The hiring process varies between companies, but many count on phone interviews for pre-screening. Shortlisting helps businesses find talent that meets their requirements for the open role. A candidate may only experience one phone interview, but recruiters may hold extra meetings with different team members, too. Unlike speaking face-to-face, a phone interview requires applicants to be mindful of the language and tone. But, they do have the advantage of referring to written notes and resumes. Keep reading to practice answering some popular telephone interview questions and answers.
Why Do Employers Hold Introductory Calls?
Despite the convenience of interviewing from home, phone interviews help employers narrow down their list of candidates in an effective manner. Whether it’s to save on time or travel costs, here are a few reasons companies start with a phone call.
- Pre-screening and validating your qualifications. Companies take the time to assess what a candidate knows about their operations, why they would want to work with them, and so on. This is also a chance for supervisors to learn more about them before inviting them to the next step.
- Out-of-town candidates or unable to attend. A recruiter may rely on online interview techniques to discuss an applicant’s qualifications. This helps the hiring manager save on costs and unnecessary travel to meet prospects in person.
- Gauge your personality for culture-fit. A telephone interview is also a great way for the potential team-lead to get a glimpse into the candidate’s personality. This ensures they will fit in with their company dynamics.
Taking the Guesswork Out of A Phone Interview: What to Expect
Questions aside, an interview will consist of a single interviewer, rarely a group. The recruiter is taking the time to pre-screen candidates for their final shortlist. Interview styles may vary between each, so prepare for either casual or formal formats. Questions usually stay in the realm of get-to-know-you types about personal life and background, so they shouldn’t be too difficult to answer.
Sometimes, interviewers will also ask general questions about availability, willingness to travel, etc. They may throw in a few random questions, too. Salary discussion might come up, but no need to stress out too much. Yet, it’s important to remember that this is an interview – the person on the other line is expecting undivided attention.
Don’t expect to receive an offer to interview in-person at the end of the call. A manager will rarely come to that conclusion on the spot, but it doesn’t mean their decision is final. In fact, recruiters tend to review all of their candidates’ phone interview questions and answers first before deciding to reach out to their final list.
Remember to treat a phone interview with the same amount of professionalism as an in-person interview. Prepare for the intro call by reviewing answers for potential questions that may arise. Looking over phone interview answers ahead of time will also help take the uncertainty out of the call.
Top 20 Common Interview Questions & Real Answers to Help You Practice
During the call, a hiring manager is looking to get to know a candidate at a high-level. They’re trying to determine if their background, qualifications, and combined experiences are a fit for the position.
Applicants should prepare to discuss why they’re interested in the position/company, job history, and why they’re job hunting. While industry-specific questions may be brought up, recruiters tend to ask behavioral or technical questions during this beginning stage.
Remember that each company always has its own set of preferred questions. Below are the top 20 typical telephone interview questions and answers that may arise. Keep reading to learn how to ace a phone interview.
1. Why Are You Currently Exploring Your Job Options?
If an unemployed candidate comes across this question, they need to be direct and honest. But they should also have a solid reason why they’re interested in this particular job. Employers want to feel like applicants don’t want any job; they want their specific job. Job-seekers rarely make it clear to employers why they’re excited to join their company.
If an applicant is currently employed but exploring new options, keep it positive. They should avoid bad-mouthing their current employer and focus on what they’re trying to achieve moving forward. Do not highlight any negatives like complaining about coworkers or wanting to escape.
Example Answer (Unemployed):
“I was laid off a few months ago, so I have been job hunting. I’m hoping to come across a position that will continue to allow me to foster my skills as a marketing content manager. I’m interested in staying within the beauty industry, which is one reason why this position caught my attention.”
Example Answer (Employed but Job-Hunting):
“I’ve learned a lot in my current position as a marketing content manager, but after four years in this role, I’m looking to take my experience and skills to the next level. To do so, I want to expose myself to a new environment that continues to challenge me.
I saw your position’s job description mentions ___, which aligned with my own personal development goals. This seemed like an awesome match to apply for and discuss the opportunities.”
