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Phone Interview Questions – What to Ask Job Applicants

The phone interview questions you ask candidates can make or break the success of your hiring process. Phone interviews give your team the opportunity to get to know candidates and better gauge their fit for your open roles before deciding whether or not to move forward with in-person interviews.


Consistency is key when conducting telephone interviews – you want to make sure to follow the same script for every candidate so that you run impactful and objective phone interviews. Tap into this high-level outline and list of common phone interview questions when conducting phone interviews with prospective employees. And if you’re looking for more interviewing guidance, here are 10 creative questions to ask to weed out bad candidates

Start the Phone Interview with an Introduction

Before you start asking the candidate questions on the phone interview, begin the call with a brief introduction of your company and the open role. A proper introduction is important in any interview situation, and phone interviews are no different.


At the beginning of the phone screen, introduce yourself and thank each candidate for their interest in your open role. Then, take a minute to walk the candidate through your company’s interview process so they can know what to expect each step of the way.

Dive into Your Prepared Phone Interview Questions

Having a list of questions prepared ahead of time will help even the most seasoned hiring managers through the phone interview conversation. Having a list of questions prepared before the call allows the interviewer to concentrate on the candidate’s responses and ensures each candidate is asked the same set of questions, providing process consistency. Below are questions we recommend all phone interviews include.

1. How did you find out about this role? 

During the phone interview, asking candidates how they found out about your open role can benefit your team in several ways. First, it can help you determine which of your recruitment marketing channels are working. For example, if a candidate says he or she was researching open roles and came across your career site, you’ll know your career site is helping you attract qualified talent. Or, if the candidate heard about the open role from one of your trusted employees, this means your referral process is working.

Another benefit of asking candidates a phone interview question about how they came across the role is, it can help you better understand whether or not each candidate is truly interested in joining your team. If the candidate blindly applied to several jobs on a job board, he or she might simply be looking for a general career move, rather than being interested in the specific role on your team. On the other hand, if he or she took the time to research your careers page, the candidate is likely more motivated about joining and contributing to your team. 

2. Why are you looking for a new role? 

How a candidate answers phone questions related to the overall job search says a lot about their work ethic and attitude. If a candidate doesn’t have a straight answer for why he or she is looking for a new role, it might be because the candidate is underperforming in their current or previous role. But if a candidate has a well thought-out answer to this question, such as wanting to move up the career ladder or join a fast-growing team, he or she is more likely to be driven to succeed on your team. 

3. What are your long-term career goals?  

Instead of going through a candidate’s resume line by line, spend the beginning of the phone screen asking candidates about their long-term career plans. If you dive right into the candidate’s resume (like most employers do), you’ll get programmed answers that tell you what they think you want to hear. You’re looking for authenticity.  Ask candidates about their one year and five year professional goals. In doing so, you’ll get a good overview of each candidate, and a sense of their vision for themselves.

4.  What type of work do you enjoy doing most? Which tasks aren’t your favorite? 

After asking phone interview questions about each candidate’s career plan, you should ask them two questions. First, ask them what they think they’re best at, professionally speaking, and what type of work they enjoy doing. This will help you better understand the candidate’s passions and where each candidate is likely to excel if hired for your open role.


You’ll also want to prepare phone interview questions covering which type of work candidates don’t necessarily enjoy. These answers tend to be responsibilities that aren’t necessarily the candidate’s strong suits. If the person tells you that they’re great at performing the type of work that you’ll need them to perform in your open role during the phone screen, you’re in good shape so far. If you’re looking to hire for an administrative position, and the candidate tells you that they “hate doing paperwork,” then you’re probably wise to not move forward with hiring steps beyond the telephone interview. Questions related to a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses offer you the chance to spot-check and make sure all parties are on the same page.

5.  Can you go into more detail about your career history? 

You likely have each candidate’s resume and work history in front of your during the phone interview. But it’s also important to get each candidate’s first hand perspective on their work history. This part of the telephone interview isn’t the typical, “tell me about your role at XYZ company” approach that you’re probably used to. You can wait until the in-person interview to dive into questions like this. Instead, ask a few common phone interview questions related to each role listed on candidates’ resumes, such as:

  • What would your manager say about your performance in this role?
  • On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, how would they rate your performance, and why?
  • How will the skills you learned each of your previous roles help you succeed in the open role on our team?  

 

Asking these questions during the phone interview will push candidates to do more than simply regurgitate the bulleted items on their resumes. And their answers will help you determine whether they’ll be likely to succeed in your open role. 

6. What are your salary requirements? 

While many states have banned interview questions specifically asking candidates about their current compensation or pay history, it’s still important to ask about salary requirements during the phone interview process. Rather than asking a question that might be illegal such as, “What is your current salary?,” ask each candidate what salary range they’re looking for in their next role. 
It’s important to cover the salary question during the phone interview stage, to avoid wasting your team’s time. If you end up moving forward with scheduling in-person interviews for qualified candidates who end up having salary expectations outside your budget, it will only waste your team’s time and slow down your hiring process. 

7.  Do you have any specific questions about the role?   

Once you’ve learned about a candidate’s qualifications and salary requirements, you can share more details about your open role. Start by reading a summary of the role from the job description – though candidates who have reached this point likely already have an understanding of the job description. After recapping the role, you can ask candidates why they think they’re a good fit for the position. 
At this point in the phone screen, also give candidates the chance to ask questions about the open role. The questions candidates ask during the phone interview can help you determine whether or not they’re engaged and excited about joining your team. For example, top candidates might ask such questions as:

  • What does success in this role look like after the first 90 days? 
  • What is the career path for this open role? 
  • Does your team have training resources available to help me grow in my career? 

 

Candidates who do not have questions are likely not prepared or engaged with the conversation. Top candidates will ask questions to help them see themselves as part of your organization. 

Wrap-Up and Next Steps

Once you give candidates time to ask a few questions about the open role and your team, you can start wrapping up the phone interview with a few closing questions. You’ll know by each candidate’s answers whether or not they are truly interested and available for employment with your company.

  • What’s your timeline for making a decision on a new job?
  • Do you have any offers pending that will make it hard for you to complete our interview process?
  • Is there anything that you feel is relevant to our conversation that we haven’t yet discussed?

 

This phone interview will last about 45 minutes, but experienced phone interviewers can ask these questions in 20-30 minutes without the conversation feeling rushed. With the approach outlined above, you get more out of the interview than the typical exercise of reading through a resume together. You begin to get a better sense of each candidate’s motivations and capabilities to better determine if they’re likely to succeed on your team.


By asking these phone interview questions, you’ll get the information you need to make an informed decision about whether or not to move forward with next steps in the hiring process.


Asking effective phone interview questions is one small piece of the hiring process. In today’s tight labor market, you need an effective process in place to attract top applicants, hire qualified employees and seamlessly connect new hires with your HR systems – such as onboarding, payroll and scheduling. 


Whether you run a single location business or manage employees across several locations, Hireology is here to help you streamline hiring and get new employees up to speed quickly. Learn how Hireology can help you build your best team – see a demo today.

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