Phone interviews are an easy way for employers to narrow down the list of applicants before in-person interviews quickly. For remote applicants, they also provide a much cheaper and time-saving alternative. Overall, it means that phone interviews will favour general questions over questions specific to the role's tasks.
While there is plenty to love about the relaxed nature of this interview setting, no intimidating meeting room for one, it does mean that your voice and your answers are the sole focus of the interviewer. Before you even start answering questions, be sure to minimize background noise as much as possible. Pick a quiet room, mute notifications, and kindly ask family members or roommates to be quiet. Even testing your connection beforehand is a suitable method of ensuring that you will successfully convey your responses.
So now that the stage is set for your perfect phone interview, what kind of questions can you expect? Here are the most common phone interview questions:
1 - Tell me a little about yourself?
It is your opportunity to explain the why of your résumé. If it isn't immediately apparent why you are qualified for this position, now is your chance to fill in the blanks quickly. While this question may seem very open-ended, it isn't about telling your life story. Instead, try to keep your answers relevant to the position and your résumé.
A key point to remember here is that employers are looking for consistency between your résumé, LinkedIn and your response, so do your best to clear up anything that might be confusing. For example, if you're referring back to your elementary school education, you're probably too complicated. So instead, try to focus on a concise response that highlights the last 18 months of experience.
2 - How did you find out about this position?
This one is a bit sneaky! While it's prevalent to find jobs through search engines like Indeed or Canada Job Bank, it's essential here to prove why this role specifically stood out to you. Try to give the impression that you were drawn to this position and not simply applying to a large swath of companies.
A colleague's recommendation or personal familiarity with the business is a solid answer to this question, so be sure to mention that association.
3 - Why do you want this job?
Now's the time to let all that research you did into this company shine. You did do that research, didn't you? Interviewers are looking for excitement from knowledge about this position - no one wants to hire a zombie. It's great to be passionate - remember they only have your voice to go by!
As with all of these questions, it's essential to consider whether this position is actually for you? Does it align with your career goals, either short or long-term? A response that can contextualize this position in your overarching career shows that you want the job for the right reasons and are ideally suited for it.
4 - Why did you leave your last position?
Another tricky question, but also immensely popular. Interviewers are just trying to figure out whether the issues that motivated your transition will also be relevant to their company environment.
Often your response to this question will convey a lot about your work ethic. For instance, if you're quick to criticize your former manager, which you definitely should not do, that might demonstrate a lack of personal agency or accountability. Instead, an honest response that acknowledges the challenges you formerly faced and how you are overcoming them is much more attractive. For example, you may have been laid off recently due to a changing economic climate: this happens and is understandable. You can reflect positively on this by then focusing on the skill development and self-improvement you've achieved in the meantime.
5 - What are your salary expectations?
Overall, this question is designed to aid recruiters in ensuring candidates aren't outside of their budget. They are often given specific targets, so be sure to do your research to provide an accurate range.
Employers can learn a lot from your salary expectations, including your seniority and experience. However, if your expectations aren't consistent with your interview performance, that's a major red flag, so try to reflect on your experience here honestly.
6 - Why are you the best candidate for this position?
Unfortunately, this common question isn't fair: how can you compare yourself to others you don't know? Instead, use this question as an opportunity to reflect on your positive qualities. For example, something that hasn't yet been addressed in the interview. Also, avoid criticizing your competition - negativity isn't a great way to stand out.
When given opportunities to reflect on your strengths as a candidate, be sure to provide specific examples to match the qualities you address. You don't have to offer novel-length stories, but you need to prove that you aren't just listing fun adjectives. Besides, this is another opportunity to distinguish yourself by providing personally relevant examples. Other candidates won't have your stories.
7 - What is your leadership style?
No matter the position, a question of management style will emerge. It allows employers to evaluate your initiative and communication skills - among others. Ultimately, you're going to have to make decisions that involve some degree of leadership, and recruiters want to evaluate your reasoning.
Try to provide a brief example of a leadership role that positively reflects these qualities. An example that demonstrates how you navigated a team through a significant hurdle is perfect for checking all the recruiter boxes.
8 - Tell me about a time you disagreed with your manager. What did you do?
Ugh, the dreaded question! It is a classic situational question, so you'll want to have an example in mind that can demonstrate your professionalism in the face of conflict. Disagreement is inevitable, but not everyone handles it successfully. Companies want to see that you're a motivated employee but also one that respects the big picture.
Companies want employees who will learn and grow into their new role, so a clear example of your ability to communicate and compromise is perfect for demonstrating that you're not stubbornly locked into a "my way or the highway" mentality.
9 - When can you start?
Whether a company needs to fill a position immediately or not, this technical question is vital for their internal organization. A good answer is honest and specific, down to the exact number of days after receiving their offer.
An interviewer may ask a similar question in the form of "Are you willing to relocate for the position?" Both aim to help weed out anyone that doesn't match the logistics of the hire. Again, try to provide a crisp response, and if the answer is complicated, maybe you have conflicting obligations, be honest about these while emphasizing your desire for the position.
10 - Do you have any questions for me?
Don't forget this interview is for you too! If you're genuinely interested in the position, you'll want to know if the work environment is right for you. Prepare some questions in advance which reflect your serious consideration of the job. It is another excellent opportunity to show off your research and insight into the company. Ultimately, you want to give the impression that you are eager and curious about the position but not desperate.
If questions come up during the interview, definitely ask those too. They show your careful attention and curiosity! Be sure to have a pen and paper handy to write down anything that pops into your head! You're not meeting in person, so notes are welcome.
Some Final Tips
Phone interview questions are great to practice with a professional friend or family member. If you need to train or perfect it with an expert, schedule a Job Boost with us. You can perfectly model the environment of the call and get helpful feedback about how you sound. Allow yourself to improvise some of the responses with another. You might be surprised by what you come up with. Just be sure to take note of your best answers!
Thus while it's great to have notes prepared, be sure to write them in point form. With only your voice to go by, it's essential to avoid the robotic tone from reading from a script. Point form ensures that both passion and preparation come through.
Any important questions you think we missed? Be sure to comment below!