Phone Interview Questions & Tips - How to Ace It

February 12
5 min read

Phone Interview Questions & Tips

When you’re trying to find a job, you will probably face the dreadful phone interview. A phone interview, or phone screen, is used by companies to narrow the list of potential candidates to bring in for a face-to-face interview.

Since this is the first step in the process, it’s critical that you ace the phone interview to increase your chances of making it to the next round. When you have an in-person interview, you thrive off the visual cues that the interviewer is giving you. That’s what makes the phone interview so challenging.

You need to demonstrate your fit for the position while conveying your interest and enthusiasm for the company, without them being able to see your face. There’s a lot you have to say in a short amount of time.

List of Phone Interview Questions to Be Prepared For

  1. What are your salary expectations? 
  2. Why are you looking to leave your current position? 
  3. What are you looking for in your next position? 
  4. Describe what you are looking for regarding company culture.
  5. What type of benefits are you looking for? 
  6. What is your availability for an in-person interview in the next few days?

These are just a small sampling, the last one is perhaps the most important. You need to be prepared with specific times you can dedicate to an in-person interview. It’s likely the company will want to move quickly, so you need to be prepared to meet the same week if you make it past the phone interview. 

phone interview questions and tips

How to Prepare for a Phone Interview

Just like any in-person interview, you need to do your research before you speak with the interviewer. Read everything you can about the company and the interviewer. You can expect to be asked what you know about the company, so have a response ready. Be prepared to discuss key figures and target markets.

The greatest thing about a phone interview is you can keep your notes in front of you. Jot down some key points about the company that you want to call out in your interview. Prepare a list of responses to popular interview questions and highlight your key accomplishments to showcase during the call.

You also need to prepare some questions for the interviewer. Make sure your questions relate to the position and demonstrate that you are perfect for the opening. Keep that list in front of you, so you're ready when the interviewer asks.

Questions to Ask the Interviewer in a Phone Interview

  • Have I answered all your questions, or is there something you’d like me to clarify?
  • What new skills can I hope to learn at [name of the company/department] ?
  • What is the next step in your hiring process?
  • Who would I be working closest with, or reporting to, on a daily basis?
  • Beyond some of the hard skills we’ve discussed, which soft skills would be most helpful in this position?

Check Your Surroundings

Make sure you choose a quiet location for your phone interview where you won’t be distracted, away from your children or pets who can create background noise. Have a notepad in front of you to take notes along the way to avoid typing on your keyboard.

Turn off all notifications and mute your computer, so there are no pings during the interview. Keep a glass of water close, just in case your throat gets dry. If you’re taking the call on your cell phone, make sure you’re in an area with proper reception and that your phone is fully charged. If you took notes about the company, have those ready in front of you.

You'll also want a copy of your resume and the job description for the position you are applying for in front of you so you can refer to them if you need to. Keep any other notes or critical points you want to discuss organized, so you aren't shuffling papers throughout the interview.

How Long is a Phone Interview?

  • Phone interviews typically last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, so you need to make sure that you are fully prepared and ready to take on the interview.

How to Start and Answer a Phone Interview

Answer the phone in a positive and upbeat voice. Don’t answer with just hello but state your full name, so the interviewer knows immediately that they are speaking to the right person. Keep the phone away from your three-year-old, so they don't accidentally answer the phone for you.

It might be easy to get comfortable if you are taking the call at home, but you need to remain professional. Sit up straight or even stand, as this will be reflected in your tone. Let the interviewer speak first, they will probably state the reason for the phone interview and a little bit about the position before diving into the interview. It might be challenging during a phone interview, but you cannot interrupt the interviewer.

Wait until they’ve finished speaking to reply, you can even wait a few seconds to collect your thoughts before you answer. Always take notes as the interviewer is talking so you can refer back before you respond if you need to.  

Conquer the Middle

When you’re speaking, there’s a lot you need to convey with your voice. When you’re in a traditional interview, you can feed off visual cues or see whether the interviewer is engaged or uninterested.

On the phone, you need to say so much with your voice, so your tone is of the utmost importance. Make sure to smile, it might sound cheesy, but the interviewer will be able to tell on the other end. If you haven’t spoken in a while, do some simple voice exercises to get your voice ready for the call. 

How to End a Phone Interview

The way you end the phone interview will set the stage for the in-person interview, so make sure you end on a high note. Thank the interviewer for their time and ask them for the next steps or a timeline.

Say again that you are confident that you are the right choice for this position and how excited you are at the possibility of working for the company. If you don’t have the interviewer’s email address, ask for it now so you can send a thank you note.

Then follow up after the interview, not immediately but a few hours later, to thank them again for their time, recap any high points of the discussion and restate your enthusiasm about taking the interview process to the next step. 

Phone interviews can be intimidating and challenging, but with these tips, you'll be armed with the tools you need to ace the interview and get to the next round. 

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