If you have a phone interview coming up, there are some questions you are very likely to be asked… and practicing them can immediately help you feel confident and be ready to “wow” the interviewer so you can move on to the next stage!
I’m going to walk you through the most common phone interview questions and best answers, so you can get hired faster.
Let’s get started…
Question 1: “Tell me about yourself?”
The key here is to be concise. The best answers to this interview question will be 90 seconds or less.
You want to answer in chronlogical order – start with how you got into your current line of work or career path. Then talk about key accomplishments you’ve had along the way, key career moves you’ve made and why. Also include any promotions you’ve received.
Try to mention at least one thing that will make you memorable and stand out (for example, “In my last job, my team worked with Tesla to help design their latest battery monitoring technology).
And then finish your story with your current situation. Describe you’re looking for now in your job search, and why.
For example, you might say, “and so now I’m looking to take my career to the next level by finding an opportunity that will continue to build my technical skills, while allowing me to manage a small team as well. I saw your job description mentions this, so I was excited to come in and have an interview to learn more.”
Now let’s look at a full sample answer for how to answer “tell me about yourself”:
“I graduated five years ago with a degree in Chemistry. I took a job with Pfizer and was promoted after three years to lead projects in their cancer research division. I’ve been in this Project Manager role for two years now and even won an award for outstanding leadership this past year. Everything’s going great, but I’d like to take my career to the next level by finding opportunities to lead larger teams. I saw on your job description that you mention this is an opportunity to lead teams of 8-10 people, so I was eager to learn more.”
Note: There’s also one more very similar question you might be asked: “Describe yourself”. Here’s how to answer.
Question 2: “Why are you job searching?”
If you’re unemployed, be direct and say so. BUT – have a good reason for why you want this particular job too. This is super important. Employers want to feel like you want their job, not just any job. I can’t stress this enough.
If you’re currently employed but job searching to find something better, keep it positive. Focus on what you want to gain in a move. “I’d love to find an opportunity that will give me a bigger chance to lead and manage projects”, etc.
Don’t badmouth your current job or employer, and don’t talk about the bad things you’re looking to escape or get away from. Just keep it positive and focus on what you’d love to gain by changing jobs.
That’s how to give the best answer for this question in your phone interview.
“I was laid off four months ago so I’m in an active job search. I’m hoping to find a position that will let me continue to build my skills as a customer service supervisor. I’m particularly looking to stay in the software industry, which is one reason this job excited me.”
“I’ve learned a lot in my current job and enjoyed it, however I’ve been in this position for four years and feel that in order to take my skills to the next level, I should expose myself to a new work environment to continue challenging myself. I saw your job description mentions ___, which is one of the key things I hope to continue doing in my next role, so this seemed like a great job to apply for and have an interview to discuss.“
Question 3: “How did you find out about this job?”
This next common phone interview question is pretty simple. The best answers will be straight-forward and clear.
These are all good answers to give:
Now let’s look at a few word-for-word sample answer for how to answer “how did you find out about this position?”
“A colleague recommended your organization, and I went on your website’s “Careers” page, found this position, and it seemed like a great fit because ___. So I was eager to have an interview to learn more.”
“A recruiter contacted me last week and the position sounded like a great fit for my skills and experience, so I became interested.”
“I was researching jobs to apply for, and in particular was looking for a position that would allow me to do ___. I came across your job description and it seemed to fit a lot of what I’m looking for, so I decided to apply. I also did some research on your company overall and it seems like a great work environment to be a part of because ___.”
Question 4: “What do you know about our company?”
The best answers to this interview question will show off your knowledge and prove you did some research before applying for the job.
Employers do not want to hire someone who’s just applying to every job, and not taking the time to learn anything about the company. They want someone who applied for a reason and wants to work at THEIR company.
Here are some things to know before going into the interview, so you can give the best possible answers to this phone interview question.
“I know you’re one of the top alarm system manufacturers in the US. I did some reading on your website and discovered that you create alarms for businesses and office buildings, not just individual homes. I also did some reading on your corporate culture and it sounds like you do a lot to support the development of your employees, and get involved in community service too. That’s something I care a lot about and something that attracts me to an employer.”
Question 5: “What about this position interested you?”
With this phone interview question, the employer wants to see that you have a real reason for wanting THIS particular job (this is different than the reason why you need *a* job). This is extremely important to them and you will not get hired if you can’t show them why you want this specific job.
Your answer to this phone interview question should contain two key pieces:
Now let’s look at a full example of how you might sound when answering “why did you apply for this particular position?”
“One of the key things I’m targeting in my job search right now is an opportunity to work more directly with customers and clients. I really enjoy that aspect of my work, but my last job took me a bit away from that. I saw on your job description that 50% of this job is interacting with clients, either on the phone or in-person, and that really excited me.”
Question 6: “What other jobs have you been looking at?”
A lot of job seekers panic when they hear this phone interview question, but it’s not difficult to answer if you go in prepared.
Here’s why employers ask: They want to make sure their job fits the general theme of what you’re looking for.
Your answer is only going to worry them or raise a “red flag” if all the other jobs you’re applying for are WAY different than this job.
Example: I was interviewing entry-level job seekers for positions within the recruiting agency I worked for. I asked this interview question to a candidate and they said they had applied for 10 positions in Public Relations and Writing. And one single job in Recruiting (this job).
That’s going to raise some concerns.
So to give a great answer here, you ideally want to show the employer that their job fits within the general theme of other jobs you’re looking at. That’s it!
And if they do ask for company names, you can refuse by saying, “I’d like to keep the names of the other companies confidential. I’d do the same for your company if another interviewer asked me.”
