This article has been approved by an Indeed Career Coach.
What is a phone interview and what role does it play in the hiring process? Many companies use phone calls with candidates who look good on paper to determine if those applicants are ready to move to longer, more in-depth interviews. This is sometimes called a phone screen.
What to expect during a phone interview
There are a few occasions when an interview happens over the phone. Many companies use a phone screen with a recruiter as the initial step in the hiring process. This is a critically important part of your job search. The recruiter will ask you about your background, skills and experience to see if it’s well-aligned with the open position. They may also be screening to see if you would be a good culture fit for the company. If all goes well, the recruiter will move you onto the next stage. But if they come away with a poor or incomplete impression of you, things are unlikely to progress.
The next stage of the interview process is also typically conducted over the phone. In this phase, you will likely speak with the hiring manager or another individual on the team that’s hiring. This interview is usually more in-depth than the phone screen as the interviewer has a deeper knowledge of the open role and what qualifications would make someone successful in it.
Both of these interviews usually last around 30 minutes. Consider phone interviews your opportunity to sum up what’s most attractive to you about the job and the company, as well as the skills and qualifications you bring to the table.
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?
Phone interview tips
Phone interviews are just as important as in-person interviews, so adequately preparing for them can influence your success. If your interviewer chooses to do an initial phone interview, being successful in this first round can ensure you move onto the next. Here are 25 tips to consider when preparing for a phone interview:
1. Confirm the scheduled time
Before the day of your interview, confirm the date and time so you’re sure to pick up when the call comes in. Writing down the scheduled time, adding it to your calendar or setting it as a reminder on your phone are great ways to make sure you are ready for the scheduled interview. Your punctuality can help make a good impression on your prospective employer.
2. Reschedule, if necessary
If you’re unable to meet at the suggested time, consider suggesting other times that are more convenient for you. Offer your interviewer a few days and times that work well for you, and then discuss a time you both find an accommodating. Rescheduling if you need more time or have a conflicting appointment ensures you’re ready for your interview and promotes honest communication, which is often a valuable skill employers look for.
Read more: 7 Steps to Reschedule a Job Interview
3. Research the company
Review the company’s website, social media and recent activity to learn more about its values, goals and company culture. Knowing the company you’re interviewing with provides you with good insight to use during the interview. Make note of certain details about the company, and mention them should the opportunity arise. For example, if the company recently made an acquisition, you can mention this when the interviewer asks you what you know about the company.
This step can let the interviewer know you’re passionate about working there. It will also allow you to think of questions you’ll want to ask at the end of your interview.
One thing to remember as you’re discussing your fitness for the company with employers is that the idea of “culture fit” can sometimes be used as a way to eliminate and discriminate against candidates, however unknowingly, who don’t think, act or look like existing employees. A better alternative concept you might consider speaking to is “culture add,” or your ability to bring fresh and additive ideas and feedback to the team. Culture adds make the company stronger by diversifying the experiences and perspectives of its workforce.
Read more: The Complete Guide to Researching a Company
4. Know who will be calling you
In many cases, you’ll be interviewing a recruiter, hiring manager or your direct supervisor. Do an online search to determine your interviewer’s role at the company. If you’re interviewing with a recruiter, you’ll get more general questions regarding your experience. An interview with your direct supervisor, however, means you’ll get in-depth questions related to your industry and role.
5. Look over the job description
Understanding what the employer is looking for in an employee and what your responsibilities will be can help you tailor your answers to various interview questions. If they’re looking for an employee with certain design software skills and who has experience creating graphics for B2B companies, you’ll want to mention this during your interview.
6. Be an active listener
Be attentive, ask insightful questions and engage with the recruiter. This will show that you’re taking the interview seriously and that you genuinely care about what they have to say. Practicing with friends or family could be greatly beneficial. Make sure you’re listening to every word, and follow-up with questions that show you were actively listening to what they were saying.
7. Be professional
It’s important to be respectful and kind throughout your interview. This professional tone can leave a good impression on your interview, and they’ll remember that as they consider their hiring decision. Depending on who you’re interviewing with, if you’re hired, they’ll also be your future colleague, so it’s important to be professional and eloquent in your tone and answers.
Even though you’ll be speaking over the phone, smiling during your interview can promote a positive tone in your voice. Though your interviewer won’t be able to see your smile, they’ll be able to hear it. Practice smiling as you speak in the mirror or with family or friends.
9. Consider your salary expectations
Many employers ask about your salary expectations. Research the average salary in your industry when considering what you’d like to get paid, but be reasonable. It’s also wise to offer them a salary range within $5,000. For example, “I’m hoping to make between $60,000 and $65,000.” This will let your interviewer know that you are flexible.
