely up to you and your department. For some hiring managers, it only takes a few minutes to determine if someone's a good fit, and the reason may be as simple and telling as bad manners during phone interviews.  

While the applicants are usually the ones worrying about how to conduct a phone interview, your HR staff should also study up on proper phone etiquette. When judging candidates based on their manners, you want your recruiters to show equal respect, consideration, and professionalism. Your behavior influences how candidates act and react. When possible, hold the interview in a quiet controlled environment—just as you would expect from the interviewee—and start with a polite greeting, give candidates time to finish their answers, and speak calmly.

When you need a cost- and time-effective solution for whittling down candidates, don't hesitate to integrate phone interviews into your hiring strategy. A promising candidate should take them just as seriously as an in-person interview and be polite, professional, and prepared no matter the circumstance. A candidate who doesn't know how to conduct a phone interview and displays bad manners may not be worth your effort.



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