200 Phone Interview Questions (+ Answers) [2020 Updated]

200 Phone Interview Questions To Get Ultra Prepared With

Phone interviews (subsequently phone interview questions) have become a core "part of the process" when attempting to find a secured placement for an open position. Companies receive massive responses from potential candidates for any open advertised position. A regular face-to-face interview would mean a handful of interviewers have to deal with an enormous number of interviewees. Not only is the system lousy, but also companies have to invest in resources required for conducting those interviews.

Phone interviews save companies from such hassles, thus, minimizing expenses on interviews. Initial shortlists of candidates could be made by job applications or resumes. The final shortlisted candidates could be interviewed via phone calls, making the the final interview process the most effective.

Phone Interview Questions

Phone interviews are a great way to screen candidates before bringing them in for more formal rounds of interviews. Although you can’t see the candidate, you can still measure their level of professionalism, experience, cultural fit, and more.

To help you either prepare or plan for this process, here are 200 of the best phone interview questions to ask. Of course, if you are hiring, you won’t have time to ask all of these questions, but you should be able to develop a strong list from the questions below. As you prepare for your phone interview, it's important to understand how to answer some of the below questions and plan those responses.

Ideally, practicing your answers to someone you are close with can help ensure they are clear and impressive. While other sites may give you the answer to these questions, it's important to realize that they are not going to be effective. The best thing you can do is study what types of thoughtful questions are going to be asked of you at this stage in the process and be as efficient as possible with the way you respond.

Phone Interview Questions On Candidate Background

These questions are designed for gathering more information beyond what is listed on a candidate's resume and cover letter. While hiring managers already have some of this information, they are also looking to see how a candidate answers the question. They observe your tone of voice and look for consistency and coherence in answers.

2. Ask about the candidates work history, including the name of the company, job title, and job description, dates of employment.
3. What were your responsibilities?
4. What were your starting and final levels of compensation?
5. What are your salary expectations?
7. Why are you job searching?
8. Ask about gaps in the resume.
9. Why did you change career paths?
11. What can you tell me that isn’t on your resume that is important for me to know about you?
15. Where do you see yourself in one, five or 10 years?
17. What is your biggest success?
18. What is your biggest failure?
22. Describe a typical work week.
23. How would you describe the pace at which you work?
24. How do you handle stress and pressure?
26. How do you evaluate success?
28. How do you feel about reporting to someone younger than you/different than you?
29. Tell me about a time you had to handle confidential information.
30. Could you have done better in your last job?
31. Have you been absent from work for more than a few days in any previous position?
32. How do you feel about working evenings/weekends?
33. Do you have the stomach to fire people? Have you had experience firing many people?
34. What would you say to your boss if he's crazy about an idea, but you think it stinks?
35. How could you have improved your career progress?
36. You've been with your firm a long time. Won't it be hard switching to a new company?
39. How many hours a week do you normally work?
40. What's the most difficult part of being a (job title)?
41. What skills have you gained or strengthened recently?
43. What does your boss and other higher-ups say about you?
44. What irritates you about your co-workers?
45. What is more important to you, the money or the work?
46. What position do you prefer working in a team project?
47. Are you willing to put the interests of the organization ahead of your own?
48. What qualities do you look for in a boss?
49. What have you learned from your previous mistakes?
50. What can you offer us that someone else cannot?
51. What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?
52. What would your direct reports say about you?
53. What were your bosses’ strengths/weaknesses?
55. What questions haven’t I asked you?
57. Are you authorized to work in this country or will you need sponsorship?
58. What motivated you to pursue this career path?
59. What makes you special?
60. Coming out of this interview, what are the three things I should take away?
61. How hard do you work to achieve your goals?
62. What’s the most intellectually challenging thing you’ve had to do?
63. Why did you choose the school you attended?
64. What is an example of a big risk you’ve taken in your life?
65. How would you compare your writing to your oral skills?
66. How would you describe your communication skills?
67. How would you describe your ability to persuade and negotiate?
68. What are you going to do if you don’t get this job?
69. Discuss your educational background.
70. When were you most satisfied in your job?
72. What are you looking for in terms of career development?
73. How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?
74. If I were to ask your last supervisor to provide you with additional training or exposure, what would she suggest?
75. What techniques and tools do you use to keep yourself organized?

