Phone Interview Questions & How to Master Them
After a long search, you finally found a job you’re sure you qualified for. Now you’re waiting to be called for the interview.
As you wait to be called for a face-to-face interview, you could be called for something different. A phone interview.
Many companies have turned to phone interviews before conducting the face-to-face interview.
Many candidates are at times caught unawares by this.
They have prepared for the “real” interview only to be asked to undergo a phone interview.
Are you among these that are not expecting this turn of events?
WHY DO COMPANIES CONDUCT PHONE INTERVIEWS?
The process of filling a vacant position in a company is never an easy one.
This becomes even more difficult when it’s a big company with a good reputation. Every job candidate wants to work there.
This means that the number of applicants will be very high.
Apart from those who are currently jobless, others want to leave their current jobs for this new opportunity.
So what do companies do?
The current trend is to use online submission where candidates upload their resumes. At this point, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) will do the first analysis and delete most of the resumes.
From that point, a real human being—hiring manager, HR officer etc—will look at your resume. This is to determine those who qualify for an interview.
However, the interview, as you know it, might not be what comes next. Instead, you might be taken through a phone interview first.
Why is this?
To Shorten the List of Candidates
The shorter the list of candidates to be considered, the easier to make a decision.
This is also the reason why you may be called for the first interview but get no other call.
Companies are always working towards minimizing the number of people to be interviewed.
The phone interview provides a great way of doing this. Although you’re not visible to the hiring manager, she can make very accurate conclusions from talking with you.
With the other side understanding the importance of the phone interview, you also need to understand the value it has.
As you go through the interview, you will need to present the best of yourself. See it like the face-to-face interview you’re waiting for.
If you take it with the seriousness it deserves, you will stand a better chance of getting to the next stage.
To Answer Questions About Your Resume
Your resume has a wealth of information about you.
Still, there might be something the HR officer didn’t understand. Or maybe it seemed contradictory.
The phone interview is the one which will answer this or other questions.
With the answer, the interviewer will be able to decide whether you fit the bill.
To Check Your Availability
The phone interview will also serve to find out how available you are for the job.
In many cases, you will be called and asked if that is a good time for the interview. Alternatively, you may be given a specific time for the interview.
One very important thing in such a situation is to be available on time. Do not be late.
Being late speaks about your general availability. It points to the possible arrival at work late. That could also mean company processes under your care might suffer.
Obviously, that will show that you’re not the right person.
Determine Your Interest in the Job
The interviewer is able to know your level of interest just from the phone interview. This will mostly be from the way you ask and answer questions as well as the sound of your voice.
If you’re genuinely excited about the job, it will be evident from the way you speak.
If you’re keen in listening, it will be clear from your answers and any follow-up questions you may have. If you’re not concentrating during the interview, the interviewer will know it.
The reasoning behind this is that if you are interested in something, you will give your all to it. If the job is interesting, you will want to have no distractions during the interview.
Assess Your Communication Skills
Companies are made up of employees and for everything to run smoothly, good communication is a must.
No employer wants to hire someone who is not good in communication.
Such people can become obstacles in the flow of communication.
In view of teamwork, this becomes even more important.
From listening and capturing key information provided by the interviewer, you will prove yourself either good or wanting.
Efficiency is at the top of many employers’ minds. As such, they will be quick to drop you if they concluded that you might need basic training in communication.
Find Out Whether You Fit the Company Culture
Something else that hiring managers will want to know is your personality. This is crucial because it determines how you do the things you do.
Personality traits make a big difference in how two people approach a situation. For example, one person may be quick to voice his concerns and give suggestions.
Another one may be reserved. Despite having a good idea, he may remain quiet and flow with the majority decision.
For a company which values creativity and ingenuity, such a person may not have a place. He may be smart but his personality will affect both his work and the company’s overall productivity.
When speaking with you on the phone, the interviewer can tell where you stand.
