Episode 311: The Person I Phone Screened was Different Than the One I Met in Person?!

Picture this: you sift through dozens of applications and schedule countless phone interviews (something we are all too familiar with). Then, one of your phone screens goes extremely well, and you have hope for filling your position that has been empty for quite a while. You schedule this candidate for their first in-person interview, and when they come in, they sound nothing like who you talked to on the phone. Even wilder, they give you completely countering answers from what they had prior. Turns out, it is someone else entirely! Oddly enough, this is becoming all too common. Paul Edwards sits down with CeCe Wilson to discuss this strange new phenomenon, and how to prevent it from happening.


Voice Over: You’re about to listen to another episode of What The Hell Just Happened?! Join Paul Edwards and his guests as they discuss and sometimes even solve some interesting HR problems. 

Paul: And… I’m gonna go off the rails sometimes and talk about whatever I want. 

CeCe: Hey Paul!

Paul: Hey CeCe, who is also head of HR here at CEDR. 

CeCe: [laughing]

Paul: What’s up?

CeCe: How’s the food truck coming? When’s it coming to park at CEDR?

Paul: We’re doing a podcast on the food truck?

CeCe: [laughing]

Paul: This is going to be awesome. I’m still working on it for everybody who’s looked for our one listener: Kenny, Kenny was in town with my other best friend and happens to be his wife to Ali, Kenny and Alison were in town, and we went through the menu and cooked a few things from the menu. So I don’t know when it’s going to show up here, but we do have the trailer, and we’re well down the rabbit hole to me losing tens of thousands of dollars [laughing]…

CeCe: Oh gosh! [laughing]

Paul: On a food truck…Maybe, but maybe not. But anyway, it’s a passion project for anybody who’s listening. We’ll update you as we get closer.

CeCe: Well, yeah some of the people that I’ve hired recently that was like part of their offer letter was that you were going to park the food truck so –

Paul: Park the food truck here? 

CeCe: [laughing]

Paul: So there’s no pressure for me to get this right. And also, I just want to make this clear. I am not going to be working the food truck. I’m up. In another life, I was a chef. I’m bringing some really cool barbecue recipes and some stuff we’ve developed. But I am not the one, just so the members know, I’m still focused on you–

CeCe: Yeah [laughing]

Paul: And I’m not barreling around the state of Arizona in a barbecue truck.

CeCe: Either way, we reap the benefits so… [laughing]

Paul: So one way or the other, it’s going to be good for everybody.

CeCe: Okay, so today I have a topic that came up from personal experience. 

Paul: Uh huh.

CeCe: So for our members, we don’t just tell them to do phone screens, we do them ourselves. 

Paul: We do our phone screens.

CeCe: We do it hiring here, right? 

Paul: Yup, uh huh.

CeCe: And so I had an interesting experience with a phone screen recently where partway through the conversation I was suddenly talking to somebody else.

Paul: Wait, what?

CeCe: [laughing] So we schedule our phone screens so they know I’m calling and they’re expecting it our circumstance.

Paul: Because they applied for the…

CeCe: Right, right.

Paul: Job. 

CeCe: So the person I started speaking with had a distinctive accent and a specific tone of voice. 

Paul: Uh huh.

CeCe: And I heard some shuffling noises and then suddenly I was speaking to somebody with a very different tone of voice and not the same accent that I was hearing previously. 

Paul: Wow. 

CeCe: And, you know, the quality of the conversation changed and the knowledge level changed.

Paul: Did it go up or down?

CeCe: It went up!

Paul: Oh! Amazing.

CeCe: So I can only assume that maybe the person that they had asked to do the phone screen for them showed up late…

Paul: Uh huh.

CeCe: And they were having somebody sub in for them. 

Paul: Sweet.

CeCe: [laughing] So I did some Googling online –

Paul: Uh huh.

CeCe: To see if this is a thing and it turns out that it is. So, especially with –

Paul: [laughing]

CeCe: You know, how things have become a little more virtual. 

Paul: Yeah. 

CeCe: These phone interviews, I think, are maybe more common than they used to be. 

Paul: Right. 

CeCe: It turns out that you can pay people to do these things for you.

Paul: To do the interview, to do the initial interview.

