Finding good employees can be a challenge. On one extreme are jobs that are hard to fill, with a shortage of qualified candidates. The opposite scenario are openings, typically entry level positions, that produce a deluge of applicants, some qualified and others, not so much. While help wanted ads in newspapers and trade magazines were once the prime means to solicit applicants, this has largely shifted online to job boards, social media, and electronic ads, as well as website postings and e-blasts. Getting the word out is the easy part. The challenge comes from knowing the best way to deal with the responses. Options include having applicants mail in their resume, complete an online application, leave a voicemail message, or send an email. However, a most effective solution, especially for customer-facing positions, is a pre-interview over the phone. When you have a telephone answering service handle this pre-interview for you, the benefits are many: Keeps Main Phone Lines Open: An unexpected response can tie up your phone lines, resulting in busy signals to both applicants and customers, which makes it hard to conduct normal business. By having an answering service handle the pre-interview calls, your phone lines and phone system are protected, as all phone calls go directly to the answering service. Plus, if you post a number provided by your answering service, they can turn the number off or play a recording once you fill the position, which is not possible for companies that post their main number. Requires No Staff Time: In addition to protecting your phone lines, more importantly an answering service protects your staff, too. Handling a couple extra phone calls a day is not a problem for a receptionist or your human resource department, but what if it’s ten calls a day? Or one hundred? Or more? Again, your answering service can handle this for you, which keeps your staff free to do their regular jobs without additional interruptions. Allows for 24/7 Response: People seeking work look at all hours of the day. And they want to react as soon as they learn about the opening. If they call your business after business hours, what will happen to their call? Will they be able to complete their mission? Will you know of their interest? However, if an answering service is handling these calls, they are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Applicants will call at the strangest of times, and having an answering service means that you are always ready for them. Maintains Consistency: An answering service will follow your exact protocol and ask the same questions of every caller. This insures all applicants receive fair and equal treatment, which protects against biased behavior and the threat of discriminatory hiring practices. (Answering services also record calls in the event you ever need verification.) Having the same information from every applicant makes it easy to compare qualifications and screen prospects for possible follow up. Provides Helpful Reports: Answering services can provide you with a record of each call, either when it comes in or batched into convenient groups. They can also generate summary reports, which can be easily uploaded into a spreadsheet, database, or contact management software. Offers Additional Support Services: If you want to clarify responses or ask follow up questions of applicants, your answering service can make those calls for you, too. Plus, they can also contact those candidates you want to interview and schedule their appointments. Just let your answering service know your availability and how much to allow for each interview; they will do the rest. Using an answering service to handle the initial human resource tasks of conducting phone pre-interviews, gathering application information, and scheduling second interviews may not be your first thought, but it might be your best option. Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry—and who helps businesses and organizations find the perfect answering service. Contact Janet at email@example.com or call 800-901-7706. Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.