2. Can You Walk Me Through Your Resume?
Employers ask this phone interview question about the candidate’s background as a typical pre-screen measure. This is a straightforward way for them to learn more beyond the resume. Take this opportunity to talk about any relevant experiences, current projects, and how that relates to the position. Feel free to throw in a few personal details, but keep it related to professional accomplishments and experiences.
“As someone with a career in content marketing, I am well prepared to assist the marketing team with any content related tasks they may have. My passion for developing entertaining content and strategy makes me confident in my ability to do well in the role of the Content Marketing Manager. I currently work as a content marketing assistant, where I support the development of our entire digital strategy, which includes Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and our company blog.”
3. What Would You Consider Your Greatest Weakness?
During interviews, recruiters may ask this to gauge a job seeker’s self-awareness. Sometimes they’re simply looking to see how one would choose to respond. A safe bet is to explain how one has improved upon a skill that used to be weak.
“I’m usually hesitant to ask others for help when I need it. I have learned that doing so ends up harming my work instead of improving it. I’ve been working on this, but definitely still have room to grow.”
4. What Would You Consider Your Greatest Strength?
In the same effect, answering this question gives an interviewee the opportunity to highlight the preferred skills the hiring manager is looking for. It’s recommended to align any responses to the requirements of the job, but do not overstate if it doesn’t ring true.
“I consider myself extremely detail-oriented and creative. I also like to be efficient and have fun at the same time. I’m always learning to expand my creative knowledge, so my creativity doesn’t burn out.”
5. Why Are You Interested in this Position?
This telephone interview question isn’t necessarily asked to focus on an applicant’s personal and career goals; it’s to test their understanding of the role and what it entails. It may work in their favor if they talk about not only the position but also the benefits of working for the company.
“I’ve been buying beauty products from your company for years now. I love the eco-friendly products and genuine connection your brand has with its loyal customers. I read your content and realize it resonates with me and my personal life, which is where I find inspiration to live sustainably.
I want to be a part of a team that not only cares about the environment but also cares about creating content tailored to its customers. I’m impressed by the behind-the-scenes Instagram stories that highlight the fun, supportive working environment your employees seem to love.”
6. What Challenges Excite You in a Position?
Top employees are those who proactively seek to better their job performance and develop their skills. This question aims to address what motivates a person and their productivity.
“I love entertaining and finding ways to make someone happy. Content creation allows me to tap into my creativity and provide followers with the best content they’ll love to interact and engage with. I enjoy learning about user behavior and how that coincides with overarching marketing goals, too. I thrive on finding the perfect blend of entertaining content and distribution strategy.”
7. Can You Tell Us What You Know About the Company?
The hiring manager is looking to see if the interviewee has done their research. Applying to a job based on the description is common, but the right candidate for the position will believe in the organization’s mission and what it stands for. Businesses want employees who connect with their brand, their product, and their culture. Don’t be too general with this phone interview answer, though. Candidates should pick one or two qualities that stand out and talk about how they resonate with them.
“I’ve been following your product line for years and have come to really appreciate what the brand stands for. Sustainability and beauty are both big passions of mine, so believing in your brand mission comes naturally to me. ”
8. What Does Your Current Role Entail?
Similar to other phone interview questions like, “Tell me about yourself” or “Tell me about your background,” this question allows the interviewer to gain a sense of a prospect’s skill set and expertise. This is an opportunity for them to communicate the value they can bring to the position/team.
“I currently manage a team of 5 digital marketers, all of whom work together to ensure our content pipeline and digital strategy are creating results. I oversee the Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and blog strategy, redirecting users to our website to increase sales.
You’ll see on my resume that last quarter our team increased our website traffic by 20%. We also saw an increase in CTR by 1.5%, with an overall sales increase of 5%. I’ve also been cross-functionally working with the design, copywriting, and video teams to make sure our content stays on brand.”
9. What Are Some Challenges You Have Overcome in Your Current Position?
Phone interviews give the HR specialist insight on problem-solving skills and to gauge how a potential employee will work under pressure. Applicants should have one or two examples ready to highlight their capabilities to overcome obstacles. Be sure to keep it brief and on topic – avoid giving excessive details.
“After restructuring at our office, our marketing department became understaffed. We were stretched thin for a bit, but I worked with a colleague to cross-train a few of our other staff members to perform tasks for the time being. I also took the opportunity to identify which tasks to streamline and introduced a new project management tool to the team.”
