Phone Interview Questions to Ask the Interviewer

Woman using laptop whilst talking on smart phone.
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Many job interviews, especially first-round interviews, are conducted on the phone. Plan on preparing just as you would for an in-person interview by brushing up your interview skills, reviewing what you'll be asked, and getting a list of questions ready to ask the interviewer.

Phone interviews are used by hiring managers as a tool for screening candidates for employment. After you have submitted a mailed or online application for a job, you may receive an email from the employer asking that you schedule a time with them for an initial phone interview.

Phone interviews are conducted as screening interviews to determine which of the many candidates who have applied for a position should be invited to interview in person. Phone interviews are also commonly used as first and second round interviews by employers, in order to save in-person interview time and also to reduce the applicant pool to the most qualified candidates for the job.

They are also the typical first step for employers who are considering out-of-town candidates for senior level or executive roles. In these cases, an initial phone or Skype interview helps the hiring committee decide if a job candidate is worth the expense of flying them in for an in-person interview.

Prepare to Answer Interview Questions

When you are invited for a phone interview, it's important to take the time to review the typical phone interview questions you'll be asked and to prepare answers. It's also key for you to have a list of questions to ask the interviewer.

There will always come a point in the interview where the interviewer invites your questions – and candidates who have no questions run the risk of looking like they aren’t as interested in the position as their competitors might be.

The questions you ask in an interview are as important as the questions you answer. Asking informed questions not only demonstrates your enthusiasm for the job, but it also allows you to decide if the position is, in fact, worth the time, energy, and resources it would take to continue further with the application process.

Career searches take an enormous amount of work, and it isn’t worth continuing the process if your phone interview reveals that the company culture or job responsibilities would not be a good fit for your talents and personality. 

If you have taken the time to thoroughly research the employer before submitting your job application, you can also design questions about their organization that demonstrate that you’ve done your homework in learning as much as you can about them. This demonstrates a personal initiative that will help to set you apart from other candidates.

You'll only have a few minutes to ask questions. So, pick a few interview questions that are relevant to the job, to your potential role at the company, and to your background and skills, to have ready when you're asked if you have any questions.

Phone Interview Questions to Ask the Interviewer

  • How would you describe the responsibilities of this position?
  • What qualities are you looking for in the person you hire to join this company?
  • If I was hired, how would I be interacting with you and your department? What would be your expectations and your measures for success?
  • How would I get feedback on how well my work meets these expectations?
  • What do you view as the most challenging part of this job?
  • Why is the last person who held this position leaving?
  • Who does this position report to?
  • How would you describe the company culture?
  • What is the typical work week? Is overtime expected? How about travel?
  • Do you offer benefits packages for things like healthcare and dental costs?
  • What sort of retirement package do you offer to your employers?
  • What are the opportunities for advancement with the company?
  • Do you provide continuing training opportunities for your employees?
  • Is there anything else can I tell you about my qualifications?
  • Could I schedule an in-person interview at your convenience?
  • If I am extended a job offer, how soon could I start?
  • Would you like a list of references?
  • When can I expect to hear from you?
  • Are there any other questions I can answer for you?

How to Impress the Hiring Manager

Not a phone person in your daily life? You’re not alone. As other messaging technologies gain steam, it’s easy to fall out of practice talking on the phone. Add to that the fact that phone interviews knock out one easy point of communication with the hiring manager – namely, body language – and you have a tricky situation for many interviewees.

To maximize your chances of making a good impression on the hiring manager during your phone interview, remember these tips:

  • Practice, practice, practice. Conduct a mock interview with a friend, to cement your questions and qualifications in your mind.
  • Prepare the room. Turn off call waiting, the ringer on other phones, and any timers or other electronics that might go off during the interview.
  • Use a landline if possible. Cellphones are more likely to drop calls or experience technical difficulties.
  • Keep your materials on hand. Have your resume, cover letter, and a checklist of matching your skills to the job listing, and keep them right where you can see them.
  • Observe proper etiquette. Don’t smoke, eat, or chew gum during the interview. Smile, and articulate your answers, even if it means speaking much more slowly than usual. Take notes. In all important ways, conduct yourself as you would at an in-person interview. Your performance will reflect the effort.