5 May, 2020
By Mike Simpson
In comparison to sitting across from a hiring manager, phone interviews seem like a breeze. After all, you can answer phone interview questions without having to worry about what you look like, the strength of your handshake, or pesky eye contact.
Heck, you could do the whole thing blindfolded, with your hands tied behind your back, and without wearing pants if you want to. No one would ever know as long as the conversation moved along.
But it’s important to understand, while phone interviews don’t involve many of the classic tropes, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a major impact on whether you land a job. You have to take all of the phone interview questions seriously. Otherwise, you’re probably going to miss out on a great opportunity.
So, are you ready to make sure you’re prepared to shine? Thought so. Let’s get to it.
How to Answer Phone Interview Questions
Before we dig into the phone interview question examples, let’s take a moment to look at the phenomenon that is the phone interview. Today, phone interviews are increasingly common. They are a convenient screening tool for hiring managers, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. After all, they don’t require any time face-to-face, so they are allowed during even the strictest stay-at-home orders.
We’ve discussed phone interview tips in-depth before. But, if you’re looking for a quick and dirty overview of how to answer phone interview questions, here you go.
First, above all else, always treat a phone interview like a regular interview.
While it may seem more informal, it really isn’t. Sure, you could talk to the hiring manager while walking around in bunny slippers, which is admittedly incredibly casual. But, if you expect that phone interview to be less serious than a real one, you’re in for a rude awakening.
During phone interviews, hiring managers are usually trying to screen candidates out, not screen them in. This is especially true now.
Since the start of the pandemic, over 30 million Americans have lost their jobs. With so many potential applicants, even a small misstep means your resume could go straight to the discard pile.
Alright, now that you’re on your toes, let’s talk about technique. You need to have a strategy for answering phone interview questions.
If you’re asked a straightforward interview question, like, “Do you have experience with [insert skill, technology, or tool here]?” responding is pretty simple. While you don’t just want to say, “Yes,” answering isn’t a challenge.
“But what about behavioral interview questions?” you’re thinking. “Those are so much trickier!” Well, you’re not wrong. They are more difficult to navigate. Luckily, with a little preparation, you can nail those, too.
First, start by using the STAR method. With that, you can turn a blasé response into a compelling story chocked full of helpful details. Then, go a step further and enhance that reply with the Tailoring Method. By adding that approach to the mix, you can carefully cultivate an amazing answer that you can practice, ensuring you’re ready to go once it’s time for the actual conversation.
Top 10 Phone Interview Questions With Example Answers
In many cases, phone interviews are screening tools. Hiring managers use them to identify the best and brightest candidates, determining who will move onto the next round.
The exact nature of the phone interview questions can vary depending on the job. However, certain ones are incredibly common, mainly because they serve as solid introductions to your general capabilities.
So, let’s get down to it. Here are the top ten phone interview questions candidates commonly encounter, regardless of the role:
1. Why did you leave your last job?
This is the kind of question many candidates dread. After all, you don’t want to come off like you’re bad-mouthing a current or previous employer. If you’re one of the many people who were suddenly laid off because of the coronavirus outbreak, it isn’t uncommon to feel a little bitter or upset.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t answer it with grace and poise. You just need to approach it the right way.
“When the coronavirus pandemic led to business closures, my employer wasn’t able to maintain its full workforce. I, like many others, was laid off from my position due solely to the dip in business.”
If a hiring manager is screening a lot of candidates, they may be fairly forward when it comes to pay expectations. Ultimately, it’s a quick and easy way to filter out candidates who have expectations beyond what the company will pay. When the hiring manager needs to shrink a massive pool of applicants fast, it’s definitely a way to do it.
Ideally, you’ll have done some research about the specific role before the interview. That way, you know what’s reasonable in your area based on the job requirements and your skillset. It’s also smart to present a salary range instead of a hard-and-fast number, as that makes you seem open to negotiation.
“After reviewing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Glassdoor, and Salary.com, I’ve learned professionals with my level of experience performing duties such as those listed in your job ad typically earn $43,000 to $48,000 a year. I’m comfortable with something in that range, suggesting that the total compensation package offered is also strong.”
3. Can you tell me about your main duties in your last role?
Here, the hiring manager is trying to gauge whether you have the right skills for the job. That means you shouldn’t spend time rehashing every responsibility. Instead, you want to really focus, ensuring you cover responsibilities that are highly relevant to the target position.
“In my last position, my duties were well aligned with the job description in your ad. As a customer service rep, I was mainly responsible for ensuring customer satisfaction by providing them with direct assistance as required. Along with answering product questions, I helped with other aspects of the purchase process, such as issues during checkout. My goal was to remain courteous and professional at all times, ensuring I could be a calm, guiding force whenever a customer grew frustrated or needed additional support.”
4. Which of your traits will help you excel in this role most?
Hiring managers want to find out why you think you’ll succeed in the job. It gives them insights into your perspective as well as what you value in yourself.
Pick a soft skill to highlight based on what’s most relevant to the position. If you aren’t sure which to pick, begin by focusing on one that’s required almost universally: communication. Then, see if you can slide another one or two in to round off your response.