10. What Prompted You to Search for a New Role?
Although it may feel a bit intrusive, the phone interview answer provided has a purpose: how an interviewee talks about their previous job and why they left can give the hiring manager a glimpse into their work ethic and attitude.
However, this shouldn’t prevent them from being honest. Getting fired or laid off isn’t always a job seeker’s fault, nor should they feel ashamed. Overcoming this issue positively, professionally, and proactively can only show the interviewer their determination, drive, and perseverance.
Candidates shouldn’t feel the need to over-explain why they were let go from their previous position. The interviewer probably doesn’t want to bring up any old feelings; they’d rather focus on the positive and the impact of this experience. Similarly, if a candidate chose to leave, they should keep their response positive and goal-oriented.
“I’ve been working as a Content Manager Assistant for four years now and find myself looking for a position that will take my career to the next step. While I truly love what I’m currently working on, I’m looking to further develop my capabilities and hopefully lead a bigger team than I do now. I’d also love to apply my skills at a company I’m passionate about.”
11. What Does Your Next Ideal Role Look Like?
This other phone interview question helps the recruiter set the expectations of what their position entails and cross-reference what it is the prospect would like to do for them. Ideally, their personal development goals and the goals of the role are aligned. Discussing this helps the candidate and the interviewer determines whether this position is going to be a good match.
“I’m looking for a position that will allow me to exercise a bit of creativity while leading a team of 7-10 members. My ideal role would have room for growth, supportive colleagues, and the ability to develop new hard skills.”
12. What are Some of Your Passions?
Knowing what motivates a person might help the phone interviewer determine if they will be a good fit. If they are passionate about helping and interacting with people, but the position is a very independent-based role, it might not be a good match. Job-seekers should take time to think broadly about what motivates them not only at work but also in their personal life. Then, identify the connections and see if they align with the role.
“I’m constantly inspired by nature and the beauty around me on a daily basis. I love taking nature as inspiration for content, even more so since I’m also passionate about sustainability. I want to find a way to inspire others to live an eco-friendly life. It encourages me to work harder, knowing that I can make an impact on others’ lives and the environment.”
13. What Makes You the Best Person for this Role?
Plenty of people can be the right fit for the job and have a great resume, but this question is about highlighting unique experiences from the applicant. Interviewers have the tough job of narrowing down their candidate pool to a shortlist of talented people. Those who can stand out have the likelihood of making it to the next round. This time is best used to showcase what makes the prospect special and offers a chance to step outside of the resume to wow the interviewer.
“As a content marketer, it’s important to stay on-trend with the newest viral content. However, I think it’s also important to be able to tap into the classics and create content that will last. I have a vast interest in pop culture, classical art, and contemporary art. You’ll start to realize having knowledge of varying art styles, types, and formats, allows you to bring a diversified eye to any content career.”
14. What Is Your Ideal Work Environment?
These types of phone interview questions give the interviewer insight into culture fit. The hiring manager wants to know if the candidate could thrive in an environment similar to theirs. Stay one step ahead, and be sure to research the company’s culture and give an answer that will resonate with them.
“I work best in jobs that have team-based environments but also thrive working independently. I enjoy being a team member, but also when needed, a team-lead. Collaboration excites me as that’s where I find the best ideas are created.”
15. What Are Your Expectations Regarding Salary?
Recruiters are talking to a large number of potential candidates, so salary expectations are key when deciding who will be offered a face-to-face interview (or who will be directly hired for a job, if it is a freelance or contractor position.) The best strategy to adopt is to take the initiative and read about the industry average for the role, using online data or salary calculators.
When answering, offer a ballpark range as opposed to a concrete number. Remember that this is an introductory interview – negotiations on benefits and work-life balances can be discussed at a later time.
“Based on the industry average and data from Glassdoor.com, a content marketing manager in San Francisco makes between $80k-120k. In my previous role, I was making $92k, but I’m willing to negotiate depending on the offered salary and additional benefits. All in all, I’d want to be paid fairly in comparison to the industry standard.”
