Once you’ve applied to a job post, you may be invited to do a phone interview. This is an indication that the recruiter has reviewed your resume and found that you have the basic skills and experience required for the role. The goal of the phone interview – or phone screen – is to weed out the most desirable candidates from a larger pool of candidates who, at least on paper, appear to be qualified.
Phone screens typically last between 15 and 30 minutes, during which a hiring manager will ask you a series of questions about your background. It is also an opportunity for them to evaluate your communication skills, get a sense of your personality, and determine whether you’d be a good cultural fit for the organization.
To help you prepare for your next phone screen, we’ve compiled some commonly asked questions, as well as do’s and don’ts. Study up and make a great impression next time you take a call from a recruiter.
Phone Interview Do’s, Don’ts, and Common Questions:
When should I schedule a phone screen?
While those job seekers who are eager to find a new job might be tempted to schedule a phone screen during the work day, try to avoid this if possible. Many recruiters will make arrangements to speak to you either before or after business hours, and you’ll be more relaxed if you aren’t worried about getting back to work on time.
Allow yourself twice as much time as you think you’ll need for a phone screen. This will allow you to be organized and ready a few minutes early and will provide a buffer on the back end in case the recruiter calls you a few minutes late.
What questions will I be asked during my phone interview?
Without a crystal ball, this one is a bit hard to answer but, below, we have compiled a list of questions you could be asked during your call. Here is a pro tip: write out your responses to each of the following questions. The best part of a phone screen is that you can have a cheat sheet with you during the call, which can help you get your key points across to the recruiter.
Questions during phone screens typically fall into two categories: questions about you and your experience and questions about what you are seeking in your next role. Here are some sample questions:
Potential questions about you:
Tell me more about your current role
Why are you looking to leave your current job?
What do you see as your greatest strength/ weakness?
Tell me about a major challenge you’ve faced and how you handled it?
What kind of manager best motivates you?
How would your coworkers describe you?
What was your starting salary in your current role? What are you earning now?
(Note: In some cities and states, employers are banned from asking about current and past compensation. Click here to find out if you live in one of these cities or states.)
Potential questions about the company and the role:
How much do you know about our company?
What interests you about this role and why do you think you’d be a good fit?
Why do you want to work here?
What do you hope to gain from your next position?
What can you contribute to this company?
Are you willing to travel for work?
What are your salary expectations? (Even in states and cities that have banned questions about salary, questions about salary expectations are allowed.)
What research should I do before my phone interview?
Go to the company’s website and read the About page for an overview. Next, read recent news articles written about the company. Add your findings to your cheat sheet. Next, look up the recruiter on LinkedIn. Look for commonalities; perhaps you share an alma mater, or maybe you have common connections. These facts are nice to have in your back pocket as conversation starters during the call.
Where should I take the call?
Find a quiet room in your house; you’ll be most comfortable at home and will have the most control over the environment. Ideally, do your call when pets and children are out of the house. A child asking for a juice box mid-call can make you lose your train of thought. Consider whether you’d be most comfortable in a chair or if pacing helps you to gather your thoughts and plan your location accordingly.
What will I need during the call?
Print out your résumé and cheat sheet and mark the important skills you want to highlight during the conversation (and consider fine-tuning the doc with a resume builder to make sure it’s in tip-top shape). Keep a pad and pen handy for taking notes. Pour yourself a glass of water and have it nearby, just in case. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged and turn off any sounds or alerts that could distract you.
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