Phone Interviews 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 concerning the resumes. The final shortlisted candidates could be interviewed via phone calls, making the process much faster and effective.
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 on 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.
On Candidate Background
These questions are designed for gathering more information beyond what is listed on a candidate's resume and cover letter. While you already have some of this information, you are also looking to see how a candidate answers the question. Observe tone of voice and look for consistency and coherence in answers.
1. Tell me about yourself / walk me through your resume.
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?
6. Why are you leaving your job?
7. Why are you job searching?
8. Ask about gaps in the resume.
9. Why did you change career paths?
10. How would you describe your work style?
11. What can you tell me that isn’t on your resume that is important for me to know about you?
12. When can you start?
13. What did you most enjoy about your previous positions?
14. What did you least enjoy about your previous positions?
15. Where do you see yourself in one, five or 10 years?
16. What are your career goals?
17. What is your biggest success?
18. What is your biggest failure?
19. What are you looking for in your next job?
20. What is your greatest weakness?
21. What is your greatest strength?
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?
25. What motivates you? What gets you up in the morning?
26. How do you evaluate success?
27. Why should I hire you?
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?
37. May I contact your present employer for a reference?
38. Where could you use some improvement?
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?
42. What do your co-workers say about you?
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?
54. Are you a leader or a follower?
55. What questions haven’t I asked you?
56. What’s your management style?
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?
71. Are you willing to relocate?
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?
76. Are you willing to travel?
On Candidate Preparedness
While you can ask a candidate how they went about preparing for the interview, you can tell much more by asking them about the job, firm, and industry.
77. What do people in this job do?
78. What do you know about this company?
79. Why do you want to work here?
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?
84. What interests you about this job?
85. Who are our competitors?
86. Why do you want this job?
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 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?
114. What type of work environment do you prefer?
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?
Candidate Technical Questions
These questions should be tailored to the position. They’re a great way to measure the 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 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?
At first glance, these questions may not have much to do with evaluating abilities. The way candidates answer these can tell you 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 curve ball so to speak).
How you might strategize your answers as a candidate
Below are some phone interview tips for thinking through your answers, time it takes to answer and more.
Q. Tell me about yourself.
It could be one of the first questions an interviewer asks. It is the cue for you to introduce yourself but in the interest of the job. The answer should be concise, preferably that isn't longer than 90 seconds. It is a good idea to go about in a sequence, describing your career path. Start with how and where you began your career. Subsequently, list out the critical events along the way like promotions, or accomplishment. Then finally, describe your current situation and your reasons for wanting this job.
Q. What do you know about us?
This question is to assess your interest in the job and the company. A company values an interviewee who puts some effort into knowing the company, its work, and visions. Not being responsive means you won't put down all effort in your work which could affect the company’s productivity. You won't prove to be an asset for the company, hence, won't consider you for the position.
So, do some homework. Check out the company’s mission statement. When and why were they founded? What do they deal in? Who are their customers? How many employees do they currently have? Who is the head? Who are their competitions? Being informed about the company will let the interviewer know that you are genuinely interested in the company. Hence, raising your chances of landing the job.
Q. Tell me about your past work experience.
The interviewer wants to know how you would fit in the applied position concerning your experience. So, tell them about what you learned. The tools and technologies you worked with. Your contributions to the company achieving a target. Incorporate specific details (in numbers and figures) to support what you say. But make sure the things you talk about are relevant to their field of interest.
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 that 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:
- Keep your phone charged.
- Make sure the phone is with you around the time you expect the call.
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dry throat.
- Have a pen and paper ready for taking any notes.
- Have your resume ready with you.
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.
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. You could note down the significant bits of information and refer to these later in the process.
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.
Give it a positive ending
Ending the interview process on a positive note is vital. A positive finish reflects manner and means that you are interested. A simple ‘Thank You' with a request for additional information and steps will do the job.
What to do after the phone interview
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.'
It’s a nice gesture to send a thank-you note after the interview, preferably after half a business day. It helps to show gratitude and subtly reminds them that you are awaiting their response.
It can be a long waiting game, so you have to keep your patience. Wait for a week then follow up with an email. If they do not respond, wait again and follow up after two weeks, as a final reminder.
Accept the reality
It's excellent if you receive a response before sending your final reminder, but mostly that doesn't happen. We are all against stiff competition. If they don't provide any answer even after three emails, it is better to move on and look out for another job.
What questions someone shouldn't ask you by law in a phone interview
We know, interviews can sometimes be intimidating, especially if the recruiter asks some personal questions. The following are some of the aspects that an interviewer cannot refer to in his/her interview questions.
- Race, Color, or National Origin
- Sex, Gender Identity, or Sexual Orientation
- Pregnancy status
- Age or Genetic Information
- Marital Status or Number of Children
Here are some sample questions to make you understand what's legal and what's not legal to ask based on different aspects:
How long have you been at staying at the present address?
What is your current residential address?
How long did you live at your previous residence?
Do you own a home or rent?
Does someone live with you?
Some roles have age permits. In such cases, you can ask for age proof.
What year were you born in?
When did you start college?
What days and shifts can you work?
Do you have a reliable way mode of transport to work?
Questions about childcare arrangements or evening work.
Question about owning a car unless the job requires.
Citizenship or national origin
Do you have permission to work in the United States legally?
Can you provide the proof of citizenship/visa/alien registration if we decide to hire you?
Are you capable of speaking, reading and writing English?
Are you a US citizen?
Can you please provide your birth certificate?
Where are your parents from?
Where is your birthplace?
How did you learn English?
Clear job description and then ask for candidate’s consent.
Are you differently abled?
Do you have a high school diploma certificate or its equivalent?
What college or university degrees do you have?
In which year did you start college?
Emergency Contact Name
Only after confirmed employment.
Any related query is seen as a question about national original or sexual orientation.
How long did you work in your last role?
What is your current and expected salary?
When did you first start working? (age discrimination)
Do I need to know about any commitments that might prevent you from working the assigned shifts?
How many children do you have?
Height or weight
Proper job description then ask for candidate’s consent.
How tall are you?
What’s your weight?
How many children do you have?
Are you married?
Do you have any leave planned?
Are you expecting a baby?
Race or Color
Not acceptable except it is a bona fide occupational qualification.
All questions about color and race.
Religion or Creed
No questions allowed
What denomination are you?
Who is your pastor?
Sex, Orientation, or Gender Identity
No questions allowed
No questions allowed
Footnote and conclusion
In this article I jumped around from the perspective of someone hiring to the perspective of someone trying to get hired. For both of these persons, I hope this article is insightful because the process is truly about these two parties connecting. And this can be a valuable resource for both ends of the spectrum. If you have any interview questions which you'd like to see on this page, please email me. I would also like to mention that if you have any particular strategies for becoming more prepared for the phone interview session, I would appreciate your insight on that as well, I believe readers would love to hear about it. Good luck on your job interview and I hope that this article has shed light on many areas that you may not have seen before.