This list of 14 phone interview questions and answers will help you prepare for your upcoming interview and increase your chances of landing the job.
Knowing how to answer these common phone interview questions is the key to impressing any hiring manager.
Phone Interview Questions and Answers
Tell me about yourself
Knowing how to answer this question is going to set the tone of the entire phone interview, as this is usually the first thing that a hiring manager asks.
Before telling you how to answer, you first need to understand what the interviewer wants to know about you by asking you this question.
While this might seem like one of the fairly easy phone interview questions, what you need to keep in mind when structuring your answer is:
- Who you are
- What are some of your achievements
- How will you help your potential employer (what pain points will you be solving)
- What are your future goals and career plans
Once this structure is clear, it’s much easier to formulate an answer that will make you stand out from the other candidates.
Here’s how to answer this question in a phone interview
“I am a Sales Manager with 5 years of experience, having helped my current company to grow its sales by 30% on a year-by-year basis in the past 3 years.
My main competencies are acquiring new clients in challenging industries such as IT and Healthcare, which for your company, I know they are the main target.
I’m looking to be a Sales Manager for a company such as this one, where I can grow professionally and become a Sales Director or Head of Sales in the coming years.”
“I am a Marketing Executive with 2 years of experience, having worked on national campaigns for big accounts such as X and Y.
My main competencies are social media and copywriting, which I know for a company such as yours are crucial, as you rely heavily on social media marketing.
I am looking to be a Marketing Executive for a company such as this one, where I can grow professionally and become a Marketing Manager in a few years.”
The key to answering this question is to keep it short, preferably one minute short.
What do you know about us?
This is your chance to prove you are a professional individual and did your homework.
You can answer this phone interview question in just a few sentences by explaining your knowledge about what the company does, list a competitor or two and finish with the reason that made you apply for a position with that company.
Example phone interview answer
“While reading about the company, I found that you are planning to expand to other markets in the coming 2 years and this was one of the reasons I decided to apply for this role.
In my position, as a Business Development Manager with X Company, one of my main responsibilities was to do market research on X market, as the Company was interested in expanding its operations there, so I think my expertise in market research is valuable for this position.“
What is your biggest strength?
Although it’s such a cliché, this is another common phone interview question that many recruiters still ask.
While many “experts” recommend listing an actual strength and explaining why that is your strength, my favorite answer, and the one that has proven to be the most successful is:
“As I do not normally like to praise myself, I would like to tell you what other people think my biggest strength is. My former Manager at Y Company (that you can later use as a reference), used to say that my biggest strength is patience.
The reason he was saying this, is because, in the fast-paced environment that we used to work in, it was common to lose patience. I didn’t, and that is what helped me achieve my sales targets every year while having happy clients.”
The above answer has proven to be successful as it maintains the line between being confident and arrogant.
You want to express that you know what your strength is, however, you need to do it in a manner that does not make you sound arrogant.
While it seems random, this phone interview question is not, and you want to make sure that the strength that you are listing in your answer is an actual asset for the job you are interviewing.
Some strengths can be weaknesses, depending on the job you are applying for, so give your answer a good thought.
What is your biggest weakness?
This is among one of the most common phone interview questions, yet the one where most candidates fail to prepare a good answer example.
While personally I prefer going completely honest with an answer, I do not recommend this, as you might be throwing yourself under the bus.
This is who I am, I have flaws, same as every other candidate and company in the world.
It’s important to NOT list any weakness that will stand in the way of performing at the job.
Going back to the question, other experts advise on listing a flaw that you are actually working on improving.
Here’s how to answer this phone interview question
“I get nervous when pitching high-level executives, however, I am currently taking a course on how to handle these situations”.
My personal advice is to keep it genuine because hiring managers and recruiters can smell the bu*****t.
Under no circumstances provide an answer stating that your biggest weakness is working too hard, or that you are a perfectionist. It’s a sure way to blow your interview.
Bottom line, trust your instinct on this one and provide an answer depending on the circumstances.
What would you improve about our company?
This phone interview question is a great opportunity to sell yourself.
If you’ve done good research on the company you should have already discovered at least an area where it needs improvement and where you can help, showing the hiring manager that you are a good fit for the position.
If you are interviewing for a Social Media Manager position, for example, this is a great sample answer:
“I have noticed that, while the company’s content on social media is of very good quality and you have a high following, the engagement rate is quite low or lower than the average.
During my time as a Social Media Executive for ABC Company, one of my main responsibilities was actually to increase engagement.
Through carefully studied tactics, I have managed to increase engagement by 10% on a month by month basis, which also led to increased sales.”
The above answer provides an insight not only into the flaws but it also provides a solution. This is the key to answering this phone interview question. Always have a solution.
Remember, always start on a positive note, and then continue talking about what can be improved.
Why are you leaving your current job?
Bear in mind that recruiters, or at least most of them, know when somebody is lying, therefore at least try to provide an honest answer.
