Telephone interviews have become increasingly popular recently as they save time and costs during recruitment. The information helps them to eliminate the weaker candidates and refine their selection quickly.
Many recruiters use phone interviews for their initial screening process and then conduct second-stage face-to-face interviews. They can be trickier than a face-to-face interview, as the absence of body language can prevent you from developing a personal rapport.
Phone interviews are typically shorter, and candidates have less time to sell themselves for the position. You should prepare example answers before the interview and list the main points to convey during the interview. Having example answers for possible questions can help ease your nerves.
Top 10 Phone Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
Below are ten interview questions you can expect in a telephone interview and examples of suitable answers.
1. What Do You Know About the Company?
Do your homework; research the company. Being able to provide information about the products or services they offer, their customers, their history, the number of employers or sites and the company culture shows that you have taken an interest before the interview. Ultimately, you should explain why you want to work there.
‘I have loved your company and its mission to deliver the best service for your clients whilst conserving the world around us.’
2. Tell Me About Yourself
Stay focused and discuss your career history and why you are looking for a fresh challenge (remember not to go too far back – unless specifically asked!). You can provide basic information about your personal life, such as where you live and with whom, but focus on career aspects; the interviewer isn’t interested in where you went to primary school and who your best friend was!
‘I have been working in this industry for the last five years after completing my training. I have taken additional courses to supplement my existing skills with qualifications in data and conversions that have fuelled my passion for the sector, which I want to pursue further.’
3. What are You Passionate About?
The interviewer wants to understand your motivations to see whether they fit the company’s goals and culture. Honesty is vital, and you should explain how your passions and interests align with the job and its responsibilities.
‘I love developing my abilities to deliver more value. To fuel this passion, I regularly take courses outside my job requirements on the latest techniques and technology. Keeping up with these newest developments is vital to staying ahead within the industry.
4. Why Do You Want the Job?
‘This position requires a candidate prepared to go above and beyond their job description and manage colleague relationships efficiently. Having built and demonstrated these traits in my previous roles, I would love the opportunity to continue to grow and support your company.’
5. What is Your Greatest Strength?
Choose a strength required for the job you are interviewing for. Give examples where you have excelled at this skill in previous roles and explain that you are looking forward to bringing these skills into a new position.
‘My biggest strength is my ability to learn and develop new skills. In a previous role, the company needed to launch a new service that none of my colleagues were familiar with. I took responsibility and learnt how to perform the service in my own time to support the company.’
6. What Would You Say is Your Main Weakness?
When discussing your weaknesses, look for something that relates to your skill base and is true to yourself. Once you have explained it, specify how you plan to overcome it. It will demonstrate that you are open-minded and ready to overcome problems.
‘I have often taken on too many things at once as I want to support every person in the business. In these situations, I have relied on my time management and communication skills to complete every task. I am learning to restrict my contribution to tasks where my skills are vital or no one else can help.’
7. Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?
Most people have a simple explanation for moving jobs, including the end of a fixed-term contract, redundancy or relocation. However, some people have more complex issues, such as conflict with their boss, bullying, harassment or a lack of career development opportunities. Always be as positive as possible about leaving any position. Do not get into a negative discussion about a previous company or manager.
Focus on the positive; say that you left for career progression and are looking to advance your career in the way that the role you are interviewing for will offer.
‘I left my last job as they could not support my career progression. I had risen through a couple of roles in the company but now need a new challenge and further development, which is one of the reasons why I applied for this role.’
8. How Do You Cope with or Manage Conflict?
Prepare an example explaining how you have managed conflict in a previous role and who the conflict was with; perhaps a colleague or a manager. You should provide as much information as possible on the issue and how you dealt with it so the interviewer can understand your personality.
‘In my experience, conflict arises from misunderstanding, and my first step is to prevent it wherever possible through clear record-keeping and communication. However, when it does occur, I remain calm and listen to all parties involved to find a compromise.’
9. Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?
The interviewer wishes to see how you see yourself and your career in the future and whether you will fit in with the company’s culture and goals. Answer honestly, but avoid lacking goals or coming across as too ambitious, like wanting to be the top boss in a few years.
‘I want to continue to develop my skills and move into a management role so that I can share them with others and support my colleagues. I will attend conferences to learn the essential requirements for this ambition.’
10. Do You Have Any Questions About the Role
You should always ask the interviewer questions; it serves two purposes. Firstly, the interview is as much for you as it is for the interviewer, and you should learn more about the role to decide whether you want to work for that company. Secondly, it shows the interviewer you are engaged and interested in the conversation. It sets a better impression.
At the end of the interview, ask about the teams and the business; you can prepare by researching recent company changes.
‘How can I impress in the first three months of the role?’
‘What career development opportunities are available?’
‘What kind of team will I work in?’
Answering Questions with the STAR Method
The STAR method is a great option for candidates who want to ace a phone interview. It is simple, direct and gives the interviewer all the required information.
Your answers should cover the:
- Situation – What was the context?
- Task – What were you asked to do?
- Action – How did you achieve this?
- Result – What was the outcome?
For example, if you were asked ‘Tell me about a time when you used your greatest strength’, you could answer:
Situation – We had a particularly high-pressure month where we took on five new clients, stretching everyone in the business.
Task – My manager asked me to create a detailed plan to manage everyone’s workload.
Action – I used my analytical and time-management skills to assess the needs of each client during their onboarding and the capacity and abilities of each worker. From there, I delegated tasks accordingly to evenly distribute the pressure and avoid overworking my colleagues.
Result – We onboarded all the new clients whilst maintaining our work for our existing clients.
How to Prepare for a Phone Interview
Here are five ways to prepare for your phone interview:
1. Research the Company
Learn everything you can about the business, its history and its culture. The interviewer will want to see that you have a genuine interest in the organisation.
2. Learn the Job Description
You need to know everything listed in the job description to direct your answers and questions towards it. Study it and break down each requirement so that you know exactly what it asks for. You can even have it in from of you during the interview.
3. Prepare for Common Questions
The interviewer will likely ask these common phone interview questions so prepare for them. You can create a cheat sheet listing them and your answers. Make them unique; the interviewer wants authenticity.
4. Practice Your Answers
Confidence is everything, and practice helps to build it. Get a friend to call you and ask common questions. That way, you can recite your answers and become familiar with discussing them over the phone.
5. Consider Your Location
It may seem trivial, but your location can significantly impact your interview. Think technically: is there a reliable phone signal? Is it noisy? Then think about how it will affect you mentally; you will likely feel more professional in an office than in your bedroom.
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What are typical questions asked in a phone interview?
Some of the most common questions asked in a phone interview are:
- Tell me about yourself
- Why are you interested in this role?
- What do you know about the company?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
What happens during a 15-minute phone interview?
A 15-minute phone interview will be short, so keep your answers concise. Stay focused and answer clearly and explicitly; the interviewer wants to hear whether you are a candidate worth pursuing.
What should I expect from a 30-minute phone interview?
30-minute phone interviews are longer and will focus more on the role. The interviewer will likely give a role description and then ask you some related questions. Keep calm and think carefully about your answers.