15 Common Phone Interview Questions to Screen Candidates Fast

Blog 15 Common Phone Interview Questions to Screen Candidates Fast

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interview questions to ask over the phone

Phone interviews are nothing new in the recruitment process. Given the current situation, recruiting agencies and companies’ HR specialists started using them again to save the time, effort, and risks of face-to-face meetings. Of course, now we have enough tech tools to conduct an interview from a reasonable distance and still have a satisfactory “live” conversation with applicants. A phone interview takes the edge off a little for the candidates, but it does not mean they should present themselves unprepared. Let’s see today X common phone interview questions for fast screening, so we can make better decisions regarding the ones we schedule next for pre-employment assessments, in-person interviews, simulations, etc.

Do the Phone Interview Questions Differ from In-Person Interview Questions?

common phone interview questions

While the content of phone interview questions does not differ from the standard questions you ask during a face-to-face meeting, the interaction between you and the candidate changes. You cannot rely on body language to build a rapport and make assessments, so you have to pay attention to the applicants’ tone of voice, communication skills, speech clarity, etc.

You should expect candidates to take notes and prepare some written answers before the interview. However, they should speak freely, openly, and not simply read the answers from a piece of paper. For this reason, in this list of common phone interview questions, you can add a few of the tougher questions that usually trigger spontaneous, unrehearsed answers.

Another aspect to take into consideration is how candidates treat phone interviews. They may answer while wearing fuzzy slippers and sweat pants, but it does not mean they can approach the experience in an overly informal, casual manner. Since phone interviews mean to screen candidates out to select the ones you want for further assessments, applicants should convince you from the get-go that they are taking things seriously.

In short, please pay attention to not only what the candidates answer to your common phone interview questions but how they answer. For clarity and ease of use, we separated the questions into a couple of categories, so let’s get started, shall we?

5 Common Phone Interview Questions about the Candidate

Start smoothly and friendly with the phone interview to ease the candidate into the conversation. Remember that you are in a quick screening stage, so you don’t engage applicants in lengthy conversations to determine their skills’ levels or behavioral traits. In case an applicant offers solely “yes” or “no” questions, but you want details, encourage them to develop on the subject.

1. Why are you looking for a new job?

It is crucial to understand applicants’ motivation to leave their current jobs or seek the job you are offering after an unemployment period. At this point, you are trying to learn more about a candidate’s reasons for leaving and the expectations regarding a job change to see if they are a good fit for your organization.

2. What is your expected salary based on what you are earning now?

This question helps you evaluate candidates very fast over the phone and helps your organization fine-tune its talent-hiring strategies, offers, and recruitment vision. If candidates make well above what you offer, you should move on to the next applicant on the list.

When you tap into a valuable pool of candidates through your employee referral program, making them an offer they cannot refuse should be a priority. If a handful of candidates expect your company to offer more than they are currently making, it is time to revise your approach.

3. What are you looking for in your next job?

With this common phone interview question, you try to learn the candidate’s view & perspective regarding this new job opportunity. It goes beyond salary and benefits, and you should guide applicants to tell you what they want to accomplish in the role you are offering: gain new skills, manage a team, assume more responsibilities, etc.

4. What type of working environment do you prefer?

Are you offering a remote job? Does the candidate have to come to the office daily and follow a strict work schedule? Guide the candidates to offer you more details regarding flexible hours, teamwork, communication tools, work trackers, productivity tools’ usage, etc. With such a question, you can learn if applicants are a good fit for your organizational culture and methodology.

5. What attracted you to our organization?

Most candidates expect such questions during an interview – over the phone or face-to-face – so they might offer you a rehearsed answer praising your company. Don’t stop here, however. Ask supplementary questions to learn if the candidate knows details about your company, products, projects, mission, vision, etc. You want candidates who seem to be a good organizational fit, as they will play an important role in employee retention.

Now that you got a good idea about who your candidates are, you can move on to the next batch of phone interview questions.

5 Common Phone Interview Questions about the Candidate’s Experience and Skills

Of course, we all prefer applying pre-employment assessment tests, exercises, or simulations to evaluate candidates’ cognitive skills, job-specific skills, personality traits, management skills, and so on. However, when conducting a phone interview, we have to extract relevant information from the applicants’ answers. Therefore, we need to ask the right questions triggering detailed descriptions and explanations related to skills and traits.

1. What were the main duties of your last job role?

You don’t want the candidate to recite the past job description but rather discuss the previous/current job’s responsibilities relevant to the position you are offering. Insist that a customer support representative talks about managing difficult customers, answer product questions, guide clients towards satisfactory solutions, etc. On the other hand, when you recruit a project manager, lead the conversation, and discuss their management skills translated into everyday practice.

