10 Common Telephone Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 10 November 2022

Published 13 December 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Phone interviews are used by employers in the early stages of an interview process to check for basic requirements and gauge the interest level of candidates. It's important to take a phone interview as seriously as an in-person interview, as it's your chance to make a great first impression. It can be difficult to show enthusiasm for the job or assess the interviewer's mood over the phone as body language cannot be conveyed, but with thoughtfully prepared answers you will be able to impress any interviewer.

In this article, we will review common phone interview questions and possible answers to prepare you for your next call with an employer.

10 common telephone interview questions

Although the interview questions will vary depending on the company and interviewer, here are some common telephone interview questions:

1. Tell me about yourself.

This is a simple way for the interviewer to get more information about your background and experience. Focus on what you are currently doing in terms of employment and how it makes you qualified for this job. Include a few personal details so the interviewer gets a sense of your life outside the job.

Example: 'I've spent the past three years as a bookkeeper for a medium-sized company and I've worked in the finance industry ever since I graduated from university. It's an industry I've enjoyed working in and this is why I am hoping to further my career as I move into the area of account management. I think my years of previous experience and my excitement about learning more about the industry make me a great candidate for this position.'

Related: Interview Tips: How To Answer 'Fun Fact About Me' Questions

2. What are you passionate about?

Understanding what motivates you will help an employer decide if you are right for the position and if you will fit in with the company's culture. If the position you are applying for is independent and you are passionate about working in a group setting, it will probably not be a good fit. Be honest about what is important to you and how this might align with the role as described in the job description.

Example: 'I am passionate about learning more and more about how data shapes our world. I think it is an important part of our everyday life and the role of data is only expanding into other industries. I love finding new ways to manipulate data, and I prefer to do this in a group setting. I think working in a space with others where all ideas are accepted and given consideration is really important in improving the final product.'

Related: How to Succeed in a Virtual Interview

3. Why are you interested in the position?

The answer to this question allows the interviewer to see how serious you are about their company and determine whether you thoroughly read the job description. Refer back to the job description and expand on points that made you want to apply for the job.

Example: 'This position requires a candidate who is looking to grow with a company, and I believe I am that candidate. I noticed in the job description that employment in this company comes with many training opportunities and the chance to move to a more managerial position in just a few years. I am excited to work for a company that is so growth-oriented and focused on helping employees develop new skills.'

Related: Interview Question: 'Why Are You Interested in This Position?'

4. What do you know about this role?

This question gives you a chance to show you read the job description and also demonstrate your knowledge about the role. Employers need to know that you understand the basics of what is expected in this role and how much research you have done in preparation for the interview. You can even ask the interviewer a related question to show you are interested in knowing even more about the role.

Example: 'From the job description, it appears your company is looking for a marketing manager to help improve client retention and find new clients. I also understand that you require the position to use HubSpot marketing suite, with which I have over three years of experience. It looks like a lot of the day-to-day tasks will revolve around client research and cold calling, is that correct?'

Related: Phone Interview Tips to Get You to the Next Round

5. Tell me about your previous job

An employer usually wants to know the specifics of your previous job and why you left. This is your chance to talk about the responsibilities you had at your previous job and explain why you are looking for a new job. It may be helpful to have your CV in front of you as a reference but also expand on your CV points and try to compare your previous responsibilities to the position you are currently applying for.

Example: 'As an insurance agent for a relatively small company, I was able to get experience beyond cold-calling potential clients and answering their questions about specific policies. I was also in charge of dealing with insurance adjusters, obtaining underwriting approval and maintaining client relationships. I left the company when my contract was terminated, as I wanted to work for a slightly larger company that offers a larger variety of insurance policies.'

6. Test scenario

Your interviewer may ask you to respond to a hypothetical work scenario to see your thought process and your ability to think under pressure. Although it will feel awkward on the phone, it is acceptable to take a moment to collect your thoughts before answering. You can ask clarifying questions to better understand the scenario.

Example: You are interviewing for the position of data manager and the employer asks you how you would handle recommending a potentially expensive software update to the company CEO. For this scenario, you might talk about why you think software updates are always worth it for the health and safety of the company data, or that an expensive investment upfront is worth the long-term benefits of having advanced software manage the company data.

Related: Interviewing: explain ways to manage challenging situations

7. Explain the gap in your employment history listed on your CV.

The interviewer may have examined your CV thoroughly, and this is your chance to explain any breaks in your employment or educational history. Be honest, but don't feel the need to go into too much detail. Gaps are common for many employees, so try not to feel nervous when facing this question and remain positive.

Example: 'After I left my first job at a marketing company, I had a few months when it was quite difficult to find a job. I was able to use this time to enrol in a course that specialised in the expanding area of digital marketing that really helped improve my skills and eventually led to me finding my next job.'

Related: How To Explain Employment Gaps: A Comprehensive Guide

8. Where do you see yourself in the next few years?

Employers ask this question early in the hiring process to check that your expectations match their own. Be honest in your answer and if you would like to move to a higher position within the industry, mention it to the interviewer so they will know that you are open to other positions in the future.

Example: 'I've been working as an IT technician for the past two years and I don't see myself leaving the industry anytime soon. After a few more years of experience and certification, I hope to become an IT manager. I noticed that your company has a pathway towards this and I would love to take that route.'

Related: Interview Question: 'Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?'

9. When can you start?

An employer may need to fill the position quickly, so if you can't start for a few months, they will need to move on to other candidates. Consider your answer and review the terms at your current employment to make sure you can leave after the standard two weeks' notice. If you are unemployed at the moment, you can probably answer with as soon as possible.

Example: 'If I receive an offer, I will be to start in two weeks while I wait for my current company to fill my role.'

Related: Follow-Up Email Examples For After the Interview

10. Do you have any questions?

When given the opportunity, it's always a great idea to ask the interviewer thoughtful questions to demonstrate that you are engaged and actively listening. Prepare to ask questions by researching the company's website or searching for news articles about recent changes in the company.

Examples:

  • 'What is expected of this role on a day-to-day basis?'

  • 'What kind of growth does the company expect in the next few years?'

  • 'What are some important qualities for someone to have in this role?'

  • 'What are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing the department?'

  • 'Thanks for explaining the role. When might I hear back regarding the next steps in the hiring process?'

Related: Unique interview questions to ask an employer (With tips)

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