Phone interview questions

Mastering the Phone Interview: 15 Key Questions and Best Practices

Published on April 30th, 2024


Of all the stages of the job interview process, the phone interview is the easiest to overlook. There is no technical challenge, no hours-long pair programming session, or whiteboarding to complete. It’s often 15 minutes of familiar questions like “Tell me about yourself” or “Why do you want to work here?”

Still, those 15 minutes can make or break your job prospects. A successful phone interview sets the stage for future rounds and brings you one step closer to landing the job. This guide will help you navigate phone interviews by outlining key questions you can ask and providing best practices for conducting them effectively.

Key Phone Interview Questions

1. Tell me about yourself.

Purpose: To get an overview of the candidate's background and experience.

What to Look For: A concise, focused response that highlights relevant experience and accomplishments.

Example Answer:

"I have over five years of experience in software development, specializing in backend systems. I recently worked at XYZ Company where I led a team to develop a new microservices architecture that improved system performance by 30%."

2. Why do you want to work here?

Purpose: To gauge the candidate’s interest in the company and role.

What to Look For: Specific reasons that show the candidate has researched the company and aligns with its values and goals.

Example Answer:

"I’m excited about this opportunity because I admire your commitment to innovation in the tech industry. Your recent project on AI-driven analytics is particularly impressive, and I believe my background in machine learning could contribute to its success."

3. What do you know about our company?

Purpose: To assess the candidate’s knowledge and interest in the company.

What to Look For: A well-researched response showing the candidate understands the company’s products, services, and industry standing.

Example Answer:

"I know your company is a leader in cloud computing solutions and has recently expanded into cybersecurity. Your emphasis on customer-centric solutions and continuous innovation resonates with my professional values."

4. Why are you leaving your current job?

Purpose: To understand the candidate’s motivations and potential red flags.

What to Look For: Honest yet diplomatic answers that focus on career growth and positive aspirations rather than negative experiences.

Example Answer:

"I’ve enjoyed my time at my current job but am looking for new challenges that align more closely with my career goals. I’m particularly interested in this role because it offers opportunities for growth and learning in areas I’m passionate about."

5. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Purpose: To evaluate the candidate’s self-awareness and honesty.

What to Look For: Balanced answers that highlight relevant strengths and address weaknesses with a plan for improvement.

Example Answer:

"One of my strengths is my attention to detail, which helps me ensure high-quality work. A weakness I’m working on is delegating tasks, as I tend to take on too much myself, but I’m learning to trust my team more."

6. Can you describe a challenging project you worked on?

Purpose: To assess problem-solving skills and resilience.

What to Look For: A clear explanation of the challenge, the actions taken, and the results achieved.

Example Answer:

"At my last job, we faced a critical issue with a major system crash. I led the team to identify the root cause, which was a database overload, and implemented a scalable solution that prevented future occurrences."

7. How do you handle tight deadlines?

Purpose: To understand the candidate’s time management and stress handling abilities.

What to Look For: Strategies for prioritization and maintaining quality under pressure.

Example Answer:

"I handle tight deadlines by prioritizing tasks, breaking them into manageable chunks, and maintaining open communication with my team to ensure we stay on track. This approach has helped me consistently meet deadlines without compromising quality."

8. What is your salary expectation?

Purpose: To ensure alignment on compensation expectations early in the process.

What to Look For: A realistic salary range based on market research and the candidate’s experience.

Example Answer:

"Based on my research and experience, I’m looking for a salary in the range of $70,000 to $80,000. However, I’m open to discussing this further based on the full compensation package and opportunities for growth."

9. How do you prioritize your work?

Purpose: To evaluate the candidate’s organizational and time management skills.

What to Look For: Clear methods for prioritizing tasks and managing workload effectively.

Example Answer:

"I use a combination of project management tools and daily planning to prioritize my work. I focus on urgent and high-impact tasks first and ensure regular check-ins to stay on top of deadlines."

10. How do you stay current with industry trends?

Purpose: To understand the candidate’s commitment to professional development.

What to Look For: Active engagement in continuous learning through courses, reading, networking, or attending industry events.

Example Answer:

"I stay current with industry trends by subscribing to relevant newsletters, attending webinars, and participating in professional forums. Additionally, I take online courses to deepen my knowledge of emerging technologies."

11. Describe a time you had a conflict with a colleague. How did you handle it?

Purpose: To assess interpersonal skills and conflict resolution abilities.

What to Look For: A constructive approach to resolving conflicts and maintaining positive working relationships.

Example Answer:

"I had a conflict with a colleague over project priorities. I addressed it by initiating a candid conversation, actively listening to their concerns, and finding a compromise that satisfied both our objectives. This improved our collaboration significantly."

12. What motivates you?

Purpose: To understand the candidate’s intrinsic motivations and work ethic.

What to Look For: Genuine motivations that align with the company’s values and culture.

Example Answer:

"I’m motivated by the opportunity to solve complex problems and see the tangible impact of my work. Contributing to meaningful projects and working with a collaborative team energizes me."

13. What are your career goals?

Purpose: To gauge the candidate’s long-term aspirations and alignment with the role.

What to Look For: Clear career goals that show ambition and a fit with the company’s growth opportunities.

Example Answer:

"My career goal is to advance into a leadership role where I can drive strategic initiatives and mentor junior developers. I’m excited about the potential for growth within your company and contributing to its success."

14. How do you handle feedback?

Purpose: To assess the candidate’s receptiveness to constructive criticism.

What to Look For: A positive attitude towards feedback and examples of using it for improvement.

Example Answer:

"I value feedback as it helps me grow professionally. I actively seek feedback, listen attentively, and implement suggestions to improve my performance. For instance, feedback from my manager helped me refine my project management skills."

15. Do you have any questions for us?

Purpose: To see the candidate’s level of interest and preparation.

What to Look For: Thoughtful questions that demonstrate genuine interest in the role and company.

Example Answer:

"Can you tell me more about the team I’ll be working with? What are the immediate priorities for this role? How do you support professional development and growth within the company?"

Best Practices for Conducting Phone Interviews

1. Prepare Thoroughly:

Before the interview, review the candidate’s resume and any other relevant information. Prepare your questions and make sure you understand the key skills and experiences you are looking for.

2. Create a Comfortable Environment:

Ensure that the candidate feels at ease. Begin with a friendly greeting and explain the structure of the interview. This helps set the tone for a relaxed yet professional conversation.

3. Take Notes:

Document key points from the candidate’s responses to help you remember important details later. This is especially useful when comparing multiple candidates.

4. Listen Actively:

Give the candidate your full attention and listen carefully to their answers. Avoid interrupting and allow them time to fully express their thoughts.

5. Be Consistent:

Ask each candidate the same set of core questions to ensure a fair and unbiased evaluation process. This also makes it easier to compare their responses.

6. Assess Cultural Fit:

Use questions that help determine whether the candidate’s values and work style align with your company’s culture. This can be just as important as their technical skills.

7. Provide Information:

Use the interview as an opportunity to share more about your company, the team, and the role. This helps the candidate make an informed decision about their interest in the position.

8. Follow Up Promptly:

After the interview, follow up with candidates in a timely manner. This demonstrates professionalism and keeps the hiring process moving smoothly.

By incorporating these questions and best practices into your phone interview process, you can effectively screen candidates and identify those who are best suited for the next stages of your hiring process. Remember, a successful phone interview sets the foundation for a successful hire.




As a technical content writer and social media strategist, Soujanya develops and manages strategies at HireQuotient. With strong technical background and years of experience in content management, she looks for opportunities to flourish in the digital space. Soujanya is also a dance fanatic and believes in spreading light!

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