Phone Interview Questions On Candidate Preparedness

While hiring managers can ask a candidate how they went about preparing for the interview, they can tell much more by asking them about the job, firm, and industry.

77. What do people in this job do?
80. What can you contribute to this company?
81. What is the name of our CEO?
82. How did you find out about this job?
83. If you were hiring a person for this job, what would you look for?
85. Who are our competitors?
87. What other jobs are you looking at?
88. What do you hope to get out of this job?
89. What would you do in the first 30/60/90 days on the job?
90. What do you think we could do differently or better?
91. How have your interviews been going?
92. What is the difference between us and our competitors?
93. What do you think you’ll be doing on a daily basis?
94. Ask for their views on an industry trend.
95. Ask for their views on a product or service for which you are well known.
96. Who have you spoken with at our firm?
97. If you were running the firm, what direction would you take it in?
98. What applicable attributes/experience do you have?
99. What changes would you make if you came on board?
100. How would you go about building business relationships within the company once hired?
101. Tell me something negative you've heard about our company.
102. Are you overqualified for this job?
103. Is there anything I haven't told you about the job or company that you would like to know?

Candidate Behavioral Interview Questions

These questions are often asked in a “tell me a time when” format and are designed to evaluate how candidates handle different situations that are likely to arise in the role.

104. What challenges are you looking for in a position?
105. Tell me a time when you faced a major challenge or obstacle. How did you handle it?
106. Describe a major change at work. How did you adapt?
107. Tell me about the most boring job you’ve ever had.
108. What would you do if a fellow executive on your own corporate level wasn't pulling his/her weight…and this was hurting your department?
109. What’s some feedback that you’ve received that was difficult to hear, but ultimately has proven really valuable?
110. Would you rather finish something late and perfectly, or on-time and imperfectly?
111. Give examples of ideas you've had or implemented.
112. Describe a time when you worked as part of a team.
113. How would you go about establishing your credibility quickly with the team?
115. Tell me about a time when you motivated others.
116. Tell me about an experience speaking in front of / presenting to a big group.
117. What assignment was too difficult for you, and how did you resolve the issue?
118. If you had to choose one, would you consider yourself a big-picture person or a detail-oriented person?
119. Give an example of a goal you set and how you achieved it.
120. Give an example of managing multiple tasks and projects/responsibilities at once.
121. What do you do when work interferes with your personal life?
122. Tell me about a time when you had to make a split-second decision.
123. Tell me about a time when you anticipated potential problems and took measures to prevent.
124. Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
125. Give a time when you went above and beyond the requirements for a project.
126. Have you ever mentored anyone?
127. What are some of your leadership experiences? Tell me about a time you were in a leadership position.
128. Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision with imperfect or incomplete information.
129. Tell me about a time when you learned something new in a very short amount of time.
130. What do you do when priorities change quickly?
131. How do you set priorities when you have multiple urgent deadlines?
132. What is the most competitive work situation you have been in? how did you handle it?

Related: 13 Behavioral Interview Questions & Answers: Guide, How To Answer

Candidate Technical Interview Questions

These questions should be tailored to the position and the company. They’re a great way to measure a candidate’s experience as it relates to the role.

133. How do you go about explaining a complex technical problem to a person who does not understand technical jargon?
134. What’s one thing you cannot do your job without?
135. Ask the candidate to explain a topic that is relevant to the position in 60 seconds.
136. Describe a project that best illustrates your analytical abilities.
137. How do you keep your industry knowledge current?
138. What challenges have occurred while you were coordinating work with other units, departments, and/or divisions?
139. Do you have experience using _______ software?
140. What is your skill level in______________?
141. Tell us how you go about delegating work.
142. What was the biggest mistake you’ve had when delegating work?
143. What was the biggest success you’ve had when delegating work?
144. Have you ever had a situation where you had a number of alternatives to choose from? How did you go about choosing one?
145. Give the candidate an example of a situation, task or problem common to the role. Ask them for the next steps, solutions, etc.
146. I’m concerned you don’t have enough experience in________.
147. Give me an example of your creativity/analytical skills/communication skills/attention to detail/managing ability/etc.

Candidate Cultural Fit Interview Questions

In addition to measuring candidates’ technical abilities, you also want to assess if they would fit well within the culture of the firm.