Of course, if the reason you are leaving your job is because you hate your boss, don’t say that.
Never complain about your current employer.
You can, however, say that you have been with the company for however long you have, and you don’t have any prospects of growth in the near future.
You feel that the position you are interviewing for is more suitable for your career plans.
If, on the other hand, you were made redundant or let go, be honest about it.
It happens a lot after 2008 as more and more companies are going bankrupt and closing down or they just narrow down their operations.
“While I was given a great opportunity when I took this job, and I am grateful for it, I expected to be given the chance to grow and head the department after so many years with the company.
I will not be able to grow, as the company does not want to invest in hiring more people, which leaves me no choice but to look for such an opportunity somewhere else.”
Why did you have so many jobs?
If you haven’t held many jobs in the past you can skip this question.
Many recruiters do not understand that we are not in the ’60s anymore and there is no job stability nowadays, so it might be worth remembering that if someone gives you a hard time for that, maybe that opportunity is not the best for you.
If you truly are a dedicated professional who just didn’t have the chance to stay for a very long time with a company and you are looking for stability, say that.
Be honest. Mention the reason for departure for the last 3 positions.
This will help them understand better what you’ve been through and assess if there is any danger of you job-hopping.
This is a good sample answer to this phone interview question
“While I am aware that I’ve held quite a few positions throughout my career, this was not entirely my wish. I have been in my previous position for less than a year because the company was not doing well, therefore I was made redundant.
In the position that I’ve held prior to that, I was hoping to be given the opportunity to grow and advance in my career, because I have proven myself, however, the company decided to hire someone from outside of the company, instead of promoting internally, which gave me no choice, but to leave, as I have expressed my desire to fill in the new position and I met all the requirements.”
The bottom line, never forget that interviews are a two-way street.
It’s not only companies who have a choice, but it’s also the candidate as well who is interviewing the company and deciding if it is a good fit for his or her future career plans, personality, etc.
Never let anyone disrespect you and treat you badly.
If a recruiter behaves as if you are just a number and you are not valuable, that is a sign of toxic company culture and environment and you might want to reconsider wanting to work there.
Why do you have a gap in your CV?
Same as with every other question, it’s best if you decide to be honest.
You took time off to travel, explore a passion, think about what you want in life, you were unemployed, cared for a family member, etc.
Whatever the reason, it’s only human to not be able to secure a job straight after another.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In order to know how to best answer this phone interview question, you need to understand the reason behind it.
Recruiters and hiring managers are trying to understand what are your career plans, how motivated are you in terms of growth and how your plans fit with their company.
Having said that, it is always good to be frank, while also realistic.
If, for example, you are applying for a Business Development position, this would be a good answer:
“Although, nothing is certain nowadays, I would like to become the Head of Business Development. I will be experienced enough to lead the department and mentor the team by that point”.
Why should we choose you over other candidates?
This is a tricky phone interview question that is meant to test how confident you are about your experience and skills, while also making sure you are not arrogant.
There is a fine line between the two and you need to be careful when choosing your answers to such interview questions.
“While I haven’t met any of the other candidates and don’t know anything about their experience and skills, I know that while working as a Sales Manager with X Company I have reached and exceeded my targets every year, while having a retention rate of 50%, numbers that are valuable for any sales team.
On top of this, I have worked with clients in different industries and markets and have more than 5 years of experience as a Sales Manager, which makes me a strong candidate for the position that I am interviewing for.“
An answer along these lines shows the recruiter that you are experienced enough and have the skills to handle the position.
You know the responsibilities of this position and have been successful in the past, all of this while not disregarding or disrespecting other candidates.
Why should we hire you?
Many candidates make the big mistake of making it all about them, when in fact, the best answer to this question is to make it about the company and the role.
In order to be able to do that, you need to make sure that you have prepared well and you know as much as possible about the company and the role.
First, read the job description several times and outline the most important requirements prior to your phone interview.
See how your experience and skills align with those requirements and make sure to write down at least a few past professional experiences or situations that outline those skills.
After you have thoroughly researched the company, you should have a clear picture of who they are, how do they operate and how you can fit in.
How can you know about their problems? Most of the time, this information is available online and if you are lucky, you should be able to find at least one pain point that this company has and that you are able to solve.
For example, if you are interviewing for a Social Media Manager position, the first thing that you need to check in detail is their social media presence.
You need to look at things such as active channels, following, consistency in posting, quality of posts and engagement.
Most times, there is at least one area that needs improvement. If you find that they are consistent, have a good following and good quality posts but the engagement rate is low, this is one of their pain points.
This is where you show added value.
Sample Answer 1
“According to the job ad, you are looking for someone with 2 years of social media experience, who knows how to create a strategy plan, monthly calendar, and can supervise the creation of visuals and content while growing your following.
When researching your social media presence, I have noticed that while your content is of great quality and you have a big following, the posting schedule is not consistent and also the engagement rate is low.
