A telephone interview is used to make sure only great candidates are invited for a face-to-face interview. Put bluntly, you are getting screened before the company invests additional time into you. Be prepared, have your phone plugged in and some water handy, stand up for the interview so your body language conveys confidence through your tone, smile when you talk, and have your notes at hand and organized.
Here are 50 of the most common phone interview questions with answers to make sure you make it to the next steps of the interview process.
#1. Tell me about yourself.
Important Points to Address: Among the most typical phone interview questions, this question makes sure you are the right person and a good fit for the company culture.
I am a professional in my field, and I possess the necessary skills and experience to be an asset to your company. I have a consistent record of achievement professionally, personally, and academically. I have a strong work ethic and always work to achieve the most that I can for the company that I work for.
#2. What do you know about our company?
Important Points to Address: This is one of the most common job interview questions asked because the hiring manager wants to know that you know what you are getting into. It’s a good sign if you can show that you have done company research and visited the company’s website.
You are an industry leader in your field with a loyal customer base and a strong reputation for high performance and professional conduct. I researched the company before applying, and your social media and online presence are full of positive reviews from both customers and former employees alike. You are the exact type of company that I want to work for and add value to.
#3. How are your past experiences relevant to this position?
Important Points to Address: Referring to your resume, provide a brief overview of your work experience and outline what previous experience you have that helped develop skills specific to this job opportunity.
I have several years of experience, I have taken on extensive professional development courses, and I have acquired leadership, communication, organization, and teamwork skills. I have continually developed my position-specific technical and hard skills too. Because of this, I am a high-performing team player who can deliver consistent results and contribute value to your company.
#4. What is your greatest strength?
Important Points to Address: A good answer outlines skills and qualities that you have that make you the best job candidate for this specific job based on the job description.
My greatest strength is my ability to learn new skills and acquire information rapidly. This aids me when beginning a new role as I can learn about the business, practices, procedures, and standards and begin contributing quickly. It also allows me to continually learn and develop new skills on a daily basis when I face a new challenge in my role.
#5. When have you worked as a part of a team?
Important Points to Address: This is one of the most common interview questions asked, and the best answers show communication skills and the ability to work well with others to achieve the company’s goals. It is not good enough to have the required skills, as you have to get along with people as well.
I was working as part of a team on a project when I noted one of my team members struggling to keep up. I found out they were new to the software, but I was experienced. I arranged to come in an hour early for a week to give them one-on-one tutoring. By doing this, we regained the lost project time and finished successfully.
#6. What is your greatest weakness?
Important Points to Address: The best way to answer this is to provide a minor weakness and explain how you are working to fix it.
My biggest weakness is that I often struggle to say “no” to people as I always want to help out. I am learning to realistically estimate my capacity and to say “no” when I can’t take on new tasks. I have also learned to prioritize and delegate minor tasks when I am overloaded so that I can work on more important duties.
#7. Why should we hire you?
Important Points to Address: This is your chance to show that you are a great fit and deserve to go further in the hiring process. Be sure to use the SMART method to deliver the right answer.
I am the ideal candidate because I have the skills needed to excel in this position. I have a positive mindset, a good work ethic, and a consistent track record of achievement. I am the type of person who is conscientious and will be a positive role model for your company.
#8. Why are you leaving your current position?
Important Points to Address: The most important thing when answering this is to explain how leaving your current employer forms part of your career goals and never criticize your current employer. If you talked with your boss prior to leaving and tried to work with the company before resigning, that is even better. Employees are expensive to recruit and to train, and employers want someone who will be loyal.
I plan to leave my current position because I am looking for a new challenge that will put my skills and qualities to good use. My employer has been great and prepared me well, but I am looking for a new challenge. I have spoken with my employer about what else I could do within the company, but unfortunately, the limited career path goes in a different direction from my professional goals.
#9. What can you do for us that others can’t?
Important Points to Address: This is one of the most common questions asked, and it’s a great opportunity to talk about soft skills or highlight attributes or work histories that are not obvious on your resume.
