What To Cover In A Phone Interview

NOTE: This is part 2 of 2. Click here to read the first article: Why I Recommend a Phone Interview.


When I worked as a headhunter, I was tasked with finding someone who can hit the ground running. They needed to be able to perform immediately on the job. As of right now, the best indicator of future performance is past performance – so I learned to focus my energy on their past performances.

Based on my experiences, here is a quick overview of what I recommend covering in a first interview – I do all mine over the phone:

  • Overview of job and responsibilities, verify if they are still interested.
  • Go over “deal breakers”

Deal breakers include things that are non-negotiable for you OR for the candidate. So, if you NEED them to have SAP experience, that is a deal breaker question. If you know that they need to work 3 out of 4 Saturdays – that should be a deal breaker question because it will make a lot of candidates pull themselves out of consideration.

You need to decide at the beginning of the process – which of your requirements are likely to be deal breakers for you or the candidate and start addressing them early in the process.

  • Verify that they are still interested after reviewing the deal breakers.


If the interviewee is still interested, AND you are still interested in them…

  • Do a walkthrough of their resume. I start at the bottom (hopefully, their first job) and I ask about each job the candidate has had so I can learn a little bit more about his or her experience and career progression. I often say

“What I’d like to do is simply start at the beginning of your resume and work our way up to current day. So, let’s start with (1st Position listed) – tell me a little bit about what you did there and ultimately why you decided to move on”

As we go through each position I ask for clarification or more information as it relates to the position I am interviewing for.


Remember, this interview is to determine if they warrant a second interview – not if they should be hired. But, once you’ve started the career history “walk through” you are pretty much obligated to see it through to their current position. So, if you aren’t sure, start by simply asking some more qualifying questions to see if you should do the entire career history walkthrough.

PRO TIP: Don’t ask, “Do you have any questions for me?” The ones you are certain to have no interest in will have a thousand questions for you. So generally, try not to open that door unless it’s somebody you’re very interested in.



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About Rikka

Rikka’s the go-to girl for growth-minded multiple six, seven, and eight figure entrepreneurs and leaders who understand the power of recruiting and retaining the right people to achieve their business (+lifestyle) goals.