35+ Phone Interview Questions & Best Sample Answers (+ Tips) [2020]

A phone interview is sometimes referred to as a screening interview or prescreen interview. For employers and job candidates, this provides a more appropriate and readily accessible format for introducing the job candidate to the job opportunity. It saves the employer time and the job applicant time as it uses this session to deduce whether or not the candidate is a good fit for the job early on. It is considered a fairly normal part of the interview process and job search process. Passing a telephone interview usually means an invite to an in-person interview.

A telephone interview lasts roughly 15 minutes to 30 minutes. This type of interview is conducted by a hiring manager or employee who is part of the team you’ve applied for. The interviewer will spend the majority of the phone interview introducing the hiring process and company policies.

The interview intends to ensure that you’re a qualified candidate for the job, are a good fit for the role, and ensure that you don’t have any questions about the job. You should expect to be asked an interview question on your work history, details in your cover letter, and resume.

It’s not uncommon for a phone screen to be a Skype interview or Zoom interview, meaning the prospective employer or phone interviewer is speaking to you over a video chat. As a job seeker, you’ll know you’re part of a phone screening interview or screening interview as the recruiter, hiring manager, or interviewer will indicate this to you before you begin.

According to Hubspot's Swetha Amaresan, the top business etiquette tips for phone conversations includes "answering within three rings, immediately introducing yourself, speaking clearly, not using a speakerphone, actively listening and taking notes, remaining cheerful, and asking before putting someone on hold."

phone interview questions

Phone Interview Tips for Job Seekers

Below are phone interview tips for job seekers.

  • Prepare an elevator pitch in advance. An elevator pitch will help describe who you are to the interviewer.
  • Study each common interview question asked by phone and prepare an answer tailored to the job title and your potential employer.
  • Be prepared to answer a behavioral interview question or two. A behavioral question starts with “Tell me about a time…”
  • Treat your phone interview as though it is any other type of job interview.
  • Prepare in advance by performing a mock interview with a friend or colleague.
  • Be sure you’re in a place with good cell phone reception or internet connection.
  • Be sure you’re in a quiet place with little interruptions.
  • Be sure to smile when speaking.
  • Moderate the pace of the interview answers. Settle nerves by breathing calmly and pacing the interview answers.
  • Have your salary expectations in mind if the hiring manager asks.
  • Screening questions should have answers that last only 90-seconds.
  • Learn about the person who is performing the phone screen interview in advance so you can start the phone call with ice breakers.
  • If you're very passionate about the job, perform an informational interview first. This is where the job seeker can gather career advice from an employed personnel within the company. They can provide helpful resources on what the interviewer or hiring manager is looking for in an ideal candidate.
  • Send a thank-you email after the interview is complete.

Phone Interview Questions & Answers

Below are common phone interview questions (telephone interview questions) and answers. Before studying the questions below, be sure you tailor and customize each phone interview question to answer your own work experience and the job title you’re applying for.

Why are you leaving your current position?

Answer: I love working with my current employer, though I’ve reached a point where there isn’t any more upward mobility within the company. I’m looking to join a company where there’s more upward mobility.

What are your salary expectations?

Answer: I’ve done some early research on PayScale, and it appears the average salary range for this role is between $80,000 per year and $95,000 per year. Because of this, my salary expectation would be somewhere in that range unless otherwise noted.

What were your previous job responsibilities?

Answer: I was responsible for handling all of the creative deliverables. This included graphic design, UI design, and marketing or brand design. I worked cross-functionally between multiple departments to deliver on their needs.

What does a typical work week look like for you?

Answer: At the beginning of the week, I assess the work at hand, plan out my week, and communicate with managers on their expectations. Then toward the middle of the week, I begin execution. And at the end of the week, I assess the work, speak with managers about their needs that are filled or unfilled, and plan for the following week.

Why should we hire you?

Answer: It appears that the role is looking for someone who has a long history of driving success in a sales role. I’ve increased net revenues by more than 23% throughout my sales career across all of my positions.

How do you evaluate success?

Answer: It depends on the scenario. For a team assessment, it could be the morale of the department. For quantitative assessments, it could be raw facts and figures.

How could you have improved your career progress?

Answer: I may have made more mistakes earlier on and learned from those mistakes. Taking risks early on could have exposed me to more opportunities.

How would your coworkers describe you?

Answer: They would describe me as an active listener and someone who cares about the company.

What qualities do you look for in a manager or boss?

Answer: I look for an empathetic listener who facilitates the team's needs.

Tip: Job seekers should answer interview questions in 90-seconds or less. A great way to be concise is to answer with a "yes" or "no.” Then continue with the story that explains the answer.

What would your managers say about your work performance?

Answer: They would say that I care heavily about the performance of both our team, department, and myself. That I’m not afraid of going the extra mile to make that happen.

How would you describe yourself?

Answer: In three words, I would describe myself as adaptable, empathetic, and creative.

Tell me about your career.

Answer: I have always been in positions where I was exposed to multiple departments. The experience has made my career special. I can play a cross-functional role while still being an independent contributor. You’ll see my in my resume multiple times that this has happened and the achievements I’ve been able to make in those conditions.

