20 Phone Interview Questions (With Answers Inside!)

Hiring manager on a phone call conducting a phone interview.

Most people looking for a new job are prepared to write a top-notch cover letter and get dressed up for in-person interviews; it’s just a part of the job-seeking process. But in the era of COVID-19, the hiring process has changed quite a bit. One of the most significant changes is switching from face-to-face interviews to phone screen interviews.

Obviously, this subtle yet notable change can throw job seekers in for a loop. How do phone interviews work? What are the most common phone interview questions? Is there anything to be prepared for that’s different than an in-person interview?

If you just received a phone call from a job posting and the hiring manager wants to schedule an initial phone interview, the first thing to do is not panic. The next thing to do is keep reading. Below, you’re going to find all of the must-know tips and tricks for successfully nailing that phone interview (and potentially reaching your ultimate career goals in the process).

Preparation Tips For A Phone Interview

It’s true — a telephone interview is different from an in-person interview. The focus will be solely on your questions and answers, as well as your personality, skill set, and speaking abilities. While this interview process is slightly unalike, many people prefer to interview over the phone. After all, you don’t have to worry about dressing up nicely or driving over to the location, only to potentially be told “no” and have to return to your current job.

However, I completely understand that a new job interview process can be nerve-wracking. Before we dive into the most common phone interview questions, let’s take a look at some of the top preparation tips.

  • Make sure your phone is charged. If your phone dies in the middle of your interview, recruiters aren’t going to be too happy. An hour before your scheduled phone interview, plug your phone in and charge it to 100%. I suggest keeping it plugged in during the interview process, too.
  • Choose a quiet spot. Recruiters don’t want to hear your (charming and adorable) kiddos screaming or playing in the background. They also don’t want to hear televisions, dishwashers, or another racket. Find a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted, and there are no distractions.
  • Do your homework. If you’re performing a job search, you’re likely out of elementary or high school. But that doesn’t mean you can say sayonara to homework. Do your homework on the job description and company, so you know exactly what to expect.
  • Do a trial run. A lot of people perform better when they’ve had some practice. Sound like you? Get a family member or friend to do a practice interview with you. Make sure it’s over the phone!
  • Smile and ditch the gum. When it comes time for the actual interview, ditch the gum and always smile. Yes, a hiring manager can tell if you’re smiling over the phone. That’s going to make a significant, positive difference. On the other hand, munching on gum will be distasteful and might cost you future employment.

20 Phone Interview Questions & Example Answers

The final thing to do before your interview? Practice phone interview questions and answers. If you know what to expect, it’s going to be much easier for you to nail the interview and land that next job. That said, here are some of the most common phone interview questions and how you can adequately answer them.

#1. Tell Me About Yourself

Ah, yes, the interview question everyone loves the most — tell me about yourself. While it’s OK to toss in a few personal interests and likes, the main goal of this question is to allow the interviewer to discover if you’re the right fit for the job opportunity. They want to know about you and how you correlate to the open position.

Example: “I have always been a fan of numbers. I graduated first in my mathematics class in college and spent the last three years as a junior accountant. I am looking forward to honing my skills in this position as an accountant and hope to become an accountant manager eventually”.

#2. How Did You Find This Role?

While this may seem like a simple answer, that might not be the case. Yes, the hiring manager may simply want to know how you find the role for logistic purposes to refine their recruiting process, but it’s more likely that they want to know why you applied.

Example: “I was looking for a management position on LinkedIn and came across your post. I read the description and was enticed by the working hours and competitive salary.”

If you heard about the job by a current employee, now’s the time to mention it. This individual can be your potential “connection” that ultimately links you to earning this new job.

#3. Why Are You Interested In This Role?

Are you a good fit for this position? Are you actually interested in the job? Have you researched the company? While you might have all the answers to these questions, recruiters don’t have a clue. It’s your job to fill them in and, well, explain why you’re interested in the open position.

Example: “I’ve been working in the digital marketing field for the past two years. I thoroughly enjoy this career path and want to continue to grow in it. I applied for this specific role because after thoroughly reading the description, I feel like it’s a great space to thrive and build my skills such as marketing and advertising.

#4. What Did You Do In Your Previous Role?

This is one of the most critical job interview questions you will run into. The hiring manager is looking to find out if you’re going to be a good fit for the position — or not. When answering this question, don’t hesitate to detail what you did. More importantly, explain how your role impacted the company’s overall success.

Example: “In my previous job as sales manager, I effectively increased sales by 17% within my first three months of employment.”

#5. Why Did You Leave Your Previous Position?

This is one of the least favorite questions for interviewees. Not everyone left their last job on good terms, making it a challenge to answer this question. Well, the best thing to do is to be honest — even if you didn’t leave on the best terms. However, do not bad mouth your last employer. This is unprofessional and will likely send red flags to the hiring manager.

Example: “I’ve spent the last ten years working for [name of company] and wanted to experience a different work environment that is better situated to help me grow.”

#6. What Do You Know About Our Company?