148. On a scale from one to ten, rate me as an interviewer.
149. Tell me about a time you handled a difficult customer.
150. Tell me about a time you managed a conflict at work.
151. Tell me about a failure in your life.
152. Do you agree with our mission and vision statement?
153. Which of our company values do you most identify with?
154. Tell us about a time you quickly built a rapport with someone in a difficult situation.
155. What are the key ingredients to building and maintaining successful business relationships?
156. Have you ever worked in a situation where rules and guidelines were not clear?
157. If you found out your company was doing something against the law, like fraud, what would you do?
158. Describe a situation in which you were able to effectively "read" another person and guide your actions by your understanding of their individual needs or values.
159. Describe a situation where you felt you had not communicated well. How did you correct the situation?
160. How do you keep your manager informed about what is being done in your work area?

Other Phone Interview Questions

At first glance, these questions may not have much to do with evaluating abilities. The way candidates answer these can tell a hiring manager a lot about their character and ability to handle new and unexpected situations.

161. How would people communicate in a perfect world?
162. What's the most important thing you learned in school?
163. If you could have dinner with three famous people who are no longer living, who would they be and why?
164. What are your hobbies outside of work?
165. What good books have you read lately?
166. What’s your dream job if money didn’t matter?
167. Looking back, what would you do differently in your life?
168. What makes you angry?
169. What song best describes your work ethic?
170. How would you rate your memory?
171. What is one (or three) words that describe you best?
172. Who has inspired you in your life?
173. What was the toughest decision you ever had to make?
174. What do you worry about?
175. Have you considered starting your own business?
176. Where should I go on my next vacation?
177. If you won $10 million in the lottery, would you still work?
178. Who’s your mentor?
179. What is your favorite website?
180. What makes you uncomfortable?
181. Tell me your opinion about a controversial topic.
182. How would your best friends describe you?
183. There's no right or wrong answer, but if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
184. What is your favorite memory from childhood?
185. Tell me 10 ways to use a pencil other than writing.
186. Sell me this pencil.
187. If you could choose one superhero power, what would it be and why?
188. If you could get rid of any one of the US states, which one would you get rid of and why?
189. With your eyes closed, tell me step-by-step how to tie my shoes.
190. If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?
191. How do you manage stress in your life?
192. If you had a million dollars that you couldn’t invest, how would you spend it?
193. Tell me a (clean) joke?
194. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read in the newspaper lately?
195. If you were offered $1 million to launch your best entrepreneurial idea, what would it be?
196. If you were at a business lunch and you ordered a rare steak and they brought it to you well done, what would you do?
197. What is your personal mission statement?
198. List five words that describe your character.
199. What is your greatest fear?
200. What is your biggest regret and why?

While these are the most common and typical questions to ask or expect, there is a scenario where you may be desiring to ask a more unique question in the process. And as a person who is interviewing, be prepared for that event as well (a curveball so to speak).

Phone interview questions

What If The Interviewer Says This Is A Prescreen Interview

If the interviewer lets you know that the phone call is going to be a prescreen interview, what that means if that it is going to be an informal discussion. An informal discussion is when you and the interviewer can get to know each other a little better. Ultimately this won't have any deciding factor on your employment status. It's simply an opportunity for the other person to understand whether or not you are looking for a job. Or whether or not you'll be interested in the position. Always take a prescreen interview call!

Related: 10 Pre-Screening Interview Questions & Answers

What Are Some Of The Most Common Phone Interview Questions And Answers

Phone interview questions certainly can vary. In fact, the list we have above helps you see that there are potentially hundreds of interview questions a potential employer can ask you over the phone. But there are some common phone interview questions you can prepare for.

1. What are your biggest strengths?

I would say my biggest strength is the fact that I am a people person. I’m very extroverted and I love to solve inter-personal problems, which is probably why I’ve had such a natural inclination to work in customer service. I think I’m able to talk to clients with both respect and relatability, which is really all they want when it comes to product support.

Related: 19 Answers To "What Is Your Greatest Strength?"

2. What are your biggest weaknesses?

I would say I tend to overwork myself. I am very passionate about this industry and my role within it. At my last job, I made sure that my work quality was excellent and I was taking on enough roles for three engineers. I was very close to burning out. It’s something I’m working on, since I know I’m only as valuable as I am healthy.

