Phone interviews are hardly an odd thing these days, so you shouldn’t get all worked up if you are about to have one with a potential employer. While it can be tricky to know how to answer phone interview questions on the hoof, you can always get prepared in advance and practice some of the common ones!
Employers use phone interviews as an opportunity to screen out unsuitable candidates. In essence, their goal is to get a preliminary assessment of your skills, personality, and overall aptitude for the job. Plus, it’s an inevitable step for those, planning to relocate to another city or country.
Also, if your job assumes a lot of phone conversations — customer support, sales, front-office positions — the interviewer will surely be assessing how comfortable you feel having a dialogue over the cord.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the popular phone interview questions with confident and professional answers to them!
1. Can You Tell Me More About Yourself?
“Tell me about yourself” is a pretty standard ice-breaker interview question that you’ll hear quite often. For a phone interview, it’s best to prepare a quick elevator pitch type of reply and then elaborate on some of the details based on the interviewer’s request.
For example, as a manager you can serve the following reply first:
I’ve been working in Sales for the past 5 years, starting as a sales clerk and then working my way to head of regional sales at company X. Apart from strong interpersonal and negotiation skills, I also love mentoring. At my current job, I’ve created a new training program for junior managers at department x that later resulted in a 20% increase in sales volumes. Also, I’m an avid tennis player and outdoor enthusiast.
The following reply briefly touches down on several important aspects:
- Candidates experience and skills
- Main achievement
- Personal traits
It sets the tone of the conversation and gently prompts the interviewer to ask more about the things you’ve chosen to highlight aka your main strengths.
If you need further tips, check our separate blog post, detailing how to answer the “tell me about yourself” interview question during phone and in-person interviews.
2. Can You Walk Me Through Your Resume?
This is another classic phone interview question. Most HRs ask it when they struggle to connect the dots between you and the position or don’t fully understand your role or the industry you come from.
In essence, they are prompting you to elaborate on how your current (and past) work experience contributes to the current role and what are your top technical skills. So you’ve gotta give them as much context as you can:
- Briefly explain what you currently do (avoiding jargon)
- Suggest how your experience and skills are relevant to the job you are after
- Mention any other transferable skills that you have
Remember: your goal here is to give a coherent reply, explaining how your background contributes to the role, not make the other party even more confused by jumping from one section of your resume to another.
3. What Are You Looking For In Your Next Job?
In this case, HR probably wants to gain a better sense of your career goals and gauge your aspirations.
So briefly explain your main career objective:
- Find a more challenging and rewarding job
- Switch industries
- Gain new skills and work experience
- Try out yourself in a managerial role
- Do more meaningful, socially responsible work
However, don’t get too self-centered when you gush about your objectives and ideal job position. On the contrary, shift the focus towards the employer and explain how the proposed role matches your abilities and aspirations for career progression.
After three years as a call center agent, I’d be interested in applying more developed customer support skills, deep knowledge of Zendesk, and of SLA policies to help company X support team improve the rate of customer satisfaction.
4. What Do You Know About Our Company?
By asking this question, the interviewer wants to see if you did your part of the deal and took the time to prepare for a job interview. (You absolutely should!).
In particular, try to find one or two talking points that you could bring up during the interview. For example, you can refer to some recent piece of news (e.g. an M&A deal or new product release) or showcase your knowledge of the company culture or a certain corporate value you also stand for.
You shouldn’t recite the entire company bio (as they write it in the press releases). Talk about one thing that resonates with you personally.
I’ve been an avid K magazine reader for the last 5 years and I love how you are constantly promoting diversity in fashion and beyond. As a plus-size woman, I really appreciate how you are helping improve the representation of different body types in the media and loved the campaign you did with Brand X. It truly resonated with me on a personal level.
5: Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?
Asking why you left your last job will tell the interviewer a lot about your attitude and work ethic. But you should tread carefully when discussing the exact reasons why you left your previous job.
