Phone Interview Cheat Sheet
Some of us often struggle to carry on a phone conversation, even with the people we know and love.
Talking on the phone does not come naturally or easily to everyone – and it’s no secret that Millennials (and Gen Z) are often characterized by their “inability” to carry on a phone conversation.
No matter the generation, there are some phone discussions none of us can avoid – job interviews fall into this category.
Knowing what phone interview questions the hiring managers will ask and how to answer them can put you in a good position to land that job.
7 Phone Interview Questions and Answers
When it comes to common phone interview questions, most businesses will pull them from a common playbook.
You might indeed find the quirky PR agency that asks “which Marvel character best represents you” or “describe your personality using the name of a breakfast cereal.”
But in general, any phone interview is bound to include some combination of the questions below.
Typical phone interview questions are something you can prepare for in advance, and it would not hurt to try having a “practice” interview with a friend or colleague.
While you want to come across as prepared, you do not want to come across as rehearsed.
You should aim to find a balance between expressing yourself as a serious candidate while also coming across as relaxed and engaging.
Here are some of the most common interview questions you should expect to hear in your next phone interview (with example answers).
1. Tell Me a Little Bit About Yourself
The dreaded opener in many interviews, “tell me a little bit about yourself,” is enough to make most applicants cringe. However, this is your first chance to shine and set yourself apart from other candidates.
Up until this point, you were just a name and a resume. However, if you find a way to pepper this answer with clever and memorable details, you may set yourself apart from the pack.
Keep your response balanced with information that is pertinent to the job, as well as some personal information.
For example, you might highlight the fact that you have recently completed your first marathon or built your son a treehouse.
While these achievements may not, on the face of it, seem related to the job at hand, they do demonstrate determination and a can-do attitude, attractive qualities to any employer.
- “Well, I’m currently an account executive at Smith, where I handle our top performing client. Before that, I worked at an agency where I was on three different major national healthcare brands. And while I really enjoyed the work that I did, I’d love the chance to dig in much deeper with one specific healthcare company, which is why I’m so excited about this opportunity with Metro Health Center.“ – theMuse
- “I’ve been in the marketing industry for over five years, primarily working in account and project management roles. I most recently worked as a senior PM for a large tech company managing large marketing campaigns and overseeing other project managers. And now I’m looking to expand my experience across different industries, particularly fintech, which is why I’m interested in joining your agency.” –theMuse
2. What Questions Do You Have About Us?
One of the most common mistakes applicants make is not preparing for this question.
You may be ready to rattle off details about yourself but draw a blank when asked what questions you have for the company or about the job description. Do your research beforehand and look to respond with a specific and thoughtful question yourself.
- “I read that your sales have increased 25% in the last year. That’s incredible! To what strategy or tactic do you attribute that kind of growth?”
- “I see that the company pledged to support several different charitable organizations this year. Can you tell me more about the groups you chose and why?”
- “With such rapid growth over the last 6 months, I was curious to hear if your company has a five-year plan? Are there benchmarks in place that you assess regularly?”
3. Could You Explain the Gap in Your Resume?
If there are any gaps in your work experience—even if only for six months—you should be prepared to explain that in a telephone interview.
There’s often a simple explanation. Just remember to keep it honest and succinct!
- “I was caring for a family member who was ill.”
- “I took some time off to travel.”
- “I was actively searching for a job during that timeframe.”
4. Describe Your Ideal Manager
Employers are assessing you as an individual while also assessing how you would fit within their organization.
This phone interview question is designed to give them a sense of your work style and how you might fit into their culture. Be honest in your assessment with specific examples, if appropriate.
- “I thrived under a former manager who always worked in the trenches with us to hit a deadline.”
- “I had a difficult time with one supervisor’s lack of specific feedback on ways I could improve.”
5. What Is Your Salary Requirement?
As tempting as it might be to respond to this with a shoulder shrug or a sly “TBD,” you need to have a thoughtful answer ready for this question.
In some cases, the business might advertise the salary range for the job, so you have an easy starting point (“I see the high end of the salary range for this role is $80,000, and I think my experience warrants that.”)
Do some research before your job interview on sites such as indeed.com to see if you can determine what the company typically pays for the role. Think “full package” and not just the salary though.
For example, you might go down a bit on your salary requirement if you know the company offers a better benefits package than your current employer.
Ask about financial compensation beyond the base salary as well.
Are their performance bonuses specific to the role, and what did the average employee take home in bonuses last year? Are there any reimbursements available for cell phones, home internet, etc.?
- “My salary research indicated that a typical annual salary for an employee with my level of experience working in this position is between $67,000 and $72,000.” – Zippia
- “I’ll open by saying that I’m impressed with the benefits package that your company offers. Still, as an experienced project manager, I expect a base salary of between $76,000-$86,000.” – Zippia
6. Tell Us About a Challenge You Have Overcome
This is a favorite for interviewers and common among phone screening interview questions.