My 3 years of experience as a Social Media Executive with ABC Company, managing all 4 social media channels and bringing them from a couple of hundreds followers to thousands of engaged followers while making sure that the visuals and content are up to standard by collaborating on a daily basis with the Graphic Designer and Copywriter, would be of great value to your team.”
This is a great answer as you not only emphasize that your background matches their requirements, but also that you are smart by having identified their pain points, which you would be able to solve, having had to deal with this in your current or previous role.
Sample Answer 2
“You are looking for someone who has 1 year of retail sales experience and can deliver a great customer service experience.
During my 2 years as a Sales Assistant for ABC Clothing, I have managed to increase the number of returning customers from 30% to 40%.
This was due to creating a personal rapport with my customers and truly doing my best to help them find what they were looking for or helping them discover what suits them.
My passion for the fashion industry has helped me grow a loyal clientele and besides this, I always collaborate with other outlets in case we are missing a size or an item.
I make sure to arrange delivery to our store so that the customer can return to us, instead of going to our competitors.
My experience would bring added value to both your team and your customers.”
For some positions, for example in retail, it’s difficult to know the company’s pain points just by researching online.
Unless you go and visit one of their stores and see what would you improve, your best bet is to just align your skills and experience to their requirements.
When preparing this answer before the phone interview, as mentioned above, outline 3 of the most important job requirements and think which professional experience best applies to those requirements.
Are you interviewing with other companies?
This question is usually meant for recruiters to find out how much competition and time they have in regards to the recruitment process if they are planning to invite you for a second interview or make an offer.
As a side note, it’s a good sign if you’re being asked this question during a phone interview.
It’s good to mention that you have applied to several companies in the same industry for the same or similar position and have interviewed with one or two already.
If they ask for exact names, you can mention that you would like to keep it confidential as you are in the middle of the recruitment process.
Nobody can force you to say which companies you have interviewed with already.
“As mentioned earlier, I am looking for an opportunity to grow, therefore, yes, I have already interviewed with several other companies for similar roles.”
What is your current salary?
Depending on where you live, this question might be illegal and you don’t need to answer it.
However, if you want to be frank about it, go ahead but mention all the benefits such as a pension, annual vacation, bonuses, commissions, etc.
This will give the recruiter a better overview of the whole package and will help them understand if they can match or exceed your current package.
If you do not want to disclose your package, you can say that this is confidential information, as per the company’s policy, however, you are looking at securing a job, for example, between 45k and 50k per year.
Always place your expectations on the lower end in this case, if you expect to secure a 45k per year, this will be your starting point.
Best answer example
“Unfortunately, I cannot disclose my current salary, as this is confidential information, however, I can tell you that I am looking at securing a Sales Manager position, which according to the market, is remunerated between 45K to 50K per year.”
What are your salary expectations?
This is another tricky question, as you need to make sure you are not under or over evaluating yourself.
A good piece of advice is to make sure you do a proper market study regarding the salaries for this position.
In order to be able to get a realistic idea, you need to take into consideration the exact title (Junior, Mid -Level, Senior), the size of the company and also how many years of experience do you have.
For example, if you are applying for a Marketing Manager position, an annual salary would be, hypothetically, between 27,000 – 48,000, where the minimum is usually offered in a small or startup retail company and the highest in a large multinational financial institution.
You can use a number of online tools, such as Pay Scale to find out which is the salary range for a particular position in your area.
Once you have done your homework, you will be able to have a figure in mind.
“I would need to better understand the requirements of the job, to see the full job description and to overall understand your expectations from the person who will be filling this position.
Nevertheless, according to the market, such a position would be remunerated between 40k to 50k per year, which is what I am looking at.”
This is a fair answer, as you cannot just throw a figure after one interview. You might rush into saying a figure, only to find out later that, for example, they do not provide premium health insurance, but class B insurance.
You need to understand the whole picture and their benefits, before stating your salary expectations.
Also, if you are applying for a Sales position, you need to know the commission and bonus scheme, as that might double or even triple your income, depending on your industry.
Do you have any questions for us?
The answer to this question is always YES.
Usually, this question comes at the end of the phone interview, however, it is one of the most important ones.
Having prepared a list of questions to ask, can make the difference between moving to the next step after your phone interview or not.
Here you can find a list of the best questions to ask at the end of a job interview.
Most of the questions should be about the job.
While some advise on asking about future plans for the company, I do not recommend that, as they do not sound genuine and I don’t find them relevant at this stage.
Refrain from asking questions about compensation, benefits, and other things alike, unless you are interviewing for a very senior position.
Phone interview questions follow up
50% of the hiring managers make a hiring decision based on whether they receive a follow-up email after the phone interview or not.
This is your chance to stand out, as more than 60% of candidates skip this step.
Make sure you send a thank-you note within 24 hours after your phone interview. Here is how.
You can use the answers to these phone interview questions for a face-to-face interview as well.
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