A significant proportion of expats recruited to work in the UAE are initially interviewed over the phone or Skype. People Management has gathered tips from recruiters about how to understand a candidate's behaviour over the phone, how to tell if they are feeling uncomfortable, and how to get them talking freely and honestly.

Cover the basics

Jennifer Campori, managing director, Charterhouse Middle East & Europe, says it is important that interview questions start out by covering the basics, such as what the individual’s current salary is and why they are looking for new opportunities. You can then move on to more behavioural-based questions, such as: ‘Can you give me an example of your biggest achievement in your current role?’, she says. It is a good idea to follow that up with what they would like their biggest achievement in their next role to be. The answers should flow together and make logical sense for someone wanting to progress their career: if they are miles apart, then the candidate is simply telling the interviewer what they think they want to hear.

Eloquence is important

The interviewer should also take note of the candidate’s verbal communication – are they eloquent, or using too many filler words such as ‘you know’ and ‘erm’. Eloquence is also important for the interviewer. Don’t speak too quickly – try strolling around your office, if appropriate, to regulate the speed at which you fire off questions. “The interviewer should always try and conduct a structured interview in a very similar manner to a face-to-face meeting,” says Campori.

Location, location, location

Maher Al Okkeh, employee relations and HR officer at RAK Free Trade Zone, explains the importance of a distraction-free environment. “A major challenge is when a candidate seems too distracted to be taking your call, or in a busy environment, yet they insist on doing the phone interview because they think this is their only chance to speak to the recruiter,” he says. “It’s frustrating, as the candidate is throwing away his or her chance, even though I could contact them later.” It is important to make sure candidates understand the purpose of the interview, adds Al Okkeh, as often fresh graduates or early-level career employees may be unclear about why they are taking part.

Warning signs

If the interviewee is constantly talking about salary, Campori recommends the interviewer takes this as a clear warning sign that they should not progress with this candidate. “While remuneration is important, you want to hire someone who also wants to progress, wants to be part of your company culture and can be a team player,” she says. “Another big warning sign is a candidate that frequently mentions how awful a previous employer has been. Even if you have had a bad experience with a previous employer, there is always a positive that you can take away from the experience – so think whether you want that kind of person on your team.”

A major concern may also be someone who answers every single question perfectly. No one can answer everything exactly in the right manner: “If someone seems too perfect, make sure you vet them further after the call.” The most important part of a telephone interview is go with your instinct, says Campori.

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