After all, as Robert Half suggests, badmouthing a former employer is a major red flag for HRs during phone interviews. “Such behavior demonstrates poor tact and diplomacy — key soft skills in almost any role. It can also mean the candidate takes no responsibility for their own part in workplace dynamics.”
Clearly, that’s the impression you want to leave. To avoid any hint of negative sentiment at all and do the following:
- Mention the reasons for your termination or explain why you chose to quit yourself
- If you are still employed, explain your motivation for leaving the current company.
If you’ve been laid off or lost your job through restructuring, there’s nothing you should be worried about, especially post-COVID as some 22 million people lost their jobs during the early months of the pandemic in the US alone.
In case you were fired, don’t try to sweep that fact under the rug. Instead, briefly explain why you were let go and how you have learned from the experience and what steps you have taken to address any issues to make yourself a stronger candidate this time around.
6: Why Do You Think You Are The Best Candidate For This Job?
Alright, this phone interview question really allows you to toot your horn and thoroughly promote yourself. But don’t just tell, show!
- Bring up all of your key accomplishments
- Sum up how your hard and soft skills can contribute to the company
- Explain what makes you passionate about the target role and industry
- Pitch in some possible business improvements that you plan to do if you get hired.
Here’s a sample answer to this phone interview question:
I think I’d be a great fit for this Account Manager role as I already have deep domain knowledge of the telecom industry and previously managed accounts for 3 national carriers, with a total worth of $2.5 million by providing them with product, solution and service offerings. In fact, if I get hired at Company X, I’d be happy to help your team further improve your sales funnels. I noticed that your service offerings are not fully defined yet and changing the scope of one of them can potentially increase the revenue levels by 10%-15%.
Don’t be afraid to give a strong answer. After all, you’ll be competing against plenty of other adequately qualified candidates trying out for this role. It is your job to show the interviewer what makes you better than the rest and why you are worth considering.
7. Why Do You Think You Will Succeed in This Position?
This question is somewhat similar to the previous one — it prompts you to discuss your key skills and abilities to positively contribute to the organization.
So address your unique strengths and experiences:
- Suggest how your past experience makes you more useful in the current job
- Mention that you can deliver measurable and repeatable results
- Bring up your overall passion in the said industry.
8. What Type of Work Environment Do You Prefer?
You know the drill — every employer wants to make sure that you are a good ‘cultural fit’. Why? Because then you have a higher chance of sticking around for the long-term and driving great results for the business (since you are highly engaged).
If this question comes up during your job interview, base your answer around the following:
- Are you a leader or a team player?
- What types of companies have you enjoyed working in the past?
- Mention the exact team/environment qualities you prefer.
For instance, you can go with something like this:
I thrive in fast-paced environments, demanding creativity, and problem-solving skills. While I do enjoy group brainstorming sessions in the writer’s room with marketers and other copywriters, I also need my personal quiet space to come up with the best creative ideas.
9: Do You Have Any Questions For Me?
Lastly, a good interviewer will always suggest you question them. And you should definitely jump on that opportunity. After all, it’s another way to show that you were paying attention, feel interested in the position, and eager to keep the conversation going further.
Just what questions to ask during a phone interview?
Here are some good ones to try:
- What are the biggest challenges that I may face in this role?
- Whom I will be working with and who will be my direct manager/supervisor?
- Is this an existing or a new role you’ve recently created?
- Do you offer any training opportunities?
- What are the performance expectations for this position over the first 6-12 months?
- What goals is the company currently focused on?
- Can you please tell me a bit more about your main products/services?
- What’s the team culture like?
- Can you describe the company/teamwork environment?
- What are the next steps in the job interview process?
- Is there any other information on my background that I can provide you with?
Limit yourself to two-three thoughtful questions that won’t repeat the things you’ve already discussed earlier in the conversation.
Don’t fret too much over your phone interview! It’s going to be just fine as long as you come prepared. That is doing some background research on the company and the position, line up some of your key accomplishments and work stories that illustrate these and practice some of these common phone interviews answers a day ahead!
This article has been originally published on October 2, 2019 and has been extensively revised and updated on December 24, 2020.