May 21, 2018

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Telephone Screening: The Time-Saving Extra Step

As a twenty-year veteran of the Recruiting profession, I've conducted searches for, and hired, hundreds of applicants in jobs ranging from Tinker and Tailor to Cowboy and Sailor. During these years I've developed an appreciation for the oft-ignored telephone screening process - regarded by some recruiters as a 'redundancy'. Here's why...

Q: What is the purpose of the job applicant interview with a Recruiter?

A: To screen candidates for employment consideration.

Q: If the interview is a screening process, what's the purpose of the telephone screening?

A: To save time by identifying which applicants will be scheduled for an actual employment interview. (Are you still with me or did you follow the Rabbit and Alice?)

These similar actions are not really duplicates of each other. They are individual methods for saving the most amount of time, after being informed of an employment vacancy, and identifying the perfect...all right, "most satisfactory" candidate to fill that vacancy. These particular stimulus- response reactions are some of the truisms one must accept to be a Recruiter. The two most important ones, which should be memorized, are:

TRUISM 1 - TIME is the enemy of all Recruiters. It cannot be shortened, lengthened or manipulated, but with a little creativity, you can make it your friend.

TRUISM 2 - Every department manager will demand that the vacancy he was informed of today should have been filled yesterday! An impossibility, of course, in real-time, but with a sprinkle of the creativity dust, a seasoned Recruiter can fast - forward the process and give the manager at least the illusion that his demands were acceded to.

How? By cutting corners, getting the ball rolling, putting one's shoulder to the wheel, and applying any other applicable clichés to the objective. The phone screening interview can be very valuable when there's a deadline -or impatient manager - in your near future.

When resumes are received, Recruiters usually give them a cursory glance and separate them into stacks - Worth a second look; Pass these to other recruiters; Surely they jest! and Contact PDQ! Within a few minutes a Recruiter can determine if the applicant seems to meet the qualifications in the Position Description - and must assume, at least temporarily, that no resume information is not exaggerated or falsified. Next step is to contact the applicant and discuss the 'detritus' of the job description - the loose grains of sand that aren't part of the description or resume. This is the ideal point in time for phone screening.

When you reach the applicant, you can determine his communication skills, his ability to reason and respond as expected, verify that what you interpreted in the resume is accurate, probe for additional skills, and determine, before he has a face-to-face interview with you AND the hiring manager, if he meets the requirements that are usually listed in small print on the last page of the position description.

For example:

Does the applicant have an automobile that can be used for occasional travel during the workday? Your company doesn't have flextime so can he work a regular shift of 8 to 5? Overtime is occasionally mandatory. Would this be a problem?

These, and similar, getting-to-know-your-applicant interfaces can be done within a few minutes and can save lots of time and money. Suppose you read the applicant's resume, called the manager and discussed the background, received his enthusiastic agreement to bring the candidate in ASAP, preferably at 7:30 am the next morning. You call the applicant to schedule but you don't take time to do even a brief prelim screen. After all, you'll see her tomorrow morning and besides, you have someone waiting in the lobby for you.

Next morning, your phone rings at 8:30 and it's the hiring manager telling you that you zeroed in on the perfect candidate and you want her to start as soon as the paperwork has been completed. She's on her way back to your office. He's ecstatic at how quickly his manpower shortage has been addressed, and you're feeling good with the small amount of time you'll record for hiring this person.

The applicant walks into your office and you explain that you want to tie up a few 'loose ends', totally unaware that with your first comment, the entire package will unwrap as you watch. You ask if she has any other questions, and she does not. You discuss a hire date, and orientation, and she is agreeable with both. You have the position description in your hands, as you speak, and glance at it periodically when suddenly you see two words, in small type, buried in the middle of a paragraph on page 3 - Overtime Mandatory!

You don't panic - yet - because you're certain...quite sure...think there's a chance...that the manager discussed this requirement, so you casually state the facts - that mandatory overtime will be required at least once a week because of pickup of documents and cash which has to be ready not later than 6pm every Friday - no exceptions.

You watch her face as her eyes get bigger and a stricken expression appears, as she explains why she cannot work overtime - ever! She has triplets in daycare that must be picked up not later than 5:15pm. Her husband is in the military and stationed out of the country, and she has no family in this area, and she's so sorry...if only someone had mentioned this earlier...If only a telephone screening had been conducted...IF...

A handful of minutes were saved when the Recruiter first spoke with the applicant over the phone, but let's compare what was spent: The manager spent 45 minutes with the applicant; the Recruiter spent, overall, 30 minutes; the applicant drove, round-trip, for 40 minutes and paid $6.75 to park. That 10-minute phone call to screen doesn't seem to be a waste any longer, does it?

Suggestion??? Adopt a new mantra...PHONE FIRST!

-Sonya Rolls