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I'm currently doing phone screens to try and hire a new employee (software developer).

One of the people I was going to do a phone screen with asked if he could come in and do the interview in person.

Is there any downside that you can think of to doing an interview in person if all the other candidates are done over the phone?

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Presumably you have the phone screening phase to work out who you want to interview face-to-face, saving time in the long run. Sure, it won't be decremental, but it seems like a waste of time for both parties. –  Joe Feb 25 at 21:19
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It sounds to me like an effective interviewee tactic, to be honest; one of the first rules of interviewing is 'get your foot in the door', right? –  Joe Feb 25 at 21:56
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chollida, I modified the title slightly to better match what you were asking - great question and welcome to The Workplace! –  enderland Feb 26 at 2:12
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Does the person lip read? Are they hard to understand on the phone? –  Ian Feb 26 at 13:02

5 Answers 5

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Is there any downside that you can think of to doing an interview in person if all the other candidates are done over the phone?

It's not a huge deal, but I can think of a few potential downside issues:

  • You aren't conducting all the interviews in the same manner. Thus, you may be inclined to evaluate this candidate's "non-phone-screen" differently than the other "phone-screen" candidates. This could help or hurt the candidate. Most likely, the candidate thinks she/he will be gaining an advantage by requesting an in-person interview. That may or may not be so.
  • For me, it takes more time to prep a location for an in-person interview, than a phone screen. I have to make sure the location is available and clean, get the candidate to sign in at the front desk, walk down to get him/her, escort the candidate to the proper location, then do the same in reverse on the way out.
  • You are limiting the interviews to times when you are in the office. I sometimes do phone screens from home (and of course you would never invite a candidate into your home for interviews).
  • Candidates sent in via an agency are often debriefed after the interview. What they learn is then used for the next candidate sent by the agency. So you can expect other candidates to start requesting in-person interviews, rather than phone screens. Consider if you want to set that as a precedent or not. Whatever accommodations you make for one candidate, you should make for the others.
  • In some locales/contexts there my be legal issues with not treating all applicants identically. Consult your HR department for guidance.

Again, not a big deal. For me though, I try to keep all the first-round screens as similar as I can, so I'd tend to require a phone screen unless there was a very convincing, unusual reason to do otherwise.

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> So you can expect other candidates to start requesting in-person interviews, rather than phone screens. I did not think of this. Very good point. –  chollida Feb 25 at 21:41
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There are also legal and equality issues depending on where you work. I'm aware that some government jobs have an appeals process, and if an interviewee is offered a non-standard interview process this could be an avenure for an unsuccessful candidate to dispute the decision. –  Lego Stormtroopr Feb 26 at 4:40

A large goal of a phone screen is to avoid having an on-site interview with someone that may not be a good fit. A great benefit of a 30-minute phone screen is that when the candidate is a disaster, you can go to Do you have any questions for us? at the twenty-minute mark, and be on to the other work you need to do after 25 minutes.

Having a candidate on-site is a greater investment of time and energy that I am willing to extend to those that you have good reason to believe are a good fit with the team.

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I would want to know the reason why he wants the in-house interview instead of the phone screen. If he is deaf and has difficulty understanding the questions when he can't lip read (or has some hearing loss that makes it particularly difficult to hear phone questions), that is entirely different from someone who wants to come in because he thinks it will give him a better shot at the position.

I would tend to grant this only in the case of a disability or personal situation that makes phone screening more difficult for the interviewee and thus putting him at a disadvantage over the other candidates.

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I think it is a great deal more work to do an in-person interview. That includes questions like "Where will the interview be held?" and "Where is the bathroom?"

You will probably have to reserve a room which might not be difficult.

I do not think an in-person interview for a first-round gives a great deal of new info. Of course second round in-person interviews are the norm.

Whatever you decide to do, you have to do it for everyone.

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I see a very real downside - they know exactly what you look like and can now badger you at work.

I had a situation where an interviewee was doing very poorly, and when I interrupted him he banged both fist on the table and yelled at me not to interrupt him while he was talking and to let him finish answering the question. I stood up and ask "do you have any questions" as I walked to the door to get the HR person.

While nothing happened beyond a "can you believe that" story, I made sure I wasn't the last one out of the office that day. There's a 99% the guy just thinks he'll make a better impression on you, but a phone interview would have weeded out this guy, and avoided a really awkward situation.

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