Being prepared for common phone interview questions is a requirement if you want to stand out and land the job you want. With so many interviews being conducted remotely these days, being comfortable with this format is essential.
This list of phone interview questions will help you get ready for the big day!
1. Tell me about yourself.
This phone interview question seems pretty cut and dry, but it’s more concise than most people realize. It’s an ice-breaker and the most straightforward question to get to know you. But don’t go into irrelevant details with your answer. Be concise and to the point.
Provide relevant information and link critical points in your resume to tell a story.
Sample Answer: “I recently graduated with a degree in musical education. During my last year of instruction, I shadowed a handful of educators in the districts around my school. The experience allowed me to teach students of all levels and convinced me I wanted to be a music instructor.
After graduation, I accepted an assistant instructor position at my local high school. I’ve been an assistant for four years now, helping hundreds of students improve their skills. Now, I’m ready to take my career to the next level and this opportunity to be the lead instructor of a larger ensemble is exactly what I’m looking for.”
2. What are your salary requirements?
This common phone interview question seems like a trick, but it’s not. In most cases, hiring managers have a specific budget when onboarding new members. Asking this question ensures that no one’s time is wasted.
Perform some research to learn more about what kind of salary your position typically gets in your area. Use that as a starting point. There’s no right or wrong way to answer, and going beyond the budget isn’t necessarily going to take you off the list.
Express your willingness to negotiate if you have wiggle room.
Sample Answer: “Based on my research, my experience, and education, I believe $60,000 and $65,000 is an appropriate range for this position. I am interested in learning more about the responsibilities and expectations.”
3. Would you be willing to relocate?
Here’s another question purely for weeding out applicants that don’t meet the employer’s expectations. Don’t commit to relocating unless you absolutely know you want to. Many companies are open to coming up with solutions if you’re the right candidate.
Sample Answer: “My preference would be to commute for the first few months until I get comfortable with the job and community. However, I’m more than willing to work remotely if that’s a possibility.”
4. Would you be willing to work in the office?
Interviewers sometimes ask this question to gauge your willingness and capabilities to work in the office. It’s similar to the previous phone interview question where hiring managers need to understand who will fit their requirements. Remote work isn’t possible for every job, so do your research and read the job description carefully. If the job posting says “must be willing to work onsite” or something similar, you know this is their preference.
Think about your current life. If you can go to an office, let the interviewer know! If not, suggest an alternative option.
Sample Answer: “I’m willing to work in the office part-time during this year and can work from the office a few times a week. Next September, I’m available to work in the office full time if needed.”
5. How did you hear about this position?
There are a couple of reasons why interviewers want to know how you heard about the open position. In most cases, they want as much information as possible to refine the recruitment process. However, it can also provide some insight into why you started the search and how you came across the company.
Let the interviewer know what job search website you saw the ad on. If you heard about it from an employee, absolutely mention the employee’s name. If you learned about it some other way, concisely explain how.
Sample Answer: “I have a friend of a friend who works here at [company], [employee’s first and last name]. I’ve always been a fan of what you all do here and felt that it was the perfect role to apply for.”
6. Do you have any hobbies outside of work?
This phone interview question is multi-faceted. Your answer can give the interviewer more information about you than you realize.
First, it highlights your passions. Many interviewers will genuinely find interest in your response, so it’s also an excellent way to ease the mood a bit. Secondly, the question can give companies an idea of your work/life balance.
If you have many hobbies, chose one that aligns with the job. Always be careful about mentioning hobbies or interests related to religion or politics.
Sample Answer: “Outside of work, I enjoy creating art. I’m a painter and like to use my off-time to find a quiet spot to paint landscapes. It’s a great way to unwind and rejuvenate.”
7. Why do you want to work here?
Don’t state the obvious here! Interviewers want to know that you’ve done your research about the company. This typical phone interview question helps them learn more about your motivations and passions.
Talk about what led you to this position. Pay the company a compliment and show that you understand a fair amount about what they do.
