Many employers conduct job interviews via the phone. Plan on preparing for a phone interview just as you would for an in-person interview by brushing up on your interview skills, reviewing the questions you’ll likely be asked, and preparing a list of your own questions to ask the interviewer.
Typically, 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.
Why Employers Conduct Phone Interviews
Employers use phone interviews as a way to determine if a candidate fits the hiring requirements for the job. Candidates who successfully ace the phone interview will move on in the interview process.
Recruiters and hiring managers conduct these phone interviews as screening interviews to determine which of the many candidates who have applied for a position should be invited to interview in person or via video.
Phone interviews are also commonly used for 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.
Interviews for Remote Jobs
When a company is interviewing for remote positions, they may start with a phone interview to screen first-round candidates. This saves interviewing time, because not all candidates will be a fit to move onto a video interview.
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, video, 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 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.
Job 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 prepare a few interview questions that are relevant to the job, to your potential role at the company, and to your background and skills.
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 workweek? 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 for the job?
- 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?
- What is the next step in the interview process?
- 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, there are a few important phone interview tips to remember:
- Practice, practice, practice. Conduct a mock interview with a friend to cement your questions and qualifications in your mind. If you don't have someone to practice with, try LinkedIn's Interview Prep. You'll be able to record your answer and get feedback.
- Prepare the room. Turn off call waiting, the ringer on other phones, and any alerts or other electronics that might go off during the interview. Find a quiet room or corner, so you can concentrate on the call.
- Use a landline if possible. Cellphones are more likely to drop calls or experience technical difficulties. If you don't have access to a landline, don't worry. Many people no longer have landlines. Do try to pick an interview spot with good service.
- Keep your materials on hand. Have your resume, cover letter, and a list of your skills that match those in the job description, and keep them right where you can see them. Also have a copy of the job posting nearby, so you can reference the employer's requirements.
- 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.