By gauging your greeting, how you answer questions, your confidence and many other aspects, she’ll be able to make an accurate conclusion.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER A PHONE INTERVIEW
For you to master phone interviews, you need to prepare yourself for them.
The same way you anticipate the face-to-face interview, expect the phone interview too. You never know which one will come your way.
Here is how to prepare yourself.
PART 1: BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Preparation starts here. This is important as it will help keep your confidence levels high.
Research the Company
This is the first and most important thing you have to do. There is no way you can pass an interview, phone or face-to-face, without knowing about the company.
Researching the company starts when you decide to apply for the job. There is important knowledge you can acquire during this stage to prove your interest in the company.
But apart from what you found out during the application, you need to go deeper.
You received a call from the company asking you to schedule for a phone interview. The first thing to note is the name of the caller and their designation. It may be the hiring manager, a secretary or someone else.
A look at the company’s website might tell you more about the person. If not, check out LinkedIn or popular social media for the caller. Find out their interests and see how you can connect with them.
From your research, also find out more about the company. What do they do? How do they do it? What are their sales like? Are they profitable? Is their market share increasing or reducing? How is the competition in their industry? Are they ahead or behind their competitors?
Answers to such questions will help you show how much you know about the company. This will be pleasing to your interviewer.
The more you know about the situation, the easier for you to come up with solutions.
Find the Right Location for the Interview
It’s important that you do the interview in a quiet environment. This will help both you and the interviewer to hear each other clearly. You certainly don’t want to be asking her to repeat her questions again and again.
It can even be worse if you heard the wrong thing, thereby giving an answer to a question not asked. The opposite can also happen. You could get the question right but the interviewer hears the wrong thing.
Who loses? Definitely not the interviewer.
With the quiet location, ensure the network reception is great. If you are in a position to use a landline phone, that would be best. These rarely have network reception issues.
Have Your Resume at Hand
As earlier mentioned, one of the reasons a phone interview may be conducted is to get clarity from you about your resume.
There might be something in it which the hiring manager decided to seek clarification on.
For this reason, it is wise to have your resume at hand. You may written something in it and forgotten what message you intended to pass. Being caught off guard and unable to explain it can imply that you were lying.
Otherwise, how can you justify not knowing what you wrote about yourself?
Be Enthusiastic, Confident and Conversational
Do you remember the reasons for phone interviews as discussed at the beginning of this guide? There are many things you will be tested on during this interview.
For instance, do you speak confidently and in a conversational manner?
For example, from how you talk, you may indicate that you are non-conversational. This can mean that communication with you will suffer if you’re hired.
Consider a scenario in which you have applied for a customer support position.
This position requires that you engage customers in friendly and meaningful conversations as you explain company products and services.
Your communication during the interview will then determine how well you can do this. The interviewer will be your first customer seeking information. How will you respond to this customer? Is it in a way that encourages her to ask more questions and eventually buy?
PART 2: DURING THE INTERVIEW
Having worked on the above, the next set of preparations tips apply to the time of the interview.
These have been laid out in a way that flows from the beginning of the interview to the end.
Sit Up or Stand Up
It’s interesting how your voice varies when taking different positions. For example, it’s easy to know when someone is in bed just by how they talk.
They may not be sleepy, but how the voice is projected will tell you that the person is in bed. Or at least lying down.
When lying down, your voice will always have a lazy or overly-relaxed feel to it. In her keenness, the hiring manager will likely notice it.
This position simply means you don’t take the job seriously.
When you sit upright during the interview, your voice projects more clearly and will have the sound of alertness to it. Standing up is also an option but that can quickly get you tired.
The best position option would be to use a comfortable seat which enables you to sit upright.
Listen and Take Notes
It’s critical that you take the phone interview as nothing short of an exam. You did your research and are using that information to “pass” this test.
As your interview speaks, she will be letting you in on a lot of things concerning the company.
Some of the things she says may actually give you hints on how to answer the very questions she asks.
