How To Start A Phone Interview As The Interviewer

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In today’s technologically advanced world, phone interviews have become a common practice in the hiring process. Conducting a phone interview as the interviewer comes with its own set of challenges and considerations. It’s crucial to make a positive and engaging first impression, even without the advantage of face-to-face interaction. In this article, we will explore effective strategies and techniques for starting a phone interview as the interviewer. We will discuss key steps to prepare for the interview, how to set the tone, and the important questions to ask to ensure a successful and insightful conversation with the candidate. So, whether you’re a seasoned interviewer looking to refine your phone interview skills or a first-time interviewer seeking guidance, this article will provide you with valuable insights to conduct a successful phone interview from start to finish. Let’s delve into the world of phone interviews and make the most out of these valuable conversations.

Inside This Article

  1. Establishing Rapport
  2. Setting the Tone and Objectives
  3. Asking Open-ended and Probing Questions
  4. Conclusion
  5. FAQs

Establishing Rapport

When conducting a phone interview as the interviewer, it’s crucial to establish rapport with the candidate right from the beginning. Building a connection and creating a comfortable environment can help both parties feel at ease and communicate more effectively. Here are some key tips for establishing rapport during a phone interview:

  1. Start with a warm greeting: Begin the conversation with a friendly and enthusiastic greeting. Use the candidate’s name and a warm tone of voice to make them feel welcome and valued.
  2. Show genuine interest: Demonstrate your interest in the candidate and their qualifications. Ask them about their background, experience, and interests to show that you are invested in getting to know them as a person.
  3. Use active listening skills: Engage in active listening during the conversation. Pay attention to the candidate’s responses, ask follow-up questions, and provide verbal cues such as “mm-hmm” or “I see” to show that you are actively engaged in the conversation.
  4. Empathize and validate: Whenever the candidate shares their thoughts, experiences, or concerns, demonstrate empathy and validate their feelings. This will help create a sense of trust and understanding.
  5. Find common ground: Look for common interests, experiences, or connections that you and the candidate share. This can help establish a sense of camaraderie and build a stronger connection.
  6. Be respectful and professional: Throughout the conversation, maintain a professional demeanor and treat the candidate with respect. Avoid interruptions, be patient, and give them space to express themselves.
  7. Show enthusiasm for the role: Convey your excitement about the position and the company. Share positive aspects of the role and express enthusiasm for the candidate’s potential fit within the organization.

Remember, establishing rapport is not just about creating a friendly atmosphere; it also helps gather more insightful responses from the candidate. When they feel comfortable and connected, they are more likely to open up and share valuable information about their skills, experiences, and motivations.

Setting the Tone and Objectives

Setting the tone and objectives for a phone interview is crucial in creating a positive and productive conversation. This stage of the interview allows the interviewer to establish the purpose of the call and guide the direction of the conversation. Here’s how you can set the tone and objectives effectively:

1. Start with a warm and friendly greeting: Begin the call by greeting the candidate with a warm and friendly tone. A simple “Hello, [candidate’s name]. How are you today?” can help create a welcoming atmosphere and put the candidate at ease.

2. Briefly introduce yourself and the company: Take a moment to introduce yourself and the company you represent. This brief introduction helps the candidate understand who they are speaking with and provides context for the conversation.

3. Explain the purpose of the phone interview: Clearly communicate the purpose of the phone interview to the candidate. Let them know that you are interested in learning more about their qualifications, experience, and fit for the position. This sets the stage for the conversation and helps the candidate understand what to expect.

4. Outline the structure and duration of the interview: Inform the candidate about the structure of the interview and how long it is expected to last. This helps manage their expectations and allows them to allocate the appropriate amount of time for the conversation.

5. Highlight the key topics and questions: Provide a brief overview of the key topics and questions that will be discussed during the phone interview. This allows the candidate to mentally prepare and ensures that important areas are covered.

6. Encourage the candidate’s participation: Emphasize that the phone interview is a two-way conversation and encourage the candidate to ask questions or seek clarification throughout. This helps create a collaborative atmosphere and allows for a more engaging discussion.

7. Address any concerns or questions: Before diving into the interview, give the candidate an opportunity to address any concerns or ask questions they may have. This shows your commitment to open communication and allows for a smoother and more productive conversation.