I can come into the role and build up my skill level quickly and begin contributing to the team in a very short time. This means that you will not need to spend much time supervising me, and I will quickly add value to the organization and become a key team player.
#10. Describe your current job responsibilities.
Important Points to Address: A great way to answer this question is to explain what aspects of your current job align with the requirement of this specific role.
In my current role, I provide support to my team through the timely completion of my tasks ensuring they have everything they need from me on time. I work from prioritized to-do lists and always complete the most important tasks first based on my team’s and the company’s goals and objectives. I always look for opportunities to learn, develop new skills and challenge myself, and I welcome opportunities to work with other teams and train and mentor new staff.
#11. Why are you interested in this position?
Important Points to Address: Try to show that you have a good reason to want this specific role and that your background, skills and passion make you a fantastic fit for the role. Also, demonstrate that you will be with the company for a long time.
I shortlisted what I wanted in an employer, and your company was at the top of my list. I was excited to see that this opportunity is a perfect match for my skills, experiences, and career ambitions. It will provide a challenge where I can put my skills to good use and continue to grow and develop professionally for many years.
#12. Tell me about a time you had to work under pressure.
Important Points to Address: Whenever you are asked behavioral interview questions, it is important to use the STAR method in your response.
I was working with other team members on a major project. Unfortunately, the client changed the project last minute. Because I work well under pressure, I suggested we sit down and review the plan to see if we could still complete the project on time. As a team, we all agreed to work regular overtime for a short period to get the project completed. Because of our success, the company retained the client as a repeat customer.
#13. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Important Points to Address: It is a good idea to make sure your answer discusses being at the company and either progressing or having developed new skills and abilities.
I hope to still be working for you either and hopefully have taken on more responsibility. I will have completed numerous training and development courses. In five years, my goal is to be growing with the company, be a reliable employee, and be someone who can help train newer members of the team.
#14. How would you handle conflict with a coworker?
Important Points to Address: It is most important in a question like this to avoid giving the wrong answer, but a strong answer about how you de-escalate conflict will get you bonus points.
The first thing I do is reflect on what I did to contribute to the conflict. I try to see the situation from their perspective and speak to them in private to work on an amicable solution. I believe we have a responsibility to each other to be professional and to ensure conflict doesn’t hurt our team’s progress.
#15. What is your greatest achievement?
Important Points to Address: Showing your biggest achievement is important to help you progress in the interview process, especially if applying for a management or leadership role.
In a previous role, I saw an opportunity to grow the business by collecting customer reviews for the company website. I researched review platforms and took my suggestion and research to my manager. By implementing a prompt for customer reviews on the website, the positive reviews generated a 15% increase in sales over the next three months.
#16. What are you looking for in your next job?
Important Points to Address: When answering this question, you should explain at a high level how the job fits your career path and what you are looking for from a prospective employer.
I am looking for a job with a progressive company that tries new things and with a team that is positive and productive. I want my skills and qualities to be put to good use and to be given challenging responsibilities with a manager who provides support and guidance and helps their team members to grow.
#17. What type of work environment do you prefer?
Important Points to Address: An easy way to answer this question is to provide a general answer that won’t preclude you from selection but also doesn’t mislead the interviewer.
I want to work in a workplace where everyone is given equal opportunities to progress and thrive. I am looking for a strong team environment where people work together to help each other and where innovation is valued. I also seek good leadership where goals and objectives are clear and where productively is valued.
#18. Have you ever had to deal with a difficult customer?
Important Points to Address: This is not a “yes” or “no” question, even though it may look like it. Be sure to provide an example with a positive outcome for the business.
Yes, I once had an angry customer in retail. I took the time to listen and make them feel heard. I used probing questions to find out more about their problem and did my best to build rapport and connect with them. By connecting with them, I was able to offer them a good resolution and confirmed with them they were happy with the solution. I contacted them the next day to check if they were still happy, and they confirmed they would be a repeat customer.
#19. Are you happy with how your career has progressed? What would you change if you could?