Related: Answering "What Is Your Greatest Weakness?" In A Job Interview

3. What were your responsibilities in your last job?

My responsibilities were similar to the responsibilities listed in your job listing. As a customer service agent, I was responsible for helping customers, solving problems, working on the phone and in person, helping other team members, training new staff, and studying new products.

4. What are your salary requirements?

I used an online tool to determine the average annual salary for this position, which is around $48,000 to $53,000 per year. I made $50,000 last year, so I would prefer a salary as close to this as possible. I would be happy to negotiate this amount when taking benefits into consideration.

5. What sets you apart from other candidates?

I have had three years of experience working on similar projects to this one specifically, so I know exactly what problems are going to pop up and can help prevent them from happening. I believe this will save the development team lots of time and energy to work on more pertinent tasks throughout the project. In addition to that, I believe I have shown the ability to take control of a software project and make sure the dev team is capable of delivering tasks by their deadlines and within the appropriate budget. I think these skills will transfer quite well into future projects as well.

For all nine of the most common phone interview questions be sure to read our guide here.

Related: 9 Most Common Phone Interview Questions & Answers

Preparing For A Phone Interview As A Candidate

First and foremost, one has to gather information about the job position and the company. You need to know more than just the job title to crack the interview. It is critical to understand what the company stands for, its aims and visions. Moreover, one should know what they are going to do in the job, i.e., the associated responsibilities and power. It is necessary that you acquaint yourself with the work scenario, as it helps you know if you will fit in or not.

Once done with acquainting yourself with the job position and business, work out some probable questions that they might ask from the list above. Compile a list of questions that you think are likely to be asked in the interview and answer them in advance. Uncertainty in things makes us anxious. Working on these questions will help to alleviate the anxiety of interview. You want to portray your confidence in skills in an interview, not your fear or anxiety.

The final step, you need to take care of your surroundings when planning for an interview. You have to create a suitable environment for the interview. You don't want the interview to be intervened; it will be annoying for both, the interviewer and you. You want it to be seamless. So set up the surroundings accordingly. Here are some helpful pointers:

Phone interviews are, after all, just another form of an interview. And like any other interview, the key to having a successful interview is being prepared. In addition to being prepared for an interview, it is also vital that you perform up to your standards. A phone interview solely relies on your ability to speak. Be prepared and inherently you will be speaking with confidence.

Related: How To Prepare For A Phone Interview So You Move Onto The Next Round

Listen to the interviewer first

Don't rush to answer or interrupt the interviewer. An interviewer usually starts the conversation. Be patient and listen to everything he has to say to you. Don't just listen for the sake of listening. Ask questions to the recruiter to stand out. You could note down the significant bits of information and refer to these later in the process.

Then speak when you're asked to

Listen what the recruiter has to say first, understand, then speak. If you don't understand something, don't worry and ask again, but don't make it a pattern. Speak with a bright tone expressing your eagerness in the voice.

Related: 20+ Questions To Ask The Interviewer To Stand Out

What Are Some Of The Best Phone Interview Tips

Being prepared truly is the best tip. But when preparing isn't the only thing you'd like to know, here's the top nine tips that we tell phone interviewers before they jump on the call.

Related: 9 Phone Interview Hacks (Tips) To Get You Employed

How Long Are Phone Interviews?

Phone interviews are generally about 30-minutes long. This is because this type of interview is naturally a more introductory way to get acquainted with the company. It is fairly uncommon for the interview to last more than 30-minutes. This is why it's important that you keep your interview answers brief because it will ensure you are utilizing the time you have available most effectively.

Related: How Long Do Interviews Last? Your Answer Here

How Do You Calm Down Before A Phone Interview?

Having nerves before a phone interview is normal. There are some tricks that might help you feel a little more at ease when you are about to jump on the phone with your interviewer.

Pro fact: Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages conducted a number of studies on nonverbal communication between humans. He found that only 7% of the message to another person is conveyed by words. While 55% came through nonverbal elements. This means our presence and our tone of voice on phone interviews are vastly more important than anywhere else.

First, be sure you are in a comfortable place. The advantage of a phone interview is that you are able to be at home or in a place where you feel the most comfortable. When you feel comfortable, you’ll be confident as well. If that means turning off your lights, go ahead and do that. If that means wearing shorts, go ahead and do that.