“In my past roles, I’ve found that my communication capabilities have been crucial to my success. The ability to convey complex information to others who aren’t familiar with my area of expertise has allowed me to work seamlessly with diverse teams. Ultimately, it allowed us to achieve higher project success rates, as details were able to flow freely, ensuring everyone was on the same page and focused on matching priorities.”
5. Can you describe your ideal manager?
This is a powerful screening question for hiring managers looking to narrow down their applicant pool. It lets them learn about how you like to be led and what you require when it comes to oversight. Essentially, the hiring manager can determine whether what the company has to offer aligns with your needs.
Technically, there isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question. Management style preferences are personal. However, you can answer it tactfully, speaking to certain commonalities that typically exist.
“Generally, I prefer managers that set clear expectations regarding my performance and priorities. Those then serve as guiding principles, allowing me to move forward without direct oversight when the need arises. Additionally, I welcome feedback that can help me grow and excel, so I appreciate when my manager is open regarding how I can potentially improve and wants to see me thrive.”
6. How can you help the company succeed?
Hiring managers see new hires as an investment. They want to know that they’ll get as much as they give, so they may ask a question like this to gauge your potential value.
Usually, you want to showcase an accomplishment or two that relate to the role. This helps you demonstrate how your skills could lead to gains for the company.
“In my last position, I was able to implement a new system that enhanced overall productivity. Ultimately, efficiency and results were improved, causing sales to be boosted by 20 percent. I believe my dedication to process enhancement and efficiency can help me produce similar results in my next position, allowing me to become an asset to any sales team.”
When it comes to tricky questions, this one takes the cake. Hiring managers want to know that you’ll be honest and that you are self-aware. Plus, this phone interview question lets them screen out inauthentic candidates who try to masquerade a strength as a weakness.
You want to be genuine when answering, so don’t be afraid to discuss a potential shortcoming. However, also talk about how you work to overcome it. By doing so, you can admit your flaws but also your dedication to self-improvement.
“When I first join a team, I have a tendency to be a bit formal. While I enjoy meeting new people, I need a little time to acclimate and form bonds with my colleagues. Usually, I work to overcome this by engaging others and learning more about them as soon as the opportunities arise. This ensures that I don’t come across as standoffish, increasing the speed at which I fully integrate with the team.”
8. Can you tell me about a time where you had to overcome an obstacle?
At some point, every professional encounters an obstacle. Hiring managers want to know that you’ll admit you’ve faced challenges and that you have the ability to overcome them.
“In my last position, I was working on a project that was in jeopardy of missing the deadline. A team member was behind on their tasks, creating a bottleneck that impacted the rest of us. Instead of sitting back, I reached out to my colleague and asked if I could help them catch up. We discussed the trouble they were facing and created a plan that allowed us to get back on track. It took a substantial amount of effort, but was ultimately worth it since the project ended up as a success.”
9. If you and a coworker disagree, how do you resolve the issue?
Nearly all professionals work as part of a large team. And, whenever you get people together, the occasional conflict is going to happen; it’s that simple.
Hiring managers favor candidates that can navigate small conflicts without assistance. Often, those employees are more efficient and productive, making them better options in the hiring manager’s eyes.
“If a coworker and I disagree, my first goal is to understand their perspective fully. I use active listening skills to learn about their point of view, asking thoughtful questions when necessary to deepen my understanding. Once I believe that they feel heard, I rephrase what they’ve shared to confirm I’m on the same page. Then, I work with them to try to find a mutually acceptable solution, ensuring I respect their position and address their concerns along the way.”
10. What motivates you to excel on the job?
Hiring managers usually want to take a peek behind the curtain. By finding out what motivates you, they can discover whether you’re likely to thrive in the position. It also lets them know how much effort they may need to put in to keep you engaged or whether you can usually handle that on your own.
“My primary motivation is the joy of knowing I’ve helped someone. When a customer reaches out with an issue, they are often frustrated and upset. By doing my job well, I can relieve that burden and brighten their day. I find that incredibly powerful, and it often carries me through even the most challenging times at work.
15 More Phone Interview Questions
Here are 15 more phone interview questions you may encounter:
- Can you tell me a little about yourself?
- Why do you want to work for our company?
- Tell me about a time when you failed on the job. What happened, and how did you move forward?
- Can you describe your ideal work environment?
- Tell me about your greatest strength.
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Tell me why you feel you are a great match for this position.
- What did you enjoy most about your last job?
- Can you tell me about a time where you went above and beyond at work?
- What did you enjoy least in your last job?
- Which of your accomplishments are you proudest of and why?
- What makes you stand out from other candidates?
- Do you prefer working as part of a team or independently?
- Can you walk me through your resume?
- How would your last manager describe you as an employee? What about your coworkers?
5 Good Questions to Ask at the End of a Phone Interview
At the end of an interview, you’ll get a chance to learn more about the role by asking the hiring manager some questions. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by!
If you don’t know what to ask, here are five good questions for the end of a phone interview:
- What are the next steps in the hiring process?
- Is there anything preventing me from being the top candidate?
- Is there anything you can tell me about the job that isn’t in the ad?
- What is the biggest challenge that the company is facing? How will this role help solve it?
- Can you describe a typical day in the position?
Putting It All Together
Ultimately, phone interview questions are serious business. Remember, you’re an exceptional candidate; you just have to show it. By using the tips above, you increase your odds of standing out and moving forward in the hiring process.
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