Important Points to Address: If you are changing careers, be sure to explain why you are changing. If you are staying in the same industry, make sure to confirm you enjoy your industry.
Like anyone, I have made some mistakes, but I wouldn’t change anything. I have been careful to pay attention and learn from my mistakes, and I believe I am a better employee because of it. I am happy with my career and am excited to begin the next step in my professional development.
#20. How did you hear about this position?
Important Points to Address: A unique way to answer this question is to say that you have been watching their company and waiting for an opportunity for a long time.
When I last reviewed my career plan, I shortlisted the companies I would like to work for, and yours was at the top of that list. For this reason, I regularly check the company website, and I was excited to see that this position is a match for my skills and experience.
#21. What is your definition of success?
Important Points to Address: Your answer should refer to setting goals and meeting and exceeding expectations.
Success is different for everyone. Professionally, I believe it is about goals and objectives. At a team level, this could be about morale, turnover, or retention. For the business and shareholders, it will be about return on investment, turnover, dividends, and sales growth.
#22. How do you take on and respond to feedback?
Important Points to Address: Make sure to highlight that you are open to learning and improving.
I welcome feedback. It is a great opportunity for me to improve and I appreciate that someone is taking the time to help me grow. When I am corrected, I try to listen to identify what I can do differently next time, and I ask clarifying questions to make sure that I understand what I did wrong and how I can improve in the future.
#23. What would you do if you saw a coworker performing their duties incorrectly?
Important Points to Address: Especially in regulated industries, employers need to know that you won’t overlook colleagues’ underperformance.
If it were minor, I would politely offer to help and explain the adjustment that needs to be made. If it were a serious matter, I would tell them they should stop and immediately adhere to policy and procedures. If policy mandated it, I would report them as necessary to a manager.
#24. How would your last manager describe you?
Important Points to Address: Remember that if you are successful, most companies will call your previous manager for a reference.
If you were to ask my last manager about me, they would tell you that I am hard-working, ambitious, and reliable. I am dependable and welcome opportunities to learn and grow. I am always willing to assist with training new team members or taking on extra duties when capacity allows.
#25. If successful, what would you do in the first 30 days?
Important Points to Address: Your answer needs to address familiarity with your team, the company, policies and procedures, and seeking to deliver results.
I would first try to get an understanding of the company’s strategic objectives and how my role fits in. I would also observe my team to identify personal and team strengths and areas for improvement. During this time, I would learn the company’s policies, procedures, and work practices. By the end, I would be up to speed and producing value for the business.
#26. Have you ever had to learn something quickly? What did you do?
Important Points to Address: This question is more about your learning style and openness to learning than it is about what you learned.
I was once asked to cover for a sick coworker for several weeks. I had to complete their duties and my own. I reviewed their job description to see what jobs I knew and what jobs I needed to learn. I read the operations manual at home at night and asked another coworker for tips on the new tasks the next day. In the end, I was able to complete both jobs for several weeks.
#27. Can you describe a time when you exceeded expectations?
Important Points to Address: Provide an example of going the extra mile or taking the initiative even when it was not required of you.
In a previous job, I was once when I was given a manual data-entry task to complete that should have taken two weeks, I noted that both software we were using had import and export functions, but no one knew how to use them. I studied them at home for two nights, and on the third day, I was able to successfully export and import the data digitally. By doing this, I saved the company seven days.
#28. Walk me through your resume.
Important Points to Address: Don’t simply recite your resume. Pick your professional highlights that are a match for the job description.
Through my years of experience from college until the present, I have always had a passion for this industry as well as continuous learning and professional development. In my last job, I welcomed all internal and external training available and have achieved several industry certifications and professional certificates that are relevant to this application. I have received several awards for high achievement and for delivering beyond expectations. My hope is that I have the opportunity to bring the same dedication to a position here.
#29. What will you do if you are unsuccessful in this application?
Important Points to Address: This question does not mean they are planning to reject you. They want to know how you handle contingencies and the unexpected.
First, I would ask what I could do to make myself a better candidate. Second, I would continue to work hard at my current employer while improving my weaknesses through professional development. I would keep an eye out for future job openings with your company and apply again in the future.
