Screening job applicants with an unscheduled pre-interview phone call

For years I have screened job applicants with an unscheduled pre-interview phone call. This has helped me eliminate candidates from further consideration.

I start by saying that we have a ton of applicants and I am screening them for a bit more information before deciding on the shortlist. I ask them to tell me more about themselves beyond what’s in their application and why they applied  for work with us. These two questions are usually all I need to either confidently move to the next step or to eliminate a candidate from further consideration.

In retail we need people who are attentive and can engage with people they have never met before. While some may be uncomfortable on the phone, I think a call is a fair part of candidate assessment.

I have eliminated many candidates who didn’t know they had applied to work in a newsagency. One guy said I just clicked apply on every retail job I could find, I didn’t read the ads – and I didn’t consider him any furtherI have eliminated others who had dreadful phone manner – sometimes there are so many applicants that you need even the slimmest excuse to cull someone from the pool.

I often follow up the two questions with a comment that we’ll do a police check if they get through the interview. I think this is the reason I sometimes receive an email following the call saying they have found a job elsewhere.

These pre-interview calls have helped boost candidates to the top of consideration because of their attentiveness and engagement in the call. What I love the most about the calls is their unpredictability. Since they are not scheduled and are unexpected to the recipient, they can go in any direction. I have found this to be a terrific help in finding people appropriate to the demands of a newsagency business.


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