2. Give me some details regarding a successful idea you had from conception to launch

The answer is highly dependent on the role, but you can adapt this phone interview question to each candidate’s prior job role. You want to learn more about a successful piece of work the applicants accomplished and the steps they took to complete it. The answer can give you a few clues on how a candidate defines “success” and the skills employed in reaching such goals.

3. Walk me through your resume and detail some of the most relevant experiences

As recruiters, we probably have all the data we need about a candidate’s experience and background. However, we want them to tell us about their most relevant job experiences, the roles they enjoyed most, the skills they learned, and the types of organizations they enjoyed working for so far. This question is a good opportunity to learn extra details regarding an individual’s career path and goals, the reasons behind job/career changes, etc.

4. Which of your skills do you think will help you excel at this job?

With this common phone interview question, you want to allow the candidate to discuss both hard skills required by the job and the soft ones necessary in any organization. Most candidates will talk about their communication skills and teamwork abilities but look beyond them.

For once, you can directly evaluate applicants’ communication skills by the way they talk, structure their answers, and provide clear and appealing information, etc. On the other hand, it isn’t easy to assess them over the phone when it comes to teamwork skills. If you want to go deeper, you can ask more focused behavioral interview questions related to conflict management, assertiveness, team collaboration, and so on.

5. What type of manager/leader do you prefer to work with the most?

Here you have a crucial screening phone interview question that helps you understand a lot about a candidate. Keep in mind that the answer is subjective, so when it comes to management/leadership styles, each individual prefers a certain approach.

What you need to learn here is that whether your company aligns with what the candidates need. It is especially crucial to understand what your candidates want from their managers when running a thorough talent recruiting and employer branding strategy.

Allow the candidate to describe the ideal manager’s skills and traits, leadership style, communication approach, conflict management style, and so on. Pay attention to the candidates’ positions towards offering/receiving feedback, preferred methods of communication, managers’ expectations, and so on.

5 Common Phone Interview Questions Related to Candidates’ Personality Traits, Behaviors, and Attitudes

We reached the final section of this guide on common phone interview questions and one of the most complicated. It is way easier to conduct a behavioral interview in person or apply personality tests to understand your candidates better. We all deal with difficulties when assessing attitudes, behaviors, or character strengths over the phone, no matter how lengthy you scheduled the interview.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, however. Let’s see some phone interview questions that help recruiters screen their candidates faster!

1. What motivates you to do a good job every day?

“The salary” could be an answer, but it is not what we want. Encourage the candidate to describe interests, goals, priorities, etc. It will help you get a clearer picture of their intrinsic motivation for job performance. The same question also gives you some personal insight into applicants’ hobbies, passions, and more. The ideal answer would involve something related to the company’s values, but make sure the applicants don’t serve you rehearsed answers.

2. What challenges do you feel most comfortable with, and what gives you troubles?

As we said, it is hard to assess personality over the phone, but we can ask a few tricky questions. When it comes to workplace challenges, they can take many shapes and sizes: workload & deadlines, time management, prioritization, knowledge & skill level, team conflicts, poor management styles, etc. There is no right or wrong answer to this phone interview question. You want to understand if the candidates are aware of their strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to grow.

3. Tell me about a time you had to overcome an obstacle. What did you do?

It is a classic behavioral interview question. It would be great if the candidate answered using the STAR method, but it is not mandatory. What you want to learn here is how the applicants define “obstacles.” Next, you want them to describe their thought processes, reveal their problem-solving skills, and describe their decision-making method.

4. If you and a coworker would disagree on a topic, how would you solve the situation?

As we said many times before, you want to assess conflict resolution skills and styles no matter the positions you have open. Disagreements and conflicts of opinion emerge in any working situation among coworkers in any team and every day. Encourage the applicants to describe their processes/steps leading to the conflict’s solving.

5. Do you have any questions for me?

Just as you interview a candidate, expect and encourage your applicants to interview you too. By now, you should have a good idea regarding what candidates you keep for further assessments, tests, and more in-depth interviews. Now, if you did your homework on employer branding thoroughly, you have to be open to answering candidates’ questions as well, especially if you are trying to make them an offer to leave their current jobs.

Expect questions related to removing work, salary and benefits, growth opportunities, management positions, organizational culture, leadership hierarchy, and more.

Phone Interview Questions: Bottom Line

In this day and age, conducting phone interview questions might seem obsolete. We have a handful of in-person virtual meetings. Nevertheless, when you want to hire top talent, you need to adjust to your candidates’ schedules, current working conditions, time zone, and so on. For this reason, a phone interview requires both your and the candidate’s full attention, effort, and communication skills.

We hope this short guide on common phone interview questions helped you design a relevant phone interview with the top talent you want to hire. If you have other examples or suggestions on drafting such interviews even better, we’re waiting for your insights on the matter!

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