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16 Common Phone Interview Questions & How to Answer

Learn everything about phone interviews, which phone interview questions to expect, and tips for answering them. Tips from hiring experts and sample answers included!
16 Common Phone Interview Questions & How to Answer

“Phone interviews are awesome because the interviewer can’t see me frantically walking around my room.”

I laughed when I spoke to a friend who recently had a phone interview. It never occurred to me, but it made perfect sense.

“On the other hand,” he said, “it’s hard relying solely on voices in an interview. It’s difficult to express my enthusiasm through my voice. Plus, the interviewer’s voice is the only indicator of how the interview is going.”

Phone interviews can feel nerve-wracking if you don’t know what to expect.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What makes phone interviews different from video or in-person interviews
  • Questions you’ll likely hear during the phone interview (with sample answers)
  • Tips for crushing your next phone interview and common mistakes to avoid
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Understanding the Nature and the Purpose of Phone Interviews

Phone interviews or phone screens are short phone calls (usually 15–30 minutes) used for screening candidates to determine if they’re a good fit for going forward with the process.

As someone on Reddit brilliantly put it, a phone screening interview is a “Vibe check. Think of it as a captcha, but irl.” It’s a preliminary call that narrows down the pool of applicants.

Recruiters use it to:

  • Weed out the bad fits
  • Identify the most promising candidates
  • Check if candidates have all the necessary qualifications
  • Gauge candidates’ interest and fit
  • Save time and resources

You’ll still have to prepare for this call, though.

Milica Petkovic, HR partner at Webelinx Games says: “Phone interviews are a big thing in corporations, so you’re likely to expect them in your interviewing process if you apply for a job at one. Sometimes, you can expect them in startups and smaller businesses. 

My company occasionally uses phone interviews to narrow down the pool of applicants in cases when we have a lot of candidates who fit the profile on paper, and we want to decrease that number.

Gamers, candidates with meaningful experience, or the ones who are passionate about gaming in any way will have an advantage. 

Make sure to show your passion and what makes you stand out. Even if you don’t have much experience, but have an interest or a related hobby, it can make a difference.”

Phone interviews vs. in-person and video interviews: Key differences

Phone interviews are much shorter than in-person or video interviews — and the questions are usually more general.

You’ll have to rely exclusively on verbal communication during the phone interview — there are no non-verbal cues involved.

That makes it easier on the one hand (no need to worry about how you look or about your body language), but harder on the other (it’s more difficult to convey your enthusiasm and energy). Plus, as my friend noticed, it might be difficult to figure out what the interviewer thinks of you and how the interview is going.

Finally, phone interviews are typically conducted by an external recruiter or a member of the in-house HR team. Unless it’s a small business or a startup, it’s unlikely you’ll speak with your future manager.

I spoke to Gorana Ferizovic, Team Lead at Popcorn Recruiters, a recruiting agency working with names like AT&T, IBM, and Symphony. Gorana and her team are what you’d call “external recruiters,” hired by companies to find relevant candidates.

“We do a basic, 10-minute phone screening when mass hiring for roles like Customer Service. During those calls, we pay attention to only the most basic elements like language proficiency, maybe a test question, salary expectations, and the length of the notice period.

But when hiring for managerial and executive positions, these screening calls can last up to 30 minutes and are much more detailed. Among other things, we as recruiters use these calls to sell the position and the company and make it look attractive to the candidate,” she said.

👀 Fun fact: There are exceptions to every rule. I once had an hour-long, extremely detailed phone interview with someone from an American company who wanted to open an office in my country and was looking for an office manager. It was a big deal and I spoke directly with one of the company’s leaders.

⚠️ Bottom line: Look at the bigger picture when figuring out what this initial call might look like and how you can prepare. Consider the type of role, the industry, your seniority, and other relevant elements (location, if the company is well-established or if it’s an up-and-coming startup…). If you’re feeling uncertain, it’s okay to ask what you should expect before the interview, or who you’ll be speaking with.