More importantly though, is that they may come in handy during the next interview.
For that reason, have an attentive ear.
Listen to every statement made, every question asked and every comment made. If you think something is important, write it down. You will surely need it.
Use Speech Variation
One big difference between the face-to-face and phone interviews, is that in the former, your body language is visible.
With phone interviews, body language has to be communicated through your voice.
This happens when using different tones of your voice. The volume at which you speak will also help communicating your points.
Speech variation comes in handy when communicating certain aspects of your response. For instance, there will be strengths or preferences to be emphasized and weaknesses or dislikes to be downplayed.
Knowing the company from your research, communicate your weaknesses while pointing out how you managed them. Or how you go around them.
Find Out the Next Steps
As soon as the interview comes to an end, don’t just hang up. You can be proactive to your own advantage.
Take the opportunity to minimize your anxiety levels and ask what you should expect.
Should you expect another phone interview? A call to attend a face-to-face interview? How long can you wait?
You’ll get an opportunity to find out the next steps when the interviewer asks whether you have any questions. Although you can ask different questions, one of them should be about the next steps.
PART 3: AFTER THE INTERVIEW
After the interview, there will still be one more thing to be done.
Send a “Thank You” Email
It’s time to be grateful.
Yes, you don’t have the job yet. But even the phone interview was a good thing to have experienced. As such, you need to say “Thank You.”
Get the company’s email address and send them an email showing your appreciation. If you got communication about the upcoming interview through email, then all you need to do is reply to it.
In writing the email, do not be too wordy. Hiring managers are busy people and this is formal communication. Keep it short and to the point.
Below is an example of how such an email could read:
Dear [Name of interviewer],
I am grateful for the opportunity you gave me for an interview. It is my sincere hope that I will be hearing from you soon concerning a follow-up interview.
Looking forward to working at [Company name]
COMMON PHONE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
And now to the questions you will possibly be asked during the phone interview.
This list of 7 questions is not in any way exhaustive. Questions may be asked specifically about the company’s needs.
The information you gathered about the company should get you sailing through such questions with relative ease.
Even then, going through these questions and seeing how to answer them will keep you on top of things.
You’ll be able to answer the questions with much confidence as opposed to if you didn’t know what to expect.
Tell Me About Yourself
This is one of the questions guaranteed to be asked by the interviewer. It is her way of getting to know what else you have to say about yourself.
As such, you are not expected to repeat what you wrote in your resume.
At the same time, this is not an opportunity for you to open up about your personal preferences. All the information about your music, past time activities and the like will come if asked what you do in your free time.
For this question, you need to only mention those things which are relevant and be general about them.
The real reason for this question is usually an intention to know your personality.
When you say that you are social, love collaborating with like-minded people and sharing ideas, it is clear that you are quite outgoing.
If the position you applied for is customer-related or marketing-related, then the interviewer starts seeing a potential employee in you.
Just keep in mind that she will be seeking to confirm what you told her throughout the interview. Social people speak in a certain way and so if you lie, you will be found out.
Why do you want this job?
This question gives you an opportunity to express your interest in the job. But you don’t do this by saying, “I’ve always dreamed of working at your company. You treat your employees well and give them opportunities for growth.”
Whether that is true or not, you won’t go far with that answer.
Such an answer shows that you’re only interested in your personal growth and not that of the company. Therefore, the hiring manager might as well deny you the position.
What you should do is show your intentions to use your skills and knowledge to improve the company’s overall standing.
This way, you will wisely apply the fact that the company’s growth will result in your own growth.
Here is an example response:
I am interested in this job because it will give me an opportunity to utilize my knowledge and experience in a meaningful way. Knowing that there is a need for analytical skills, daily using these to provide solutions will give me great satisfaction.
Tell Me About Your Current/Previous Job
Your resume has the answer to this question—at least in part. The things you have listed as achievements in your current or previous job are what you should expound on.
Be careful not to mechanically repeat what is in your resume.
