Phone Interview Questions and the Best Answers

Woman talking on cell phone at home
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Before you interview in person with a hiring manager, you’ll likely be asked to do a phone interview. Phone interviews are conducted just like in-person interviews. They are used by hiring managers and recruiters as a tool for screening candidates for employment.

That said, phone interviews come with their own special challenges. For one thing, a phone interview is likely the first time you’ll speak with a representative from the employer. For example, unlike emailing back and forth, a phone interview offers no chance to re-read and re-formulate your thoughts. As the old commercial goes, you never have a second chance to make a first impression. Another issue with phone interviews is that you can’t rely on body language. (Unless, of course, your phone interview is actually a video interview; Tips on that situation can be found here.)

The best approach is to come to the conversation prepared to answer any and all questions the hiring manager might ask.

Review the questions and answers below, and you’ll have a head start. 

Phone Interview Questions About Your Background

  • Work history questions: name of company, job title and job description, dates of employment. - Best Answers
  • What were your starting and final levels of compensation? - Best Answers
  • What were your responsibilities? - Best Answers
  • What major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them? - Best Answers
  • Why are you leaving your job? - Best Answers
  • What are your salary expectations? - Best Answers

Phone Interview Questions About the New Job and the Company

  • Is there anything I haven't told you about the job or company that you would like to know? - Best Answers

Phone Interview Questions About You

Have Questions of Your Own Ready to Ask

In addition to reviewing the typical phone interview questions that you'll most likely be asked, it's also important to have a list of questions ready to ask the interviewer. Asking the right questions will help you gather more information about the company than you can glean from researching online or even speaking to current and former employees in your network.

Additionally, asking interested and informed questions during the phone interview can affirm your commitment to pursuing the opportunity. Serious candidates want to know what it’s like to work at the organization, whether they’ll fit into the corporate culture, and where their careers might take them at the company should they get the job.

Observe Phone-Interview Etiquette Do's and Don'ts

When it comes to getting hired, phone-interview etiquette is just as important as in-person job interview etiquette. That's because, regardless of the means of communication, a successful interview will get you to the next stage of the hiring process.

Ask friends or family members to help you conduct a mock interview and record it so that you can hear what you sound like over the phone.

Then, prepare a quiet, comfortable space for the interview itself, so that you’ll feel ready for the call.

Prepare for Tough Interview Questions

Generally, phone interviews are more along the lines of an initial employment screening, intended to weed out candidates who aren’t a good fit. However, sometimes hiring managers will throw you a curveball and ask trickier questions like, “Describe a decision you made that was a failure. What happened and why?” Preparing for these tough interview questions will save you from being surprised, should the interviewer decide to skip the easy stuff. And even if she keeps it simple for the phone screen, you’ll be happy you prepared for the harder questions that may arise in a face-to-face job interview later on.