Look for examples that are related to your work experience. Example. “I successfully trained an entire department in the adoption of a new software system, despite huge reluctance in the initial rollout”.
The answer to this interview question could also be unique to your personal circumstances. Example. “I was the first in my family to graduate college, holding down two part-time jobs to pay for my education”.
Example Answer Layout (utilize the STAR Method)
- Situation – Give context to your answer so that the employer has a good overview of the circumstances surrounding the challenge.
- Task – Give details of the task so that the employer knows exactly where you fit into the situation and what you were responsible for.
- Action – Talk about the actions involved to overcome the challenge. Here you can discuss your thought process and problem solving approach.
- Result – End on a positive note, showing that the problem was overcome. Quantify your answer if it’s possible to do so.
7. Why Did You Apply for This Role?
There is no harm in buttering up to your would-be employer and hiring managers when asked what made you apply for the role.
Be prepared to answer this interview question with a few (genuine) reasons why you want to work for the company.
- “Your company’s reputation in the industry is impeccable, and I want to be a part of a winning culture/team.”
- “I believe my experience is under-utilized in my current position, and this one caught my attention as I think it would enable me to best use my talents.”
- “I have been in my current role for five years, and I think it is time to step out of my comfort zone and tackle a new challenge.”
“Lack of confidence during the interview is why 40% of interviewers don’t take a candidate past the first stage.”— Twin Employment
Bonus Question: If Offered the Job, When Could You Start?
This may not seem like a trick question, but it can be. Many job seekers assume employers are looking for someone who can start on the spot; however, your answer could also reveal something about your character as an employee.
If you are currently employed, it makes sense to give your current employer a minimum of two weeks’ notice. In some cases, more time might be appropriate (for example, if you are an executive-level manager).
Showing your future potential employer that you feel obligated to work a notice period for your current employer after being given the job offer can be a sign of strength and character.
Ultimately, if the hiring manager balks at this and suggests they need you to quit your current job immediately, this could be a sign you might not want to take the job. Most companies worth joining will also understand that you are worth waiting for (two weeks at least!).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Why Do They Still Use Phone Interviews?
Phone interviews are beneficial to companies in numerous ways, the most important being considerable cost savings. Imagine a business in Denver vetting a candidate in Tampa who, on paper, looks like a perfect fit.
A phone call could yield a much different impression, and the company in Denver avoids the potential expenses of flights and lodging if they had brought the person in on their dime for a live, in-person interview.
In some cases, an organization might whittle a pool of 500 applicants down to 50 promising ones. Conducting 50 in-person interviews could mean a drain on time and resources, but 50 brief phone calls might enable the hiring manager to halve the list easily.
Finally, in an age where so many people work remotely, phone interviews enable various people to weigh in on important hiring decisions.
For example, three hiring managers who would ultimately interact the most with the potential employee could be located in Tucson, Sacramento, and Atlanta.
A phone interview would ensure each one has a chance to weigh in on the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses and whether or not they seem like a solid fit for the role.
Is A Phone Interview A Real Interview?
Yes, a phone interview is a real interview, although it is typically shorter and less formal than an in-person interview. A phone interview is a preliminary screening process that is used by employers to determine which candidates should be invited for an in-person interview.
During a phone interview, the interviewer will ask you questions about your background, experience, and skills. They may also ask you to discuss your qualifications for the job and why you are interested in the position. The interviewer will use your responses to assess your fit for the role and determine whether you should be invited for an in-person interview.
Phone interviews can be conducted over the phone or through videoconferencing software. They are often used when the employer and candidate are not in the same location, or when it is not practical for the candidate to travel for an in-person interview.
Wrapping Up | Phone Interview Questions
In addition to prepping answers to these common phone interview questions, you should practice with friends or colleagues by setting up a mock interview.
Ask someone you trust to try and “stump” you with some tough, on-the-spot telephone interview questions. To recap our common phone interview questions:
- “Tell me a little about yourself”
- “What questions do you have about us”
- “Could you explain the gap in your resume”
- “Describe your ideal manager”
- “What are your salary requirements”
- “Tell us about a challenge you overcame”
- “Why did you apply for the role”
- “When can you start”
Finally, don’t forget to smile! While we understand this is a phone interview, they will hear that smile in your voice. We hope this helps and best of luck in your next interview!
Curious on how long it will take the hiring company to get back to you after an interview? Here’s an infographic around the full interview timeline.
Title: Most Common Phone Interview Questions and How to Answer
Category: Job Interview
Tags: phone interview, job interview from phone, common phone interview questions and answers, what questions are asked in a phone interview, how to prepare for a phone interview, job interview over the phone, phone interview cheat sheet, what kind of questions are asked in a phone interview, how do I prepare for a phone interview, phone interview cheat sheet
Co-Author: Reid is a contributor for theJub. He’s an employment and marketing enthusiast who studied business before taking on various recruiting, management, and marketing roles. More from the author. | Author Profile