Telephone screening

If your newspaper ad, posted notice, or word-of-mouth campaign has been successful, you will soon begin getting phone calls from applicants. When you talk to an applicant, you should begin to screen the applicant over the phone before your send an application, and certainly before you schedule a meeting to do an interview. You will probably not want to interview all the applicants. The telephone screening will assist you in deciding whom you would like to meet in person to interview. 

Tell the applicant the hours you will need someone to work. Outline what tasks must be performed. If lifting is required, specifically state the amount you expect the person to be able to lift. (i.e. 40 pounds*) 

*Please note here that providing assistance while transferring could be/is considered lifting. (i.e. know your body weight)

During the screening process, it will be worth your while to be completely honest about the tasks your expect your aide to perform with/for you. For instance, as you describe to an aide that you would like assistance with showering, you may want to highlight the fact that you need someone to scrub your feet/between your toes etc. To an experienced aide, this will be useful information. To someone who is brand-new this may be information crucial to the decision on whether or not to take the job you propose. 

The long and the short of it is: If someone is squeamish about doing what you need them to do - or just plain unable to do it - you can save yourself and the prospective employee time and effort by finding this out as quickly as is possible. Also, by developing this brutally honest approach, you can ensure that you will never be face with an aide (already in your home) who says to you:

“You never told me .... “X- or “I’m not doing that!”

Some questions that may help you when screening applicants over the phone

  1. Have you ever been a Personal Assistant or have you done similar work? 

  2. If so, where did you work? What were some of the job tasks? How long did you work there? 

  3. What time during the week are you available to work? 

  4. How do you feel about assisting me with my personal needs (i.e. bathing, toileting, shaving)?

  5. How do you feel about housekeeping chores?

  6. Are there any household chores you are not willing to do?

  7. Can you cook?

  8. What dishes do you like to cook?

  9. Are you 18 years of age or older?

  10. Do you have transportation that will get you to the jobs? 

  11. Are you able to perform all the duties of the job as I have outlined them? 

  12. Have you ever been convicted of a crime? 

These are just a few suggestions for screening applicants over the phone. If you listen carefully to what the person says, you may get a sense of the person’s attitude. Only select people who sound extremely good to you for a formal interview. 

Once you have completed screening over the phone and decided that you want to do a formal interview, you can schedule the individual for a face-to-face (in-person) interview.

The interview

If you would like, MILC, INC. will provide you with a place to interview applicant(s). It is not a requirement, but you may feel safer. We suggest that you at least find a neutral space. If you live in an apartment building, you might meet an applicant in the apartment’s community room. SHOULD YOU WISH TO INTERVIEW APPLICANTS AT WNYIL, YOU NEED TO CALL AHEAD TO SCHEDULE A TIME. When an applicant formally meets with you face-to-face, you should introduce yourself and try to make the applicant feel comfortable. 

The following are some suggestions that may help you interview: 

Explain everything the job includes. It is important for you to be very specific. You may want to develop a job description or a detailed written list of tasks to share with the applicant. Use this part of the interview to assess whether the applicant can read and if she/he is serious about listening to you. 

Explain your expectations. It is important for the applicant to know that the tasks you listed are required and must be completed in a timely fashion. 

While personality is separate from skill, you will have a more pleasant relationship if the person you hire has the same attitude about work as you do. 

Ask the applicant if they are comfortable with the list of tasks. Make sure they understand all the responsibilities listed. 

Make sure you review the application form carefully. Be sure it is filled out completely. 

If you notice that the applicant has had a lot of jobs in a short period of time, or if they ask that you not contact past employers, it could mean that applicant is not reliable. Therefore, you should ask the applicant why they changed jobs so often or why they are requesting you not to contact their past employers. 

Ask the applicant why they would like the job. You may get some insight into his/her motivation. 

When you review the application look at the personal reference section and ask the applicant if these references are friends. If the applicant has given family members for personal references, ask the applicant for names of personal friends. If he/she doesn’t know of anyone, and is not from out of town, this may be a clue that something isn’t right. 

Ask the applicant if they have any limitations that would prohibit them from performing some of the tasks. 

Ask candidates to fill out an application and a release of information form for references.

You will receive copies at the time you are trained. 

It is suggested that you check at least three of their references. These may written references or telephone references. 

Telephone reference checks

If you do not have time to wait for a written response, you do a reference check by phone: 

These are some questions you could use when you are calling for references:

  1. Was the employee reliable and dependable?

  2. Did the employee need a lot of direction (supervision) to do their tasks or could they independently do their routine tasks?

  3. Did the employee have a good attitude toward people that they worked with?

  4. How well did the employee interact with their supervisor? Were they able to take constructive criticism?

  5. Were there any other problems that you had with the employee?

  6. Would you recommend the candidate for this position?

  7. If given the opportunity, would you rehire this person?

Now you are ready to select your assistant. Use your best judgment. Look over the questions you asked the applicant and how they responded. Look over your references carefully and trust your own feelings on how comfortable you felt with the applicants. 

If you have difficulty in making a decision, you could schedule to interview them again. 

By the end of your formal interview, you should have a better sense of whether or not you are interested in hiring the applicant. Take your time and make sure you interview more than just one applicant. You may like the first applicant, but as you interview additional candidates, you may find someone else that you like even more. 

Make sure that you follow up with references. Use the form supplied by WNYIL to obtain references. The references can help you to decide whether or not an applicant is a good worker. The references may also help you determine who the applicant is and their attitude on the job, etc.

What questions cannot be asked during an interview?

You may not ask applicants about their age or date of birth, race, national origin, sexual orientation, native language, health, back problems, disability, fitness, marital status, whether they have children, are pregnant or are planning to get married or have children soon. 

You and WNYIL can be held liable for violating the applicant’s right to privacy under New York State Labor laws. Once you have been trained, it is your responsibility to know what you cannot ask during an interview. This User’s Guide is given to you so that you can refer to any questions that you may have regarding the hiring process.