Overnight, it became commonplace for companies to schedule introductory phone calls with candidates for the first interview. This approach even applies to mid-to-senior level executives. I legitimately don’t understand how these things escalate so quickly. I’m not sure if all the human resources professionals gather together at a conference or receive the same email blast at once, but the telephone call has now almost completely replaced the initial in-person interview.
My concern is that this is another assault against the humanity of the job search. We’ve watched the slow and steady degradation of the interview process. This includes forcing people to complete lengthy and invasive applications (when the uploaded résumé already contains this information), résumés disappearing into the voids of corporate black holes and corporate applicant tracking systems that review and approve résumé submissions instead of humans. Pushing a phone call instead of offering a real live one-on-one conversation is another artificial barrier that is being put in the way of people actually connecting and communicating.
At first, this seemed like blasphemy to many people. How dare companies make experienced professionals speak with junior gatekeepers instead of going directly to the hiring managers, interviewees complained. To be fair, it’s understandable how an experienced job seeker could view this trend as a little disrespectful. The applicant may feel that if you’ve read her résumé, it fits the job requirements and a recruiter that you trust vetted her, why waste everyone’s time with a call when you could set up an in-person meeting? It makes her feel that she’s not worthy of the company’s precious time and attention. The phone call feels as if the interview is devalued in the eyes of the hiring manager. Candidates constantly ask me, “If a firm is truly interested, why wouldn’t they take the time and effort to have a traditional face-to-face conversation?”
As this trend took hold, many started to appreciate the benefits. With a quick phone call, job seekers won’t have to make up a fake doctor’s appointment, change outfits in an empty conference room, surreptitiously sneak out of the office, wait for a train to travel across town, spend an hour or more waiting in the lobby, have the interview and then do the reverse trek back to the office. A hiring manager can spend 10 minutes on a phone call and not waste the applicant’s precious time—going through the motions and pretense of being polite to someone who they quickly realize will never be a fit for the position. It’s much easier to get someone off the phone than usher a candidate out of the office.
There are bad points too. Over the phone, you can’t see the hiring manager, view the office, watch the interviewer’s body language, look at the family pictures on the desk, take a peek for any sports or college-related memorabilia in the office to serve as an ice breaker or find common ground to establish a rapport. You are disadvantaged by not seeing the body language and facial expressions of the interviewer, which would tell you whether you are hitting the right notes or not. These visual cues provide candidates with valuable ammunition to help in the interview and without these observational aids, it’s tougher for the candidates to connect and bond with the hiring manager.