During a job search, you may encounter phone interviews, also called phone screenings, early in the interview process. Recruiters often use these screening calls as a way to narrow the application pool to the top candidates for the next stage of the hiring process.
Making a good first impression in your phone interview could mean landing an interview with the hiring manager—an important step toward securing the job. This article will cover what you can expect in a phone interview, including some common questions that may come up and examples of how to answer them.
A recruiter or manager will typically use a phone interview to pre-screen candidates to check qualifications, assess interest, and see if they could be a good fit for the role. Your answers to phone screen interview questions will help the company representative see if they should move forward with an in-person or virtual interview. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, pre-screen phone interviews have become more important in the job search process.
Expect to answer questions about yourself and your experience related to the role you applied for and why you're interested in the position. The interviewer will also likely ask why you're searching for new opportunities. Be prepared to ask questions about the role, interview process, or company.
A phone interview differs from an in-person interview in that how you represent yourself verbally becomes more important. Maintaining a confident and uplifting voice will help show your enthusiasm for the role and eagerness to move forward with the interview process. A phone interview allows you and the interviewer to assess whether the position is a good fit.
Phone interviews can be as short as 15 minutes or as long as 40 minutes if the recruiter or company representative wants to go beyond screener questions to more questions about your work style.
Practicing common interview questions is a key part of preparing for a phone interview. Here are some common questions a recruiter may ask during a phone screening:
Talk about your current role, how you got there, and what you do. Relate your answer to the role you're applying for, if possible. Give examples of your strengths and try to highlight your personality. It's typically best to avoid personal information related to your family and religion, but you could briefly mention hobbies or civic involvement. Keep your answer to about two minutes or less.
Example answer: “I am a product manager with five years of experience overseeing product launches for a technology company. My key achievements include launching a mobile app that garnered two million downloads. I enjoyed the process of managing these types of projects and am now looking to challenge myself by leading a larger team on more complex projects.”
List your current responsibilities and how they relate to the role you're applying for. Emphasize the impact of what you do on the company’s goals. Employers want to hear about the results of your efforts at the company, so explain your larger projects in detail.
Example answer: “My current role involves editing and assigning blog posts and creating a content calendar for the company. I also coordinate with email marketing and social media specialists to implement a content strategy. I have helped increase page views on the blog by 200 percent in the past year and helped the company reach new customers. I think my project management skills and experience with content creation make me a great fit for this role.”
The answer to this question shows a recruiter or manager that you have a genuine interest in working for a company and that you're aware of the company's activities, values, and mission. Research the company ahead of time to spark ideas for questions to ask during the phone interview and assess whether there is a culture fit.
Read more: 10 Good Questions to Ask a Recruiter
Example answer: “Your company’s focus on sustainability resonates with me, as it's a cause I care about. I'm also excited about the company’s expansion into new markets and would love to be a part of the growth.”
Link your experience to the job description and list the ways you can benefit the company. Highlight achievements from your current or previous roles and how you can replicate or even improve upon those successes in your potential role at the company.
Example answer: “I am the best candidate for this position because I have experience building a brand’s social media presence from scratch. The reach I obtained in my last role translated to an 80-percent increase in proposal requests, which was measured using trackable links. I have also used my content marketing skills to improve website search ranking, leading to more conversions. Beyond that, I align with your company’s mission and want to be part of its exciting expansion.”
Whether you offer a salary figure is a personal choice. Robert Half Talent Solutions suggests giving a range and not a number. Many job candidates choose to ask the expected range for the role and answer whether that meets their expectations. If you have a range in mind, you may choose to share it, and you can mention that you need more information about the scope of the role before giving more accurate numbers. This phrasing shows flexibility.
Research what an equitable salary should be for the role by visiting the US Bureau of Labor Statistics website to search for your occupation’s median salary for the previous year. Beyond that, you can look at salary comparison websites such as Glassdoor or Comparably.
Example answer: “Based on the information I have learned about the role and my experience, I would accept a salary in the range of [insert range].”
Example answer: “I would need more information about the role to provide a specific number, but I would be happy to continue discussing the scope of the position so that I can provide a range.”
This is a chance to discuss your goals in your career and whether the company would be a key part of that progression. Keep it honest and related to the type of role you are applying for.
The company is looking to hear whether your goals align with what they can offer and what they are looking for. For example, if you want to move up in the company or industry into a leadership role, they want to know that they can support you and that those advancement aspirations are in line with their expectations as well.
A company will also want to know if you plan to stay in a role for years or whether you are only looking for a short-term position. While you don't have to disclose this, you can focus on what the role can do to advance your career goals. Additionally, many employers want to know that you are interested in learning and growing in your field.
It’s important to ask questions so you can determine if the role is a good match for your career goals. The interview is for both parties to find a good fit. Clarify anything in the job description that you need more detail about to get a clear understanding. If it helps you remember, make a list of questions about the company culture or the role itself. Another option is to ask about what you can expect during the interview process.
What challenges might I face in this position?
What is the onboarding process like?
What would the day-to-day responsibilities of the position entail?
Am I backfilling a position or is this a new position?
How often would I receive feedback?
What are the other job positions or departments that I would work closely with?
Preparing for a phone interview can help alleviate some of the jittery feelings that might arise. Here are some ways to prepare and kick off the interview process with confidence:
Now that you have an idea of potential questions, you can practice reciting the answers out loud. Write down answers and practice saying the words to assess whether you need to reword some answers or whether you left anything out of your introduction. Practice speaking slowly and clearly so that your answers come across accurately. It's also helpful to record yourself so you can notice your tone of voice and clarity. Ask a friend or family member to call you and stand in as your interviewer in a mock interview session.
If you aren't already familiar with the company, research the latest news or press releases to get up to speed. Job review sites can be a source of information on the company culture, as can the company website and social media posts.
Get familiar with the company's products, services, mission statement, and background. Look up the potential interviewer on LinkedIn. If you are unsure of how to pronounce names within the company, an online search can likely pull up the answer.
Before the scheduled interview, make sure your phone battery is full and you're in a place with good reception. Plan a quiet space with no distractions to help make the interview flow seamlessly. Be sure anyone who is near your home office or space knows you'll be in an interview and should not disturb you.
Access videos and resources to help job seekers like you ace your interview with Advanced Interviewing Techniques from the University of Maryland. Gain access to this and more than 5,000 other courses, certificate programs, and guided projects with a free seven-day trial.
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