This is part three of our Behind the Curtain: Uncovering Amazing Search Marketers series. Yesterday, Jessica C. posted the job announcement and writing portion of the hiring process series. Prior to that, Jessica N. posted the introduction to our hiring process on PPC Hero and SEO Boy. Today is part three on the phone interview stage of our hiring process.

At Hanapin Marketing, just like any other company, we use phone interviews as the next stage of our hiring process following the resume and cover letter evaluation. Phone interviews are special because they give us our first real look at the communication abilities of an individual and an opportunity to hear the stories that support the resume.  It also gives an individual the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of internet marketing and competence as a potential employee.

Phone interviews require preparation from both the candidate and the agency. The candidate must rehearse their answers to numerous well-known interview question (i.e. tell us about a time you faced a conflict at work). The agency’s interviewers must review the application materials to develop an understanding of the candidate they will speak with. Once the materials are reviewed, a series of questions are developed to help uncover additional information about the candidate.

Determining the right questions to ask is the one of the hardest things to do in preparation for the interview. You want to ask questions that encourage the candidate to reveal something important about his or herself and are not impossible to answer. Remember, the purpose of a phone interview is to find out whether or not this person is worth inviting to the next stage of the hiring process, the in-person interview. Use it as a tool to collect information and make an informed decision about someone.

Although every organization has their own set of questions they like to ask, it’s important that some of them focus on understanding how a candidate thinks, what their experience level is, how comfortable they are speaking on the phone with strangers, and how well they react to the unexpected. Personally, I like to ask questions that encourage candidates to reveal their attitudes towards group work and continual learning. That is because I feel that a positive attitude towards collaboration and an ongoing, concerted effort to consistently grow are fundamental traits of a great Internet marketer. If you are having trouble coming up with ideas for questions, I recommend sitting down and determining what traits you value in the position you are trying to hire and then formulating topics around them. As a word of caution, it’s also important to remember that certain questions are illegal for companies to ask. If you’d like to know more about those kinds of questions and their legal alternatives, see

At Hanapin, our interviews begin in a traditional manner. We start by calling the candidate, introducing ourselves, and then explaining what will happen during the phone call. We ask our questions and then give the candidate an opportunity to ask questions of us. After working through all of the questions and getting a better idea of the candidate’s background, the interviewers reconvene to compile their notes. It’s important to compile notes on the interview immediately following the interview while everything is still fresh in everyone’s minds. Once this information is compiled our team submits it to our key decision maker, usually our CEO Pat East, who then decides whether to invite the candidate to an in-person interview.

Tomorrow, part 4 of our Behind the Curtain series will be posted. Amy will be discussing the in-person interview and our personal favorite–the Meet and Greet–over at our partner site, SEO Boy. In case you missed the prior posts from this 5 part series, I’d encourage you to check them out. See part 1 and part 2.