Phone Interview Questions: What To Expect and How To Prepare

In today’s competitive job market, standing out is more important than ever. Phone interviews and Zoom calls are often the first steps in the hiring process, providing candidates and employers a chance to get acquainted before more intensive in-person interviews.

Understanding the significance of this initial screening and key players’ roles can give you a distinct advantage in your job search.

Why are phone interviews important in the hiring process?

Phone interviews serve as a crucial opportunity for hiring managers and recruiters to assess potential candidates for a job. This step not only helps streamline the selection process but also saves time and resources for both parties.

In addition, a phone interview or Zoom call is an excellent opportunity for job seekers to make a solid first impression, showcasing their qualifications, enthusiasm and fit for the company.

What is the purpose of the phone interview?

A phone interview’s primary goal is to narrow the pool of applicants to a more manageable number for in-person interviews.

During this stage, recruiters and hiring managers aim to verify the candidate’s basic qualifications, such as experience and skill set and gauge their interest in the position and the company.

Phone or Zoom interviews also allow interviewers to identify potential red flags that might disqualify a candidate from further consideration.

What is the role of the hiring manager and recruiter?

The hiring manager and recruiter each play a vital part in the phone interview process. While the recruiter is typically responsible for conducting initial phone screens, their primary goal is to identify the most suitable candidates for the hiring manager to consider.

The hiring manager, on the other hand, is involved in the decision-making process and focuses on evaluating the candidates based on their expertise, cultural fit and potential contribution to the team. The hiring manager and recruiter work together to ensure that the best candidates move forward in the hiring process.

Related: Small Business — Phone Interviews

How do I prepare for a phone interview?

As you gear up for a phone or Zoom interview, you must be well-prepared to maximize this critical opportunity. In this section, you’ll find key areas to focus on as you prepare to impress the hiring manager or recruiter and take a step closer to your dream job.

Researching the company culture and work environment

To demonstrate your genuine interest in the company and role, thoroughly researching the organization’s culture and work environment is crucial.

This knowledge will not only help you tailor your responses to interview questions but also enable you to determine whether the company aligns with your values and preferences.

LinkedIn and social media

Utilize LinkedIn and other social media platforms to gather valuable insights into the company’s values, recent achievements and industry trends.

Follow the organization’s official accounts, connect with current employees and observe their posts and interactions to understand the company culture.

Company website

The company website is another rich source of information. Pay close attention to the “About Us” and “Careers” sections and any available blog posts or news articles.

These resources will help you understand the company’s mission, vision and goals, which can be useful talking points during the interview.

Related: 7 Surefire Habits to Prepare for a Job Interview

How do you prepare for a Zoom interview?

In today’s increasingly digital landscape, Zoom call interviews are becoming more common. Creating a professional and distraction-free environment is essential to excel in this format.

You should have good lighting with natural or soft light sources that evenly illuminate your face. Additionally, choose a quiet space free from background noise and potential interruptions and maintain a neat and uncluttered background to keep the focus on you.

By taking these steps, you’ll make a strong visual impression and demonstrate your adaptability and preparedness for remote work, giving you a competitive edge in the hiring process.

What’s the importance of researching the job description and requirements?

A clear grasp of the job description and requirements is essential to effectively communicate your qualifications and suitability for the role.

Skill set and certifications

Review the job posting to identify the specific skills and certifications required. Be prepared to discuss your relevant experience and if you possess any additional qualifications that can set you apart from other candidates, be sure to mention them.

Management style and team members

Determine the company’s management style and team structure by researching online or reaching out to your network. Understanding these dynamics will help you convey your ability to thrive in the given work environment and collaborate effectively with team members.

Reviewing your own work experience and current role

Before the interview, reflect on your career trajectory and how it has prepared you for the position.

Last job and career path

Consider the key takeaways and accomplishments from your previous job and be ready to articulate how they have shaped your career path thus far. Draw connections between your past experiences and the role you are pursuing, illustrating your growth and adaptability.

Current job and career goals

Reflect on your current role and how it aligns with your long-term career goals. During the interview, discuss the skills you have acquired, the challenges you have faced and the milestones you have achieved.

By connecting these experiences to your aspirations, you can demonstrate your motivation and commitment to the role, leaving a lasting impression on the interviewer.

Related: A Successful Career Path Doesn’t Have to Be Linear

What are common phone interview questions, and how do I answer them?

Armed with a thorough understanding of the company, role and experiences, you’re ready to tackle the phone or Zoom interview. Below, you’ll find common phone interview questions and guidance on answering them effectively.

1. Tell me about yourself

When answering this open-ended question, consider providing a concise overview of your professional background, focusing on your most relevant experiences and achievements.

2. Walk me through your resume

Highlight key aspects of your work history that align with the job requirements. Emphasize the skills and accomplishments in your resume that make you a strong candidate for the position and demonstrate how your career trajectory has led you to this opportunity.

3. Why do you want to work here?

To answer this question convincingly, articulate your enthusiasm for the company’s culture, values and the specific job opportunity. Consider using the following goalposts:

Company culture and job opportunity

Explain what aspects of the company culture and work environment appeal to you and how they align with your values and preferences. Additionally, discuss the specific job opportunity and how it aligns with your career goals.

Project managers and software development

If the role involves working with project managers or in software development, share your experiences and accomplishments in these areas. Describe your passion for collaborating, solving problems and contributing to innovative projects.