Did you do your homework on this job and company? (Revert to “preparing for a phone interview” if you didn’t.) You can’t know if you’re a good fit for the company if you don’t know anything about it. That said, the hiring manager won’t know either. By learning as much as there is to know about the company, you show a keen interest and prove that you know exactly what you’re getting into — and you’re up for the challenge.

When creating your answer, try to pinpoint a few key standout details about the company. This ultimately proves you’ve done your research and are thrilled about certain aspects.

Example: “I read on the company website that you are one of the top data security companies in the world, serving big tech companies including Microsoft. I also stumbled upon a recent article that mentioned you’re seeking to provide your services to financial institutions. Is this true? I’d love to hear more about it.”

#7. What Type Of Supervisor Do You Work Best With?

It all comes down to discovering whether you’re going to be a match for this workplace. For instance, you might despise micromanagement, but their current supervisors thrive on being detail-oriented and helping every step of the way, in which case it would not be an excellent fit for both employees.

The key is to be honest. You do not want to end up working someplace you hate, having issues with your supervisor more often than you’d like. 

Example: “I have worked with many kinds of employers, and my favorite management style has been one that is more hands-off but can switch to hands-on when necessary. I liked that my past supervisor would make an effort to help and encourage underperforming employees while allowing me to work independently.”

#8. What Are You Looking For In Your Next Job?

This type of interview question is geared towards one thing only: goals. The hiring manager is trying to make sure that your future goals align with the company’s goals and company culture. 

Example: “In my next job, I’m looking to make a positive impact on my patients. I want to encourage my patients to successfully form a more functional and overall healthier lifestyle. I understand your facility offers a recovery program, and my experience, skillset, and education would be a perfect match.”

#9. What Makes You Different From Other Candidates?

Plenty of interviewees hate this question simply because they don’t know a good answer for it. They don’t want to sound overly confident or cocky, but they also don’t want to provide generic answers like “I’m a hard worker.”

It is essential to be as specific as possible regarding this interview question. Bring out facts, statistics, details, and examples. Don’t hesitate to “toot your own horn.”

Example: “I have exceptional organization skills. In fact, at my last job, I applied my organizational skills to improve our overall process and increased ROI by an impressive 37%.”

#10. Are You Currently Being Interviewed By Other Companies?

This is one of many screening questions that will provide hiring managers with essential information, such as whether or not you really want to work for this specific company (or whether it’s more about the job duties) and who they might be in competition with.

When answering this question, always be honest. If you’re interviewing elsewhere, say it. If this is your only interview so far, say it — but cleverly.

Example: “I have applied for a few different positions in the realm of civil engineering. However, I am most excited about this company and position because I believe it is the best fit for my skill set and what I desire from a company”. Just be prepared to answer any inevitable follow-up questions, such as why you seek out this particular employer.

#11. What Are Your Strengths?

Here is another excellent opportunity to “show off” and break apart from the sea of applicants. When coming up with your answer, be as descriptive and detailed as possible. Don’t settle for “I’m great at communicating” or “I’m never late for the job.” Make it a standout statement that the hiring manager won’t soon forget.

Example: “I have excellent communication skills and can get along with just about everyone. With over four years in the service industry, I can easily communicate with customers and make them feel comfortable and welcome. This work experience has also taught me how to perform under pressure. My last job at [company name] was always packed during my evening shift. While it was hectic, I enjoyed the pressure and was able to keep my customers happy and satisfied no matter how crazy it got.”

#12. What Are Your Weaknesses?

This is undeniably one of the most common interview questions out there, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult to answer. Nobody wants to talk about their weaknesses. While you should be 100% honest about your weaknesses, try to spin them into a positive.

Example: “I have a difficult time saying “no.” I typically take on more than I can handle, leading to excessive stress. I’ve been working on this issue and now have an app on my phone that keeps me organized. Now, when a new request arises, I can quickly and easily see if I have time to take it on.”

#13. Where Do You See Yourself In The Next Three Years?

Finding a new job is stressful. The cover letter, job application, and research for the job responsibilities are challenging enough. How can you know where you want to be in the next three years when you’re still focused on simply trying to get this job offer? While not everyone has their whole life planned out, you can still have an excellent answer for this common interview question.

Example: “In the next three years, I would really like to know where I stand as a rising web designer. Through these critical first years on the job, I will enjoy gathering essential experience and learning more about the overall industry. I plan to grow my designing skills and incorporate feedback — positive and negative — into my work. The way your company is set up, I feel it’s a great opportunity to get my foot in the door and experience all kinds of different design techniques and requests.”

Of course, if you’re laser-focused on where you want to be in the next three years, do not hesitate to share those goals. Employers love candidates with certainty and aspirations, especially if they go hand-in-hand with the job you’re applying for.

#14. What Are Some Major Challenges You Faced In Previous Positions?

Many of these questions — including this one — can be labeled as behavioral interview questions. It’s not enough for you to have the experience or skillset from your previous or current role. Recruiters also want to see how you react and handle all situations. That said, answer this question honestly. Explain, in detail, what your most significant challenge was in your last job. Try to put a positive spin on the situation (as always).