Mention some highlights and give two or three things which you love about it. If asked what you don’t like about it, don’t be extreme. Mention something that is a concern but keep things positive.
Here is an example of how you could positively describe what you don’t like about your current job:
The biggest challenge I face in my current job is the work schedule. It’s quite tight and doesn’t give me an opportunity to attend classes after work, something that is very important for my continued growth.
Why are you leaving your job?
This has been a tricky question for many. Attempting to show how they already love the potential employer, some candidates say bad things about their current jobs.
This is a terrible mistake. It can only get you as far as the phone interview you will have.
The reason you are being asked this question is to find out your attitude towards others.
Do you have general respect for your employer? If no, then how do you handle your misgivings? Are you the kind that works for a company but badmouth it in the social media? What do you say to your friends about your past jobs?
This is really a lot about your maturity level in regards to interacting with others.
It’s understandable that your boss may not be the best. Working with him might be nothing but an endurance test. Still, talking ill of him is a sign that you are likely to do the same about your new boss.
Borrow a leaf from the example response to the question above about your current job. If you have a bad boss, be gentle with him and just mention a “small” concern. Your interviewer will get it.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
This question can be asked as it is or split into two. If split, you might be asked about your strengths separately from your weaknesses. If you’re asked about only one of these, stick to that only.
When it comes to strengths, look at this question as asking, “What natural abilities do you have which make you the best fit for this job?”
As for your weaknesses, be honest but don’t over-emphasize them. If by any chance you have weaknesses such as being disorganized, keep those to yourself. Those are for you to work on at a personal level.
How soon can you start?
In other words, are you available for us?
Most companies desire to fill vacancies as soon as possible. They however understand that candidates often apply for other jobs while still holding their current positions.
For professionalism, keep in mind your employment contract’s terms in regards to resignation and termination. Mention the resignation notice period as the time it would take you to join them if hired.
For your own safety, include the words, “Upon receiving the offer letter” as part of your response. Let the interviewer know that you’ll be taking action once they make a commitment.
This will also increase your bargaining power once you start negotiating the salary and other benefits. It is after the company gives you the agreed-upon offer, that you can then be available for them.
Do you have any questions for me?
This one will definitely come your way.
After asking you the questions she thinks are important, she will give you an opportunity to ask her questions. Do not fail to make good use of this opportunity.
One question you should not ask is about your pay. Despite what other people may tell you, the phone interview is too early for this question.
Discussions about your pay will come up during the face-to-face interview.
Here are some wise questions you can ask your interviewer:
- What is the company’s culture? – this will help you gauge whether you can fit into the company’s culture. It also shows that you understand the importance of the work environment. Take note that after answering you, you might be asked if you think it’s a good fit for you.
- How do you evaluate employee performance? – this will show that you are work-focused and are looking forward to being evaluated. That means that you will be eager to accomplish tasks assigned to you and will keep the company’s needs in clear view.
- What opportunities for career growth do you offer? – quite similar to the above question, this shows that you are looking forward to experiencing personal growth. It will also make the interviewer tell you more about the company.
- How would you describe a typical day in this position? – this is a great way of finding out what exactly you will be doing on a day-to-day basis. With that information, you can start preparing yourself psychologically and plan for the job.
- What is the most challenging part of the job? – the answer to this question will give you a preview of the kind of problems you will be required to solve. You can then start preparing your mind accordingly. This shows the interviewer how ready you are to start working with them.
- What do you like about working with the company? – this is a real challenge to the interviewer. Whether she expected it or not, you get to know her thoughts on her employer. You’ll also create a connection with her, guaranteeing a friendship upon joining the company.
- What is the time frame of making a hiring decision? – this communicates professionalism and seriousness in valuing time. It shows that you understand that you may or may not be picked. It is the question referred to above regarding the next steps.
Now you know how to prepare for a phone interview and know what questions to expect.
You have only one thing to do: exceed the expectations of your interviewer.
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