CeCe: Yeah. To try to score you a job. But here we are, a small business in Tucson, Arizona.

Paul: And it happens to us.

CeCe: And it happened to me.

Paul: Wow. So how stupid. I mean, I think we can’t do anything about the phone screen because you can’t see them. But this is a reason, like, if you’re going into a zoom call for a second interview with someone, you make them turn that damn camera on. 

CeCe: Yeah. 

Paul: I think that’s because that kind of just makes it so they’re like, well, I can’t pull that in a second.

CeCe: Well, you would think –

Paul: Wait, what?

CeCe: But some of these… Yeah! So some of the stories that I came across are people you know, pulling the Cyrano de Bergerac, trying to lip sync – 

Paul: Yeah. 

CeCe: To somebody who’s on speakerphone.

Paul: Wow!

CeCe: [laughing] And sometimes hiring managers are reporting somebody very different looking –

Paul: Showed up?

CeCe: Showing up in person. So maybe the person on the Zoom meeting with the camera on had glasses covering their face or a hat of some sort or…

Paul: They were kind of disguised a little bit.

CeCe: Yeah. And maybe they look similar, but not –

Paul: Not the same.

CeCe: Identical. And they’re going, wait a minute. Is this the person that I met with?

Paul: [heavy sigh] What the… what the hell just happened?

CeCe: [laughing] Yeah. So here, you know –

Paul: [scoffs]

CeCe: As if hiring isn’t challenging enough. 

Paul: Yeah. 

CeCe: We have to think about some of these things. [laughing]

Paul: Right.

CeCe: That with social media, the Reddits of the world, you know, there’s just so much of this information and idea sharing out there –

Paul: Uh huh.

CeCe: That now we have to work around as well.

Paul: We hired them, didn’t we?

CeCe: Absolutely not. [laughing]

Paul: No? They didn’t start? They didn’t start the following week?

CeCe: Our members don’t have to worry. They won’t be speaking to this person… [laughing] 

Paul: They won’t be speaking to this person. 

CeCe: When they call here.

Paul: Well, I mean, what are you thinking? Because you bring someone in who, I mean, it’s one thing to bring…You bring someone in to be, you know, to answer the questions and kind of demonstrate their knowledge and we’re running people through behavioral interviewing all the time. 

CeCe: Yeah. 

Paul: So we’re gleaning. Every question we ask, we’re gleaning two or three pieces of information from it. And it’s not just the direct information we would get about like, “Tell us about a time that you had this experience”

CeCe: Right.

Paul: Or whatever that looks like, but you would just know that they would fail in the job as soon as they got here. 

CeCe: Yeah. 

Paul: I mean, there’s no way you can’t, if you can’t get through the interview, you’re never going to survive the job. Now, if you are, you know, for our listeners, everybody showing up, it’s not a remote job.

CeCe: Yeah.

Paul: They’re not going to be able to hide out in their home office or in their bedroom and do the work and not ever be seen and kind of fake their way through this.

CeCe: Yeah, but I think that what some of these people bank on is that the person they’re going to talk to on the phone is a different person than they’re going to meet with in the interview–

Paul: Ahh!

CeCe: And that might even be a different person who greets them on their first day and gets them set up. 

Paul: Right. 

CeCe: And so you know, one of the things that I have done for years is make sure that there is a consistent person through all processes.

Paul: Oh, good.

CeCe: So if your office manager, for example, is doing the phone screening and then scheduling, maybe the doctor or practice owner, to meet with the person in-person for an interview?

Paul: For an interview?

CeCe: Have the office manager sit in on that interview if they can. 

Paul: For sure. 

CeCe: Yeah and watch for those inconsistencies. 

Paul: Right. 

CeCe: I think that that’s probably one of the best ways to combat this potentially happening.

Paul: Yeah. 

CeCe: Because they’re going to be able to notice if it’s a different accent or if their work history sounds very different or the level of knowledge sounds very different or the personality is vastly different than the person that you spoke with on the phone.

Paul: Right. Right. So a lot of games being played. 

CeCe: Yeah. 

Paul: I mean, we’re just seeing a lot of games out in the workplace right now, you know?

CeCe: Yeah. I mean, it’s a tough market. 

