I have been phone screening several candidates lately and when it comes to scheduling a phone interview I feel I don't know the appropriate etiquette.

Should I call the applicant or should they call me?

5 Answers 5


Should I call the applicant or should they call me?

It's not a matter of etiquette. Instead, it's a matter of convenience.

I almost always conduct an initial screening by phone. When I arrange phone interviews, I have the recruiter set up a time and ask if it would be easier for me to call the candidate, or for the candidate to call me. Since it's easy for me to arrange my schedule such that I can be at my desk near my phone, I will go with whichever the candidate would prefer.

Often, it's simpler for the candidate to duck out of whatever they are doing and call me.

But sometimes they plan on being at a particular place and would prefer that I call them.

Either way works fine. Nobody feels awkward. No breach of etiquette involved.

  • 3
    Asking candidates about their preference is the best point +1.
    – loler
    Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 12:12
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    Yeah this is basically what I would say. Only thing I would add is to make sure you determine who is going to call first and have a backup plan.
    – enderland
    Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 13:00
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    "Instead, it's a matter of convenience." - I would refine that to, "It's a matter of having a schedule/plan". You're trying to get two or more people in touch at the same time. It's not a matter of convenience, it's a matter of being a functional professional and able to arrange a meeting!
    – Freiheit
    Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 13:35

The employer should ask what number to call and be open to the reverse if for some reason the candidate does not have or want to give their number.

While most likely not a big deal, by asking them to call you are asking them to foot the bill for a possibly extensive long distance.

Whenever reasonable, expenses should be borne by the company -- for three (interrelated) reasons. The company can better afford it, not doing so makes you appear cheap, and if you can't afford reasonable expenses in order to hire someone how are you going to pay them?

This doesn't mean that you should book a week long vacation package in Las Vegas for the interview, or even pay travel expenses for an in person interview -- but do keep it in mind when making arrangements. For instance some companies like to have a casual meeting -- not a formal interview, but a get to know you meeting, over lunch. The company should be paying for that, not the current employees and certainly not the candidate.


It depends on the procedure. If the interviewers are in separate locations and can't be on a single speakerphone then all parties will have to call in to a conference system number.

Otherwise either way works. Both parties have logistical issues that have to be resolved, they may not know the number they will be using in advance. Because the company may be doing multiple phone interviews if they can reserve a conference room then that can be the number that the potential employee can call.

Unless I will be doing a single interview by myself I will generally use a conference number even if I will be sitting in a conference room, so that neither party has to know the number in the room they will be using for the interview. I have worked at locations that you can't reserve a small room in advance, and the phone in the cube is not a good place to do your job search.

  • 1
    Where I work, we also often use conference calls when screening candidates in other countries; making international calls can be complicated and confusing, whereas conferencing systems often have domestic numbers in both locations that both parties will have no difficulty with.
    – ruakh
    Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 5:02

Going by your other questions, you dont seem to be from the HR.Just curious, why would you bother yourself with these logistics ?

It is almost an industry standard that the interviewer calls the applicant. Even if its a group interview, most of the interviewers will call the conference number and then call the applicant. As another member pointed out, I would find it out of the ordinary if the interviewers asked me to call them or even asked me for a preference. I take it as a protocol that the HR will decide these logistical details and the interviewer and myself will stick to that schedule.

It has only been once ever that I called into a conference number, that was when the interviewers were in different countries and I was told to call the conference number. If I were given a choice, since I have never been asked my preference before for phone calling, my mind would have wandered off thinking : Why am I being asked this question ? What if I say that I want to be called - will the company think I am being arrogant ? What if I say that I will call - will the company think am desperate for this job ? What is this - a subliminal interview question ? Will the salary offered to me depend on how I answer this ? And so on.

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    Not from HR. I am doing this for a small company that doesn't have HR resources. I am just doing the technical screening. Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 14:34
  • I figured as much. IMO I think it is best for you to be in control of the scenario and tell instead of asking the candidate what your plan is. Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 18:23

I have done multiple interviews at top well known companies in silicon valley and all of them are pretty much identical in how their interviewing process is setup.

1) after applying on-line or through a friend referral you get an automated email saying that your application if received and will be reviewed (it's nice when they say that it will be reviewed withing X days).

2) after it was initially screened you get a second automated reply saying that they decided to move forward. If not, they usually say that they think that other candidates are a better fit for the position and they encourage to check their other openings and possibly apply there.

3) If they move forward usually on the next business day you'd get an email from an HR from that company asking to schedule a short 15-20 min long introductory call. Some of them ask to provide three alternative dates/time ranges, or some of them send you a link to their calendar where you can select yourself and reserve available spot. When time was selected (manually or through automated web calendar) you'll get confirmation for date and time of the call. Most of them will automatically add that scheduled time to your google calendar (that's best, I really like that, if you have many interviews and every time you need to add events to your calendar manually). They will always call themselves. I interviewed with more than ten companies in the last couple of months and pretty much all of them would call withing one minute of scheduled time :) when you pick up they introduce themselves and always ask if that's a good time to talk (kind of weird question). In that 15-20 min long call they would ask general questions about my professional experience and explain what the process is like. Pretty much all of the top companies copy-cat the same process.

4) Next step you have to schedule the same way an hour long call with a technical person that conducts online coding test. Usually it's through hackerrank/codility or even simply through a google doc. Here they also call you exactly at scheduled time and after 5-10 min general introduction and discussion they give a coding question to solve. My calls were always finished within 1 hour. After that online coding test the HR person will follow up withing a day or two with the results. Usually if you did well you'll get a really quick follow up: they will congratulate you and ask to schedule a call. On that other call they will offer to come on site for a day-long interview, or they may do the process via email. On that call some (namely facebook) will provide some feedback regarding your first coding test; they usually provide only positive feedback and possibly provide hints where they think you may improve yourself. That feedback is provided but the HR person and not the guy that conducted the interview.

5) onsite interview scheduling is done the same way as scheduling a call: you give a few preferred dates or they offer available dates. If they consider you a high-end candidate and your availability is limited they will be able to schedule on-site interview within a day or two and will manage to book flights and hotels on short notice like that.

6) top employers will offer multiple days at a hotel and flights on days other than the interview, they will obviously pay for all restaurants, and travel expenses. Google for example will rent a hertz car for you (and it wasn't some nissan micro or whatever, it was a nice car). Usually all that travel associated handling for bigger companies is performed through a 3-rd party company and they try to do their best. For some reason I noticed that none will pay for hotel mini bar. None will cover alcohol :)

That's an approximate outline. You may also read chapter about interview process at google/facebook/amazon in "Cracking the Coding Interview" by Gayle Laakmann McDowell. In my case interviews at these companies were exactly as described in the book. In all cases interviewers would call me themselves. If I missed a call, I'd callback right away or within a couple of minutes. They have never called me at any other than scheduled time, whenever they needed something, the would ask via email when they can call me. In a few cases, it was also possible to have a skype or google hangout call instead or regular phone call.

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