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Danny Kerr Interview Setup Calls

Ep 44: (UHF Series 4/6) Filter Out The Time Wasters with The Perfect Interview Set Up Call – Danny Kerr

The most efficient way to categorise, process and schedule applicants
How to treat referral candidates vs outside applicants
The best way to get people to open up on the phone so you get a better sense of who you’re really talking to
The questions to ask to draw out their true motivations
When to bring up ‘Deal Breaker’ questions
The best way to close out the call and transition to the next phase of the process

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Read a Summary of Episode 44

So, the best practices you’ve applied to your job postings are paying off. You have a huge flow of applicants knocking on your door. Congratulations! You’re one step closer to getting the talent you need to move your business forward.

But your next move is one that many entrepreneurs don’t take seriously enough and could, if neglected, undermine the hard work you’ve invested in recruitment so far: prioritizing these applicants and making the set-up calls for interviews with them efficient and effective.

On episode 4 of our Ultimate Hiring Funnel (UHF) series we welcome back Danny Kerr, managing director at Breakthrough Academy (BTA). Danny was the head recruiter for Western Canada at College Pro Painters, and he joins us to discuss the intricacies of this critical set-up stage.

Why Is The Set Up Call So Important?

Simply put, it’s an early-stage vetting process that ensures the people you’ll interview in person will be appropriate for the job.

Not giving this process due diligence ensures that your interviews will be clogged with people who are completely unsuited to your company and culture – that is, if they show up for the interview at all.

“It’s important to break the ice,” Danny says. “’How’s your morning been so far?’ Or maybe share something funny that happened to you that day. Anything to make them comfortable for the questions that will follow.”

To make the most of the calls takes organization:

1) Process The Resumes

At one point during his College Pro Painters career, Danny was receiving 100+ resumes daily – impossible to study in depth. So he prioritized what he was looking for in a new recruit (leadership experience, ability to handle stress, etc), scanned the resumes for evidence of these points, and scored each resume from 1 to 10. This enabled Danny to prioritize his set-up call list.

Next, these resumes went into three different folders. “I had one for applications rejected, applications to call, and applications converted, that way I kept track of the status of my top applicants,” Danny says. By creating this inventory he was also able to reconnect with the applicants whenever another position needed filling.

2) Respect Referrals

Danny gave referrals special priority when establishing a set-up call list, “Because they’re usually the best people who come in, being similar-minded to the employee who referred them to me,” he explains. “Even if I sensed they might not be an ideal fit I contacted them anyway, out of respect for the employee.”

3) Schedule The Calls Effectively

Given that top applicants tend to find jobs quickly, Danny scheduled two blocks of time – Tuesdays and Thursdays – instead of just one day a week: that way he could contact the candidates quickly and avoid the risk of them waiting all week and being snapped up by the competition.

Having done all this, you’ll probably be pumped to dive right into the set-up calls. But hold on: you’ve weeded out the 1 to 6s and are about to phone the upper-tier 7 to 10s, so you want the calls to count. 

Consider the following:

Humanize The Discussion

First impressions mean everything. If you come across during the first few minutes of your conversation as stiff and authoritative, the applicant will likely not open up (good applicants will be judging you as much as you are judging them). “It’s important to break the ice,” Danny says. “’How’s your morning been so far?’ Or maybe share something funny that happened to you that day. Anything to make them comfortable for the questions that will follow.”

Dissect The Resume – Subtly

The shift from casual chat to discussing resume highlights should be subtle, Danny says, and still conversational: “I’ll say something like, ‘I see here you worked at this company for five years: how was it? What did you learn?’ And so on.”

Determine The Applicant’s Motivations

By now, a rapport has been established and you know some of the applicant’s work history and personality. “Now it’s time to ask the applicant what motivated him/her to contact me,” Danny says. “What is it they’re looking for? And what’s their current situation?” (Hopefully not sitting in mom’s basement for the past six months).

Tailor Your Job Description

Armed with a certain understanding of the applicant, you can now give them an overview of your company and culture – and focus on the elements that will appeal to his/her wants and needs.

Determine Deal Breakers

This is a critical part of the set up call. What if you’re a roofer and the candidate is afraid of heights? What if they have to visit several job sites daily and don’t have a car? “Will they take a drug screening? Do they have the proper safety certifications? Ask your deal-breaking questions as early as possible so as not to waste your time talking to someone who doesn’t qualify,” says Danny.

Close Effectively

If the applicant checks all your boxes, you’ll want to meet them in person. “So close the call appropriately,” Danny says. “Express your enthusiasm about meeting them and establish a day, time, and place. Give them some prep to do by telling them to study your website and formulate questions for the interview – it will keep them engaged.”


So, how long should all of this take? “20 minutes is a good timeline,” Danny says, “and giving yourself a full half hour is not unheard of.”

Danny has amazing insights into the strategies and psychology of funneling the great mass of applicants coming your way down to a trickle of true contenders who will be motivated to meet you in person. 

In our next episode we’ll dissect the in-person interview process, but in the meantime sit back and learn the intricacies of the set up call: it’s the foundation for attracting the talent you need.

Benji Carlson

Benji Carlson

As the son of two proven entrepreneurs, Benji’s spirit for self-starting business runs deep. Since he was a young teen, Benji has been starting and running profitable small businesses; most recently culminating in a highly successful 4-year career as a franchisee with College Pro Painters. Benji’s enormous heart and passion for people is what drove him to produce over $1,000,000 in revenue while taking the highest quality care of his employees and customers. He was consistently acknowledged for having the most productive staff in the company, while leading more junior franchisees to fulfill their potential. Benji’s uncanny ability to find the right people and put them in the right place make him a natural fit for Breakthrough Academy’s Assessment Team.

Upon finishing up his career with College Pro, Benji set out on the ultimate victory lap: a nine-month transcontinental motorcycle trip from Canada to Peru.

Benji lives in beautiful Kelowna BC. During the summer you’ll usually find him on two wheels: either bombing down a trail on his mountain bike or cruising the pavement on his motorcycle. When the snow falls, he escapes to the mountains for steep and deep powder.

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