What makes you qualified for this role?

Answer: I’ve been able to deliver on sales goals more than 80% of the time for my employers. And this seems like something that is highly valued for this role.

What would you try to accomplish in your first 30-days being employed?

Answer: In the first 30-days of my employment, I would be trying to learn as much as I can. In previous positions, I was still learning about the business in my first year on the job. The first 30-days matter the most in grasping the business, the department's role, and more.

When were you most satisfied with your current job or current role?

Answer: Being able to have the autonomy to be able to execute. And being measured by performance goals.

Where do you see yourself in the next year?

Answer: I see a great opportunity that comes with this role. The experiences that come with this job will allow me to transform as a professional. And develop my career path further. Beyond that, I’m uncertain.

What techniques or tools do you use to stay on top of your work?

Answer: I try to organize my week using tools like iA writer, spreadsheets, and to-do lists.

Tip: Be conscious of waiting until the interviewer has completed speaking, then answer the interview question. If unsure, ask the interviewer, "Should I jump in?"

How would you describe your communication style?

Answer: An active listener who communicates for others, not myself.

What is your work style?

Answer: Considering the customer through everyday work is the most important part of this job. Workstyle should always evolve around customers’ needs, whether trying to be the most creative as possible. Or I am trying to be as empathetic as possible. I’m adaptable in this nature to facilitate customer needs.

What are you going to do if you don’t get this job?

Answer: It would be miserable, but I would be looking for another job opportunity that exposes me to the same departmental learning opportunities that this job would.

What makes you want to work at this company?

Answer: Simply put, you are challenging a massive industry that has existed in America for a long time. And that is very appealing to me. I love the idea that you nurture creativity, collaboration, equality, and have an open work environment and culture.

What skill do you have that applies most to this position?

Answer: My adaptability. It will help to facilitate customer needs and create a positive work environment for those around me.

How would you handle a conflict in the workplace?

Answer: By using conflict resolution methods, understanding the other person, having a selfless approach, and coming to a robust, constructive conclusion. I prefer the Thomas-Kilmann Model for resolving conflict.

How would you handle receiving constructive criticism?

Answer: Strongly. I want to adapt and grow for my team and our customers.

How would you provide constructive feedback?

Answer: I would put the customer experience first, then try to describe how the feedback relates to that.

How would you introduce yourself to the team?

Answer: I would tell stories of my past. Then explain what motivates me with the workplace so my teammates and I can connect on that. It's about finding connective tissue between myself and the team. The only way that will happen is by sharing my own views on the workplace and why I'm there.

Who inspires you to do a better job in the workplace?

Answer: My family. They are who I am thinking of at all times. A family member could be one of our customers. Always creating the most optimal customer experience is what I’m striving to achieve.

What part of the job description excites you most about this position?

Answer: The ability to take on the responsibilities of the customer service department and the marketing department. The cross-functional nature of the role is exciting. There are several other exciting factors. But at the moment, I can only predict if those are accurate. I will wait until the end of the phone call to ask the questions I have about this role.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Answer: Nature, other businesses, art, engineering, and books. I find inspiration from all types of media. Even cars, for example. I want to say that I see the beauty in everything and pull inspiration from that.

How would you motivate a team member?

Answer: First, I would try to understand what motivates that person. It could be any number of things. From there, try to remind them of what originally inspired them to get everything back on track. Every person is motivated in their unique ways. It's best to learn what those ways are, then try to speak to those motivators the best we can.

How would you handle an unhappy customer?

Answer: I would attempt to empathize with them. Try to understand what is motivating them to feel unhappy. Then communicate clearly, how I am going to attempt to resolve the issue. That's the simple answer. When the situation becomes more convoluted and difficult to predict, it can help to escalate a situation and follow company protocols on what to do in those scenarios.

What do you think we should be looking for in a candidate?

Answer: Based on the job description and what I know about the company culture, you should be looking for a candidate who has a strong sense of design. A candidate who can learn and adapt quickly. While not being too stubborn about their methods of achieving success. This is a person who is both quantitative and qualitative in their work.

What CEO inspires you the most?

Answer: That's an easy answer, it's Steve Jobs. And this is a common answer for most candidates, I would assume. The reason why he resonates with me the most is the ability to predict the future so accurately. Or, at the very least, make the future. The act of predicting human-nature is not one that should be treated lightly. It isn't very easy and inspiring to have witnessed.

When do you want to start this position?

Answer: I'd love to start as soon as I can. I do have a job that I'm currently employed at. And I would like to provide them with two weeks' notice to transition my job duties and responsibilities to another employee appropriately. But once that notice period has ended, I would love to start my new job title with the company and begin taking on challenges.

Where do you see yourself growing within the company?

Answer: That would be a question I would ask from you, as well. I'd love to learn what available upward mobility options are at the company and how I might use those opportunities to advance my career. Ensuring that upward mobility is available is certainly something that I'm considering with my job consideration.

What qualities should we avoid in a candidate?

