Earlier this year I talked about asking a candidate about their commute on the blog. It was a point of discussion, because there were some dissenting agreements over whether or not commute was important to discuss during a phone screen with a candidate. Here I am writing about it, thinking how I argued “for” asking about commute, when I checked out the article again and found I actually argued “against” asking.

That’s life, am I right?

If anything, that slip of my memory just goes to show how up for debate the topic could be. On the other hand, there are certain points you should hit on in during every phone screen—these are non-negotiables; questions you have to ask to make sure you’re giving yourself, your hiring manager and the candidate the best service possible.

Three Questions You Should Ask In Every Phone Screen

  1. “Why are you looking for a new position?” This must-have question gives you the background and the insight into why this particular candidate has decided to move on from where they’re currently at. Not only are you getting a feel for what’s not working for them at their current position (therefore eliminating candidates who might have the same problem with the employer you’re recruiting for), you’re getting a look at what the candidate is up to right now. It hits both sides of the coin: what they’re already doing, and what they don’t love about it.
  2. “What are you looking for in a new position?” Now that you have the why, it’s time to get the what. You’re going to get a variety of different answers here, and that’s a good thing. You’ll hear even more about the candidate’s background, while listening out for buzzwords that are important to your hiring manager. If you’re looking for a candidate who is coming into get work done and make a paycheck, they’re going to talk a lot about work product; if you’re looking for a candidate that jives with your cool culture, listen up for the one that describes the workplace you’re hiring for. Question one is all about weeding out the wrong fits; question two is all about finding the right fit.
  3. Salary. It doesn’t matter how you ask it, but you have to hit on salary during the first call. With new state laws popping up regarding the question, “What are you currently making?” this may not be the best approach. BUT – that doesn’t mean that you can have no approach at all. Recently over at Fistful of Talent, Kris Dunn wrote a good piece detailing the best way to navigate these waters—here’s a little excerpt:

“Here’s how you negotiate salary from the first conversation without asking the person in front of you for their salary – simply frame a range that an offer will come in at. Example – ‘Rick, if we get to the end of the offer process and you’re right for us and we’re right for you, the offer is going to come in between 70K and 76K. If we get to the end of this process, is that an offer you’ll accept if this job is right for you?'”

Of course, there are many other topics you can and should be hitting on during your phone screen with a candidate, this list is just to lay out the three that have to be asked. Get as creative as you want, but always hit on the basics.

Kate Weimer

Kate Weimer is a Marketing Lead at Kinetix, specializing in social media recruitment marketing and account management. Using a combination of her background in social media and love for the written word, she’s shoving all buzzwords aside and making HR and recruitment marketing work in today's digital world. Want to hang? Hit her up on Twitter or LinkedIn , or contact her via email.