How to Conduct a Phone Interview

January 11, 2021

Conducting phone interviews can save a company time and money by using them to screen candidates before inviting them for an in-person interview. A phone interview allows you to confirm basic requirements, give the applicant more information on the position and get to know them a little before a serious job interview. In this article, we discuss the importance of phone interviewing, steps for how to conduct a phone interview well, tips and sample questions.

Related: Phone Interview Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

Why are phone interviews necessary?

A phone interview is a pre-screening of a candidate given by telephone before a face-to-face interview. This screening allows an employer to see if a candidate's skills match the requirements for the open position and the company's culture. It will also see if a candidate's salary request meets what the company is willing and able to pay. Using a phone interview can save valuable managerial time by helping to choose candidates for in-person interviews who best fit what the company is looking for and to reduce those candidates who would better fit in a different position.

How to conduct a phone interview

Conducting a phone interview is similar to conducting a face-to-face interview. Use these steps to conduct a successful phone interview:

  1. Prepare.
  2. Treat this experience like a face-to-face interview.
  3. Ask each candidate the same questions.
  4. Make sure the candidates are willing to follow company policy.
  5. End the phone interview.

1. Prepare

Before the phone interview, you should prepare the interview questions you will ask. Consider questions that will serve as a base and can be expanded on if needed. Review the candidate's information and details about the open position before making the call, and be ready to take notes.

2. Treat this experience like a face-to-face interview

A phone interview is a professional interaction and should be treated as such. Use a professional tone, and if you feel nervous on the telephone, practice the interview process on someone else. You should be confident in what you are saying and asking. Be clear and concise with your interview questions and responses to the candidate. Consider interviewing in a quiet place so you can concentrate.

3. Ask each candidate the same questions

Consider asking each candidate the same questions. This will allow you to know each candidate's strengths and weaknesses within the same area. You can then include extra questions based on the candidates' answers to the base questions.

Take this time to ask about the candidate's employment history. It's common to ask about the size of their past organization and what their duties were. If they were a manager, ask how many people reported directly to them. You can then get a feel for their experience with your type of company and discern whether they can easily make the transition to your business.

4. Make sure the candidates are willing to follow company policy

Make sure to ask the candidate if they are willing to follow your company's policies, such as undergoing a background check and drug screening before being hired. If there are any other pre-hire policies, inform your interviewees of them.

5. End the phone interview

If the phone interview goes well, schedule a face-to-face interview with the candidate at the end of the call. If the interview did not go well, tell the person at that time that their qualifications did not appear to meet what the company is currently looking for, and thank them for their time and application.

Tips for conducting a phone interview

The following tips can help you conduct a phone interview well:

Listen for voice cues

Since you can't see the interviewee's body language, try to listen for clues in their voice about their demeanor and temperament, such as hesitation, shakiness, confidence and determination.

Know who you are interviewing

You should become familiar with the person you are going to interview before calling them. Review their resume, portfolio and social media accounts.

Interview in a quiet place

Make sure the area where you are conducting interviews is a quiet place with no distractions. It is important for you to be able to hear and remember what your candidates are saying.

Let the candidate do most of the talking

Since you are looking for more information about the person before inviting them to another interview, keep what you say to a minimum. Allow your candidate to speak and add value to the interview.

Related: Interview Questions to Ask Employers

Phone Interview Questions
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Phone Interview Questions

  • Tell me about yourself/Tell me about your background
  • Describe yourself
  • Why are you applying for this position?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Tell me what you know about the role
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Why are you looking for jobs?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • Are you interviewing with other companies?

Sample phone interview questions

Here are common phone interview questions you may wish to ask:

  • What strengths do you possess?
  • What do you feel is your greatest weakness?
  • Why did you leave your last place of employment?
  • Why do you want to work for our company?

What strengths do you possess?

This question allows you to see what the candidate can bring to your company. Your candidate should answer in a way that shows how their skills will add value to the company.

What do you feel is your greatest weakness?

Your candidate should answer this question in a way that shows they are open to improvement. They understand that it is natural to make mistakes but that they want to learn from them.

Why did you leave your last place of employment?

The answer to this question can give you insight into the candidate's current situation and how they might act at your company as well as their employment history.

Why do you want to work for our company?

The candidate's response to this can show you how interested they are in the position and how well they might fit in with the company culture.

Related: 15 Phone Interview Questions and Answers


Here are answers to some common questions people have about the phone interviewing process:

Why should I conduct a phone interview instead of a face-to-face interview?

A phone interview will allow you to get to know and decide on top candidates before conducting a face-to-face interview. This process will also save staffing time, as only the top candidates for the position will be completing a face-to-face interview.

Is a phone interview a good way to find a new employee?

A phone interview can give you a more personal picture of your candidate before meeting with them for a face-to-face interview. Phone interviews are a great way to find a new employee.

How long should a phone interview last?

Consider allowing at least 30 minutes to conduct each phone interview. The interview may last longer or be much shorter, depending on how well the candidate is matching the needs of your company.


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