16. What Do You Know About the Role?
Employers use this question to gauge how well you read the position description and to tell you the basics of the position you applied for. It may also give them insight as to how well you read the job description and how much research you did prior to the call.
“Based on the job description, I understand that your team is looking for a content marketing manager to help coordinate digital strategy and support the overall marketing efforts. I also understand that the role requires the ideal candidate to be well-versed in marketing analytics along with basic content creation.”
17. Technical Test or a Scenario Question
Occasionally, interviewers may ask a prospect to perform a simple test or respond to a behavioral question. Hiring managers ask these questions during phone interviews hoping to identify thought processes, creative ability, or ability to think under pressure. It may feel awkward to be silent on the phone, but it’s perfectly acceptable to take a moment to think about the answer; just let the interviewer know.
Take the time to calmly consider the steps to deal with the hypothetical scenario. Avoid taking more than 30 seconds to think of an answer. If more time is needed, try asking clarifying questions to buy some more time. It also helps to write down the question to make sure each part is addressed. Candidates should try to answer with an example from their resume experiences.
“You’re asked to provide ideas for social media content on their new mascara product. They usually like to run ads on all of their social platforms, but can’t due to a tight budget.
In this scenario, you can either draw from a similar previous experience and explain what you did and the results of the campaign, or propose a new idea. For example, maybe you’re deciding to limit the content to ephemeral content like Instagram Stories to build interest, then take that time to create graphics for the social posts. “
18. Have You Received Any Offers From Other Companies?
During the phone interview, job-seekers might be asked to provide insight on where they are in their job search with other companies. This is predominantly to help recruiters identify how quickly they need to move through their process. For example, if you’re already interviewing with other jobs, the hiring manager may consider you a high-risk candidate that they can lose. Answer this question with honesty, but don’t feel the need to give details.
“While this role excites me and seems like a really good fit for me, I have had interviews with three other potential companies.”
19. Are You Open to Relocation?
These are logistical phone interview questions for interviewers to screen out any candidates that aren’t immediately a good fit purely based on location. Applicants shouldn’t feel deterred as this doesn’t mean companies won’t consider working remotely or paying for relocation. If a company really feels like talent is a good fit, they will find ways to make it work. However, location does get factored in when it comes down to choosing between two great candidates.
If a candidate is not in the area, they should let the hiring manager know that they’d move for the position. If the situation is complicated, explain what’s happening concisely with an emphasis on why this job is important.
“I won’t be able to relocate until my lease is up on my apartment, which ends in 2 months. I’m really excited about this role and would be more than happy to make it work remotely if that’s a possibility for this position.”
20. When Would You Be Able to Start?
Hearing these words late in a face-to-face interview is usually a positive sign. Coming across this question in a phone interview, chances are the hiring manager is looking to assess an applicant’s job hunt situation and potential availability. Sometimes, though, an interviewer may need to fill a position immediately. If not, this is also a time for the hiring manager to see how long they are willing to wait until the right hire comes along.
Example Answer (Unemployed):
“I could start the position one to two weeks after accepting the job offer. I do have a vacation scheduled out in late October, so I would need to take time off during that time, but I’m more than happy to start before then.”
Example Answer (Employed):
“I would need to provide my current employer a two-week notice, and I was hoping to take two weeks off before starting. With that in mind, I’d be available to start four weeks after a job offer is accepted.”
9 Bonus Phone Interview Tips to Help You Ace Your Call
For first-timers, these calls can feel intimidating. While having the right answers matter, there are a few extra things to do to be prepared. Here are a few additional phone interview tips for reviewing before the call.
1. Take the Interview Seriously
Even though applicants aren’t meeting the phone interviewer face-to-face, it’s important to remember that this is the first impression he or she is going to make with their potential employer. Feeling nervous is normal, but preparation can help one feel more grounded. Be not only mentally prepared but physically prepared, too.
Candidates Should Remember To:
- Energize themselves
- Take a sip of water
- Review resume notes
- Warm-up their vocal cords
- Avoid slouching or laying down
- Dress properly for telephone interview questions and answers session
2. Remember Your Phone Interview Etiquette
Surprisingly, most candidates forget that there are a few respectful things they can do to ensure the call is as smooth as possible. Applicants should make sure they’re making a lasting first impression, so keep these top tips in mind.
