Top 14 Most Common Phone Interview Questions To Expect
It doesn't matter how you conduct it, whether in person or over the phone, job interviews are not most people’s cup of tea. Things were a whole lot easier back in the day when all you had to do was send in your resume and answer a few questions. Today, you go through several processes to make the shortlist, including answering phone interview questions.
Phone interviews might seem breezier than those that are conducted face to face because you don’t have to sit in an intimidating room, and the recruiter can't see how nervous you are. However, this can make it very easy for you to mess it up, as you might take the interview for granted or act too casually because no one is watching you. Don't let an opportunity slip through your fingers because you didn't prepare adequately. Additionally, knowing how to answer these common phone interview questions can help you get that job.
Practical Tips on How to Prepare for Phone Interview Questions
Why would a recruiter choose to talk to a candidate over the phone instead of having a face-to-face interview? Most companies receive hundreds of applications for different positions. They decide to call all candidates who look good on paper to determine whether or not they qualify to move to the next round of interviews. A phone screening is, therefore, a great way to narrow down to the best candidates for the job. As such, you need to put your best foot forward to land the job. These tips on how to best answer phone interview questions will surely come in handy.
Do some research about the company
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Getting background information about the company is vital for any job search. You will need this information at three stages of the application process. First, it will help you determine what kind of employer you’d like to work for. You will also need it when you are applying for the job and, lastly, during your interview where you’ll need to prove that you’ve done your homework.
According to Indeed, there are several things you need to find out when researching companies. For starters, find out how the company operates. Next, find out if the company’s values align with your own. It is also essential to stay updated with the latest news and events about your potential employer. Further, find out the employee benefits that the company offers, as well as learning more about the leadership. Understanding the company you want to work for will not only boost your confidence but also show the recruiters that you are interested in working for them.
Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer
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One of the mistakes job applicants make is not preparing questions for the interviewer. Most people leave all the asking to the recruiter because they are the ones looking for someone to add value to their company. While that is true, don't forget that you are also looking to work with a company that will have a significant impact on your career. Therefore, ask questions that will give you more information about the company and the role you're applying for. These queries will not only offer you clarity on whether or not the job is a good fit but will also help you create a great first impression.
Prepare your answers for common phone interview questions
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Was it Benjamin Franklin who said that failing to prepare is preparing to fail? This adage applies to interviews as well. If you are ill-prepared, your chances of passing are close to nil. It makes sense to find out the common phone interview questions days or weeks before your interview. You should also practice your answers until you are confident they will help you get to the next round.
It may also help to practice your questions in front of friends and family. They may help by giving you pointers on what you need to change in your answers. However, you should choose people who have a lot of experience with both in-person or phone interview questions because they will be of more help to you.
Go through the job description and highlight key terms
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Using power words when answering phone interview questions helps you demonstrate your strengths and tells the recruiter why you are the best candidate for the position. Power words fall into different categories. First, there are action verbs which describe the skills you used in a previous job to achieve success. Examples of such words include accomplished, intuitive, and self-driven.
Another category relates to company values. These words describe why you are a good fit for the company. For instance, if the company describes themselves as "innovative," this might be an excellent power word to use in your interview. There are also oft-used skill words that you can use. These are the common things all employers like in employees such as responsible, hardworking, and passionate. You can also use industry buzzwords and other keywords in your job description to make a good impression.
Make sure you are available for the call
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The last thing you want when you have a scheduled phone interview is to miss the call. The interviewer may get the wrong impression about you if they have to call you several times before you pick up. Therefore, to avoid this, make sure you ask the recruiter when you should expect their call. Once you know when they will call, ensure that you’ve prepared everything in advance to avoid distractions. For instance, make sure you are in a quiet place where you can have your interview without any interruptions. Doing this will keep you at ease and relaxed.
Phone Interview Questions Relating to Your Career Background
Some of the phone interview questions you should expect are questions relating to your professional background. The company will want to know whether or not you are qualified for the job and if you will fit in. For this reason, you need to know how to answer questions relating to your career history. Here are examples of phone interview questions and answers to get you started.