Sample Answer: “I’ve followed [company] for many years. I enjoyed [product or event] and always wanted to be a part of something like that. After working several years at my current position, I feel that I’m ready and able to contribute to this organization.”
8. What interested you about this job?
This phone interview question is similar to the previous one, but it’s centered around the position instead of the company. They want to know what makes you tick and gauge if you’re the right fit.
Do your due diligence and bring up parts of the job that appeal to you. Connect that to your broader career aspirations.
Sample Answer: “I’ve been looking for an opportunity to grow and lead a larger team. I’ve always valued the importance of providing top-notch customer service, and being able to help a company scale that out is very interesting to me.”
9. What do you know about this company?
Once again, this phone interview question is about you doing your research. Applicants who can’t answer a simple question like this are clearly only in it for the money or experience. Interviewers want to hire people who are interested in working for their company.
Sample Answer: “I know that you’re one of the largest hospitality brands in the country. [Company] currently owns thousands of hotels that continuously win awards for customer service and service excellence.”
10. Why are you leaving your current job?
How you answer this common phone interview question paints a pretty vivid picture of your work history and your overall dedication. If you were laid off, briefly explain why. If you were terminated, explain how you’ve learned from that experience.
Your answer shouldn’t dwell on the negative things in your current job or blame your employer or manager. Instead, highlight what you’re eager to accomplish in your next job.
Sample Answer: “I’ve worked for several years in my current position. While it was fulfilling, I’m looking for a new challenge to use my knowledge. I feel like my experience and skill set are best utilized as a manager, and I believe this position is the perfect opportunity to become a leader.”
11. Why are you seeking a new job?
An interviewer might ask this question to see if there are any potential red flags to be worried about. It’s important that you know the difference between being laid off vs terminated and address your employment situation the right way.
Be truthful about your work situation, and cater your answer to your career goals.
Sample Answer: “I’m searching for opportunities to take the next step in my career. I’ve worked as an assistant for many years, honing my skills and gaining a wealth of experience along the way. I feel qualified to take on this position and advance my career to the next stage.”
12. Why did you leave (each) job?
Don’t be surprised if an interviewer goes down your resume and asks why you left each position. They want to know what inspired you to move on. More importantly, they want to ensure that you’re not someone who spends only a year at one job before moving on to the next.
All hiring managers want people who can contribute to the bottom line while being dedicated to the job. Talk about your career goals and how leaving each job contributed to your growth.
Sample Answer: “I left [company] because I felt that my skill set outgrew the company’s operations. I was looking to grow and advance my career vertically, which led me to look for outside opportunities.”
13. Please explain the gap in your employment between [date] and [date].
Gaps in employment are a pretty big deal. They might not seem like much to you, but a multi-year gap can be a significant red flag and raises questions with recruiters about what you did during that time.
This is a typical phone interview question you’ll want to prepare for. Leaving it unaddressed can make interviewers come up with their own ideas that may or may not be accurate.
Try your best to keep overly personal details out of the mix. There are many reasons why you took time off, and each one is valid. The key is to make it part of your story and career.
Sample Answer: “I took a short break after leaving [job] to rejuvenate and relearn some skills I felt I lost. I didn’t need to utilize specific skills to be successful in that position. Before reentering the job market, I wanted to ensure that my knowledge of the topic was current and competitive.”
14. What made you choose this occupation?
Interviewers use questions like this to get a deeper understanding of what motivates you. Some people pursue careers for the money. Meanwhile, others have a genuine interest that helps them reach their full potential in a job.
Clearly, the latter is more desired!
Everyone has a reason for pursuing a specific career. Don’t be afraid to talk about it! The best course of action here is to link it to your goals and tell a story about how you got to this point.
Sample Answer: “I knew that I wanted to be a teacher at a very young age. I had a few teachers that I connected with on a much deeper level in elementary school. They taught me more than academics, acting more as life coaches. I kept in touch with them for many years and relied on them for guidance through all of life’s challenges. I knew that I wanted to be the same for others one day, so I pursued teaching.”
15. Where do you see yourself in 1, 3, or 5 years?
This common phone interview question is a bit cliched, but it’s an important one. Interviewers ask this question to see how committed you are to the work you want to do.