Answer: This is a hard question to answer. I don't think I can answer this question accurately since I don't have a picture of the work environment or the team's current projects. But if I had to answer this question, avoid a candidate who can't be adaptable with their work.

Who would you meet with the moment you start your work?

Answer: I would try to meet with the entire team before starting any work. I would hope the training process would cover who the position reports to and introduce me to the team. I would attempt to meet individually with each team member to gain rapport with them. From there, meet with the manager or supervisor to learn more about the fiscal quarter's objectives.

Do you have an outside network of professionals you can consult with?

Answer: Yes. In situations where I don't have the expertise to solve a problem, I have several friends in the industry who can assist me with certain challenges. My network is something that I value greatly. And I believe it's a value that I can bring with me to both the team and the company. I've had several challenges that completely baffled me. And having a friend to spend 15-minutes with and ask them to explain their knowledge of the subject has always helped me overcome certain blockers with my work.

What makes you an exceptional candidate for this role?

Answer: I have years of previous sales experience. Historically, I've increased sales 32% on average, across all of my previous roles. At the same time, being able to maintain customer loyalty and retention. I drive growth forward while retaining relationships. As you may know, driving growth sometimes requires driving volatility. I'm exceptional at being able to balance growth and volatility. That skill is something I believe the company should value very greatly.

What phone interview questions would you ask a candidate if you were performing this interview?

Answer: I would ask the candidate several behavioral interview questions as well as qualifying interview questions. The behavioral interview questions will be able to provide me insight into how the candidate can perform on the job. And the qualifying interview questions will ensure that the candidate knows how to perform the company's job duties and job requirements. From here, I will be able to place the candidate with the team better. Ensuring that the candidate has the required competencies to align with the rest of the team to produce high-quality work.

What is your greatest strength?

Answer: I'm capable of taking responsibility for my actions, especially when making a mistake that lets my team down. Part of ownership and responsibility is the ability to admit when a mistake was made. This is a strength. It builds character and confidence with the team when I admit when I did something wrong and commit to making a change.

See more "strengths and weaknesses" answers.

What is your greatest weakness?

Answer: I can find myself being too detail-oriented. I can find myself getting too heavily involved in the details of a project. While this is an indicator of my passion for the project, I can spend too much time focusing on the minor details and forget about the holistic needs of the team.

If you need more, see the full list of interview questions and answers.

Questions to Ask the Interviewer in the Phone Interview

Below are questions you should ask the interviewer about the role during your phone interview. When thinking of a specific question to ask the person interviewing you, be sure it’s relevant to the conversation you both have had. Avoid a question that may seem redundant to something the interviewer already spoke about.

  • How soon are you looking to place someone for this role?
  • What parts of the hiring process should I be aware of?
  • What company policies and procedures should I be aware of?
  • What other assets can I provide you with to make a proper assessment of me?
  • Are there any questions that you had for me?
  • What is the most challenging part of this job?
  • Are training opportunities provided for new hires?
  • What does a normal work week look like for this role?
  • How would you describe the company culture?
  • Can I provide you with my references?
  • What is the next step in the interview process?
  • What soft skills do you feel are required for this role?
  • Can you provide me with a specific example of when the previous person in this role succeeded?
  • What advice would you give to yourself interviewing for this role?
  • Can you tell me what the daily activities of this job look like?
  • How long does training normally last?
  • How would you describe the biggest challenge with this role?
  • What advice do you believe the previous person in this job title would give me?
  • How soon are you looking to schedule the next job interview with each candidate?
  • What do all employees at the company have in common?
  • What traits do the team members share in common?
  • Did anything surprise you about working at this company?

Learn about more questions to ask the interviewer.

If you're interviewing for a nursing position or teaching position, please go to our nursing interview question and answer guide. And our teacher interview question and answer guide.

Phone Interview FAQ's

Common questions asked by job seekers.

What kinds of questions are asked in a phone interview?

Questions related to your work experience as well as behavioral interview questions, which help the hiring manager predict your future performance on the job. You should prepare to share at least one to three stories about the challenges you faced at work and how you overcame them.

How do you ace a phone interview?

Having great chemistry with the interviewer can help. Use ice breaker questions to start the conversation. An ice breaker is a conversation starter, something like a common interest or connection you and the interviewer share.

Is a phone interview a good sign?

A phone interview is a great sign. It means that your cover letter and resume have passed through the Applicant Tracking System and that a manager read your job application assets. It is the first step toward having an in-person interview, which is closer to receiving a job offer.

How long should a phone interview last?

A phone interview should last at least 20 minutes. And go no more than 30 minutes. If your interview is shorter than 20 minutes, this could be an indicator that the interviewer felt you were not a good fit for the position.

How do phone interviews and face-to-face interviews differ?

The only noticeable difference as a candidate will be the types of questions asked. A phone interview is more suitable for asking high-level questions rather than asking detailed or nuanced questions. For example, when interviewing for a software engineering role, the interviewer will ask about programming philosophy rather than asking questions about code. Asking detailed questions or nuanced questions can require a whiteboard to share certain ideas or perspectives. Concerning the chemistry of the interview, a phone interview, and a face-to-face interview differ very little.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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