The Most Common Phone Interview Questions You Should Expect

During phone interviews, interviewers will keep it simple. They’ll usually want to know only:

  • Your qualifications
  • Reason you want to change jobs
  • Motivation to apply for this position
  • Your availability
  • Your salary expectations

Here are the most common phone interview questions:

Questions about your interest and availability

  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • What about our company appeals to you?
  • Can you discuss your availability?
  • What’s your notice period?
  • When can you start?
  • What are your salary expectations?

Questions about your work history and qualifications

  • Walk me through your resume.
  • Can you elaborate on your experience in X?
  • How did your role at Y prepare you for a job like ours?
  • How do you apply your learned skills in your work?

Questions about your job transition

  • Why did you leave your previous job?
  • What are you looking for in a new job?
  • Is there a particular reason you applied for our job opening?
  • Is there anything else you’d like to know about this opening at this stage?

Behavioral interview questions (less likely than the other questions but might be asked)

  • Can you tell me about a time you had a conflict at work and how you resolved it?
  • Describe a situation where you took initiative.
  • Give an example of a goal you reached and how you achieved it.

If you’re looking for sample answers to these questions, keep reading. We break down what interviewers are looking for and how you should answer.

To learn more about the questions you’ll get during in-person or video interviews, how to sell yourself in your answers, and how to negotiate the salary of your dreams — sign up for our free course.

Questions about your interest and availability

Why they ask those questions: To understand what motivated you to apply and to gauge your level of enthusiasm for the role. But they also look at the operational side of things, like your schedule and availability — especially if they’re hiring for a high-priority role.

How to answer: Find a way to emphasize the alignment between your career goals and the company’s mission. For this, you’ll have to take some time to think about your goals and aspirations for the future, as well as research the company.

For questions about your availability, strike a balance between honesty (don’t lie about your notice period) and strategic planning for your transition (it would be nice to have some time to rest, decompress, and energize before starting a new job).

Try to gauge if the potential employer is flexible around your starting date. If so, negotiate a date that would give you some breathing room. In any case, frame your answers in a positive light to prove your enthusiasm for the role and display the fresh energy you’ll bring to the table.

Finally, be flexible: if your notice period doesn’t align with their desired starting date, try to find solutions like working remotely for those few overlapping days.

Sample answer

Interviewer: Why are you interested in this position?

Candidate: In my opinion, education should be accessible and transformative, and I was always driven by the ambition to work in an organization that shares these beliefs. Your company’s commitment to education aligns with my career plans and values like passion for life-long learning, innovation, and integrity. I’ve always wanted to work in a team that does meaningful work and moves the needle, and joining Eduvert would allow me to use my skills in the most noble way. I’m excited about this opportunity to work with like-minded people and make a difference in people’s lives.

Questions about your work history and qualifications

  • Walk me through your resume.
  • Can you elaborate on your experience in X?
  • How did your role at Y prepare you for a job like ours?
  • How do you apply your learned skills in your work?

Why they ask those questions: They want to uncover details from your professional experience, like key hard and soft skills, and proudest accomplishments. These questions also hint at your resourcefulness (if you anticipated the questions and prepared answers) and communication (if you know how to pick out the most meaningful details from your past and appealingly present them).

How to answer: Prepare in advance so that you can be specific and provide examples in each answer. Draw connections from past experiences to potential roles at the new company to display that you’re competent and that you can contribute to the company meaningfully.

They might also ask you to tell them a little bit about yourself — check out this video to learn how to create a powerful elevator pitch (a brief introduction explaining who you are, why you’re qualified, and why you’re interested in the position):

Sample answer

Interviewer: How did your role at Email.io prepare you for a job like this?

Candidate: Having worked at Email.io for several years as a communications specialist, I learned the ins and outs of email marketing and both short and long-form writing. I wrote snappy copy for emails, ads, and newsletters, but also long-form content like reports, manuals, and white papers. Writing long-form content is something I enjoyed the most, and because this role is focused on that kind of content, it seems like the perfect fit. I also completed two SEO courses and I’m looking forward to applying and expanding that knowledge. I’d love to combine my writing, research, editing, and distribution skills and contribute to your company’s blog and traffic.

