I recently applied for a job in a major telecom company and I have been asked to attend an onsite interview in another town three hour drive.

According to my experience, the employers usually first do a phone interview before inviting to a face to face interview (this is at least my experience).

Does it imply something? Is there anything to read between the lines?

  • There's no certainty here, but I would observe that a phone interview is more likely to be one-on-one than an in-person interview. - If the hiring manager wants one or more other people in the room, it may well just be easier to set it up in-person (teleconferences are possible but may have involve extra setup, booking a special meeting room, possibility of audio connection issues, etc.). – Brandin Oct 28 '15 at 15:22
  • @Brandin: I'd assume that "a major telecom company" has access to a few conference spiders and uses them regularly. Booking a conference room with a spider won't be more of a hassle than booking a conference room for when the candidate shows up in person... – Stephan Kolassa Oct 28 '15 at 15:27
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    Think there's a simpler answer than most of the ones that have been given: Many employers don't do phone interviews first. That's all. Guess @Lilienthal makes this point. – Dave Kanter Oct 28 '15 at 17:29
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    @DaveKaye Yep. And customs differ from place to place and maybe with other factors. In my experience, there is no such thing as a "phone interview", the company reads your CV and maybe somebody calls to check a few missing facts, then you are either invited onsite or you are not. – Eugene Ryabtsev Oct 28 '15 at 17:46
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    physical interviews are common in some places, particularly if there is not too many people applying for the job, and/or you have been shortlisted due to your CV, but there's no way of knowing what their reasons are. I would take it as a positive sign. – Kilisi Oct 28 '15 at 18:46

There's nothing to read between the lines. Interviewing is all about the preferences of the hiring manager. What you should ask about, before you even accept the opportunity to interview, is how this particular company's interview process works. Is it a single interview, or will you have to come back for a second one? A third? (Believe it!! I've heard of candidates dealing with three and MORE interviews before a job)

How long are you expected to stay? If it's a very short interview and you work in a technical field, that's usually not going to be enough for a company to make a hiring decision.

Don't presume anything. Ask!

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    I've found it depends on the job and the salary for it. 4 separate interviews for a minimum-wage job is just as absurd as 1 30-minute interview is for a job paying 200K. – Andrew Hale Oct 28 '15 at 15:19
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    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I was actually thinking that if there are many applicants, it would not make sense to invite many applicant for face to face interview, especially because they reimburse the travel costs. I was trying to be optimistic that they have not got many applicants for this role and that they see me as a potential candidate ;) – M.X Oct 28 '15 at 15:40

Is there anything to read between the lines?

There's plenty, you just have no way of knowing what their actual reasons are. Off the top of my head, a company skipping a phone screen could be for any number of reasons:

  • someone vouched for you so they don't feel the need to do a phone screen
  • they were so impressed with your application or profile that they want to skip the phone screen
  • HR doesn't have anything better to do and they need to fill their calendars
  • your interviewers can expense lunch for in-person interviews and want to check out a new restaurant
  • they don't think phone screens are useful
  • they don't believe that a telephone conversation is a real conversation
  • they're neo-luddites who are afraid that using a telephone will suck their soul out through their ear

Most of these are signs of bad hiring practices. If you're a hiring manager you should only skip a phone screen if:

  • you know the candidate personally
  • someone who's judgement you trust knows the candidate personally and vouches for him (both when it comes to skills and cultural fit)
  • HR already did a phone screen (and they have shown to be reliable and competent)

In all other scenarios, a phone screen is an invaluable tool to avoid wasting time for you or a candidate.

Now what does all this mean for you as a candidate? Since you're three hours away from their offices, I would contact them again and request a phone screen with the hiring manager yourself. Good HR staff and good managers won't mind and will realise that you want to check some basics first before committing to an interview. If they react weirdly to your request in any way and decline, even after you explain your reasons and without giving their own for skipping a phone interivew, consider that a huge red flag. They either don't know how to hire well or they're setting you up for something shady.

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  • -1, Skipping a phone screen is not necessarily a bad hiring practice, as the type of job, the location of the job, the proximity of the candidate to the office, etc. can all factor in to whether the recruiter feels like they need to do a phone screen. (edited out the calling up, considering the candidate is 3 hours away) – panoptical Oct 28 '15 at 16:27
  • @panoptical Look up the definition of cold calling please. I normally give this advice myself but the company has already shown that they want to talk to the OP. Bypassing their process is a bad idea when you're trying to get noticed because of it, it's different from requesting additional information which is a normal thing to do when you're already past the first screen. – Lilienthal Oct 28 '15 at 16:28
  • I edited that part out of my response, but I do stand by the rest of that comment, especially about the type of job determining whether a phone screen is needed. – panoptical Oct 28 '15 at 16:32
  • +1 for "Your interviewers can expense lunch for in-person interviews and want to check out a new restaurant." I'd never recommend bringing someone on-site for that reason, but it is a nice side effect. :) – reirab Oct 28 '15 at 18:15

I think the reason you think this is unique is because it is a three hour drive from where you are. It is entirely possible that the hiring manager did not look at your location or did not think you were 3 hours away. I have been asked a few times to do a face to face but I was out of state and they realized it only when I mentioned it to them over the phone.

With that said, if 3 hours drive is troublesome for you, it might be a good idea to call them. Don't directly tell them but say, "I'm coming from X, and I want to verify that the interview is at Y time." That should clue them in on where you are and they might say, "Oh wait, we didn't realize you were 3 hours away, we can do a phone interview if you wish?"

Otherwise you risk having to drive 3 hours and find that the job isn't a fit for you or they weren't interested in you and now you wasted 6+ hours of your time.

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No. As you said, companies usually have telephone interviews before face-to-face interviews, but not all companies do this.

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