The 10 Questions Recruiters Expect You to Answer During A Phone Interview
Whether you’re going for an entry level position or that lucrative manager’s role at your dream company, knowing how to succeed in a phone interview is a crucial part of the process.
Let’s face facts, employers will have hundreds if not thousands of CVs to look through when choosing candidates. Every corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes on average. But only 4 to 6 of these people will be called for an interview, and only 1 of those will be offered a job.
Often there may not be much to distinguish between you and some lesser suitable candidates.
Making sure you shine in the phone interview is the best way to separate yourself from the pack and put you at an advantage.
We live in an age where career changes are not only more common but actually becoming the norm. A recent report from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that on average, young baby boomers between the ages of 18 and 48 changed jobs 11.7 times in their career.
With the rapid progress of technology and the way we do business, no industry can avoid the need to change and adapt. Knowing what companies are looking for from their employees will be a real advantage to keeping up with change and progress.
Now for some scary facts! Global consulting firm McKinsey & Company estimate that 50% of current work activities are technically automatable by adapting currently demonstrated technologies and that 60% of current occupations have more than 30% of activities that are technically automatable.
All in all they estimate that between 400 hundred million and 800 million individuals could be displaced by automation and need to find new jobs by 2030 around the world. In short, the chances are you will need to change job, company or career at some point and it pays to know what employers want.
Bear in mind that a lot goes into being a good employee and that there is no such thing as a perfect set of answers. Employers will vary widely from sector to sector so don’t be disheartened if you aren’t successful.
The best you can do is prepare, learn about the role and the company and provide a genuine account of yourself. In fact, most bosses will know within 90 seconds if they will hire a candidate.
So be prepared to make an instant impact.
There’s no doubt that more experienced candidates are at an advantage before a phone interview but someone with a positive attitude, who can build rapport with the interviewer, can level the playing field very quickly. Remember that a phone interview is often seen as a screening process by your potential employer.
Considering that 80% of communication is body language, it’s not only what you say but how you say it in the phone interview.
The interviewer can’t see you pause for thought so there might be some awkward silences if you are taking your time to come up with an answer.
Stay relaxed, positive and provide clear answers without the jargon.
1. TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CV AND YOUR PAST EXPERIENCE
Don’t make the mistake of providing inaccurate or false information on your CV as this will come back to bite at some point. It is quite normal for an interviewer to ask about a specific aspect of your CV such as a particular project you worked on or to explain any gaps in employment.
Know these details inside and out and be sure to back up any answers with detailed explanations. Long gaps of unemployment will set alarm bells ringing for employers so make sure you can provide an explanation.
If you switched careers or did something inconsistent with the rest of your CV your interviewer may ask why you did this or what you gained. Maybe you wanted to try something completely different or maybe you wanted to develop a particular skillset that could help you in your current role.
Whatever it was provide a good reason for your choice.
Think about it this way: you are painting a picture of yourself to your interviewer and you want them to understand your skills, your motivations and your character. They want to understand the whole you and that you are a good fit for their culture and Ethos.
Before your interview, try to highlight three examples from your CV that will demonstrate your best qualities.
If in doubt, try to use examples you are enthusiastic about and would be comfortable elaborating on.
Here are some tips on your CV.
Treat your resume as an advertisement for you. Don’t sell yourself short; your experiences are worthy for review by hiring managers. Be sure to thoroughly “sell” yourself by highlighting all of your strengths. If you have a valuable asset which doesn’t seem to fit into any existing components of your resume, list it anyway as its own resume segment. Recent college graduates should include internships, part-time jobs in another area or field, volunteer work, involvement in school organizations, class work, involvement in management activities for sororities and fraternities, and participation in sports.
2. WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE COMPANY?
Sometimes circumstances mean we just desperately need a job and it doesn’t matter which company employs us. Many will circulate their CV to as many recruiters and employers as possible just hoping that someone will be interested.
That’s all fine but your interviewer will expect you to know about the company. Be prepared to answer questions about what the company does, any recent news articles and the company’s unique philosophy and branding. Google the name of the company CEO or look them up in Linkedin and come prepared with some facts.
The more you can tell the interviewer about the company, the more they will warm to you and believe you have taken the time to consider why you want to work for them.
On the other hand, if your interviewer thinks you haven’t done any research or don’t know much about their business, it can put them off instantly.
To really impress your interviewer you could tell them why you prefer their philosophy or culture compared to one of their competitors.
However only do this if you genuinely mean it. If you were to only learn three things about the company, think along the lines of their mission, the solutions they provide and a brief summary of the company’s history. Align these facts with your personal ambitions and why you will be a good fit for the company.
For example you could say “I particularly like your company’s forward looking approach and the importance it places on its values. I was impressed with its record on equal pay for women and I am encouraged by its tough stance on bullying in the workplace. I think this is a place I want to grow my career.”
Check out Levo for great tips on finding out about a company including this one right here:
Hate to state the obvious, but if you’ve even applied for a job somewhere, you should at least know what the company does! Either way, make sure you’re really clear on this and can also speak to how working in that type of company fits into your own career goals. The best place to find this information is on the company ”about us’ page.
