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A while ago I asked this question, I got very nice results but now I have a similar situation, but I'm looking for advices and I want to know if you think is possible to tell if you want a developer only with a phone interview.

Let's say that you need to perform an interview to a candidate which is not on your country, so in case you'd hire him/her you'd have to provide a relocation package, wait for him/her to get the whole work permit in order and all those stuff, so you'd need to make sure that this person is quite worth it.

Let's say that the candidate is applying for a junior developer position as a C#/ASP.NET developer with a small / medium software development company.

  • Can you tell in a phone interview if you'd like the candidate?
  • Any recomendations for the candidate to impress the interviewer?
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Take some voice training classes - will give you an edge every time. – Job Jun 11 '11 at 18:45
You can't get junior developers in your country??!! – Mawg Apr 14 at 8:51

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted


I've had a few phone interviews from companies based in Amsterdam and the US, so I can give some advice from the standpoint of someone who has been interviewed in such a manner.

Can you tell in a phone interview if you'd like the candidate?

You can certainly tell if the candidate has good communication skills over the phone. If they sound nervous or ramble on when giving an answer, imagine what they'd be like talking to a customer over the phone, pitching for work or giving general support? So, you want the interviewee to be calm and confident when giving answers and to vary the level of detail depending on who he/she is talking to.

So, you might ask the interviewee to answer some technical questions and then ask him/her to pretend you are a customer and to tell you what cloud computing (or some other technical topic) is from a business point of view. That will give you some indication of how good they can communicate. I've seen people talking to customers on the phone about SSL certificates, Java containers, serialization, threads etc, and it's just pointless jargon to hit them with.

Hopefully, this is of some use to you :)

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really nice answer, also you hit the nail with the places. I have a friend who's getting interviewed by phone by a dutch company based in amsterdam :) – David Conde Jun 11 '11 at 17:28

I can give you the perspective from a candidate having a phone interview. Over the past two months, I've had at least 6 phone interviews and screens. Four of them have led to on-site interviews. I've never had to conduct a phone interview of a candidate, so someone else can shed some light on that side of things.

The best phone interviews have been about the soft side of things. The questions here typically ask about school, work, and various activities. The focus of my best phone interviews that have led to on-site interviews have been all non-technical, focusing on experiences and skills that I have, along with my personality. I think these are the best since this kind of thing typically turns into a conversation between me and the interviewer(s).

By the time the phone interview is over, I like to know if I would like to work for these people. Perhaps not in a technical sense of the technologies that they use, but in terms of the personality of the people interviewing me or by learning more about how the team functions on a day-to-day basis. I like when interviewers take the same approach to me over a phone interview - see if I can fit into the way the team works. When I get off the phone interview (especially if it's the first contact I've had with a team or manager that I would be working under), I have a pretty good idea of how interested I am in the position, but an on-site visit really locks it in.

I dislike when a phone interview begins to get extremely technical. It's not easy for me to show or explain my thought process to you over a phone. I'm probably working on paper or a whiteboard and you can't see exactly what I'm doing. I'm going to try to use words to explain, but I think it's better if you can see my diagrams and thought process. Sure, I might not get the right answer in a quick time frame, but I want to be judged on my thought process. In an interview, I'm put on the spot and should be able to show you how I think and work through a problem, not judged entirely on getting it right or wrong. Ask me about technical things that are relevant to the job that I'm applying for, but don't ask me to produce code or algorithms in great detail over the phone, please.

A few other, random thoughts:

As a perspective candidate, phone interviews are also very awkward. I can't see you, your reactions or expressions, or know if you are about to say something, have competed a thought, or are just taking a short pause. Don't judge based on how the conversation goes, but rather the thoughtfulness and quality of the answers.

If you are going to interview with multiple people on a conference phone, make sure the phone is of a good quality first. I've had interviews where I had to keep asking the interviewers to adjust the phone mic because I couldn't hear one of them. If you have to, perhaps a conference line with everyone on an individual phone would be better. You want to come across professional to me as the phone interview is when I begin to make my first impressions of the team and the organization as a whole.

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Why limit this to a phone interview only?

Your situation seems to be one where you need to interview people remotely. Use a phone screen as you would normally. The ones that pass this, you give a "take home problem" Have them give a code review to you and some of your team members. (there are lots of code sharing sites that would help with this). Ask them questions about their solution, and ask how they would change/adapt their code based on changing requirements/designs. I wouldn't offer a relo package or a position unless I could see some actual output from them and understand how they approach design/implementation.

I would also try like heck to make the interview a video interview. I've heard of other people who have done video interviews only to watch the candidate open a book and read the answer, or obviously google the answer. I've even heard of cases where one person does the interview and the second shows up for the job.

For the candidate, make sure you have good communication skills and be yourself.

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"I've even heard of cases where one person does the interview and the second shows up for the job." Seriously? That sounds like an employer with little common sense. In most cases, phone interviews are the first phase of an interview process and there is always a face to face interview after it. The only exception I can think of is if your known somehow to the company by having friends there in management who can vouch for you. – Desolate Planet Jun 12 '11 at 15:20
Even when there were both a phone screen and a face to face, there would be two candidates, the one you interview and the one that shows up. The company started requiring photo ID during the face to face just to be sure... it was crazy the first time it happened. The second time was bizarre... – Al Biglan Jun 12 '11 at 23:02

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