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VoiceScreener: A New Option For Telephone Interviews

VoiceScreener: A New Option For Telephone Interviews

    I’ve been on both ends of the phone — both looking for jobs and for employees. No matter which side of the conversation you’re on, though, the telephone interview leaves something to be desired. It takes time to do multiple interviews, it’s impossible to set a time that works well for both parties and — if you’re the interviewer — you’re mind rapidly goes numb from asking the same questions over and over again.

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    There’s a new website that’s looking to simplify the telephone interview process: VoiceScreener. The concept is surprisingly simple: hiring managers can record their interview questions, and potentials employees record their answers at their leisure. While there are few more steps in practice, the simplicity of the idea appeals to me. As a potential employee, I like it because I won’t have to try to figure out a time for an interview that requires me to leave the office — even if I’m only going out to my car to talk on my phone.

    But I like it from the hiring point of view, as well. As anyone who has ever conducted interviews — even for a babysitter — knows, there’s always a candidate or two that you realize isn’t right almost immediately. But once you’ve started an interview, whether over the phone or in person, it’s impossible to stop the interview part way through without seeming a bit rude. With a tool like VoiceScreener, it takes just one click to move on to better candidates. Overall, the VoiceScreener team estimates that their application can reduce the amount of time necessary for telephone screening by up to 70 percent.

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    The Features

    With VoiceScreener, a hiring manager can invite any job candidate to respond to a set of interview questions through email. Candidates then enter their telephone numbers at the VoiceScreener website, which calls them immediately with the interview questions. Once the interview is complete, VoiceScreener sends a notification to the hiring manager. The hiring manager can listen to the responses at any time, ranking candidates and inviting other team members to review interviews as necessary. VoiceScreener can then generate an automatic report listing candidates in order of preference. VoiceScreener has a few other useful tools, as well: for instance, a hiring manager can have candidates answer a set of pre-qualifying questions before and interview, screening out candidates before they even record answers. It’s possible to use questions from past interviews when creating a new interview and a hiring manager can even create a customized rejection message and automatically email any candidate who didn’t quite make the cut.

    The VoiceScreener team has made use of a lot of social networking ideas to reduce the amount of time and money it takes for a company to hire new personnel, allowing for a very fast first round of interviews. In addition to streamlining the process of comparing notes about a particular interview, the application has a simple dashboard that allows users to easily complete tasks associated with the hiring process. The dashboard offers several tools, some of which are customized to recruiters using VoiceScreener for their clients or for small businesses hiring on their own. The application can be customized for an individual business: interviewers can create a landing page for an interview, deciding whether to include a company logo, a URL or other information on the page that candidates will see. VoiceScreener can even be integrated into online job boards, making it a useful tool no matter how large a net a hiring manager wants to cast.

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    The Future

    I see a lot of potential with VoiceScreener for handling other interview-heavy processes in the future. Collecting interviews for a research project, whether commercial or academic, could be done through this tool as well, allowing researchers to quickly conduct hundreds of interviews. As it stands, I think that VoiceScreener is an ideal tool for small businesses looking to hire new staff but not up to taking time away from their day-to-day concerns. It doesn’t even take a particularly technical person to set up interview questions with VoiceScreener — instead, it’s a matter of a few clicks. I wouldn’t necessarily expect someone who’s been running a human resources department for decades to embrace VoiceScreener, but I’m willing to bet that it could be a reliable tool for a hiring manager. The fact that VoiceScreener is especially simple for interview subjects — as long as an interview subject can type in his or her phone number and knows how to leave a voice mail, using VoiceScreener shouldn’t be a problem — is an impressive benefit for hiring managers used to struggling through a stack of resumes for individual interviews.

    VoiceScreener was created by harQen, a web-telephony company that creates business applications. The private beta launched yesterday morning and VoiceScreener is expected to launch publicly in January. VoiceScreener will, after its public launch, charge a monthly platform fee along with a per interview charge. There will also be a fee for archiving interviews.

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    The Giveaway

    The folks at VoiceScreener have given us 50 beta invites to give away to LifeHack readers. If you visit the VoiceScreener sign up page and fill out the form, you’ll notice a field for a ‘Promo Code.’ The first 50 people to use the code LIFEHACK will get in on the beta. The beta includes 50 call credits and six weeks of platform usage. If you get in to the beta, let us know what you think!

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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