10. Charge your phone
If you’re using your cell phone for the interview, make sure it’s fully charged and in working condition the day of your interview. It’s also a good idea to do a test call. Have someone call you to make sure your line is clear and that your phone can properly accept calls. Be ready 10-15 minutes before the actual interview time to ensure your phone is working properly.
11. Have your resume and portfolio ready
It’s possible the interviewer will want to ask you questions related to your resume or portfolio. Make sure you have all the necessary documents for reference. You can print these out or have them open on your computer.
12. Prepare your notes
If there are certain things you want to mention during your interviews, such as your specific job duties at a previous employer or your qualifications and how they meet the job description, make note of it as you reference your resume and portfolio. Make sure your notes are clear and legible so you can readily access them if need be.
13. Consider possible interview questions
Research common interview questions so you know what you might be expected to answer. Many interview questions fall into the same categories—adaptability, leadership, collaboration, culture fit, prioritization and development. Determining the questions they might ask can help you gain confidence since you’ll know what to expect. Reviewing highly anticipated questions will ease any nerves going into the interview.
14. Prepare your answers to common interview questions
After researching common interview questions, consider how you’ll answer each. Write your answers in a bullet list, highlighting specific experiences you can draw on to demonstrate your answer. Because you’ll be on the phone, it can be helpful to have notes in front of you during the interview to help you answer. Rehearse your answers without looking at your notes for more practice.
15. Speak clearly
Carefully articulate your words and take your time as you answer each question. Interviewers may be better able to understand you and observe your communication skills. This skill is important in any industry, so demonstrating your excellent communication skills during the interview process can help your interviewer determine your abilities.
16. Be conversational
Maintain a friendly yet professional tone rather than sounding rehearsed. Practice your answers to common interview questions with friends or family or record yourself speaking. Ask your family or friends for feedback in regards to your voice tone, language and speaking speed. In the same manner, playback your recording, and determine how you can improve. During your interview, be polite and prepared to engage in small talk to warm up. As it’s common to exchange pleasantries at the beginning of the call, you may consider preparing something topical (weather, upcoming event, etc.) to speak to.
17. Take notes
Taking notes throughout the interview can help you remember important matters the interviewer discussed. Have a pen and paper or use your computer for note-taking. This can be useful in referencing any salaries, job responsibilities or other relevant company information you may have discussed with the interviewer.
18. Dress professionally
Even though you’ll be speaking over the phone, consider dressing as if you were having an in-person interview. This, along with sitting up tall, can help boost your confidence during the interview so avoid sitting in your pajamas or slouching on the couch.
19. Find a quiet environment
Find a quiet space where you’ll be able to hear the interviewer loud and clear. This will make sure you listen to everything they have to say and that you get all of the information you need.
Turn off the television or music, and close the door to the space you’re using for your interview. Remove any background noise and interview in a quiet space to demonstrate your professional courtesy and let your interviewer know you’re taking this job interview seriously.
20. Eliminate distractions
As you wait for the phone to ring, remove any current or potential distractions. In addition to turning off the television or music, close any unnecessary tabs or windows on your computer or cell phone to ensure your attention is focused on the interview. You can also let potential callers, like friends and family, know that you will be unavailable for a certain amount of time, including the time you need to prepare for the interview.
21. Set a professional voicemail
In the event you can’t answer the phone when they initially call, leave a good impression by having a professional and friendly voicemail. For example, “Hi, you’ve reached Jane. I’m sorry I missed your call. Please leave a detailed message and a call back number, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you.”
22. Prepare questions you want to ask
Interviewers want to know you’re interested in the position you’re applying for. Display your interest by asking insightful questions at the end of the interview. Some questions you could ask include:
- What will my daily responsibilities include?
- What is the workplace environment like?
- What is your favorite part of working for the company?
Read more: 17 Best Questions to Ask Your Interviwer
23. Ask about the next steps
Asking your interviewer about the next steps in the interview process is a good way to express your continued interest in the role and the company. While some employers might be ready to offer you a job, others might have you come in for an in-person interview as they narrow down their candidate search. Knowing the answer to this question will give you an idea of what to expect so you can prepare for the next steps.
24. Send a thank-you email
Soon after your phone interview, send your interviewer a thank-you email. Make sure to thank them for their time, include a few relevant details you discussed and express your continued interest in the role. It’s important to properly address the interviewer and send your email within 24 hours. If there’s something you forgot to mention or you’d like them to elaborate on a certain topic, this is a great opportunity to ask.
25. Follow up
If you don’t hear back from the interviewer within a week or two, consider following up. It’s possible they’re still interviewing other candidates, but in the event they’re not, it will give you an idea of where you stand as they narrow down their candidate selection.
When you’re better prepared for your interview, you’re more likely to have a favorable outcome. Regardless of what happens, preparing and having a phone interview is a great learning experience for future interviews of the same nature.