Paul: Yeah.

CeCe: And so people are trying to get craftier at, you know, trying to land that next job. 

Paul: Yeah.

CeCe: And I guess the information sharing is just so readily available that they might hear someone’s great idea and think-

Paul: Right.

CeCe: They can pull that off.

Paul: And for anybody who’s listening to the podcast right now, we also have an attack dog. 


Paul: So if you can hear, if you could hear we’re a dog friendly office and we’re in our podcasting room in the office. And so if you can hear a dog barking in the background, that’s the attack dog that we set on you–

CeCe: [laughing]

Paul: Once we find out that you are the person that we interviewed and that we offered the job to. I, you know, I just think the overall lesson is there’s no depths that some people won’t sink to in order to try to trick their way into getting a job. I don’t know how that’s ever going to work out for them. 

CeCe: Yeah. 

Paul: So just be vigilant and maintain your chain of custody [laughing] when you…

CeCe: [laughing]

Paul: When you interview someone, you might want to make sure that…yeah.

CeCe: Yeah. Just try to stop them from getting in the door in the first place so that you haven’t wasted your time and potentially passed up a great, your second choice maybe–

Paul: Yeah.

CeCe: Who [laughing] was the same person that you talked to through the whole process, right?

Paul: Yeah, maybe it was. [laughing] Maybe they were like, maybe I want to apply for this job and they don’t tell the person who paid them and that…yeah. 

CeCe: [laughing]

Paul: CeCe, I mean, just let’s do a little flashing because we’ve just done a bunch of hiring. We had to grow just a little bit here. 

CeCe: Mm hmm.

Paul: We needed to find some different people to do some different things. We’re going to have a big, when you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably gonna already be hearing the message from us. We’re releasing a new interface for all of our members. We’re doing a bunch of new education, so we’re trying to fill positions to help us, you know, be as good at this as we can be. You’re experiencing everything else that everybody…you’re experiencing things that everybody else is experiencing…

CeCe: Mm hmm.

Paul: No shows. Ghosting. Get a good first conversation. They don’t show up for the second conversation. 30% of people who expressed an interest in the job don’t show up in the way that they should? I would say?

CeCe: Oh man.

Paul: Is it more? Is it less?

CeCe:  I would say more. 

Paul: Yeah?

CeCe: I mean, I think, you know, we get… sometimes, 150 applicants…

Paul: Uh huh.

CeCe: And maybe we’ll reach out to 40 to 50% for phone screens–

Paul: Uh huh.

CeCe: And maybe half of that schedules, even? 

Paul: And then half of that…?

CeCe: And that half of them don’t answer the phone.

Paul: Okay.

CeCe: Or somewhere along the process they drop out without communication.

Paul: They just ghost.

CeCe: Yeah.

Paul: So that’s just how it is. 

CeCe: Yeah. 

Paul: Yeah. Don’t let it bother you.

CeCe: Yeah. 

Paul: That’s how it’s going to be when you’re interviewing.

CeCe: Uh huh. And find the funny in the [laughing] weird.

Paul: Yeah and enjoy the weird ones when they happen. 

CeCe: [laughing] Yeah.

Paul: Did you call them out or were you just like, okay, well I’m just going–

CeCe: No…

Paul: Going to get out…

CeCe: No I didn’t. 

Paul: Yeah. Okay. Next time I bet they get called out. 

CeCe: [laughing] 

Paul: All right, CeCe, that was interesting. 

CeCe: Yeah. 

Paul: All right. Thanks for bringing that, What the hell just happened?! 

CeCe: [laughing]

Paul: What the hell just happened was they switched personalities in the middle [laughing] of the phone screen. Anything else?

CeCe: No, that’s it. 

Paul: Okay.

CeCe: Thank you.

Paul: Thanks.

Voice Over: Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode of What The Hell Just Happened? do Paul a favor; share this with your network. If you have an HR issue or a question, and you’d like us to discuss it on this show, send it to podcast@WTHjusthappened.com. For more HR advice and insights from Paul and his team of experts, you can also join the private Facebook group, HR Base Camp, or visit HRbasecamp.com. Make sure you tune in next week. And remember: better workplaces make better lives. 

Apr 3, 2023

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