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What Do I Expect from a Phone Interview?

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Employers conduct phone interviews to prescreen applicants prior to offering physical interviews or to conduct actual interviews that would be difficult to conduct in person. In either case, you must approach the process professionally, as you would for an in-person meeting. Preparation is the key to acing the interview. If you know what to expect, you can increase your chances of success.

Prescreening Interview Purpose

Prescreening phone interviews are typically brief because the hiring manager’s goal is to ask specific questions to determine whether you make the cut for an interview. She might, for example, ask why you left your last job. Depending on your response and how she views the situation, she might rule you out or keep you in the game. Regardless of the question the interviewer asks you, keep your responses intelligent and concise. The CareerCast website suggests limiting your responses to less than two minutes.

Prescreening Responses

If the interviewer asks you to tell a little about yourself, briefly relay your work history and connect it to the job you are seeking. To gauge your interest, the interviewer might ask what you know about the company. Respond with an important fact or two about the employer. If he says to describe your weaknesses, avoid generic responses, such as "too analytical" or "too hardworking." Instead, identify an area in your work that needs improvement and say you look forward to applying your development to the new position. If asked about your salary requirements, say you would like to learn more about the position before discussing salary. If that proves unsuccessful, ask for the salary range for the position. If the interviewer refuses, give the salary range you obtained from your research. Do not give an exact figure unless you have no choice.

Phone Interviews

The amount of time it takes to do an actual phone interview varies by employer. These interviews are longer than prescreening interviews because they concentrate on the duties and responsibilities for the position and whether you can fulfill them. For example, if you are applying for a remote customer service position, you may need to demonstrate your knowledge of order entry and billing and your ability to solve complex customer issues. Depending on the requirements for the job and the company’s decision-making process, one or several interviewers might be on the phone. This interview is typically as in-depth as an in-person session. If this is your first interview with the company, your interviewer may ask some standard questions as well, such as your weaknesses, salary requirements and why you left your last job.

Questions to Avoid Answering

Your interviewer should apply nondiscrimination principles by focusing her questions on the requirements of the position and your qualifications. Do not respond to questions about your marital status, child care arrangements, intention to have children, national origin, race or inquiries that have nothing to do with the job in question.

Pre-Interview Strategies

When you provide your phone number on a job application or resume, always expect the employer to call you so you are not surprised when it happens. If you are not in a position to answer the phone when the hiring manager calls, let the call go to voice mail. Call him back promptly when you are in a proper location. An alternative would be to answer the phone and explain that you cannot speak with him at the moment and then ask if you can call him back at her earliest convenience.


At the end of the interview, inquire about the next stage in the employment process. Email or mail a thank-you letter to your interviewer 24 to 48 hours after the interview.


About the Author

Grace Ferguson has been writing professionally since 2009. With 10 years of experience in employee benefits and payroll administration, Ferguson has written extensively on topics relating to employment and finance. A research writer as well, she has been published in The Sage Encyclopedia and Mission Bell Media.

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