Phone interviews are usually conducted at the start of the hiring process. What you say during a phone interview will serve as the first impression you make to a potential employer.
If you have never done a phone interview before, or are looking to refresh your skills, you may be wondering: What kinds of questions can come up in a phone interview?
Find Your Bootcamp Match
- Career Karma matches you with top tech bootcamps
- Access exclusive scholarships and prep courses
In this guide, we’re going to walk through eight of the most common questions asked in a phone interview. We’ll also give you an example answer for each question so that you can tailor effective responses.
Why Do Employers Conduct Phone Interviews?
Employers use phone interviews to screen candidates. When a recruiter calls, you will be asked a wide range of questions and your answers will be used to assess whether you meet the minimum job requirements.
While your resume and cover letter will already inform an employer about your skills and past experiences, phone interviews give a recruiter an opportunity to ask follow-up questions before they call you in for a full interview.
Most of the questions in a phone interview are focused on getting a better sense of your character and identifying potential red flags. You may be asked a specific question related to your field, but most phone interviews are focused on so-called ‘behavioral’ questions. These are questions related to who you are as a worker:
7 Common Phone Interview Questions
Every employer asks different questions in a phone interview, but here’s a few common ones to give you an edge in your upcoming phone interview.
- Tell me about yourself.
This question is often used to start a phone interview. This is because “tell me about yourself” is a good ice breaker to ease you in before more intense questions are asked.
When you are asked this question, mention the relevant experience to the position you have applied for, what you are currently working on, and where you hope to advance in the future. Your answer should be focused on your professional accomplishments and skills rather than personal facts.
I have been working in the sales industry for over four years, primarily in accounts management roles. In my past position, I was a senior sales associate for a large technology company, where I was responsible for managing a roster of business clients, and advising junior accounts managers. Now I am looking to expand my expertise to a role where I could lead a sales department.
- Why did you leave your last job?
Interviewers often ask about why you left your last job. This is because the reason behind your resignation from a position will give a recruiter a better sense of your work ethic and dedication.
If you are asked this question, you should be honest about why you left your last job. If you left your last job because you were not learning enough, be open about your experience. If you were laid off, you should also tell an employer that.
In my last job, I was given a number of opportunities to grow as a sales associate. However, I am looking to take my career to the next level and acquire more managerial experience working in sales. I could not see any clear opportunities for progression in my last job, and so I am now looking for opportunities elsewhere.
- Tell us what you know about the role.
Your interviewer may ask you what you already know about the role for which you have applied.
This question serves two purposes. For one, it allows an employer to learn more about how much research you have done for the position. If you know very little about the role, it is a sign that you haven’t read the job description thoroughly. Second, this question helps an employer determine what information they may need to share with you about the job.
Based on the job description, I understand that you are looking to hire a head of sales to manage a small team of associates and help you grow your sales team. I also understand that the position requires extensive experience managing sales accounts, which I have acquired in my last job. Could you tell me more about the expectations for this position, and correct me if I have misunderstood the requirements?
- Why do you want this job?
This question allows an employer to learn more about what you value in a job. To respond effectively, you should talk about your motivations for applying for the job. Did you apply because you were looking for an opportunity to advance? Or do you feel like this job could use your skills more effectively than your current one?
Whatever you decide to say, make sure that you keep your answer positive. Don’t use this as an opportunity to complain about your last job; instead, take a forward-thinking stance and clearly explain why you applied.
I have been looking for an opportunity to expand my skills for a while. When I came across the job description for this role, I realized that many of my skills align closely with the day-to-day work of this job, such as managing other sales associates and determining relevant performance indicators for a sales team. I do enjoy my current job, although I feel like now is time for me to move onto the next step in my career.
- Describe what you do in your current job.
An interviewer may ask you what you do in your current job. This will give them a better sense of the skills you have acquired. This question also allows an employer to analyze whether you are good at communicating your value, which is a sign of being confident.
To respond to this question, you should try to talk about the clear ways in which you have helped your employer. What tasks have you worked on that has led to a tangible impact on the business? How can you show your impact by referring to statistics?
In my current job, I am responsible for managing a number of sales accounts at a paper company. On a day-to-day basis, I spend my time prospecting leads, following up with those leads, and making sales. I track my progress using the CRM software and have a certain set of KPIs that I need to mention. I also provide advice and mentorship to the junior sales associates and conduct training seminars with them each quarter.
"Career Karma entered my life when I needed it most and quickly helped me match with a bootcamp. Two months after graduating, I found my dream job that aligned with my values and goals in life!"
Venus, Software Engineer at Rockbot
- What are you looking for in your next role?
This question helps an employer evaluate whether your needs align with what the company can deliver. There is no point in an employer interviewing someone who has different career goals than the business can provide, which is why this is such a common question in phone interviews.
In addition, how you respond to this question will give the interviewer a better idea of how you think about long-term growth. For instance, if you talk about how you want to advance up the career ladder over the next few years, this will show that you are ambitious and want to keep making progress in your career.
I am looking for a job where I will have the opportunity to advance my management skills, which I believe this position would provide. I am interested in applying the years of sales experience I have to help an organization boost its sales. I would also like to get more involved with the strategic side of the industry, such as setting goals and adopting new sales processes.
- What are your salary expectations?
You may be asked to state your salary expectations during your phone interview. This will allow an employer to evaluate whether the salary you expect to earn fits in with what the company can afford. This question also helps a business learn more about how you value yourself.
In your answer to this question, you should try to show that you are flexible, unless you have a set of reasons why you think you are worth a certain amount. To do so, you could state a range, instead of giving a fixed number.
Discussions about your exact salary will occur further down the line in the interview process, but what you say in response to this question could shape the offer you receive further down the line. Don’t expect to have to negotiate at this stage in the hiring process, the employer simply wants to know more about how much you are looking to earn.
In this position, I would expect to receive a salary in the range of $50,000 to $55,000. Based on my past experience and average salaries for people at a similar stage in their careers, I feel as though this is an appropriate amount.
- Why should we hire you?
In your interview, you may be asked directly: Why should we hire you? Interviewers ask this question because they want to learn more about how you can help them achieve their goals.
When you are asked this question, you should discuss your main accomplishments that make you uniquely qualified for the job. What skills do you have that no other candidate is likely to have? What makes you unique?
As I understand, this position will involve a high degree of management work. I have extensive experience managing other sales associates as a senior team member. This has allowed me to learn more about my management style and practice techniques designed to motivate salespeople to work more efficiently.
My current job has also allowed me to act as a mentor to junior sales associates, where I have spent time getting to know them and providing personalized advice on how they can grow. I believe these skills would be invaluable in this role.
The best way to thrive in your phone interview is to prepare for as many interview questions as possible. While it’s unlikely that every one of the questions discussed will come up, the questions highlighted above are common in job interviews.
Before your interview, take some time to research the company and the job. Also, practice how you are going to respond to these questions. The more you practice, the stronger the responses in your interview.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.