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How to ace a phone job interview

A phone interview is different than a face-to-face interview. But is it harder? What are the best practices to succeed on a phone interview? In this article, you'll get a complete guide so you can rock your next one! Read for more!
Karin Levy

Karin Levy

Technical Marketing and Product Manager
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A girl is thinking how to ace a phone job interview

Over the phone, an interview can feel completely different, since it’s harder to see the reactions to your answers. The phone interview questions can also be different than that of the face-to-face interview, and you also have to think about what questions to ask the recruiter during the phone interview. But don’t worry! After checking out these phone screen interview tips, you won’t feel like you need any more phone interview advice!

What does a phone interview mean and what can you expect

A telephone interview is a type of job interview that is conducted to determine whether the applicant has the qualifications and skills needed to do the job he/she applied for. The hiring process varies in many firms but usually, a job interview via phone is the first interview step in the hiring process.

In most cases, screening interviews include a brief review of your educational and professional background as well as a list of the most common interview questions. These questions will inquire not only about your skills and qualifications, but also about your salary expectations and work availability.

When the phone screen interview is over, the recruiter will determine whether the candidate proceeds to the next round of the hiring process, which could be either an assessment centre or a face-to-face interview.

Phone interview questions and answers

In the phone interview, the interviewer can ask many common interview questions, such as:

Check out our article if you’re interested what are the most common interview questions you could face.

The interviewer can also assess the language skills you added to your CV, to see if you really have the level you claimed. That’s the reason why you should insert your language skills to your CV correctly.

Who should call who before the phone interview

So you were supposed to have your phone interview 5 minutes ago, and you’re questioning whether you made a mistake? Were you supposed to call the recruiter? Our answer is: no. You should wait for the recruiter to call you. Even if it means they might be late with the call (or perhaps totally forget about it). In the startup world, many times there can be last-minute priorities and tasks, and it can happen with the best of us to be stuck in an important meeting or being swamped by work. Be patient, and if nothing is happening, write a follow-up email or message.

Tips on how to master a phone interview

Now that you know what a phone interview is and what can you expect, here’s the time to give you our little phone interview cheat sheet! If you follow these simple pieces of advice, you’ll be perfectly prepared for your next phone screen interview!

  1. Prepare for it just as you would for a regular face-to-face interview
  2. Create a list of your strengths and weaknesses
  3. Have a list of questions ready for the interviewer
  4. Make sure to do your research on the company
  5. Review the job description and match it with your skills and qualifications (helps to point out why you are the best candidate)
  6. Review your CV (ability to discuss your educational and professional background)

How to answer phone job interview

Many times, candidates are unsure whether they should give longer answers or rather be on point with 1-2 sentences. Both options have their pros and cons.

  • Longer answers: If the candidate gives a longer answer, using the STAR method for example, it can mean that he/she has a lot of knowledge and experience to share. It can also indicate, that he/she simply enjoys social interactions, which is a great plus for communication skills. On the other hand, though, it can show that the candidate has a hard time being structured and focused and easily shifts away from the topic. Worst case scenario is when the candidate starts, talks for a considerable amount of time, without answering the question (because he/she got lost in their own thoughts).
  • Shorter answer: People who give shorter answers are usually more structured, answer to the point and can easily focus their thoughts. They might need some time to think before giving a concrete, short answer, which also means they are good in – and prefer! – self-reflection. On the other hand, short answers can cause an unpleasant atmosphere for the interview. The recruiter also wants to get to know the personality, and it’s hard with 1-2 sentences for each question.

You should find the balance between these two options and try to avoid the cons and focus on the cons.

Why phone interviews are important

The purpose of conducting a phone interview before inviting a potential candidate to the office can have different causes. Below you’ll find some key reasons why startups decide to contact a candidate via phone or Skype before moving to the next recruitment steps.

Filling in missing information or clarifying details

You might have created already your shiny CV thanks to our top tips, or optimized your cover letter in English. Nevertheless, sometimes the interviewer or hiring manager thinks the candidate might be a good fit, but certain elements are missing and the interviewer has difficulties figuring them out. Therefore, a phone interview will be scheduled in order to give the interviewee the opportunity to explain himself or herself.

Determining whether you have the right qualifications

Usually, specific questions are asked in order to provide the interviewee with the chance to demonstrate his/her knowledge or to talk about certain situations he/she handled in the past. Sometimes the interviewee is handed a small assignment prior to the call. Then the interviewer may ask specific questions in regard to the interviewee’s assignment. These questions help the interviewer determine whether the candidate is capable of performing the job.

Finding out how interested you are in the position

This step helps the interviewer figure out whether the candidate is really excited about the position. You don’t want to waste your time inviting a candidate who is not that interested in the vacant role. Questions about potential start dates help provide the interviewer with clues as to how eager or “hungry” the applicants are to take the position.

Furthermore, enthusiasm about the job throughout the interview is an additional indicator of whether the candidate is genuinely interested in the vacant startup position.

Assessing cultural fit

Often, the interviewer is looking for candidates with not only the right strengths and qualifications but also a particular personality type. Questions related to the preferred work environment will help figure out whether the candidate fits into the organization’s culture.

Bonus: How to conduct a phone interview

We also have tips for how to conduct such phone job interviews. Why would these tricks be useful?! On one hand, you can better formulate your answers, if you know what recruiters are looking for. When you know what the recruiters pay attention to (as minor things as they may seem), you’ll learn how to give the best impression.

On the other hand, if you’re getting hired for a leading position or grow yourself into one, you’ll need to eventually hire your own team. That’s why it can come in handy if you know already now, how to talk on a phone interview as a recruiter!

The phone interview, obviously, is usually conducted over the phone. If you prefer a more personal interview and a face-to-face conversation is not possible, you can alternatively conduct the interview via Skype, Hangouts or Zoom. Thus, the interviewer and the interviewee are visible to each other. This visibility often allows the interviewer to read the interviewee’s gestures and facial expressions, which can influence the final evaluation.

Our tips to conduct a job interviews over the phone

  • Think of how you would structure the interview and outline this structure for the candidate during the call. That will help you a lot in keeping track of the time and once again, going through what you want to ask. This will also (hopefully) help the candidate to get a feeling for how long the answers should last.
  • Review the candidate’s profile carefully before the interview to ask the right questions. There’s nothing more awkward when you mix up candidates – and trust us, it can easily happen! Make sure to dedicate some time before the interview to freshen up your memory. Read through the CV and cover letter once again, highlight the parts that are more interesting for you – remember, it’s a phone interview, the candidate won’t see your notes!
  • Write down questions that directly relate to the job responsibilities. There are many questions you can choose from – make sure to choose diverse ones. Some questions can be more personal while others should relate to the job requirements.
  • Don’t talk too much – allow the candidate to present & describe himself/herself! But on the other hand, you also need to brand your company and explain all the benefits the candidate can gain. So try to still give the talents some insights, but remember, you are not the one in the spotlight!
  • After the call, elaborate on the next steps for the candidate. If you don’t, the candidate can experience a negative hiring process. They might think they wait for too long. Or that the job already got filled. Make sure to let them know the time frame and the stages of the recruiting process!

Conclusion

A phone interview can have its benefits but also its disadvantages – make sure to prepare thoroughly, so you can avoid getting rejected. As you can see, there are plenty of things to remember, but the most important of all is just to be yourself! This is how both the interviewer and you can gain the most out of it.

And if you’re a startup, struggling to find the perfect candidate, look no more – reach out to [email protected] where we offer different recruiting and HR services exclusively adressing the startup environment.

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