Phone screens provide a unique opportunity to assess candidates that in-person interviews do not. During a phone screen, you are relying on only the voice on the other end of the line and not as many other cues that in-person interviews provide. This enables you to distinguish subtle signs that you might not otherwise notice.
- Tell me about yourself/Tell me about your background. …
- Describe yourself. …
- Why are you applying for this position? …
- Why do you want this job? …
- Tell me what you know about the role. …
- Why do you want to work here? …
- Why are you looking for jobs?
But First: Why Are Phone Interviews a Thing?
Phone interviews are, as you can imagine, convenient. As former recruiter and Muse career coach Angela Smith points out, “If there are a lot of candidates and you’re just trying to narrow down who to bring in for an in-person interview, sometimes a phone interview can be super helpful.” Especially if someone lives out of state, it saves the hiring manager from having to pay for the person to fly in and interview in the flesh (and saves the candidate from having to take that time to travel).
What are they looking for in that phone call? Usually it’s very high level: “They’re screening for risks, they’re trying to validate your qualifications, and they want to see if you’re a fit,” says Muse career coach Tina Wascovich. In other words, she says, “Who are you, what do you know about us, [and] why do you want to work here?”
Of course, it’s entirely possible you’ll get asked very specific questions that are unique to the job or your field. But more often than not—and usually in addition to those behavioral or technical questions—you’ll get asked the following in a phone interview:
How Did You Find This Role?
There are two reasons why someone would ask this: They’re genuinely curious (this information can be helpful for refining their recruiting process), and they want to understand why you applied and how you ended up in front of them (which we’ll cover in the question “Why do you want this job?” later on, too). If you came across the job a unique way, like through a personal connection, this can be especially important information for the interviewer to know.
Easy—just say where you found the job (on a job board, through LinkedIn, via a networking contact) and a little bit about what made you actually apply.
For example, “I heard about an opening in [department] through a friend of a friend, [Name], and since I’m a big fan of your work and have been following you for a while I decided it would be a great role for me to apply for.”
Phone Interview Questions and Answers
Phone screen interviews have many of the same types of interviews questions as traditional, face-to-face meetings.
Looking for a possible question and answer for screeing interviews over the phone?
Here are the most common telephone interview questions and answers:
1. What Are Your Strengths?
The employer is looking to see what skills you can bring to the company’s table. Focus on your best skills and achievements, and make sure that they are relevant to the company.
Read some great responses to this popular phone interview question here: “What Are Your Strengths?” Interview Question
2. What Is Your Greatest Weakness?
Unlike the strengths question, the interviewer wants here to see how you answer more than what you answer. Use answers that show you’re self-aware and open to improvement.
Read some great replies to this phone screen question here: “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?” Best Answers
3. Why Should We Hire You?
This one can be a doozy, whether it’s asked during a phone interview or not. But if you prepare, it can turn into a great opportunity to deliver a perfect elevator pitch. Summarize your best points, and don’t be shy or hesitant to self-promote by being overly modest.
Read the best interview answers to this question here: “Why Should We Hire You?” Best Answers
4. Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?
This is one of the top phone interview questions, and it can get tricky, especially if you didn’t parting ways with your last organization on the best of terms. Don’t say anything that will make the new company question whether that same situation could make an encore appearance.
Read some great responses to this phone interview question here: “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job” Best Answers
5. Tell Me About Yourself
This standard phone interview question is more narrow than it sounds. Don’t talk about where you were born, your favorite sport, and so on. Rather, they’d like a response that is relevant to them, similar to how you tailored your resume for the specific position.
Read some great responses to this topic here: “Tell Me About Yourself” Best Answers
6. Why Do You Want to Work Here?
Don’t dare say something like because I need work. Interviewers are really asking for compliments, so convey your enthusiasm about the company. Show how eager you are to be considered for a position there.
Read some great responses to this question here: “Why Do You Want to Work Here?” Interview Question
7. Describe Your Current Job Responsibilities
Curate a list of tasks that are the most relevant, and speak about those. Relevance is key. Don’t tell them every single thing you did, as not all of it will be significant to them.
Read some great responses to this phone interview topic here: How to Describe Your Current Job Responsibilities
8. What is Your Management Style?
You could get this management question no matter the position you’re applying for, as the hiring manager uses your phone interview answer to gauge your leadership prospects and potential. Give a brief success story about a time you managed a project or team.
Read some great phone interview responses to this question here: What is Your Management Style?
9. Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?
Many people don’t have an idea as to where they’d like to be in 5 years, but this phone screening question is asked so they can see whether they’re part of your future and if your long-term career goals align with the company.
Read some great responses to this common phone question here: “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” Interview Question
10. What Motivates You?
This is a broad question, and there is no one right answer. However, there’s a way to answer it correctly.
Think about your strengths, and decide what your interests and passions are. Get your hands on the company values. Use them as a guide for answering the question correctly.
To learn how to put this formula to work for your next phone interview, see this post: What Motivates You? How to Best Answer the Tricky Interview Question
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Set up shop and get comfortable
While this may seem obvious, a cluttered desk won’t do anything to maintain a professional train of thought. That’s why executive career coach Elizabeth Pearson says step one is ensuring the space around you is clean, tidy and ready for anything that might be thrown your way. Rather than choosing a random coffee shop, your car or a side office at your current employer isn’t acceptable. It’s better to take the call from home—if you can—or at least somewhere you won’t be disturbured.
To go a step even further, she suggests printing your resume and having it in front of you, as well as your LinkedIn profile in near sight. Many common phone interview questions will ask you to expand on parts of your career scoresheet, and having it within view is an easy way to dive right in. “Have a notebook or at least three pages of paper and a pen ready to take notes on key phrases, insights, or job details the interviewer gives,” she adds.
What can I expect in a 10 minute interview?
Is a 10 minute interview good?
What does a 10 minute phone interview consist of?
- Tell Me About Yourself. …
- Why Are You the Best Person for the Job? …
- Why Do You Want This Job? …
- How Has Your Experience Prepared You for This Role? …
- Why Are You Leaving (or Have Left) Your Job? …
- What Is Your Greatest Strength? …
- What Is Your Greatest Weakness?