You scored a phone interview with a recruiter. Now what? Is a phone screening interview any different than an in-person interview? What type of questions do they ask?
First, let’s look at the purpose of a phone interview. It is a screening process used by recruiters to pick out the candidates that deserve to advance to an in-person interview with the hiring manager. Phone interviews tend to be brief for this reason. However, there are cases where you might be screened by more than one employer on the line. This would typically take over one phone call — scheduled days apart or all on the same day.
When it comes to phone interviews as a concept, it has soared in popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Roughly 80% of employers plan to let their employees work remotely after the pandemic passes, while 96% of employees desire some form of remote work. This means that more people will be applying online, resulting in a surge in screening processes like phone interviews to filter out the best candidates from a wide pool.
A phone interview is meant to be brief. If you are a freelancer or remote worker applying for a 100% remote job, then there is a higher chance that a phone interview is all you need. It will be a more in-depth interview than a regular screening one unless the hiring manager wants to host a virtual remote interview afterward.
Phone interviews tend to be around 15-30 minutes long. Sometimes it’s even shorter. Keep in mind that a phone interview is also impersonal. You cannot rely on body language or eye contact to express yourself. Your tone must be concise and offer clarity to what you are talking about. Everything is dependent on how you use your voice.
Because of this, we recommend that you have a set of notes available to help guide you through the interview. The recruiter will be unable to see, so it is best to sound natural instead of reading your notes. There are also instances where recruiters record the phone interview sent to a hiring manager for further approval. So try your best and be natural!
We compiled a list of popular phone screening interview questions that you should prepare for. They tend to be from a pool of general questions, so here are some tips to ace them.
This question is a common starter to any interview, and phone interviews are no exception. Recruiters and hiring managers want to learn more about you in detail. Focus on any relevant experience or achievements that focus on what the job entails. After describing your professional qualifications, you should wrap up your response by bringing the attention back to the role.
Example: “I have a thorough background in leadership roles in the restaurant industry, making me fully prepared to fulfill the role of a Chipotle manager. Currently, I am working as a manager at a Hooters near Hallowfield mall. As a manager, my responsibilities range from supervising employees to budgeting and resource allocation and solving any customer complaint. I knew that guiding customers and being a leader in the restaurant industry is something I am passionate about. Before that, I studied Hospitality and Tourism at XYZ University. I have traveled and learned about restaurant management from managers of popular restaurant chains. Chipotle is a restaurant that provides great service, and I’m excited to be here to talk about this position.”
Having hints of personality in your responses is essential in a phone interview since recruiters cannot read your expression or body language. Showcasing your personality from time to time will remind them that you are more than just a voice through the phone.
This phone screening interview question can come masked in many forms: “Why are you applying for this role?”, “What about this role interests you?” or “Why does this position interest you?”
When responding, make sure to tailor it to the job description as best as you can. Look over what skills or previous roles you had that would make you qualified for this position. Most importantly, recruiters want to see how interested you are in this position. They want to see how invested you are and will become if you attain the role. Provide some present and futuristic insight in your response.
Example: “I have always wanted to be a marketer at your company for some time. I went ahead and participated in online workshops and courses that award me the certificates needed to apply. My extensive knowledge and skills in marketing will prove to an asset to your company, and I know your company will let me cultivate these skills.”
Recruiters rely on this question to decipher if a candidate genuinely wants to work for the company and live up to its values. You would want to reference company values or workplace ethics that they emphasize, whether through their job description or social media. They want to figure out why you want to work at their company instead of anywhere else. Your response to this question can reflect how serious you are and how devoted you would be to fulfill the position you’re applying for. Look beyond just the role—Research the company’s achievements, values, or other things that left an impression on you. For example, if the company takes pride in donating to multiple charities, bring up how it has impacted your perspective on them.
Example: “Valsen’s values and principles align with my own, so I know for a fact that I would be able to blend in with the work culture. I have also read your recent LinkedIn post about being listed as the top 10 retail stores to work locally by a renowned magazine. Valsen’s accomplishments prove to me that my ambitious nature and theirs synergize well.”
This question prompts a similar response to the one above — focusing on the company’s qualities. However, in this case, you do not want to be as personal. The recruiter or hiring manager wants to know if you have done the research on their company. Don’t tell them basic facts such as what services they provide, the year they were founded, and so on. Instead, narrow down on roughly two or three qualities: achievements, work culture, brand mission, and products.
Example: “I am aware that your brand mission focuses on delivering the best quality food to make customers happy. I resonate with this because I had volunteered at a local farmer’s market to distribute crops. Your company has been founded the same way, so your strong roots are something I can admire.”
Recruiters ask this question to test how you respond rather than what. When it comes to strengths, mention relevant information that can be backed up by proof. For example, if you say that you are bilingual in English and Spanish, having a certificate proves your authenticity helps. Not every strength you mention needs to have physical proof. Many responses to this question are geared towards showcasing your soft skills, such as time management and leadership.
Example: “My time during customer service has honed my skills in organization, critical thinking, and problem-solving. This had given me a chance to speak French and Spanish fluently to international customers when they asked for help. Because of this, I am a very reliable teammate and leader.”
When it comes to weaknesses, mention skills that you’re aiming to improve on. The way you respond to this question is more important than what you say for strengths. Both responses are still essential, but when recruiters ask about your weaknesses, they want to hear about a thorough process to overcome them. You can pick one or more weaknesses to focus on, but usually, you just want to stick to one or two. Remember that recruiters care more about the process than the actual weakness itself.
Example: “My current supervisor recognized that my organizational skills are lacking. To tackle this, I had asked my supervisor if I could take on tasks oriented to the organization. It is still a work in progress, but my supervisor has commended my improvement.”
A straightforward question is most likely to be asked during an in-person interview rather than a phone interview, but it is still a popular question. This is your sellout point. Summarize roughly 3 or 4 main points about yourself. It can be your hard skills, soft skills, achievements, education, and so on. You do not want to elaborate thoroughly on each detail. A nice gloss over with each point is enough. Consider that phone interviews are brief and that you do not have a lot of time to elaborate.
Example: “I believe that I’m the best fit for this role due to my acknowledgments and services through my education. I was a leading officer for three years in my university’s student government association. I had maintained a 3.8 GPA and made it on the Dean’s List throughout my time at XYZ University. During my time, I also pursued teaching certificates and worked as a teacher’s assistant under a popular chef from France. I am aware that I do not have work experience, but I believe my qualities and dedication to teaching is something you can benefit from, just as XYZ University was able to rely on me.”
This is a difficult question to tackle since it’s easy to have a misunderstanding when discussing salary. It is also dependent on whether the job description offered a salary range or not. If that is the case, discuss what you read from the job description and offer what you think you’re worth. If you value yourself too low, recruiters will either see this as advantageous, or your skills are not as great as you said. Placing yourself on the higher end is also risky, but if you have the experience and explanation to back it up, you both can come to a conclusion.
Example: “Based on my experience and the responsibilities based on the job description, I believe that my salary should lie between 60k-70k annually. However, I am open to negotiation.”
These are the most popular phone screening interview questions that you should prepare for. Now – go ace that call! Let us know how it goes in the comments below.
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