#30. What are your salary expectations?
Important Points to Address: It is best to avoid answering this question directly. If pressed, say that you would be happy with the market rate for the position. If pressed further, provide a salary range and not a fixed value. Remember: the first person who says a number loses.
I am sorry, but I don’t think I have enough information about the role to answer that question. I would need to understand more about the job, the full duties involved, other benefits offered by the company, and the nature of the work to provide an accurate and realistic expectation.
#31. What is your understanding of what is required from you in this role?
Important Points to Address: Try to give an answer that closely mirrors the position description.
I’m glad you asked. I’ll tell you what I know, and I’d love it if you could provide some clarity if I have any misunderstandings. The position is a leadership role in charge of a small project team. I am responsible for ensuring my team meets the team and personal performance indicators within time and within budget.
#32. If you were hiring for this role, what qualities would you look for?
Important Points to Address: This question is less common but is a great opportunity to answer in a unique way.
I believe that you can teach skills, but you can’t teach a good attitude. I would look for a team player who is a good communicator, a fast learner, and able to adapt how they work to fit in with their team. If they are a good person, we can improve their technical skills if needed.
#33. Can you describe a typical work day for you?
Important Points to Address: A prospective employer wants to know that you have a system that ensures you are consistently reliable and productive.
I get in early and get my coffee, and am at my desk before the day begins. I use the morning to check my emails for anything important and email anyone if I am going to have to cancel a commitment. I work in time blocks so that I check email in between each task and don’t get distracted during the day by email. Also, I work from a prioritized to-do list that I make the night before, so I can complete the important tasks first.
#34. What is the biggest mistake you have made at work, and what did you do?
Important Points to Address: Provide a real mistake that shows vulnerability but is not serious enough to be a liability.
I once took a phone message from a customer but forgot to write their number down. Realizing my mistake, I told my manager everything I could about the call, the customer, and their query and I told other staff to expect a callback and about my mistake. When the customer did call back, I was transparent with them and apologized. We had a response ready for the customer, and the customer sounded impressed that we really cared.
#35. What management style do you prefer?
Important Points to Address: Rather than talking about management styles, try to instead talk about management values.
I can work well in teams under many types of managers. What is more important to me is the values my manager has. I like clear expectations, open communication, and respect. If a manager can do this, I can adapt to work under their chosen management style.
#36. What is your work style?
Important Points to Address: A good answer will show that you can prioritize actions based on what is most important to the role.
My work style is results focused. In customer-facing roles, this means that I consider everything I do in relation to the customer experience. When not facing customers, I consider everything in relation to the company’s goals and objectives and what is the greatest benefit to the organization.
#37. What motivates you?
Important Points to Address: Your answer should show you are motivated by aspects related to your role.
I am motivated by several things. I am motivated to achieve results and do things to a high standard. I expect a lot of myself, and I also expect a lot from my colleagues and teammates. This means that I will never cut corners or leave a job half done.
#38. Are you applying for other positions?
Important Points to Address: Very few employers will expect you to only apply to them, but you shouldn’t admit to applying for too many others or you will seem unfocused and desperate…wiling to accept anything.
Yes, I have applied for other positions. I am selective about which companies and what roles I am interested in, so I have not applied for many positions. But I also like to plan and have contingencies. So while your company is my first choice, I have kept my options open.
#39. What are your expectations of your manager?
Important Points to Address: It is important to show that you do have standards and expectations but that those expectations are not unreasonable.
I want a manager who facilitates the productivity and performance of the team. Whether that is ensuring we are well resourced or listening when a team member has problems, I expect to be valued as a person. If this is done, I will work as hard as possible for the business’s needs.
#40. What was the last book you read, and what did you find most useful in it?
Important Points to Address: It is best to provide your own answer, but any of the popular business books will work.
The book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. It is a powerful explanation of how habits shape our lives and what we can do to create good habits and destroy bad ones.
#41. If we asked your last manager about your performance, what would they say?