The best tips for calming your nerves are:

How Should You Answer The Phone When Taking A Phone Interview

This is a question that’s often asked, “How should I answer the phone when answering for a phone interview?” It’s not a stupid question, either. If this is one of your first job interviews, you won’t have previous experience knowing how to professionally answer the phone.

There are a few options for you to choose from when answering the phone professionally. The first thing is never to simply answer with, “Hello?” That may sound like how you answer the phone for friends or family but for professionals, we don’t want to do that.

A better alternative is one of the following:

The first one is the best as it works for all times of the day and seems to be the easiest for the other person to understand. Saying your name ensures that the person on the phone recognizes that they’ve called the correct phone number, right away.

What If The Phone Interviewer Never Calls

If your phone interviewer never calls, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that everything is alright. First, be sure that you double-check the date and time of the interview. Go back through emails and ensure that you both have the correct times. Second, be sure that you aren't taking this personally. Interviewers are often meeting with multiple candidates and this can be tricky to coordinate. So don't take it personally. It might be that the interviewer is just a few minutes late.

If it's been a few minutes, you checked the date/time and it's all correct — then you can send the interviewer a simple email asking about the phone interview. From our guide here, the email that you can send is something like the following:

Hi Jane —

I’m ready and available for our phone call scheduled for today at 2 pm. My number is 000-000-0000 just in case you don’t have it. I look forward to speaking with you. I’ll be available for the next 30 minutes and look forward to our call.

Thanks so much, Jane,
Your name

Related: Phone Interview Didn’t Call: Here’s What To Do

What To Do After The Phone Interview Is Over

It's time to wait. I know you are eager to land the job, but you should remember, "Good things come to those who wait."

Though one thing you can do is send a note to the person you just interviewed with. Nearly right after you are finished with the phone interview you can send a thank you email. Doing this shows you're interested in the position as well as showing professional courtesy for someone who spent time with you.

If you'd like to know more about why you should send a thank you note after your interview, read our comprehensive guide here.

Related: 2 Best Thank You Emails To Send After A Phone Interview

What Questions The Interviewer Can't Ask You By Law (Illegal Interview Questions)

We know, interviews can sometimes be intimidating, especially if the recruiter or hiring manager asks some personal questions. The following are some of the aspects that an interviewer cannot refer to (illegal interview questions) in his/her interview questions.

These are just a few of the types of interview questions that cannot be asked. It can be difficult to recognize when a question you are being asked is bordering on inappropriate or illegal. If you feel as though you've encountered an interview question that seems uncomfortable, simply tell the interviewer that you don't feel comfortable answering that question and you'd like to proceed onward.

Related: 10+ Illegal Interview Questions To Avoid Asking Or Getting Asked

What Happens After The Phone Interview

Most commonly, the interviewer will get back to you within 3-5 days. If you haven't heard from them in that period of time, read our guide on sending a follow-up email after hearing no response.

If you have heard from the interviewer, they will generally ask for you to come in for another round of interviews. Though this interview will be on-site or with a group. At that point, you've made it to the next round of interviews and successfully made yourself one of the top 10% of candidates that get through phone interviews.

Related: 10+ Second Round Interview Questions & Answers To Prepare With

Phone Interview FAQ's

Common questions from job seekers regarding phone interviews.

Who normally conducts a phone interview?

A hiring manager is most commonly the one who conducts the phone screening interview. This is the phone interview. It is the first step in the hiring process for the hiring manager.

What if the hiring manager tells me I'm a good fit, great fit or bad fit right away?

It's better to know early than to wait until after the face to face interview or in-person interview. Be grateful that your hiring manager is considering your time in the job hunt.

What if they ask me questions related to company culture?

During this phase of the interview, they won't normally ask questions about company culture. But the hiring manager will most likely discuss the company's culture, company's values, and try to make the environment more appealing for you.

How can I show confident body language in a phone interview?

It will be hard. But the best thing you can do is to smile even when you're speaking on the phone. You would be surprised how easy it is to tell that the other person is smiling and happy during the phone screen.

What if they ask me questions related to my current job?

Try to have some discretion as you never know what could happen. You should always say that you appreciate your current job and respect it.

What comes after the phone interview and how should this reflect my job search?

The hiring manager will ask to have a face to face interview next. Though, this should not slow down your job search. Only until you have a job offer letter should you no longer be applying and interviewing.

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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