Why a telephone interview can prevent you from making a bad hire

By 4 April 2022 No Comments

Nowadays, most initial interviews are conducted via video calls and ‘old fashioned’ telephone interviews are seldom incorporated into the interview process. While potentially controversial, I’m about to argue that a simple telephone conversation could prevent you from making a bad hire. Here is why.

Our ability to make ‘good decisions’ when it comes to hiring is affected by numerous factors, and some of these are unconscious. While I hope your recruitment process is always consistent across candidates and responses are marked using a uniform approach, fundamentally your decisions are subjective due to being based on your perception of what you see and hear. It may be difficult to admit, but our perception is often unreliable and biased. Our brain is a phenomenal organ but at times easy to trick by visual input, which can bias our perception and influence outcomes. 

Have you ever heard of the ‘McGuirk Effect’? If not, you must watch this video

The McGuirk effect is an auditory-visual illusion that illustrates how our perception of sound can be affected by visual input. For example, when we hear the sound ‘ba’ while seeing the face of a person articulating ‘va’, many adults perceive the sound to be ‘va’ or ‘da’, despite the sound being ‘ba’. In other words, it is an illusion which occurs as the result of discrepancy between what we see and what we hear. It’s only when we have our eyes closed that we always hear the correct sound.

Now, taking into account how we are influenced by visual information in a simple case of sounds ‘ba’ and ‘va’, I’d suggest that seeing your candidates isn’t always helpful! I’m not saying that we shouldn’t meet the candidates in person or via a video call, but I believe that incorporating a telephone interview into the very initial stages of the interview process will give you more insights than you might think. Once something is seen, it can’t be unseen, so we advocate using a telephone interview as a screening tool before conducting a much more comprehensive interview either onsite or via a video call. A quick call can be a great time saver and provide you with a structured way of getting to know your candidates and the likely fit with your firm and values. That is, who they are, how they think, how they work etc.

Our telephone interview has been developed to take 30 minutes and is suitable for use with candidates for all roles, creating a very consistent experience and an easy process. In the main, the interview incorporates competency based and behavioural questions instead of simply chatting through the CV. In fact, in my view, questions related to the employment history and scrutiny of the CV are best explored face-to-face. I find that during the telephone interview stage, I learn a lot more by asking questions such as, ‘Please give me an example of how you organise your day?’ or ‘What does it mean to you to be successful?’.

A robust recruitment process is key to identifying the right person for the job. It pays to be thorough as “a bad hire has been shown to cost 15 times the annual salary of the person that you’ve hired” (Scaling Up by Verne Harnish & the team at Gazelles)!

As part of your process, it’s important to test generic skills, such as accuracy or IT skills, but also to undertake role specific testing, as this is sometimes overlooked. This means to test the candidate in relation to the role that they will be hired to perform. For example, when looking to hire a Paraplanner, it would mean creating specific case studies with model answers, preferably based on your typical and challenging cases. We always advocate that role specific assessments are undertaken as part of the ‘face-to-face’ interviews rather than supplied in advance or following interviews.

Here are my top tips on finding the best person for your vacancy:

  • Undertake a screening telephone interview!
  • Go for the best and don’t compromise – even if it takes a long time, be patient.
  • Hire based on culture, values and attitude as these can’t be trained. (Make sure you know what the firm’s values are so you can hire people that share them).
  • Skills can be trained and experience can be gained so these shouldn’t be your focus (unless your firm has under five employees and lacks specific expertise).
  • Great candidates share some top qualities. These are: intelligence, integrity, passion and enthusiasm, so look out for these qualities.
  • Be mindful of your ‘desire to hire bias’ and look for reasons to say ‘no’, not the reasons to say ‘yes’.
  • Hire people that are better than you – at least at the tasks that you’re hiring them to perform.
  • Don’t feel pressured by timeframes but equally, don’t elongate the process unnecessarily.
  • Always inform candidates of the next steps and the timeframes involved.
  • Explain your recruitment process at the outset so candidates understand what’s involved.
  • Remember that it’s a two-way street so create a great experience. To do this, we suggest creating an Empathy Map with prospective candidates in mind
  • Have balance – don’t rush into decisions but be decisive at the same time.

Remember that when you are overwhelmed with your workload and feeling overstretched, you are most likely to make a bad decision by either skipping parts of the process or hiring the ‘best out of the bunch’. I promise you that, it’s far better to be patient and wait for the ‘right’ person as ‘the best out of the bunch’, simply isn’t good enough. You can read more about “7 things you need to do to create a top team” here.

If you are looking to hire, you may want to download a copy of our free Recruitment & Salary Ranges Guide.

Good luck with nailing your interview process! ­­­­­­­­­­­­­


  • Example recruitment process
  • Recruitment & Salary Ranges Guide
  • Vacancy Profile Form
  • Telephone interview form
  • 1st Face-to-Face Interview Form
  • Candidate Scorecard
  • Reference Request Form
  • Administrator – Role Specific Assessment Tasks
  • Administrator – Role Specific Assessment Tasks & Pointers
  • CRM Interview Questions
  • Financial Planner – 1st Face-to-Face Interview Questions & Pointers
  • Financial Planner – Role Specific Assessment Tasks
  • Financial Planner – Role Specific Assessment Tasks & Pointers
  • Paraplanner – 1st Face-to-Face Interview Questions & Pointers
  • Paraplanner – Role Specific Technical Assessment
  • Paraplanner – Role Specific Technical Assessment Model Answers
  • Receptionist – 1st Face-to-Face Interview Questions & Pointers
  • Receptionist – Role Specific Assessment Tasks
  • Receptionist – Role Specific Assessment Tasks & Pointers
  • Accountability Identifier
  • Example Organisational Structures
  • Administrator – Job Spec
  • Administration Manager – Job Spec
  • Client Relationship Manager – Job Spec
  • Compliance Manager – Job Spec
  • Financial Planner – Job Spec
  • Managing Director – Job Spec
  • Marketing Manager – Job Spec
  • Operations Coordinator – Job Spec
  • Operations Director – Job Spec
  • Paraplanner – Job Spec
  • Practice Manager – Job Spec
  • Receptionist – Job Spec
  • Trainee Financial Planner – Job Spec


  • How to increase your chance of attracting & hiring great people with Dominika Sieradzka (includes an explanation of our suggested recruitment process)

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