By setting the tone and objectives at the beginning of the phone interview, you create a positive and structured environment that can lead to better insights and evaluations of the candidate. This stage not only helps you establish a professional connection but also sets the stage for a successful interview process.

Asking Open-ended and Probing Questions

When conducting a phone interview as the interviewer, asking open-ended and probing questions is crucial to gathering insightful information about the candidate. These types of questions encourage the interviewee to provide detailed explanations and elaborate on their experiences and qualifications. By asking questions that require more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer, you can dig deeper into their skills, knowledge, and suitability for the position.

Open-ended questions are designed to allow the interviewee to reflect and provide a more comprehensive response. These questions typically begin with “what,” “how,” “why,” or “tell me about.” For example, you might ask, “What was the most challenging project you’ve worked on, and how did you overcome the obstacles?” This type of question prompts the candidate to share specific examples and demonstrate their problem-solving abilities.

Probing questions, on the other hand, are follow-up questions that seek further clarification or more details. After the candidate provides their initial response, you can ask probing questions to explore different angles or delve deeper into a particular aspect of their answer. Using the previous example, you could follow up with, “Can you tell me more about the specific steps you took to overcome those obstacles?” These probing questions help assess the candidate’s critical thinking skills and ability to articulate their thoughts.

When asking open-ended and probing questions, it’s important to actively listen to the candidate’s responses. Take notes and ask for clarification if needed. This not only shows that you are engaged in the conversation but also allows you to gather more accurate information for evaluation.

Remember to balance the use of open-ended and probing questions throughout the interview. Open-ended questions allow the candidate to share their experiences and provide a well-rounded perspective, while probing questions help you dig deeper into specific areas or address any potential gaps in the candidate’s responses.

By incorporating open-ended and probing questions into your phone interview, you can gain valuable insights into the candidate’s skills, qualifications, and suitability for the role. These questions allow you to assess their ability to think critically, solve problems, and effectively communicate their ideas. So, don’t shy away from asking these types of questions and make the most out of your phone interview as the interviewer.


Starting a phone interview as the interviewer can be a daunting task, but with the right approach, preparation, and communication skills, it becomes a valuable tool in the hiring process. Remember to introduce yourself, set the tone for the interview, and create a comfortable environment for the candidate. Use open-ended questions to encourage conversation and allow the candidate to showcase their skills and qualifications. Be an active listener, taking notes and asking follow-up questions when necessary. Show enthusiasm about the role and the company to make a positive impression. Lastly, wrap up the interview by thanking the candidate for their time and explaining the next steps in the hiring process.

By following these guidelines, you can conduct phone interviews effectively and efficiently, gaining valuable insights into potential candidates and making informed decisions for your company’s hiring needs.


Q: How should I greet the candidate during a phone interview?
A: It’s important to start the phone interview on a positive note and make the candidate feel comfortable. A simple “Hello, [Candidate’s Name]!” with a friendly tone is a good way to start.

Q: Should I introduce myself before asking questions?
A: Yes, introducing yourself at the beginning of the phone interview is a good practice. Briefly mention your name and your role in the company. This helps establish a professional and friendly atmosphere.

Q: What are some good opening questions to ask in a phone interview?
A: Begin by asking a general question that allows the candidate to share a bit about themselves and their relevant experience. For example, you could ask, “Can you please provide a brief overview of your professional background?”. This gives the candidate a chance to introduce themselves and sets the stage for the rest of the interview.

Q: How can I effectively assess a candidate’s skills and qualifications over the phone?
A: While you may not be able to observe their body language, there are still ways to assess a candidate’s skills and qualifications over the phone. Prepare a list of specific questions related to the job requirements and ask the candidate to provide examples of their experience or skills. Active listening is key here. Pay attention to their responses, clarity of communication, and the depth of their knowledge.

Q: Can I ask follow-up questions during a phone interview?
A: Absolutely! Just like in an in-person interview, it’s important to ask follow-up questions to dig deeper into the candidate’s responses. Clarifying doubts or seeking additional details can provide a better understanding of the candidate’s qualifications. However, it’s essential to maintain the flow of the conversation and not overwhelm the candidate with too many questions.