How to Answer the 10 Most Common Phone Interview Questions

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For a job interview, whether in person or by phone, preparation is your key to making the best impression possible. Phone interviews present a unique challenge in that they are less personal, meaning the interviewer is more likely to misinterpret your responses.

Aside from doing your research on the company, you will likely find it helpful to practice with a mock interview, in which you can get feedback from a professional job coach to further increase your chances of success.

As you review these ten most common phone interview questions, take time to prepare answers before your interview. Your prepared answers are not meant to be read verbatim, but have them on hand as reminders during your interview.

1. Can you tell me something about yourself?

This is a challenging question because you have a short time to pack in pertinent information. It’s often the first question, meaning your reply is critical in making a strong first impression on the interviewer. Discuss your career path, key accomplishments, promotions, and at least one thing that will stand out in the interviewer’s mind. Finish with why you applied for the position you’re interviewing for, and talk about how you’d make a great asset.

2. Why did you apply for this particular position?

Here’s where you’ll match up your skills with those required of the position you’re interviewing for. Give some specific skill examples and how you used those to contribute to the company or companies you’ve worked for. You could weave in something about the company from your research, as in this example: “In your mission statement, I appreciate your belief in giving back to the community. I’ve been involved in several community service groups, such as…”

3. Can you tell me something about your current or previous position?

This is not a particularly difficult phone interview question, but it’s one you should plan for. Don’t read off your resume. Instead, talk about the parts of your job you do well in or excel at, as in this effective response: “Along with managing our sales events, last year I was put in charge of negotiating costs with some of our vendors. Just last month, I saved the company several hundred dollars on one event alone.”

4. Please tell me what you feel are your greatest strengths.

Most people feel they are not objective enough to effectively respond to this question, so again, preparation is your best strategy. Make a list and ask for feedback from a trusted friend or, if possible, a coworker who knows you well. Above all, be honest in your response and identify two or three strengths that match up well with components of the job description.

5. Can you tell me what you feel are your weaknesses?

Once again, objectivity is the challenge to this phone interview question, but make sure you reply with something you’re actively trying to improve. You can also mention something that doesn’t pertain much to the job you’re interviewing for.

6. How are you at working under pressure?

With this phone interview question, the caller wants to get a handle on your work style. Cite some examples of times when the pressure was on, deadlines were looming, systems were breaking down, orders were backed up, etc. and how you dealt with the stress. This sample answer is particularly effective: “I use a brief meditation and breathing exercise that helps me focus, keep priorities in order, and work effectively during stressful times.”

7. How do you deal with difficult coworkers?

A wrong answer to this question is that you try to avoid them. You want to be perceived by the phone interviewer as a problem solver. If you’ve experienced difficult social situations in the workplace, talk about commonsense methods you’ve used to deal with them. A good response is as follows: “I first try to see why a coworker is being difficult, because there’s often an underlying reason, such as a personal problem. If the person is willing to talk about a problem, I try my best to be a good listener. I think that helps everyone on our team get along.”

8. Why do you want to leave your present employer?

Above all, never be critical of your current or previous employers or individuals you’ve worked with. This example reply strikes the perfect tone: “I really like what I do with my current company, but it’s not in line with my academic background. The company’s growth has been limited, so I don’t foresee an opportunity for promotion in the near future.” If you really don’t like the company you work for now, make sure you soften your response while focusing on something positive: “I’ve called on some great clients while I’ve been here, but because of the turnover rate, I’ve been spending too much time on tasks that other staff should be doing.”

9. What salary are you expecting?

Since this is a phone interview question, don’t give a specific number. Your goal is to take the next step to a second interview. Perhaps say, “I don’t have a particular salary in mind at the present time. My primary objective at the moment is finding a position that matches up with my skills and experience. I’d be happy to talk about salary in a personal interview.”

10. Do you have any questions for me?

Yes, you should always have questions. This commonly asked phone interview question, which generally comes at the end, is your final chance to stand out and be invited to an in-person meeting. Ask about the team environment, their mission and vision statement, in-house training opportunities, and when they expect to start in-person interviews. Never ask about salary, benefits, overtime, or time off.

We hope this sample of common phone interview questions helps you prepare, and we wish you good luck! We can further help you on your path to success with our mock interview services, through which you can receive constructive feedback to apply to the next level in the hiring process.

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