1. What's the name of the company you worked for and how long were you employed there?
This query is among the most common phone interview questions. Before the recruiter gets into why you are the right person for the job, they will want to know which companies you’ve worked for, how long you were with each company, who your supervisors were, the positions you held, and other essential details. Most applicants do not give much thought to this question because they assume the recruiter will get the information from their resume. However, apart from having the details in your curriculum vitae, you also need to have them in mind in case they come up in your interview.
How to answer
Fortunately, this is one of the most straightforward phone interview questions to answer because you only need to state facts. Begin with the first company you worked for and end with the latest. That shows that you are organized and allows the recruiter to get an idea of your career advancement. However, if they only ask you about your previous job, give them just the information they have requested and make it as detailed as possible. For instance:
I have worked in company X for Y number of years. During my time at the company, I held position Z. My work entailed A, B, C, and I worked under the supervision of Mr. D.
2. What position did you hold at the previous company you worked for?
This one is among the many technical phone interview questions that are likely to be asked. When recruiters throw you this question, they want to understand your skills and experience. That will help them determine whether you have the skills necessary for the position. For instance, if you are gunning for a management post, it is only natural for the interviewer to wonder if you have any managerial skills.
How to answer
How you answer this question will play a significant part in the recruiter’s decision. Don't give broad and vague answers. Instead, provide specific examples of how the different roles you held prepared you for the job you're gunning for. Tie the responsibilities you had in the previous company with the ones listed in the job description. Doing this will enable the interviewer to see that you have the required qualifications for the job.
It is also advisable to quantify your response by giving instances that show you were a real asset to your previous employer. For example, you can state that you were able to increase sales by X percent when you held the position. With this, you come across as someone who brings value to the table. However, do not exaggerate or lie, because the employer might call one of your references to verify. You can say something like:
I was the head of marketing at the previous company I worked for. Some of my responsibilities included tracking sales, developing and implementing marketing and advertising campaigns, maintaining inventory for marketing materials, and preparing reports. I was able to come up with innovative and unique marketing strategies that increased our sales by 20 percent in six months. I assure you that I will take the same commitment and enthusiasm into this new role.
3. Did you face any challenges? If yes, how did you handle them?
Interviewers ask this question to understand how well you handle stressful situations and find out what you consider a challenge. It's one of the most critical phone interview questions because there is a likelihood that you will experience similar difficulties in the new position.
How to answer
Try to choose a scenario that will enable you to showcase your problem-solving skills. Make sure the challenge you pick is something worth sharing, going beyond the everyday problems people face. It should be something that will help you stand out from other applicants. Also, avoid choosing challenges that could put you in a bad light.
While working with one of the senior members of the company, I noticed an error in one of his reports that could have cost the company a lot of money if overlooked. I approached him and notified him of the mistake before it was too late.
4. Why did you decide to leave?
People leave their jobs for different reasons. When the recruiter asks you this question, they want to know whether or not you are deliberate about your job change. For this reason, it is essential to give a thoughtful answer that will create a good impression. Rather than putting the spotlight on the negative things that happened with your previous employer, try to focus on the future and what you stand to gain from your new job.
How to answer
Say something like:
I was hired to do a particular job, but over time, the role changed, and I never seemed to get an opportunity to do what I was interested in.
This reply is an excellent reason because the reasons for leaving the job were out of your control. You were hired for one position and ended up doing another. It would be understandable even if you resigned from the post a short time after getting it.
5. What are your salary expectations?
Admittedly, this is one of the most dreaded phone interview questions. The wrong answer may cause you to either lose the opportunity because the company cannot afford to pay you or make you get a meager pay compared to industry standards. To ace this question, you need to research before the interview.
Find out the salary range that the company offers for the position you want. In some cases, they provide this information in the job advertisement. Most employers, however, may not disclose salary ranges. It is also crucial to factor in other benefits that will be included in your paycheck such as insurance, training, company car, signing bonus, annual salary increases, and pension, among other things. This information will help you negotiate for a fair salary.
How to answer
There are two types of answers you can give for this question. First, consider postponing your response until you have a better understanding of the position and what the company offers. Then provide a range that will take these into consideration. For example:
Before I answer your question, I’d like to understand how you compensate your employees and how this job fits into the compensation structure. I would also like to know your salary grade for this position, the salary range, and midpoint for the salary grade. With this information, I will be able to understand how this position fits into your salary structure and my career plans.