Now here’s an example of a good answer for “what other companies are you interviewing with?”
“I’ve been applying and interviewing at small and mid-sized banks and financial firms, like yours. I spent the first 4 years of my career with Bank of America, so I’m hoping to experience a smaller work environment now to round-out my skill set.”
“I’d like to keep the names of the other companies confidential. I’d do the same for your company if another interviewer asked me. The firms I’m looking at are similar to yours – small to mid-sized banks and financial institutions that offer an opportunity to manage global investments.”
Question 7: “How have your interviews been going?”
This is another phone interview question that scares a lot of job seekers.
They’re asking to get a sense of how things are going for you overall, how much other companies are interested, and even how soon you might have job offers (if they like you, they don’t want to move too slowly and lose the chance to offer you the job).
The one thing you don’t want to do with your answer is sound like you’re completely struggling to find a job.
If you aren’t getting many interviews or if you just started taking phone interviews, you can always say: “I’m just beginning to take interviews, but it’s going well so far.”
If you have had a few interviews but they didn’t go well, you can say that you haven’t found the right fit yet. So for example, you might say, “I’ve taken a couple interviews so far but haven’t found a great fit for what I’m looking for.”
“It’s going well so far. I’m just beginning to take phone interviews, and I’m still very early in my job search. I expect to have some face-to-face interviews soon.”
Question 8: “Tell me about your current or most recent job. What did you do?”
For this phone interview question, be ready to answer with specific accomplishments, and details.
What did you learn? What technologies/tools did you work with? What results did you help your company or group achieve?
This is one of the most important answers you’ll give, and this one single answer can often decide whether you get invited to the next round or not.
Try to prepare specific details to talk about before your interview. You really want to be able to share results you achieved and how you really helped your company make money, save money, save time, etc.
Also, you want your examples to be relevant to THEIR needs. So prepare by studying the job description, and then mention things that will be relevant for this particular job!
“One of the biggest areas I was responsible for in my last job was to ensure our website had as close to 100% uptime as possible. I achieved the best result in our company’s 29 year history last year by making some key changes and optimizations immediately after being hired. I saw on your job description that you seem to be looking for someone who can do similar work for you. Your company is in a similar stage to my last employer when they hired me – in terms of size and growth. So it’s definitely something I could help with immediately in this role.”
Question 9: “What are your salary expectations?”
Do NOT give a number here. If you say a number that’s too high, you’ll scare them off. If you go too low, you’ll hurt your negotiating power later. It’s a no-win situation for you.
They’re not even sure they want to hire you or continue interviewing you yet, so you have absolutely no leverage. They’re just gathering info that will help them.
The best strategy is to tell them you don’t have a number in mind yet. That way, they can’t push you or pressure you with multiple questions.
“I don’t have a specific number in mind. Right now I’m focused on finding the position that’s the best fit for my skills and my career. Once I’ve done that, I’m willing to consider an offer you feel is fair.”
If they push back, just repeat again, “I really don’t have a specific number in mind yet”.
Want more help? Here’s a full article on how to answer (or not answer) salary expectation questions.
Question 10: “When can you start?”
Now, if they ask this late in a face-to-face interview, it’s a sign your interview went well.
However, if you’re hearing it in a phone interview, they’re usually just trying to get a sense of your availability and current situation.
If you’re currently employed, it’s a good idea to give a two-week notice to your current employer. So tell the interviewer you’d need to give a two week notice.
Don’t feel pressure to say you’re available sooner.
In fact, most employers will judge you negatively if you don’t give a proper notice period to your current company.
And if you’re unemployed, you can still tell them you’d like one or two weeks before starting.
If you have a vacation planned, you can tell them about this too. It’s totally normal to get time off if you already planned a trip.
However, as a general rule of thumb, you want to be able to start within one month from the time you accept a job offer. If you’re telling an employer that you won’t be available to start for 1-2 months or more, it could be a problem.
“I’d need to give my current employer a two-week notice, and then I was hoping to take one week off before starting. So I could be available to start three weeks after a job offer is accepted.”
“I could begin one week after accepting a job offer. I do have a vacation scheduled in late May, so I would just need to take a week off during that time, but I could start before then.”
Question 11: “What questions do you have for me?”
Always have questions to ask the interviewer. It can make the difference between getting hired and not getting a callback after the phone interview. I’ve seen it many times as a Recruiter.
Employers want to hire somebody who is being careful and selective in their job hunt; somebody who is looking for the right fit, not just the first company that’s willing to hire them.
Asking questions is how you show them that you’re the type of person they want!
Topics to ask about:
Topics to AVOID asking about:
You want to seem like you’re focused on coming in and helping the company from day one. As tempting as it is, asking questions about working hours, benefits and salary will just make it seem like you’re only focused on yourself. And it could cost you the job.
So when CAN you ask about salary, benefits and more? When you’re sure they want to offer you the job, and it becomes a negotiation, that’s when to ask.
We just covered the top 11 phone interview questions, but if you want to practice more, here are some additional questions you could hear in your phone interview:
And if you’re applying for jobs in a different city or state, you might also be asked how soon you can relocate, whether you’ll require relocation assistance, and more. So be ready for that type of question too!
Each phone interview is a chance to grab the interviewer’s attention and convince them to invite you to the next round… if you give the right answers.
So go in prepared! Study these questions above, practice your answers at home and you’ll feel more confident and give better interview answers in your phone interview.
If you have interviews coming up and don’t want to leave anything to chance, I’ve created a new guide where you can copy my exact step-by-step method for getting job offers. You can get more details here.