13 Common Phone Interview Questions (and Answers!)

As a hiring manager, you know what a good resume and cover letter look like. You also know that despite their promises, they might fail to deliver the candidate you need. The phone interview questions you ask during this first round of vetting will be a critical piece of winnowing the field and making a successful hire.

Time always matters, so you should be both efficient and strategic during this initial call. Questions for a screening interview will touch on whether a candidates hard skills, experience, education and certifications are right for the open position. But as you check off the boxes, pay attention to soft skills and how the candidate presents during the call. At the end of a phone screen interview, you want to be confident a candidate can do the job and also mesh well with your organizational culture.

Open-ended or technical questions aren’t necessary at this stage of the hiring process. A screening interview is typically a 15- to 30-minute phone call. Your objective here is to narrow your list of top candidates to the handful you want to consider for formal interviews. That’s when you can go deep.

As you would for any business conversation, you want to practice good etiquette when scheduling and conducting a phone screen interview. Respect the interviewee’s time by keeping to the schedule. Respect their availability for the phone call, too. Candidates who are working, even if its from home, may not be able to talk until after business hours.

Approach every conversation with a blank slate, and treat each candidate fairly and equally. Remain fully engaged during every call. All that can be easier said than done: When you conduct one phone screen interview after another, it’s easy to race through the questions you ask each person. If that sounds like you, refrain from stacking up the calls back-to-back. And set aside a time and a location where you can conduct the screening interview free of noise or other distractions.

Remember, you’re engaging with an external audience. A professional, thoughtful screening interview will enhance your business reputation; a hurried process and a gruff manner won’t reflect well on you or your firm. Keep in mind that your top candidates are evaluating you as closely as you are them. Some might decline an invitation to a formal interview if they’re at all uncomfortable during this initial contact.

Finally, once you settle on your shortlist, review the resumes once more before scheduling the calls. Then create a list of phone interview questions to ask so you can be consistent with what you ask each interviewee. You want to make a fair comparison of the talent when deciding which candidates you’d like to advance to the next stage.

Tailor the phone interview questions below to suit your industry and the role you’re hiring for. But consider, too, the candidate’s professional history, or lack thereof. Recent college graduates can’t refer to their career successes, for example, but screening questions can be framed to allow candidates to draw on their experience in course seminars and team projects, as well as their volunteer work and self-taught skills. Leadership, drive, industriousness, talent and other valued qualities can be demonstrated in many ways.

PHONE INTERVIEW TIP: Even simple questions can help determine whether to move forward with a candidate. For example, are they available when you want to hire? Candidates who say they can’t start the job for a month aren’t going to work out when you need to someone in the position right now.

PHONE INTERVIEW TIP: Many candidates are reluctant to give anything more than a salary range this early on. If you can’t get a clear idea of whether there’s a financial fit, you can revisit the topic of salary later. But don’t waste the candidate’s time, or yours, if you suspect there’s a gaping difference between their salary expectations and the budget you’re working with. Let them know the range you’re considering and ask whether they’re still interested in the position.

PHONE INTERVIEW TIP: Candidates who support your company’s mission, and who are interested in its product, can be gold. Just as you want employees who are interested in the job, not just the paycheck, you also want professionals who have a positive view of the company itself. That can play an important role in employee retention.

This part of the phone screen interview will likely take up most of the scheduled time. Ask candidates what they hope to get out of the job — and how they see themselves contributing to the role and the company. Do they have the skills, experience and aptitude you’re looking for? Also, raise any questions you have about the job candidates resume and cover letter.

Begin every phone screen interview with an open mind and a positive attitude. Assume the best of your top candidates, including their honesty and integrity. But keep in mind that, well, sometimes a candidate might misrepresent their skills and professional background, unintentionally or not. Or, maybe they’re not the best judge of the impact they had in a past or current role.

Here are the most common telephone interview questions and answers:
  1. What Are Your Strengths? …
  2. What Is Your Greatest Weakness? …
  3. Why Should We Hire You? …
  4. Why Did You Leave Your Last Job? …
  5. Tell Me About Yourself. …
  6. Why Do You Want to Work Here? …
  7. Describe Your Current Job Responsibilities. …
  8. What is Your Management Style?

PHONE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS & ANSWERS! (A Real ‘LIVE’ Telephone Job Interview Example!)

13. Why will you succeed in this position?

Some interviewers will come out and directly ask why you think you’ll be a success in their job. Don’t be timid when answering – this is your chance to show confidence and explain exactly how you can help them, and how your experience will be helpful to you in their job.

Here’s more info on answering “Why do you think you would do well in this job?”

Motivation is a concern every employer has, no matter how talented/qualified you are. If you’re not coming to work motivated, your work will suffer. So they’re likely to ask one or two phone interview questions to find out what drives you, what interests you, etc.

And one of the most common of these questions is, “what motivates you to come to work each day?”

You should be able to name something other than money if you want to impress the interviewer with this question. Do some thinking ahead of time and come up with the reason you plan on giving.

9. What are your salary expectations?

Recruiters might ask this question early in the hiring process, like during a phone interview, to see if the salary you expect aligns with what they have budgeted for the role. It can also help them understand if you are over or perhaps under-qualified for the position. To answer this question, it is best to provide a range to show that you are flexible, but also that you expect to earn a certain amount.

If you’re unsure about what salary is appropriate for the position for which you’re interviewing, visit Indeeds Salary Calculator to get a free, personalized pay range based on your location, industry and experience.

Be sure that you are comfortable with making the lowest number in your range because the recruiter will likely try and start with the lowest possible number. Negotiating your salary is an acceptable and normal part of the hiring process that will come later once you’ve received an offer. For the purposes of your phone interview, they will likely tell you whether or not this position will be acceptable for the range you are given.

Example answer: “For this position my ideal salary would fall in the range of $55,000 to $65,000. I feel this is an appropriate amount for my experience level in this position.”

During a phone interview, you might be asked to perform a simple test or respond to a scenario of some sort. They might be looking for something in your answer like your thought process, ability to be creative or think under pressure. While it might feel awkward to be silent on the phone, it is acceptable to ask for a moment to think about your answer.

During this time, calmly consider the steps you would take to respond to their test. Try and avoid taking more than 30 seconds to respond. You can also try asking clarifying questions to better understand what they’re looking for. Write down the question to make sure you address each part.

Example answer: The employer explains that they’d like you to provide ideas for marketing a local event on a tight budget, and which companies they could partner with. For this scenario, you might explain that grassroots marketing is both affordable and effective with local events. You would invest in strategized word of mouth efforts and a bold, teaser-style social media campaign. You provide examples of several local companies with the same mission or similar industry to partner with to help get the word out.

5. Tell me what you know about the role.

Employers may ask this question to get a starting line for how much they need to tell you about the basics of the position you’re applying for. It might also tell them whether or not you’ve taken the time to carefully read the job description and research as much as possible before.

Example answer: “From the job description, I understand that you are looking for a bookkeeper to provide support to the department’s financial activities primarily related to Accounts Payable and Procurement. I also understand that you require HIPAA compliance training, for which I am certified. It sounds like many of the daily tasks include processing vendor creation, journals, check requests, wire transfers and invoice for payments. Can you tell me more about why this position is open and what needs the team needs?”

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