You can also give a specific number in the interview. For example: Based on the research I have done about the company and the information you’ve provided, I believe a salary range between $X and $Y with two weeks of paid vacation and other benefits would be fair.
Phone Interview Questions About Yourself
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Apart from phone interview questions relating to your career background, you should also expect the recruiter to ask phone interview questions about yourself. Your answer will give them more insights into who you are, while also making it easier for them to decide if you're the best fit for the role.
1. Tell me more about yourself
This one is considered the icebreaker in interviews. However, it is not just casual banter but comes with some big traps. How you answer it will either ruin or better your chances of landing the job.
How to answer
There are several ways you can answer this question. First, you can give the recruiter a walkthrough of your career from when you started to where you are now. For example, if you have recently graduated, you can start with when you started college, which major you chose, what you studied, internships, and other things you have done to enhance your skills.
You can also highlight relevant experience. While telling your story, mention promotions, significant accomplishments, and skills you’ve developed throughout your career. However, ensure the things you highlight are in line with the role you are applying; this will make you stand out even more. Say something like:
I graduated five years ago with a degree in Food Technology. After college, I took a job with company X, and I was promoted three years later to lead the production team. I was the production manager for three years and even won an award for outstanding leadership. So far, everything is going great, but I’d like to take my career to the next level by handling bigger teams. Your job advertisement mentioned that the position would require one to lead a group of 50 to 100, and I'm eager to learn more about it.
2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
This query is one of the phone interview questions you will not miss. You need to know which strengths and weaknesses to mention and which ones to avoid to better your chances of landing the job. Strengths include leadership, communication, and analytical skills. You can also refer to your ability to work in a team and collaborate with others. Weaknesses, on the other hand, include hard and soft skills. However, you need to spin your shortcomings in a manner that will not make you miss out on the opportunity.
How to answer
You need to read the job description to respond to this question adequately. Mention skills related to the job to make a good impression. For instance, you can say something like:
My greatest strength lies in my ability to follow through. I have found that I achieve great success when I pay attention to every step of a project. My weakness stems from my greatest strength. The fact that I am very detail-oriented can be a problem at times. I tend to triple-check everything to ensure it is done correctly, and sometimes it takes up a lot of time. However, I have learned how to gauge my time to determine which tasks would benefit from this precise attention to detail.
3. How do you handle stressful situations?
Recruiters ask this question to understand how you handle job-related stressful situations. When answering this question, it is essential to give your interviewer specific examples about how you dealt with stressful situations at a previous job. This question will provide them with a clear idea of how you handle stress.
How to answer
An excellent way to respond to this question:
In my previous position, I often worked under very tight deadlines, and the atmosphere was quite stressful. To handle the stress, I prioritized my responsibilities and always had a clear idea of what needed my attention and when it had to be completed. It helped me to focus and effectively manage pressure that came with the job.
4. What are your career goals?
This one is another example of phone interview questions that are most commonly asked. Various interviewers phrase it differently. Some of the variations for this question may include: “What are your professional goals?” “Where do you see yourself in the next five years?” or “What do you hope to accomplish in your career?” No matter the phrasing, it is essential to know how to answer this question.
To give an excellent answer, you need to understand what the interviewer wants to find out. In most cases, recruiters will like to know whether your career goals align with the company objectives, which might indicate how long you can work for them. Most employers will not go for a candidate who will only work for them for a short while. Conversely, they prefer a motivated employee to a complacent one.
How to answer
To give the best answer, stay professional, avoid bragging, and ensure your goals align with the company’s goals. For example:
Ultimately, I’d like to be a great researcher and leader. To achieve this, I intend to maximize on all the opportunities that come my way. That is why I'm excited to work alongside the experts in this company. I believe I will be able to learn a lot from them. As I mature as a professional, I hope to take on a leadership role within the company that will enable me to showcase my skills and propel the organization forward. Eventually, I would like to apply all the skills I have learned to the application side of the business to create valuable innovations.