3. IF YOU’RE IN A ROLE, WHY DO YOU WANT TO CHANGE?
This is a classic interview question and one that pops up all the time. In a way it’s a trick question so don’t fall into the trap of being negative about your current company or your colleagues.
Your interviewer will probably be looking for clues that indicate you have a bad attitude or don’t work well as part of a team. They will expect you to highlight what you do like about your current job and why changing is the right move. If you’re only looking for a bigger salary it might be obvious.
Bear in mind you will have to adapt to a new way of working and meet a whole bunch of new colleagues. Your interviewer will want to know why your convinced that joining them will be better.
Are they more aligned with your personal values? Have you spoken to some people that work there and prefer their culture and ethos?
You will need to provide positive and convincing reasons why changing from your current position is in your best interests.
It could be that your current company doesn’t keep up with change and that you want to join an innovative and fast moving company.
Perhaps you want to join this company because of their outstanding record on equality in the work place or their flexible working hours.
Whatever it is, you will need to convince your interviewer that you are changing for positive reasons and that joining them will be mutually beneficial.
Example answer: “I have really enjoyed my time at my current company and there are some big reasons I wouldn’t mind staying. However all things considered I think the move is better for my career and my desire to learn new skills. Having spoken to some of your employees I think the cultural fit sounds better for me on the whole. In addition I believe I can bring a great amount of experience that can add real value in a new role.”
4. TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CURRENT ROLE AND WHAT YOU DO?
This might be the first question thrown at you. You should definitely be prepared to give a detailed account of your current day to day activities, where you add value to your business and the experience you have gained.
This is a real chance to shine and put your best self across. Try to include experience that might be relevant to the role you are applying for.
If you deal with high volumes of requests, demanding customers or tight deadlines and think this is relevant to the role, make sure to elaborate. Be careful not to provide extremely long and detailed answers.
Your interviewer is probably more interested that you are clear and confident in your current role and that you understand the overall picture.
As always, be positive about your current circumstance and allow the interviewer to ask questions about your examples. Try to choose three to four highlights from your CV that you can talk about with enthusiasm and confidence.
5. WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS TIME?
Interviewers will want to know that you take yourself seriously and that you have ambitions and plans for the future. Given the time it can take to make an impact at a new company they will want to know that you have taken the time to make goals and consider your career progression.
They will want to know that you aren’t just testing the waters with their company or using them as a stepping stone for something else.
According to Entelo, the most common time to leave a company or change job is after 1 year, with roughly 45,000 per 1 million job changers moving after this time.
With this in mind, your interviewer will be looking for signs that you are committed to the job and looking to make a long term impact. If this isn’t the case, don’t lie about it but take some time to think about where you’d genuinely like to be in five years time.
Perhaps you’re at an early stage of your career and you’re not entirely sure how to answer this.
That’s absolutely fine and you can say that you would like to gain experience to see how you handle certain aspects of a role or that you think there a number of options that would be of interest in the future.
The key point is to convince your interviewer that you have thought about this and are planning ahead.
More on how to answer this question from website BigInterview here:
The interviewer wants to understand more about your career goals and how this position would fit into your grand plan. They care about your career goals because they want to hire someone who is motivated, proactive, and likely to stick around and work hard if hired.
6. WHAT EXPERIENCE DO YOU HAVE THAT WILL HELP YOU IN YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
Think about the interviewer here. They might want a candidate who can ‘hit the ground running’ and be able to make a quick impact in the role. If you have relevant experience, make sure to mention this and elaborate on the synergies between your current role and the new position.
This could be around managing stakeholders or negotiating skills.
Or perhaps in an IT related function specific experience with certain software or applications.
Try to provide anecdotal evidence to demonstrate how you could bring experience to the new role. If you work in customer services for example, you should be able to convince your interviewer that you can handle any customer and that your expertise can be used straight away.
Or perhaps your sales skills and product knowledge can be used instantly in the new role.
Example answer: “Over the years I have developed strong negotiating skills and am confident when dealing with customers and colleagues at all levels. I am used to dealing with high volumes of work and multiple projects at the same time and therefore am highly organized and able to work under pressure. I am used to managing clients expectations during busy periods and have effective prioritization skills.”
7. ARE YOU A SELF-STARTER?
Your employer will want to know that you don’t waste time or sit around doing nothing all day.
Obviously the type of role will dictate how much of a self-starter you need to be. If you can demonstrate some times you took initiative to complete a project or change a process it will really show that you have the right attitude and want to add value to the company.
Certain roles may require you to work on a reactive basis but maybe you can provide examples of a course you took to improve your skillset or a time you stayed late to really understand a complex aspect of your job. Anything to prove that you take action to get results will impress your interviewer.
8. DO YOU RESPECT AND GET ALONG WITH MANAGEMENT?
Simply try to avoid being negative about management and any bad experiences you have had. Your interviewer won’t expect you to love management but will want to know that you respect decisions made by your superiors.