Again, companies don’t want to hire fleeting employees. Hiring managers want to bring on employees who can perform the job well, and perhaps grow in the company. They also how to hire someone who will feel fulfilled in the position.
Sample Answer: “I see myself continuing to hone my [specific] skills. I hope to learn as much as I can and have the opportunity to get involved in new and exciting projects.”
16. What responsibilities did you have at your last job?
Before beginning your phone interview, make sure to think about how your current or previous job relates to the new one. Hiring managers want to know that you can seamlessly transition into this position, so having some shared responsibilities across the board provides peace of mind.
You don’t have to go into great detail or highlight every task. Keep things relevant!
Sample Answer: “In my previous job, my primary duties were to speak to potential clients and help them find a suitable service for their needs. I feel like those skills can easily translate to this sales position.”
17. How did your past experience prepare you for this position?
Here’s another common phone interview question that aims to establish a link between your previous job and the one you’re trying to get. This one focuses more on skills and experience rather than specific duties.
Think hard about what kinds of skills you utilized and how they relate to this next job. Even if you’re applying for a totally different job, there’s always a way to make connections.
Sample Answer: “I spent most of my days interacting with customers. The time I spent assisting clients helped me understand how to cater to their needs and recommend products that they would be confident buying. This is I feel sales is the best career move for me, “
18. What do you see as the most crucial element of this position?
Don’t let this question throw you off! It can come as a curveball, but that’s the point. Interviewers use this question to test your understanding of the job.
They want to ensure you’re on the same page and will devote your attention to the more critical aspects of the job. Do your research beforehand to ensure that you have a good understanding of the job expectations.
Sample Answer: “The most important part of this supervisory role is to bring out the best in each team member. While keeping everyone on the same page, finding the right way to utilize every employee can improve productivity and keep projects on schedule.”
19. What aspects of this role do you anticipate being the most challenging?
Here’s another question that can throw a wrench into an otherwise smooth interview.
The goal of this phone interview question is to see how you react to challenges. Every job is going to have challenging aspects. It’s how you approach those situations that matters most.
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Interviewers want to understand your thought process above all else.
Think long and hard about this question before the phone interview. The best way to answer it is to explain why you think the challenge exists and what you plan to do about it.
Sample Answer: “I believe that the most challenging aspect is going to be fostering a collaborative work environment across very different teams. I know that varying work styles can create some friction. However, I hope that finding a happy medium will reduce issues and facilitate a more inviting environment where everyone can share ideas. In my past role, I would enlist the help of more experienced employees who had been successful in areas where I’m not as strong.”
20. What is your greatest career accomplishment so far?
Finally, a moment to do a bit of bragging! It’s your chance to tell a story and highlight your skills.
Interviewers ask this phone question for a couple of reasons. The first is to see what you consider important. It also lets them know if your skills and capabilities are a good match for the company.
Your story can also provide some insight into how you work and your overall work ethic.
Talk about something you’re proud of. But don’t just brag! Talk about why it’s important to you, the impact it had on the company and your career.
Sample Answer: “My greatest achievement is [project]. This was a particularly challenging project because it was behind schedule. I took the initiative to coordinate various teams and complete the project on-time despite the setbacks. It ended up being one of our most successful campaigns and grew new business worth over $525,000. It also showed me that I was capable of leading a team.”
21. How did your college/coursework prepare you for this job?
Anyone can have a degree from a fancy school. But how does that education prepare you for a real job?
Hiring managers get impressive resumes all the time, but that doesn’t always translate to a suitable applicant. This phone interview question is to understand how your education fits into the equation. What skills are you bringing to the table?
Answer this question by talking about specific classes or out-of-school experiences. For example, many students do internships or shadow professionals as part of the degree program. Mention those details and make the connection.
Sample Answer: “My time at college was about more than just academics. The coursework was grueling and fast-paced. I spent a lot of time working in real-world environments like the internship I had at [Company]. The shadowing of other project managers prepared me for a position like this.”