Questions about your job transition

Why they ask these questions: To figure out why you want to pursue a career with them and to make sure you’re as much of a right fit for them as they are a fit for you. They also want to know what constitutes a good reason for you to leave a company, what kind of work environment suits you, and how you talk about your past employers.

How to answer: Be short, positive, and focus on the future.

Pro tip: The questions inquiring about your previous job and reasons for looking for a new one will tell them a lot about your communication and social skills. You shouldn’t badmouth your previous employer. Instead, focus on the positives: your enthusiasm and readiness to accept new challenges and grow as a professional.

Finally, if they ask you if you have any questions for them, saying “Nope, all good on my side” is a criminal offense, as it shows a lack of interest and preparation. This is why you’ll want to prepare at least a few smart questions. Here’s a guide for help: 40+ Smart Questions to Ask at the End of Any Job Interview.

Sample answer

Interviewer: Why did you leave your previous job?

Candidate: I’ve been in sales for years, across different industries and roles. I thoroughly enjoy my career, but lately, I’ve been feeling a bit of stagnation. My company’s structure is rigid and doesn’t encourage internal promotions, but I’m ready for more responsibilities. I know I can’t get them in my current company, so I think now is a good time to part ways. The logical next step would be a strategic role, and I already dipped my toes in that area when I coached new team members and adjusted our quarterly strategy last year. I’d love to focus on that kind of work in the future: developing and implementing sales strategies and leading a strong Sales team. When I saw the job description for this opening, I thought I would be a great fit.

Behavioral interview questions

Getting a behavioral question during a phone interview is not that common. This is because behavioral questions dive deep into your experience and expertise, and phone interviews, as we said, tend to be a general, high-level assessment of the basic fit between you and the company.

In case your phone interview turns out to be more detailed than expected, we’ll cover some of the behavioral questions now.

Common behavioral questions you might hear:

Why they ask these questions: They want to know how you navigated previous work-related situations, since that might be indicative of how you’ll handle similar challenges in the future.

For a detailed guide on behavioral questions and how to answer them, check out this article: 40+ Behavioral Interview Questions (Tips + Sample Answers).

For more info on how to prepare for them, read Behavioral Interview: What It Is & How to Prepare (Tips).

How to answer: Use the STAR method, provide specific examples and quantifiable achievements, highlight what you learned from the experience, and tie it back to the job for which you’re applying.

Here’s a list of individual guides to help you:

Finally, here’s a video on how to answer these common interview questions:

Additional Tips for Phone Interview Success: Dos and Don’ts

Now that you know what questions to expect and how to answer them, let’s go through tricks on how to impress interviewers during the phone interview and what to avoid.


Create an interview-friendly environment. For you to be at your best during the interview, you’ll have to be in a quiet room without distractions.

Keep your documents at hand. One positive thing about phone interviews is that the interviewer can’t see you, and you can, if needed, consult your notes. Make sure you have your resume, cover letter, job description, and your notes nearby. This is especially useful if you’re nervous — even if you forget a piece of info, you can quickly check it.

Speak clearly and professionally. Your voice is your only communication tool during the phone interview, so make sure you’re being well-articulated and maintain a steady pace and a balanced tone. Listen to the interviewer’s tone and pace and try to mirror it — it’ll help you create a harmonious convo.

Show enthusiasm. It’s difficult for the interviewer to gauge your level of interest without seeing you. This study proves it’s significantly more difficult to express what you truly mean when the other speaker cannot see your hand gestures, facial expressions, and overall body language. But there are things you can do to prove your enthusiasm: be mindful of your tone, choose positive words, and occasionally smile while speaking because it helps your voice sound more enthusiastic and engaging.

Send a post-interview follow-up email. It’ll keep you on top of the interviewer’s mind, leave a lasting positive impression, and showcase your resourcefulness. In the email, thank the interviewer for their time, personalize by mentioning one or two specific things discussed during the interview, and restate your interest in the position.