Getting along with your manager is often about regular communication and if you can demonstrate keeping a good relationship with previous managers, regardless of disagreements, your interviewer will be pleased.
Perhaps you have in-depth knowledge and opinions about different management styles. If you truthfully can’t work under a certain management style you may as well say so now. For your own benefit you don’t want to join the company and find that your boss is your worst nightmare.
Think about the size of the company you are joining as well. Huge organizations simply couldn’t function efficiently without cooperation and communication from their employees. Smaller companies might benefit from a closer, tight-knit group of people where management is more personable and interactive. Consider what your preferences and experiences are with management and how this might influence your performance at work.
Example answer: “I have worked with different managers over the years and have seen different styles of management. I appreciate there is no one style that can appease each and every situation and that to function as a team, it helps to have an effective leader and respect their decisions. I also believe it is important to have honest and open communication on a regular basis.”
9. WHAT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU FROM A JOB?
You might have taken the scatter-gun approach to job applications and why not. But employers looking for a long term candidate will be impressed if you can articulate exactly what you enjoy in a role and what satisfies you. This will convince them that you want to join the company and add value to their business.
They will expect you to speak enthusiastically about aspects of your role and why this gives you satisfaction. They are more likely to hire a candidate that knows what they want. If you aren’t sure, have a think about what you genuinely enjoy doing and the type of tasks and roles that are suited to you.
With an ever ageing population the likelihood is that most people entering the job market now will have to work longer to reach retirement age. Continuously taking jobs you don’t like is surely not sustainable in the long run.
Do yourself and your employer a favor and consider what is important for you from your job.
Website MyPerfectResume can help if you struggle to answer this question:
In my current job- the things I really value don’t have a lot to do with the main function of the job. Don’t get me wrong- I enjoy it- but what I really value is the way that it puts me in a position to support members of a team and work toward a goal together. I can do the work on my own when I need to- but I’ve always found that it is easier to keep your eye on the goal and contribute well when you also feel like you are supported by the people around you- and I like being one of the people who can provide that support- too.
I value the same two things in every job- and I tend to look for opportunities that let me do more of them. Those two things are helping people understand new ideas and use them creatively- and seeing how multiple lines of creative thinking come together to make something new. That’s what attracted me to this position. It’s a chance to take a step forward by not only working on training a new team- but on delivering a fully-finished project that innovates on many levels- from its organization to its implementation.
10. WHAT MAJOR CHALLENGES DID YOU FACE AND HOW DID YOU HANDLE THEM?
Let’s face it every job has stresses and challenges. Some more than others but employers will want to know about your resolve and attitude when the going gets tough. In the United Kingdom alone, 12.5 million working days were lost in 2016/17 due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. Your employer will know that you’re not invincible but they’ll want to know you can handle the challenges and stresses of the job.
In certain financial services and accountancy roles there will be times when long hours and tight deadlines are expected. Employers will expect you to convince them that you can handle this type of pressure and won’t give up at the first sign of stress.
Bring a couple of examples to your phone interview and explain why you were challenged, why it was important to overcome the challenge and the steps you took to succeed.
Try to think of a time you had to complete something in a short space of time or where you had some significant set backs.
After reading the questions above that interviewers will expect you to answer, you can only do your best to prepare and to have the best chance of success.
Below is a summary of the top things and tips to remember:
|PHONE INTERVIEW CHECKLIST|
|1||Be positive. 80% of communication is body language so you only have your voice to project over the phone. Try to build a friendly but professional rapport with the interviewer.|
|2||Know your CV inside out. Choose three highlights and be prepared to elaborate on them in great detail.|
|3||Give your interviewer the chance to speak. They will want to be heard as much as you and will expect you to listen to their questions in full. They will want to tell you about the role and the company so pay attention to what they are saying.|
|4||Stick to the point when answering questions. Your interviewer won’t necessarily be impressed by the length of your answers or overly complicated jargon. Think about what the interviewer is asking and try not to change the subject.|
|5||Be genuine. This can be difficult if you are trying really hard to impress your interviewer and you desperately want the job. But for your own benefit and the company’s, it won’t benefit anyone in the long run if you’re given the job on false pretences.|
|6||Learn about the company, the job and the industry if you haven’t already. Come prepared to talk about recent news articles, the company’s mission statement and how you will be a good fit. Try to find out if there have been any game-changing developments in the industry such as new laws and regulations or break throughs in technology.|
|7||Don’t be negative about your old company or colleagues.|
|8||Don’t answer the phone to any unrecognized numbers. If you do, be prepared that this could be your future employer calling to arrange the first interview. On this note, keep a list of all the roles you have applied for. They won’t be impressed if you can’t remember sending the application.|
|9||Think about tasks and activities you enjoy in a job. When you speak about these your interviewer will be able to sense your enthusiasm and passion. This will do wonders to convince them you are the right person for the role.|
|10||Stay focused and don’t allow any distractions. If you are taking the call from home, don’t slouch on the sofa or have the TV on mute. As much as possible treat this as a real face-to-face interview. Keep a copy of your CV, and any other useful information, close at hand.|
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