- Smile – they can hear it.
- Don’t take the call on speakerphone.
- Speak clearly, succinctly, and calmly.
- Make sure the phone or laptop is well-charged.
- Refer to a resume copy naturally.
- Avoid using any slang, curse words, or being too casual.
3. Stay Focused and Don’t Multitask
Remember that this is still an interview. Appearing distracted on the phone sets a bad tone and tells the phone interviewer that the applicant isn’t as serious as other candidates. Turn off any additional noise that may be distracting during the call, like the TV or the radio. Find a quiet space, whether it’s a room, bathroom, or car. Make sure pets aren’t in the room when speaking on the phone, either. They can be distracting or create background noise.
4. Actively Listen to Your Interviewer
A telephone interview requires active listening and undivided attention. Being a good listener shows the hiring manager good listening skills and that the candidate will be good at following directions. Make sure to understand and comprehend what the interviewer is asking before answering. Additionally, don’t talk over the interviewer. Let them finish asking their question before responding. Avoid dominating the discussion; it’s never a one-sided conversation.
Prepping for phone interview questions and answers may not be enough. Keep a pen and paper nearby to jot down any notes that may come up during the call. Save them for the end when the interviewer opens up the conversation. It’s fine to ask clarifying questions, but be mindful not to flip the interview around onto them. Keep a resume copy nearby for reference if needed.
5. Take Your Time, Even If You’re Nervous
Nerves definitely affect everyone, but take a deep, cleansing breath before beginning. Stay grounded and rely on breathing techniques to keep calm.
It’s fine to take 2-3 seconds to think before answering any phone interview questions. Take a pause after the interviewer finishes asking something. Sometimes interviewers may ask one or two questions, one after the other. Pausing allows the interviewer to finish asking and helps both parties avoid talking at the same time. During the pause, take time to think about what to say as opposed to rambling. Remember – be thoughtful, thorough, and concise.
6. Direct Them To Your Personal Website
If an applicant has their own personal branding website, they’re already on the right track. A personal site boosts an arsenal of job-hunting tools. A site helps differentiate from other candidates, impress interviewers, and increase overall digital presence.
The website also gives candidates a chance to showcase their personality, which is difficult to get across on a resume. During the telephone interview questions and answers stage, having a website is a clear differentiator from other job-seekers. It will definitely help someone stay memorable in a pool of talented people.
Questions to Ask In A Phone Interview
At the end of the telephone interview, the interviewer will likely say something along the lines of, “Is there anything I haven’t covered about the position or company that you’d like to know?” When the interviewer opens up the call for questions, candidates should take advantage of this time to ask what they need to know.
Interviews are always a two-way conversation. Yes, HR specialists are trying to see if prospects are a good fit, but in the same vein, applicants are trying to see if the company would be a good fit for them. Asking questions also indicate interest in the position, company, and culture to the interviewer.
Red Flags to Be Mindful of During the Conversation
During phone interviews, the hiring manager is likely looking for some clear tell-tale signs that indicate an applicant may not be the right fit. Here are a few to look out for:
- No enthusiasm – Are they interested in the conversation at hand? Is their interest in the company and the position clearly portrayed within the telephone interview? Make sure to show enthusiasm for the job.
- No questions at the end – Failing to ask any questions about the team, the job, or the organization could tell the hiring manager that the applicant may not want the job.
- Sounding distracted – If the interviewee seems like they’re scrolling through Instagram, hiring managers will cross them off the list. Both parties should be respectful of each other’s time.
- Negative commentary about previous employers – Avoid doing this at all costs. Gossiping or bad-mouthing former employers is a clear indication of one’s attitude and capability of working within an office dynamic. This is also a way for applicants to show that they can take responsibility for their actions instead of blaming others.
- Focusing on salary – Constant talk about the salary or benefits in the telephone interview, before reaching the face-to-face stage, shows the hiring manager that interests lie elsewhere. This behavior essentially tells the hiring manager that candidates aren’t eager about the open jobs, only the perks
- Cursing during the call – Yes, casual behavior takes place in the office, but no one should use that language during a telephone interview or any other interview. It comes across as deeply unprofessional.