“General follow-up emails won’t do much in terms of a candidate’s performance, except show that a person has nice manners. But they can make a difference if they’re written in such a way that they reflect a skill relevant to the role. This is especially important for positions that require superb communication skills and involve client relations, like Sales or Customer Service.” — Milica Petkovic


Don’t take a call in a noisy location. Background noise will distract you and the interviewer. It might also hint at a lack of interest on your side, as you didn’t take the time to find an appropriate environment for the call. Plus, you’ll probably get nervous because of the noise and it will affect both the atmosphere and your interview performance.

Don’t interrupt the interviewer. This one might seem obvious, but it’s easy to lose focus and interrupt them in case you get too excited or nervous. Stay aware of your pace of speech during the interview and listen actively. It will help you stay calm and allow the interviewer to complete their thoughts or questions. This way, you’ll avoid misunderstandings and come across as a calm, confident candidate.

Don’t come unprepared. This is the highway to a major failure. If you don’t prepare in advance, you won’t be able to coherently answer some of the most basic questions about yourself and your motivation to apply for that position. Plus, you’ll have no clue what the company is like, so you won’t be able to adjust and personalize your answers. Take some time to research the company, prepare your answers, practice them, and learn the ins and outs of your resume.

Don’t avoid asking them questions. At the end of each interview, the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions for them. You need to prepare a few tailored questions to show your interest and resourcefulness. Plus, these questions will also help you figure out what the company is like and what they’re looking for — it’ll be much easier for you to see if the role is a good fit for you.

Don’t convey negativity. Never speak negatively about your past company, manager, or coworkers. Similarly, don’t speak negatively about yourself when asked about your weaknesses or failures. Always express gratitude, find positive aspects, and focus on the lessons learned. Don’t dwell on the past, focus on the future.

Phone Interview Questions: Popular Opinion vs. Expert Advice

Now, let’s see what job-seekers have to say about phone interview questions and if their tips match expert advice.

420sadman from Reddit said:

“If it’s a phone screen, it’s not really an interview. It’s more like the HR person will discuss with you about the company and the role. You will have a chance to ask questions about the position. They might ask you your salary requirements. It’s nothing to worry about. The second interview with the manager is what you should be more worried about.”

Career expert comments:

Yes and no. A lot of it depends on the industry, the company, the interviewer, or the type of role in question, as well as your seniority. Sometimes, it will be super short and the only thing you’ll be asked is your salary requirements and when you can start. But sometimes, you might get a test question, or you’ll have to prove your foreign language proficiency, or you’ll have to answer a basic question like “Tell me about yourself” or “Can you quickly walk me through your resume?”

So it’s best to take some time to prepare, revisit your resume, and think about your accomplishments and how you would answer some basic interview questions like the ones I mentioned above. If you feel like it would make you feel safer, have a little post-it note on your desk with a reminder for your elevator pitch, top 3 accomplishments, the date you are available, and perhaps the top 3 reasons you’re applying for the position. Printing out your resume and having it near will be helpful, too.

Pwens on Reddit said:

“Prepare your answers, verbatim, word-for-word, to the most common interview questions in advance. Then, if you are good enough of an actor to read from a piece of paper but make it sound like you’re speaking off the top of your head, do that! Read the piece of paper word for word. Good actors can make it come off as being very well-prepared with well-thought-out responses. Remember, they can’t see you, so bust out the blind acting skills.”

Career expert comments:

This person doesn’t want you to make it to the next round. Seriously, though, unless you actually are an actor, interviewers will know that you’re either reading from a piece of paper or reciting what you learned by heart — both are awful. You’ll sound robotic and sterile. Plus, blindly following a script will make it extremely hard to adapt your answers to the context or unexpected turns in the conversation.

Instead, prepare a framework for your answers, have a few stories about your skills or accomplishments at hand, and know the general ideas you want to convey. If you practice that a few times, you’ll have the “meat” of your answer. You’ll know what you want to say, but you’ll sound conversational.