22. What is important for you to get out of a job?
This question is about seeing if your goals line up with the company. Hiring managers want people who are intrinsically motivated to do a good job. If you are genuinely happy in this position, you’ll likely be more productive than someone who isn’t.
This common phone interview question can also determine if you’re a good fit for the work culture and whether or not you’re in it for the long haul.
Highlight why you’re applying for this job in the first place. What about this position, in particular, is important to you?
Sample Answer: “The thing that’s most important to me is being consistently challenged. I enjoy solving problems and coming up with unique solutions. Accomplishing measurable goals that push my skills further is something that brings me satisfaction in my career.”
23. What do you believe is your greatest strength?
We’ve all had to answer this question at some point! It’s almost a given, but why do interviewers ask it so often?
In most cases, it’s to see what kinds of skills you can bring into the mix. You can look like a great applicant on paper. But highlighting your strengths is the best way to nail the point home!
Talk about what you do well and focus on your accomplishments. As always, make sure that your answer is relevant to the position.
Sample Answer: “My greatest strengths are communication and my ability to work with others. In my last position, I was faced with conflicting priorities. By talking with each department leader and the project lead, I discussed the timelines and convinced the leaders to make compromises. Ultimately, we delivered the project but more importantly, a new procedure was put in place to ensure cross-departmental communication from start to finish. These are the types of challenges I enjoy solving.”
24. What do you believe is your greatest weakness?
The dreaded weakness question! This is a notoriously tricky question to answer because it’s a bit deceptive.
It usually follows the question about strengths, highlighting what you do well. Many assume that interviewers want you to be self-deprecating in some way. However, that’s not the case.
This phone interview question is more about how you answer than anything else. Think about areas that you could improve on. Then, talk about it in a way that shows you’re open to improvement.
This question is about being self-aware and being proactive about fixing it.
Sample Answer: “I used to underestimate how long tasks will take. Since I started taking time management courses. I’ve learned the most important thing I can do is to begin tasks earlier so that I have plenty of time to complete them without feeling the stress.”
25. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
This might seem like an oddball question for a phone interview, but it’s another one that paints a pretty accurate picture of who you are. It’s meant to give interviewers a good idea of what motivates you. Your answer will let the interviewer know whether you thrive on personal motivations, professional motivations, or a combination of the two.
From there, they can understand your broader career goals and decide if you’re a good fit for the company.
Think about what excites you and how you stay motivated in your career. Link that back to the position, and you can tell the story you want to tell.
Sample Answer: “I’m happiest at work when I’m helping people achieve their goals. I feel great satisfaction in seeing clients reach their targets and knowing that my service helped them get there. That’s why I am choosing to pursue this career as a professional training and development specialist.”
26. When and what was the last training you attended?
This phone interview question is pretty straightforward. While it seems unusual at first, your answer helps the interview understand if your skills are up to date.
Many jobs require continual training. While you might have the right experience and certifications, that doesn’t mean you’ll mesh well with how the company does things. Maybe they use the latest techniques and stay updated on a quickly evolving market.
If you’re not well-versed in modern techniques, it’ll show in your work.
You can’t lie here, but you can highlight what else you’ve done to stay current and your willingness to get additional training.
Sample Answer: “I last attended training two years ago when I completed the operator certification program for [software]. I’m a member of the online user group and regularly read up on the updates. I feel comfortable working on the latest update. I’ve been researching recertification and it’s something I’ve been interested in pursuing.”
27. How do you like to approach your work?
You might hear other iterations of this question in a phone interview. For example, some interviewers might say, “What’s your work style?”
Either way, the goal is to see if you fit into the company culture. Every organization does things their way, and it’s important to show that you’re flexible enough to perform well.
Talk about your relevant skills and the qualities that make you a good candidate. The best way to provide proof of your work style is to use a story.
Sample Answer: “Generally, my approach is to communicate with my team members often to stay on the same page. Last year, I worked with many colleagues who all had different strategies. To keep us all on the same page, I made a point to touch base weekly with my team. We used Slack and had Zoom meetings. These weekly touch-base meetings ensured that everything was moving in the right direction.”
