Phone interviews are a screening process where the interviewer asks the job applicant questions to narrow down the field of candidates to only those select few they feel are the best fit for the job and company. So how can they possibly do that well enough with only their questions, your answers, and a phone voice to give them key information?
Having done phone screenings myself for many years, I can tell you it’s mostly a best guess situation. The WAY you answer the questions (and not just the precise words), will give them a feel for who you are, your skills, your personality, and your potential overall match for the company and job.
Since all this usually takes about 20 minutes (give or take), you have to be 100% present and use your time wisely to create a strong impression that leaves them interested enough to get you to that all-important in person interview. What you need to know to help get you to that next step…
Tips to help you answer phone interview questions
While there’s no standard set of questions (each screener has their own preferences), there usually will be some discussion of the position and your relevant work history. Have the job description and your resume in front of you during the interview (just in case), and make sure you know each well.
You might also be asked at least one of the most commonly asked interview questions should you (hopefully) wind up being chosen as one of the candidates who get to continue in the process. FYI: Don’t be surprised to hear these same questions again later in the process:
NOTE: Pay special attention to two of those 12 articles that tell you how to answer “tell me about yourself” and “why you’re right for the job”, since those are pretty common in phone interviews. And be careful to answer the questions they actually ask, and that your answers don’t take them too far from the traits and skills needed for the job. (The articles explain that more.)
If you have gaps on your resume or are unemployed, there’s a good chance they’ll ask about that. Focus on your strengths, how well you match the job, and use any related projects / new skills / classes / volunteer work, etc. in the interim to help. Remember … if you’re being interviewed it means they see potential, so believe in yourself!
What else might they ask you?
When I did phone screenings, I liked to double-check (as best as possible in a first-level phone interview) on skills listed on the person’s resume that were key to the job description. Are they targeting it to the job based on their REAL skills (a smart thing to do) or is it padded to try to sneak by?
By the way … don’t be shy about using transferable skills or listing skills that are perhaps not as strong as they’d ideally want, if you can make a good case for yourself based on the rest of what you have to offer. But you also don’t want to create an entire resume based on skills you don’t really have.
Though not every screener will do this during a phone interview, I liked to bring up salary range to check if we’re on the same page. If the interviewer doesn’t mention range and instead asks what salary you’re looking for, you can try asking them THEIR general range and then indicate if that works for you. You can also ask about any possible upward movement if their range is too low and they indicate zero flexibility.
And if they still press for an exact amount, good to at least have a general range in mind (based on research beforehand) — leaving room to adjust that as you learn more about the job. But as best you can, try to delay any specifics about salary until you are further along in the interview process.
=> ALSO READ: 15 Tips for a Great Phone Interview
Some extra thoughts about interview nerves
All interviews are scary — at least to anyone I’ve ever spoken with. But phone interviews can be especially unnerving because you know this may be your only chance to get an actual in-person interview.And you can’t even see the person who holds your future in their hands!
And so, rather than being able to relax and show the screener the kind of person the company might really like to work with, you become might stiffen up and watch every single word. Most screeners do make room for that, but the more you can prepare yourself to just BE YOURSELF, the better your chances of getting to the next step.
So please do take the time to prepare yourself, even if it’s as simple as carefully reviewing the matches between your resume and the job description, and also taking some slow, deep breaths (count 8 in and 8 out) ahead of time. And as Mama Rose says to her daughter in Gypsy, “Smile, Louise!”
More articles to help