4. Where do you see yourself in the future?

This question aims to gauge your long-term career aspirations and how they align with the company’s objectives.

Career path and next job

Discuss your desired career path and how the role you’re interviewing for will help you achieve your objectives. Show enthusiasm for future growth and development within the company.

Additionally, it is often wise to acknowledge that the phone interview is just one step in the hiring process and express your eagerness to participate in subsequent in-person interviews to further discuss your qualifications and suitability for the role.

4. Why should we hire you?

To answer this question effectively, focus on your unique skills, qualifications and experiences that make you the ideal candidate.

Skill set and certifications

Emphasize your relevant skills and any certifications that set you apart from other candidates. Showcase how these qualifications will enable you to excel and contribute to the company’s success.

Work experience and management style

Discuss your work experience and management style, highlighting how they align with the company’s needs and expectations. Provide examples of your achievements and how your approach to work would positively impact the team and organization.

5. What are your salary expectations?

When discussing salary expectations, you must be prepared with research and clearly understand your worth.

Salary range

Research the market rate for similar roles in your industry and location, considering your experience and qualifications. Some great resources include salary websites like Glassdoor, PayScale and, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides national and regional salary data for various occupations.

Use this information to provide a salary range that reflects your value and is competitive in the job market.

Negotiation tips

Be prepared to negotiate if necessary. Approach the conversation with confidence, but remain flexible and open to compromise.

For example, consider discussing additional benefits or perks if the offered salary does not meet your expectations, and always remain professional throughout the negotiation process.

Related: 15 Top Tips for Salary Negotiations

How do I navigate the interview process?

While effectively answering questions is vital to a successful phone or Zoom interview, knowing how to navigate the interview process is equally important.

Below, you’ll find strategies for tackling behavioral questions, identifying red flags, asking follow-up questions and handling situations where you may not know the answer.

STAR method for answering behavioral questions

Behavioral questions are designed to assess your past experiences and how you’ve handled various situations. Candidates benefit from using the STAR method to structure their responses clearly and concisely.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result:

  1. Situation: Describe the context or challenge you faced.
  2. Task: Explain your specific responsibility in that situation.
  3. Action: Detail the steps you took to address the challenge.
  4. Result: Share the outcome of your actions, emphasizing the positive impact.

By following the STAR method, you can effectively showcase your problem-solving skills, adaptability and ability to learn from past experiences.

Identifying red flags during the phone interview

Throughout the phone interview, be attentive to potential red flags that could indicate issues with the company or role. These may include high employee turnover, vague job descriptions or unrealistic expectations.

If you notice any red flags, consider asking follow-up questions to clarify your concerns or conducting further research after the interview to make an informed decision about pursuing the opportunity.

Asking follow-up questions to learn more about the role

Asking thoughtful follow-up questions demonstrates your genuine interest in the position and allows you to gather more information about the role and company.

For example, consider asking about the team structure, expectations for the role, opportunities for growth and development and the company’s long-term goals.

These questions can provide valuable insights and help determine if the opportunity aligns with your career aspirations and values.

What do I do if I don’t know the answer to a question?

It’s natural to encounter questions you may not know the answer to during an interview or Zoom call.

Instead of panicking or trying to bluff your way through the response, take a moment to gather your thoughts and consider the following strategies:

  1. Ask for clarification: Politely request more information about the question, which may provide additional context to help you formulate a response.
  2. Share a related experience: If you don’t have a direct answer, try sharing a similar experience or scenario demonstrating your ability to handle the underlying issue or challenge.
  3. Be honest: If you genuinely don’t know the answer, it’s better to admit your lack of knowledge rather than provide misleading information. Express your willingness to learn and grow in that area, reinforcing your commitment to self-improvement and professional development.

After the interview, what are the next steps?

Once the phone interview or Zoom call is complete, it’s essential to maintain a proactive approach to ensure you remain at the forefront of the hiring manager’s mind.

Sending a thank-you email

Express your appreciation for the opportunity and reiterate your interest in the role by sending a personalized thank-you email within 24 hours of the interview. This gesture demonstrates professionalism and serves as a reminder of your qualifications and enthusiasm for the position.

Keeping track of job search progress

Stay organized by keeping track of your job search progress, including the interviews you’ve completed, any feedback received and upcoming opportunities. This will help you maintain momentum and ensure you’re prepared for any additional interviews or follow-ups.

Preparing for a potential in-person interview

If the phone or Zoom interview goes well, you may be invited to an in-person interview. Use the insights from the phone interview to refine your approach and further research the company, role and relevant industry trends. Practice answering common in-person interview questions and consider potential scenarios you may encounter during the meeting.

Evaluating job offers and negotiating salary

Should you receive a job offer, take the time to evaluate the proposal carefully, considering factors such as company culture, growth opportunities and work-life balance.

If necessary, be prepared to negotiate your salary and benefits to ensure the offer aligns with your worth and expectations.

Related: How to Write an Unforgettable Thank-You Note

The wrap-up

Phone and Zoom interviews are critical to the hiring process, allowing candidates and employers to assess suitability and interest before moving forward.

By preparing thoroughly, researching the company and role, practicing answering common questions and effectively navigating the interview process, you can increase your chances of success and ultimately secure your desired position.

Remember to follow up after the interview, remain organized throughout your job search and be ready to evaluate and negotiate any job offers that come your way. With persistence and the right approach, you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect job match.

Are you interested in learning more about job interviews and other business topics? Check out Entrepreneur’s other articles for more.

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