28. How would your boss describe you?
While the workplace is professional, you have to build bonds with others. This phone interview question is about your ability to develop professional relationships with your superiors.
Think back to the positive things your boss said to you in previous performance reviews or even in regular interactions.
Sample Answer: “In my last performance review, my boss gave me glowing comments about my ability to take the initiative. Even outside of official reviews, she always mentioned how she appreciated that I didn’t need constant supervision. In the four years that I worked for her, my boss always praised my independence on the job.”
29. How would your staff/direct reports describe you?
Like the previous question, this one is about seeing how you develop professional relationships. However, it also shows how you fit into a team setting.
Your answer can show off your personality and your level of self-awareness.
Don’t be afraid to ask your old coworkers what they thought about you. Use that information to understand your key characteristics. Build that connection with the new position, and use the opportunity to talk about your strengths.
Sample Answer: “My coworkers would describe me as organized and put-together. I worked on a pretty large team that dealt with many projects at one time. Many of my colleagues would come to me if they needed clarity on specific aspects of a project because they knew that I had a good system for keeping tasks in order.”
30. Are there any important questions I haven’t asked you?
This is an exciting phone interview question that puts the ball in your court.
Phone interviews are a way for hiring managers to get to know you, but they don’t always cover every detail. There’s a good chance that you prepared many great answers that you didn’t get to use. Now is your opportunity to talk about yourself and showcase parts of your personal story that will help you stand out.
There are many ways you can approach this question. However, the most strategic answer is to offer a follow-up question that speaks to why you would be a fantastic candidate to fill the position.
Sample Answer: “You didn’t ask what unique skills I have to offer. I have years of leadership experience in a wide range of environments. From serving as the head of fundraising for a non-profit to a lead researcher in my last position, I’m well-prepared to lead diverse teams in any situation.”
31. What questions do you have for me?
Last but not least, we have the final “flip the script” question. The classic “do you have any questions for me” line is a significant opportunity to ask a few final thoughtful questions. Prioritize what’s most important for you to understand about the role at this point in the process.
Most interviewers genuinely want to wrap up by providing any information they can. Think about questions you can’t find answers to on the corporate website. Show initiative and ask about those finer details you need to know.
Sample Questions: Depending on who you have a phone interview with, these questions may provide useful insight: “What is a typical day like for a person in this position?” “I read about [company initiative], how do you think this position will contribute to that goal?” “What are the biggest challenges you face in coming years, and how do you think this position will play into those developments?”
How Long Do Phone Interviews Typically Last?
How long a phone interview lasts depends on how an employer uses it. Some will only utilize phone conversations as pre-screeners. They might contain broad, high-level questions rather than specifics.
In those cases, the purpose of phone interview questions is to obviously determine whether you’re a suitable fit. It’s a way to narrow down the applicant pool a bit and decide whether you should move on to the next stage of the process. Generally, those calls can last anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes.
That used to be the primary reason for phone interviews. But in today’s hiring environment, many companies only use phone or video calls for interviews. With so many businesses increasing their remote workforce, there’s simply no reason for them to schedule in-person interviews.
These phone interviews can be fairly long, lasting between 30 minutes and a full hour. Treat it as a formal interview and prepare yourself to provide clear-cut answers. Because phone calls remove body language from the equation, concisely conveying your thoughts is more crucial than ever!
Who Conducts Phone Interviews?
If you’re doing a pre-screen interview, you may speak to a dedicated recruiter or a member of the Human Resources or Talent Acquisition department. However, the next interview conducted by phone is usually with the hiring manager.
After the pre-screening interview your next interview, which is can be a phone interview, is likely to be one where the hiring manager asks questions. This individual might be the boss or department head for the position you’re trying to get. They’re responsible for making the final hiring decision, so hiring managers will perform the interview to get to know applicants more personally beyond their resumes.
Typical phone interview questions will often be asked in-person as well, but the medium that they’re conducted in can make answering them a bit trickier. Staying prepared for these questions will help you stand out and impress your potential employer!
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.