A "telephone screen" can be conducted by anyone within an organization, from Human Resources up to the CEO. Does it really matter who actually conducts that first telephone interview? In my experience, yes, it absolutely does.
The first interview is not only an opportunity for a company to gather basic information about a potential candidate, but it also gives that candidate a first impression of the company. Having the wrong person conduct this interview can lead to losing a good candidate before he or she has even set foot in the door.
So, who should conduct the first phone interview? Well, that depends on several key factors:
- Level of position: Depending on what level of position the company is looking to fill, the person conducting the interview may vary. When hiring a receptionist to answer phones and handle basic administrative duties, it’s probably not necessary to have the CEO do the initial phone screen. In this situation, having someone in HR conduct the interview is perfectly acceptable. On the flip side, if you’re hiring for a senior-level/management position, it’s important to have a higher-ranking individual conduct the initial interview. A higher-level candidate wants to speak with someone who understands the position and can give him or her greater insight into the position’s details, rather than just the basics of the company.
- Size of company: With a very large company, many times the first interview is simply a screening process. In this case, it will typically be conducted by someone within the HR department. With larger companies, candidates expect this, so it’s perfectly acceptable. With smaller companies, in which there may not even be an HR person, the phone interview should be conducted by someone directly related to the position. Whether it’s the person to whom the position reports or a manager/director within the department, it should be someone who will be working directly with this person and can answer potential questions about the position and company.
- Interview process: The shorter the interview process, the more important it is to have a key person conduct the first interview. If it’s only a two- to three-step process, with fewer opportunities to gather information as well as make an impression, each step should be completed by an individual who will be working directly with the new hire. If there are four to five steps along the way, it’s acceptable — and even expected — that the first phone interview will be a general screening call, so it’s not particularly important who conducts the call.
So, when delegating the phone interview, be sure to choose the right person for the right position. Remember, the candidate is interviewing the company every bit as much as the company is interviewing the candidate, so the first impression is important on both sides.
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