Example: “In my current job, I have had to deal with an irate customer. She was unhappy with her purchase, and I lent a listening ear to hear her concerns. Once she calmed down, I provided her with several options to resolve the problem. She chose a solution that best fit her situation. By the end of the confrontation, she was thankful that I had given her my time and attention, and she came in the next morning for another purchase.”

#15. How Do You Handle Conflicts With Your Co-Workers?

If a company’s culture is set on providing a safe, healthy, and non-toxic environment for their employees, the last thing they want to do is add a confrontational hothead into the mix. By asking this pressing interview question, the hiring manager can learn how level-headed you are and whether or not you’re a true team player.

Example: “When I’m faced with a conflict involving a co-worker, I always make sure to remain calm and ask as many questions as possible. I want to understand their point of view and allow them to feel heard. Once they’ve calmed down, we can work on agreeing and move forward positively.”

#16. What Are You Passionate About?

Sometimes, a hiring manager wants to know more than simply, “Why do you want to work here?” They want to know more about you and your interests and see whether you’re a well-rounded person or not. It’s also thrilling for recruiters to hear interviewees’ enthusiasm about something, hoping that same enthusiasm will be applied to the job.

Example: “I am super passionate about kickboxing. I have been taking an evening kickboxing class weekly for the last three years. Kickboxing is a great way to relieve stress and feel invigorated after a busy work week. I also think it clears my mind to be creative and productive in other areas of my life, such as work. I’d say some of my best ideas and solutions have come while I’m kicking the bags.”

#17. What Motivates You?

Not everyone is motivated by the same thing. With that in mind, a recruiter wants to know whether or not you’ve going to be motivated in this potential new job. 

Example: “I’m motivated by meeting deadlines. There is nothing more fulfilling than reaching a set deadline. With that, I thoroughly enjoy being organized and having a schedule of tasks to complete throughout the week. Every time I reach a milestone, I’m excited and push myself harder to reach the next.”

#18. Do You Have Any Questions For Me?

There are so many great questions you can ask the interviewer. However, keep in mind that questions about salary — such as salary expectations or salary range — should not be asked in first-round interviews, especially those held over the phone. Opt for a question about the role or company instead, such as:

  • What do the day-to-day responsibilities of this job role look like?
  • What would you expect me to accomplish within the first three months?
  • What are your favorite things about the company?
  • How long have you worked here?

#19. When Can You Start?

It can be tempting to yell out “Immediately” or “Tomorrow,” especially if it’s a job you’re excited about. But even this “simple” question requires some strategy.

Example: “I’m thrilled to start working for this company, and I am available at the start of the next work week.” This shows that you can technically start right away, but you’re not going to be at this employer’s beck and call.

Example 2: “I need to finish a few projects are my current employer and tie up some loose strings before starting here. My preferred start date is [enter date].” This works well whether you need to complete tasks in your current role or want to take a little break before working again.

#20. Are You Willing To Relocate?

Some jobs aren’t local, and they’ll want to know whether or not you’re up to the task of relocating. Remember — honesty is policy. If you’re not willing to relocate, let them know. Ask if they’d be open to a remote work situation. If not, it’s best to move on. If you are willing to relocate, make sure you’re doing it on your terms.

Example: “This is certainly an opportunity I would relocate for. However, I would need my kids to finish up this school year before relocating. That said, I would not be able to relocate until [enter date available]. If this date works for you, I would be honored to move.”

The Bottom Line

Phone interviews are becoming increasingly more popular — and now you know everything you need to know to be prepared. Sturdy these common phone interview questions and answers to land the job of your dreams. I see a new career in your future!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prepare for a phone interview?

The best way to prepare for a phone interview is to review common phone interview questions and answers. Ensure your phone is charged and have a quiet, distraction-free area to hold the phone call. Talk with a clear and concise voice. Practice with a partner before the big day. [Revert to the “Preparation Tips for Phone Interview” section for a more thorough answer.]

What should I say in a phone interview?

Answer the interviewer’s question with brief yet detailed and concise answers. Talk with confidence, smile, and ensure no noises in the background.

What to say at the beginning of a phone interview?

The interviewer should guide the beginning of your phone interview. However, you should answer the phone professionally, such as “Hello, you’ve reached Martha Simpson.” If they ask if it’s still a good time to hold the interview, answer along the lines of “Yes, perfect timing. Thanks so much for taking the time out of your day to speak with me”.

What is the best way to end a phone interview?

At the end of the phone interview, you should ask follow-up questions about the company and its role. From there, conduct a “verbal handshake” such as, “Thank you so much for talking with me today. It was great getting to know more about the company, and I am confident in my ability to fill the role. I’d be honored to meet in person and discuss the opportunity further”.

How long is a phone interview?

Every company is different. However, you should plan to spend at least 15 minutes on the phone. Keep in mind that some interviews can go up to an hour.