Phone Interview Questions Relating to the New Job
When searching for phone interview questions, you can rest assured you will not miss those that pertain to the job. These questions are important because they give the recruiter an idea of why you chose their company and whether you would be an asset to them. Like all the other phone interview questions, how you answer these will determine whether or not you get the job.
1. What made you choose our company?
When answering this question, you need to show the interviewer why the role appeals to you. The best answer should reference the organization’s mission, culture, and vision while explaining why the position aligns with your skills and career goals. Do a lot of research before the call and prepare your talking points to make a good impression when you respond to this question
How to answer
Before the meeting, visit the company’s website and gather as much information about them as possible. It may also help to go through their social media pages to get a feel of what the company is all about. Also, study the job description to gain an understanding of the role you're applying for. While doing your research, highlight all the things you like about the company and try to come up with genius answers to this question. For example:
I like that your company has been around for many decades and that you’ve never wavered from your mission to prioritize customer experience. Your company is also very goal-oriented and always takes advantage of technology to improve overall customer experience. You’ve also won some of the most prestigious awards in the industry year after year. When I was looking for a new job, I was hoping to work at a company that is committed to innovation, philanthropy, and integrity. I was drawn to your company because it ranks at the top for all of these.
2. What value can you add to our company?
This query is one of the most critical phone interview questions because it sets the stage for you to explain what makes you stand out from other applicants. The recruiter wants to know what value you will bring to the company and some of the things you will be able to achieve if hired for the position.
How to answer
The best way to reply is to highlight your achievements in your previous job and relate them to what you hope to achieve if hired for the position. It is known as the STAR interview response method. Say something like:
I would be a great asset to your company because I would bring my unique vision to the organization. I have experience in different areas related to your company’s goals including the expansion of international sales. In my previous role, I helped in improving the company's sales by 25 percent in only one year. The combination of my sales background and my ability to plan will help the company to facilitate growth.
3. How much experience do you have?
An interviewer asks you this question when they want to know if you are capable of doing the job and whether you will bring a significant contribution to the company. This query is one of the easiest phone interview questions to answer if you have a lot of experience in the industry. For example:
My three years of experience in the industry have prepared me very well for this position. According to the job description, customer service is a significant role in this position; I have two years of experience working in a high-volume call center answering customers’ questions and finding solutions for them.
However, this response might not be appropriate for fresh graduates or those who have little experience. Nonetheless, you can still blow the interviewer away with your answer:
My work experience is nothing less than the best. When I graduated from college, I immediately got an internship opportunity at an accounting firm where I got some hands-on accounting experience. During this time, I also started taking MBA classes, which gave me a chance to learn various accounting skills from experts. My experience has made me an asset to any company I work for.
4. What do you know about the company?
Recruiters ask this question to find out whether you’ve done your research, allowing you to describe the company well as an informed outsider, and whether you can translate what you know about the company into expressing your interest. It is often a reverse sell where the interviewer wants to tell you more about their company. It is a good sign if the interviewer gets into “sell” mode after asking you this question.
How to answer
Say something like:
I have been an Amazon customer for very many years now. However, I know there is more to Amazon than just the customer retail side. Amazon also includes web services for cloud computing such as Echo, Fire, Kindle, and Prime-related activities in entertainment. This versatility is one of the things that fascinates me about the company, and I would love to be part of the organization.
5. Is there anything you'd like to know about the company?
When an interviewer asks you if you have any questions, they aren't trying to be polite. They are trying to gauge whether you are interested, informed, or engaged. According to The Muse, having no questions is a red flag for the recruiter. They assume you either don’t care or can’t be bothered to learn more about the company.
How to answer
Some of the telephone interview questions you can ask include:
Land Your Dream Job with Genius Answers to Common Phone Interview Questions
The above queries are the most common phone interview questions. You should expect the majority of these in your next interview. To leave the best impression and land the job, take time to research about the company, review the job description, and practice your answers. Do this a few weeks before your interview to boost your confidence. It might also help to have someone who has a lot of experience with phone interviews to help you with your answers. And don't forget to stay calm during the entire thing.
Have you encountered these common phone interview questions in the past? Tell us how you answered them in the comments!