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Questions interviewers ask during a phone interview

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 5 Jun 2023

Telephone interview

Phone interviews are usually the first step in the recruitment process. You should do your research and make sure you’re prepared for these kinds of interviews. They’re usually an introduction to who you are, some of your skills and what kind of role you’re looking for. Often, these interviews are used to save time and understand if you’d be a good fit for the role. By asking introductory questions and taking the time to understand your situation and career goals a little better, the employer can determine if you’re an eligible candidate to interview further. Although initial telephone interviews may be shorter, it’s still a good idea to prepare in advance and ensure you’re able to give the interviewer all they need to give you a second interview. Here’s a few questions the interviewer may ask you.

Tell me about yourself

This question is usually the first to be asked and it’s there to kickstart the conversation. It can be a good conversation starter - one that’s used to discuss yourself, your current role and a bit about your career. This question often acts as an anchor for the rest of the interview. Initially, this question can feel daunting because you always expect it but never really know what to say when put on the spot. As it’s a phone interview, and they’re usually shorter introductions, stick to your name, current job title and a little bit about your current job. You’ll have time during later interviews to delve deeper into your background. For now, it’s there to break the ice. 

What are you looking for in your next role?

Being able to give the interviewer an understanding of what you’re looking for can really help them understand if this position aligns with your goals and job seeking journey. Being able to talk to the interviewer gives you the opportunity to better understand the role, more than you may have been able to do from just the job spec. Interviewers are looking to understand your skills and qualifications as well, these elements can add up to give them the information they need. Have a think about this before you have the interview, why do you want this role? It may be a good idea to have the job spec open on your laptop as well, to be able to reference elements during your answer. 

Why are you interested in this position?

This question links in nicely with the one above. The interviewer wants to know what you’re looking for but also if this is the right path for you. They want to know that you’ve taken the time to read the job spec and if you really understand what the job entails. Take this time to discuss skills you have that align with what they’re asking for and any information you may have about the company. Again, it’s good practice to have the job spec, to be able to reference key points. 

Tell me a bit more about your previous/current job

This question is usually asked to discuss your current responsibilities at work. It’s a chance for you to talk a bit about what you do day-to-day, your priorities when doing your job and any achievements you’ve had throughout your time there. This question can be subjective, something that’s important to one person may not be as important for someone else, so take some time to go through your CV and pick out a few key points that you’d like to talk about. This is more like an overview; they have your CV and this is a question that is likely to be revisited during interviews further down the line. Make sure you have your CV on hand as well. You may think you’ll remember your key points, but when put on the spot, your mind can easily go blank. 

Why are you leaving your current job?

The key to interview success is to remain positive throughout. If you have anything negative to say, it should always circle back to overarching positivity. This question can be a key turning point in an interview and it’s important to not get caught up in it. It seems like a simple question but one so many people stumble at because they say something negative about their current or past employer. Even if you had a negative experience, try not to focus on it. You can say things like ‘we had different ways of working’ or ‘I felt like it was time to move on and find something more fitting towards my current career goals’. You don’t want to outright lie to the interviewer, but make sure you reel in the negativity. 

It also allows the interviewer to understand if the same problem you’re having at your current job will happen again in their company. It’s not likely, but it can help the interviewer determine what kind of employee you would be. 

What do you know about this company?

Research before any interview can make or break your success. You want to be able to give them some information but at the same time, it’s not likely you’ll know everything. So you can weave your own questions into this one. Take the time to look at their most recent projects if they’ve been in the news and what for and revise your own questions about things you may not be able to find online. The key is to say something but not everything. 

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

In the rare instance that an interviewer should ask this old chestnut, being able to answer this question confidently, tells the employer that you have goals or even a personal development plan. They don’t have to be long-term goals or even anything set in stone, but sharing your ambition, goals, where you want to be, can help them determine if you’re a good fit for the role. They want you to succeed, so if they feel like they can’t help you reach your goals, they’ll tell you this. It’s not always a negative thing, being let down because they can’t meet your goals. Most employers want what’s best for the candidates and if they can provide that, they will.

It can be a good idea to keep your answer in line with the job spec. Talk about promotions within the company and working on projects that they can provide you with. Don’t describe a work plan they just can’t fulfil. 

What are your salary expectations

Sometimes there is a salary written on the job spec and sometimes it just says ‘negotiable’. Whatever the situation, you want to know you’ll be compensated fairly. So make sure you’ve done research on your market value, figured out what you need to live on and if it’s what you were expecting. The employer wants to know if they can match your salary request and it should be something you want to avoid talking about. Being able to give them your thoughts can lead to healthy negotiation. Maybe not this early in the interview process but later down the line. 

If offered a position, when would you be able to start?

This question is by no means a job offer. Employers understand that you’ll have a notice period if you’re still actively working. They want to be able to manage expectations within the team and have a clear understanding on when you’ll be able to join the team and the amount of time they'll have to prepare training, colleagues etc. Take a look at your current contract before your interview, so you’re able to give them a clear and accurate answer. 

Do you have any questions?

No matter how long or the type of interview, it’s always good practice to have questions ready. You may even think of some during the interview, so be sure to have a pen and paper handy so you don’t forget them. These are to demonstrate that you’re engaged and understand the job role. Show them that you want to learn more and that after your conversation, you’re still generally interested in the job. Here are some you may want to ask:

  • What is expected of this role on a daily basis?
  • What are some important qualities you’d like to find in a candidate?
  • What are some opportunities this job will provide?

There are many more questions you may want to ask but the above is just a little taster if you have no other ideas!

Not everyone is 100% comfortable with telephone interviews and if it’s something you’re just not used to, it can easily throw you off. Just like any other interview, you want to prepare some answers in advance. Be prepared and if you can’t prepare answers, make sure you are aware of what they may ask you. Prepare for the unexpected and ensure you’re acting engaged. Without body language, if you don’t share your enthusiasm, it can be difficult to show emotion over the phone. This is why asking them questions as well can be so important!