What to Do After the Call
Along with the other phone interview tips above, how a job-seeker behaves after the call also matters. There are two important things that every candidate should do after every interview, whether on the phone or in person.
First, always round off the telephone interview by asking when to expect to hear back about the next steps. This sets-up the opportunity to follow-up via email to ask for feedback after the time has passed. Plus, it reduces anxiety about hearing back from them. Secondly, write a thank-you letter or email within 24 hours of the interview and thank the interviewer for their time.
25 Extra Telephone Interview Questions to Practice
Questions can come in a ton of variations. Here are a few other common phone interview questions to review.
- What aspects of the company attracted you to the position?
- Where do you see yourself in five years professionally?
- What aspects of your previous job did you like the least?
- Tell me about a time you encountered failure and how you dealt with it.
- How would you handle potential conflict with your team members?
- How do you improve yourself professionally?
- Describe your work style.
- Can you tell me about a person who’s made an impact on your career?
- What are some of your hobbies?
- Tell me about a time you encountered criticism and how you dealt with it.
- Why did you decide to choose your major in university?
- What do you consider a great achievement outside of work?
- What are three positive things your boss would say about you?
- What are some of your life philosophies and values
- What achievement are you the proudest of?
- Can you talk about some ideas you’ve implemented in your previous position?
- What type of company culture and structure do you prefer?
- What kind of goals do you set for yourself – professional or personal?
- What was the outcome of the last project you led?
- Share an example of a time you felt you went above and beyond at work.
- What challenges did you overcome at your previous job?
- What’s a difficult decision you had to make, and how did you overcome it?
- What would you do if your plate was full of tasks, and you couldn’t finish some of them by the deadline?
- How do you envision your first 30 days in this position?
- What type of personalities do you work the best with, and why?
Frequently Asked Questions
Is A Phone Interview A Good Sign?
Yes, this means that the hiring manager is interested in what the applicant has to offer and bring to the table. They should feel proud that they made it to the first step in the hiring process out of a pool of other talented candidates. Remember to stay positive and excited during the call.
How Long Does A Phone Interview Last?
A telephone interview may last thirty-minutes. Depending on the manager, typical phone interview questions could vary from company to company. It could run longer if the candidate has more questions at the end of the call. Allot an hour of free time to take the call.
What Are Some Good Signs You Got The Job?
While there are no true tell-tale signs, applicants know they’ve done well if they feel positive coming out of the call. There are no guarantees that they are automatically through to the next round (unless the hiring manager tells them), but as long as they felt like they connected with the HR specialist and answered their telephone interview questions as best as they could, it’s already a good sign.
How Do I Make A Good Impression In A Phone Interview?
The most important thing for an applicant to remember during interviews is to be themselves. As cliche and overused as that sounds, it’s always going to be the number one tip to follow. Being themselves and answering in a natural way allows the interviewer to get an honest impression of who they are and how they’d fit with the company. The last thing they’d want is to get a job they really dislike, all because they weren’t truthful about their preferences.
How Do I Sell Myself In A Phone Interview?
Again, candidates being themselves is the first step. Secondly, being prepared to respond to any type of common phone interview questions thrown their way helps. Ideally, they should know everything they wrote on their resume like the back of their hand. Experiences and background should come naturally and without hesitation when answering. You’re welcome to take a pause, but don’t take too long to “find the answer.” Practice a variety of questions to cover all of the bases.
How Do You Know If You Failed?
Failing a phone interview may not come obviously. Feeling discouraged after the call or feeling a distant connection with the interviewer may be some signs to look out for. Also, if the candidate’s tone of voice seemed bored, uninterested, or distracted, the interviewer may see that as a sign that they aren’t interested in the job.
Key Takeaways to Excel in Your Intro Call
A phone interview is a perfect time to have a test run before the face-to-face interview. Candidates get a feel of the company culture and learn more about the open jobs. However, there is no guarantee the position is going to be a match for the interviewee or the business.
Whatever the case may be, introductory calls are a great entry point to learn more about the position. Remember these key takeaways to ensure a successful call:
- Practice and prepare phone interview questions and answers.
- Have questions ready to ask the interviewer as well.
- Follow up with the interviewer to thank them for their time.