Important Points to Address: When talking about past performance, good performance must be the rule, not the exception.
They would say that I am very focused on my performance and am a reliable high performer. Like anyone, I had some days when I needed time off due to family events, but I always worked to make up for this when I was back at work.
#42. What do you enjoy most about your current role?
Important Points to Address: The best answer is always one focused on delivering value, results, profit, or teamwork, as these are important to any successful business.
My manager provides both a lot of support and a lot of autonomy. They are easy to contact, and we can count on them when we have problems. But otherwise, they set their goals and expectations and then get out of their way and trust the team to deliver the results.
#43. Who inspires you?
Important Points to Address: The safe answers to this question are family, a colleague, or a well-known industry figure.
Steve Jobs. He started a company from nothing and built it to success. He was voted out of the company, so he took that time to improve himself and build new skills. Then he came back and led the company to heights of success that others thought were impossible.
#44. Why are you looking for a new job?
Important Points to Address: The best answers should talk about the ability to build new professional skills or add value to the business.
I am looking for a job that will challenge me professionally and give me room to grow. I am committed to ongoing development, so opportunities to learn are important to me. I want to work somewhere where my skills and abilities are valued and where I can make a difference in the company.
#45. Why will you succeed in this position?
Important Points to Address: Make sure you deliver this answer with confidence and enthusiasm. (Remember, you should be standing up and smiling while you answer this question.)
First, I have all the skills and experience described in the job description. Second, I am a fast learner and a team player who will quickly become a valuable team member. Finally, I am committed to continual learning and development and will learn anything that will help me to be successful.
#46. Would you be willing to travel or relocate for this job?
Important Points to Address: Think about your answer ahead of time. If you are still unsure, you can always answer “yes” and reconsider if you receive a job offer. Unless you have a crystal ball and can see how precisely how this job opportunity will materialize and what other job offers you will — or will not — have on the table, answer in the affirmative and keep an open mind.
Yes, I was aware I might have to relocate when I applied for the job. I only apply for positions that I am serious about, so if I am successful, I will do what it takes to take advantage of the opportunity.
#47. What is it about this job that interests you?
Important Points to Address: It is important that you convey genuine interest and not that you simply need a job to pay the bills.
I am passionate about the industry and was excited when I saw this position advertised. I am excited to be in a position where I can put my skills and experience to good use, where I can develop new skills, and where I can create value for the business.
#48. How soon can you start?
Important Points to Address: Besides a screening interview, a phone call may be conducted when a company is in a rush. Not being available could be a limiting answer.
If I am given a job offer, I would be willing to provide immediate notice at work. I like to honor my commitments, and on my current contract, I need to provide a minimum of 2 weeks’ notice.
#49. Do you have experience working remotely?
Important Points to Address: If this question is asked, a company will want reassurance that you can learn and be reliable and productive when working remotely.
Yes, I have worked remotely extensively and am comfortable transporting and setting up company equipment at my home office. I am reliable and a self-starter. I find that both remote working and working in the office have their advantages, and am flexible in working where you need me to work.
#50. How often do you expect to come into the office?
Important Points to Address: This question is increasing in popularity, and there is no right answer. It is usually the wrong answer to say you only want to work remotely.
I am very flexible, and I find a balance of working remotely and in the office is generally good for productivity. I like to be in the office at least one day a week, plus any other days that I have a lot of meetings to attend. That said, I am happy to be present in the office as much as you need me to.
Phone screening is common before inviting candidates to an in-person interview to be asked follow-up questions. Companies that regularly use videoconferencing may opt for a video interview, but it is likely still a screening interview. This type of interview should be treated as seriously as any other interview. Because it’s a phone interview, you can have a list of questions and your interview answers in front of you for quick reference. Doing this will help you to be more successful than other candidates.
Be sure to read the above sample answers thoroughly, modify them as appropriate, and practice them before the interview. The night before, get a good night’s sleep, be ready 15 minutes before your interview and practice your answers. Clear your desk and your mind of anything unrelated to the interview. You’ve got this!
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.