How to Answer 5 Common Phone Screening Interview Questions

 In Interviews

While it’s exciting to embark on new career prospects and explore new opportunities, the process of searching for a job can be time consuming and stressful. It can be difficult to know what employers are looking for, especially if you’re new (or newly returning) to the job market. Successfully navigating job interviews is one of the most important skills you’ll need in your search.

Most interviews typically involve a phone screening with the recruiter or HR before you move on to the second round of interviews. That’s why it’s important to get as comfortable as possible interviewing over the phone, as well as in person or via video conferencing software. This article will help you understand what employers are looking for in phone screen interviews and teach you how to answer the 5 most common interview questions.

5 Common Phone Screening Interview Questions

Every job interview is a little bit different. But there are some tried and true questions you’re likely to be asked, and knowing how to answer them effectively, succinctly, and professionally can give you a big competitive edge over other potential hires.

Here are the top 5 most common phone screen interview questions and answers that are sure to get you noticed.

1. Tell Me About Yourself

caucasian female professional in office talking on the phone

This is perhaps the most common question asked during job interviews at any stage. Whether you’re doing a preliminary phone screen, or you’re in the final stages, you can expect it to be one of the first questions you’re asked. While “tell me about yourself” seems like a fairly straightforward question, it’s also one of the most difficult to answer.

Recruiters rely on this question for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it’s conversational compared to the more job-related topics they’ll want to cover. It sets the tone for the rest of the interview and helps the recruiter seamlessly transition to other topics, making the interview more of a conversation and less of an interrogation. It also allows prospective employers to assess the candidate’s experience, confidence, and communication style.

Because this question is so broad, it can be difficult to formulate an answer that lets the interviewer get to know you, without delving into personal or irrelevant information. The best way to answer this question is to focus on things that will be relevant to the position, rather than going into your entire life story. Focus on giving an overview of your recent experience, skill set, interests, and qualities that might be valuable to the specific job. 


2. Why Are You Looking for a New Job?

When it comes to learning if you’ll be a good fit, it helps employers to learn more about why you’re there in the first place. They’ll likely ask this question in a phone screen interview so that they know if you’ll be likely to cause problems. Even if you felt you were treated unfairly in the past, it’s best not to dwell on the things that went wrong, as a recruiter is likely to write you off if they suspect you may be confrontational or difficult to work with. 

When answering this question, it’s a good idea to focus more on the future you hope to secure, and less on past frustrations. For example, rather than talking about what you didn’t like about your old job or coworkers, focus on what you learned and what you hope to accomplish in your new job. You can often use this question to compliment the company for its goals and reputation and explain why you believe the position will allow you to thrive and grow professionally.


3. What Are Your Salary Expectations?

back of a professional employee wearing a light blue button up and on a business call

This question comes up in almost every phone screen interview. That’s because your interviewer doesn’t want to waste time conducting future interviews with potential hires they can’t afford. Whatever you do, don’t be surprised when this question is asked. Think about your salary expectations ahead of time and make sure not to go below your minimum salary expectations. Having an answer prepared before the interview begins will help you confidently answer this question. In some states, it is illegal to ask what your salary was in your previous or current position. 

Here are some tips for answering this question that will ensure you don’t disqualify yourself or ask for too little:

  • Give a range: Since you’re starting a negotiation process, keep the bottom of your range toward the upper end of what you’re actually expecting.
  • Ask what they expect to pay: Consider flipping the question back on them, and telling them it would be helpful to know what they’ve budgeted for the role.
  • Delay answering the question: Tell them you’re hoping to learn more about the job, it’s roles and responsibilities, and benefits packages before you discuss salary.

4. Why Are You Interested in This Position?

Every employer wants workers who are passionate about the job. This question aims to determine not only if and why you’re interested in the position, but also your level of interest. Will you show up every day excited to contribute? Are you the kind of employee that will stick around for the long haul?

To prepare for this question, first identify two or three things about the position that interest or excite you. Then, make sure you know how to explain why your skills and traits are a great fit. For example, if you’re applying for a job in construction, you might describe your love for working with your hands and collaborating with others to create something tangible that stands the test of time. If you’re applying for a job in customer service, you could explain that you get satisfaction from helping people solve problems. Lastly, you should also mention why you think you would be a great fit for the team, such as bringing up positive benefits about the company including their philanthropy, mission, values, or involvement in the community. 

5. When Can You Start?

This is far from a gotcha question. The interviewer wants an honest answer so they can determine if your schedule and timeline works for the company’s needs. When you answer, be honest. The goal is to set realistic expectations that you know you can meet. It might sound good to say you can start within the week, but is that actually possible? 

The answer you give the recruiter or HR personnel will depend on your specific situation. If you’re unemployed or newly entering the job market, you could offer to start within the week. If you need to give notice to your current employer, tell them that. Your interviewer will appreciate your honesty and understand the need to leave your current job on good terms, such as a 2- week notice. 


Questions To Ask the Recruiter or HR At the End of the Phone Interview

At the end of the interview, the recruiter will usually ask if you have any questions for them. This is your opportunity to get any questions or concerns about the position answered. You’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you.

Asking the recruiter questions that are specific to the job you’re interviewing for also demonstrates interest and enthusiasm, so it’s important to have a few prepared. While the questions you ask may differ depending on the industry and role you’re applying for, here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • What do you personally enjoy most about working for your company?
  • What do you find most challenging about working for your company?
  • What do your best workers do to succeed?
  • Can you tell me what a typical day in this role would look like?
  • How do you evaluate success in this position?
  • What will you have expected me to achieve after the first year in this role?
  • Is there anything else you need from me to help you make your decision?

Last but not least, it’s important to be mindful of time. If the interviewer scheduled 30 minutes for the interview, and 25 minutes have passed, then make sure to ask only 1-2 questions so you don’t take too much of their time. Alternatively, if time allows, let the interviewer decide whether to go over the allotted time. Also, be sure to “ask to ask questions”. The interviewer needs to know you are gathering information to make sure this is a good fit. 


Should You Follow Up After the Phone Interview?

There’s no harm in following up after a phone screen interview. In fact, sending a short, polite email to express your appreciation and interest can help you stand out and make you more memorable. Sending a short email within 24 hours thanking the interviewer for the opportunity and reiterating your interest in the position is a nice gesture and will remind them to keep you in mind.

Of course, you shouldn’t spam your prospective employer with multiple questions, as this can seem desperate and overbearing. You should also wait an appropriate amount of time before asking for an update on the position or inquiring about another interview. If the recruiter gave you a basic timeline for when you could expect to hear back, it’s usually best to wait a few days after this. In your email, it’s advisable to keep things short and sweet and simply ask about their hiring process and whether you can expect to move on to the next round of interviews.


Professional Job Search Consulting Built for the Future

overjoyed man with glasses who gets phone job interview requestAt Rush Recruiting & HR, we’re experts in working with job seekers to help with resume development, interviewing skills, and more. That means we know exactly what you need to say and do in a phone screen interview to land the job you really want. We can help you gain valuable skills you need to succeed and help you reach your goals with confidence.

Contact Rush Recruiting & HR to learn more and find out how we can help you today!

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