The key is to strike a balance between preparedness and spontaneity. Remember that the best actors do a lot of improv. 😉

Summary of the Main Points

  • Phone interviews or screening interviews are often the very first step in the hiring process.
  • During this call, the interviewer will do a very high-level assessment of your experience and skills to determine if you’d be a good fit.
  • Phone interviews are usually considerably shorter than in-person or video interviews: 15–20 minutes.
  • Typical phone interview questions revolve around your experience and qualifications, your motivation to change jobs and apply for this position, your availability and notice period, and your salary expectations.
  • Rarely, you’ll get a behavioral question or two, but these are usually reserved for in-person and video interviews.
  • Before the interview, make sure you’ve prepared and rehearsed your answers, researched the company, and found peaceful, appropriate surroundings for the interview.
  • Be mindful of your language, as your voice is your only tool of communication during phone interviews: speak clearly, don’t interrupt, display enthusiasm, and ask questions at the end of the interview.


Need a hand? There’s 3 ways we can help:

  1. Getting invited to interviews but not landing the job? Discover actionable lessons and interview practice here (Rated with 4.9/5 by 1,000,000 users).
  2. Learn how to cancel an interview politely.
  3. Learn all about illegal interview questions and how to handle them.


How long do phone screen interviews usually last?

The length might vary depending on the company, the type of role, or the depth of the conversation. But in most cases, a phone screen interview lasts 15–30 minutes and focuses on the big picture and general fit, instead of delving deeper into your experiences and skills.

How many questions should I expect to be asked during a phone interview?

This is a brief screening call, so you should expect between 5 and 10 questions. Most of the questions will be straightforward, evaluating your experience, interest, general fit, and salary expectations.

Who will the phone interview be with?

Most often, the phone interview will be conducted either by an external recruiter or a recruiter from the company’s internal HR team — rarely by the hiring manager or someone else from the leadership team.

What to do if the interviewer calls me unexpectedly?

If interviewers call you out of the blue, it’s very important to stay calm. If you find that you’re not ready to have the conversation, or you’re not in the right environment, it’s perfectly acceptable to politely ask to reschedule the call. For example, you can say, “Thank you for calling. I am currently unable to have this conversation. Could we possibly reschedule this for a later time when I can fully focus on our discussion?”

That said, in a time when you send out numerous job applications, it’s best to be prepared for the unexpected. If possible, brush up on common interview questions and practice your answers before you have any actual interviews lined up. Do some basic research on any company you apply to. And if you can, store this information in a note or spreadsheet that you could pull up on the fly. When they call you, even if that happens at a random time, you certainly don’t want to show them you’re not familiar with what they do.

What questions should I ask at the end of the phone interview?

Questions that will give you more insight into the role, the company, and the company culture: Why is this position open? Where do you see this role in the company’s growth? What are the main challenges for someone in this role? What do new employees often find surprising after they start? How has the company changed over the last few years? What’s the performance review process like here? Can you tell me about the team I’d be working with? How do you typically onboard employees? For more questions, scroll up, we provided a detailed guide in the “Most common interview questions you should expect” section.

Are there questions I should avoid asking during my phone interview?

Don’t ask for basic information you can find on their website — it will prove that you didn’t do your research. So, forget about questions like “So what does your company do?” or “Who is your ideal client?” Of course, don’t ask sensitive or personal questions about the interviewer’s personal life or why the previous person quit. Avoid self-centered questions about salary, benefits, days off, and similar. It’s okay to discuss this during the phone interview, but it shouldn’t be your main focus. For now, providing your salary range will be enough. There will be plenty of space to talk about benefits and everything else during the negotiation part.

Do I send a thank-you email after a phone interview?

Yes, you need to send a thank-you email after each interview, no matter if it’s a phone interview, in-person interview, video interview, first, second, or third interview. After each interaction, send a short follow-up email to thank the interviewer for their time, bring up a unique talking point you spoke about, and restate your interest in the position. It shows consideration, good manners, and a knowledge of interviewing etiquette.

Maja Stojanovic
A writer specialized in interview preparation and resume building. Spent 5+ years tirelessly seeking a meaningful, rewarding job. Which is exactly what I’ll help you find.
Edited By:
Michael Tomaszewski
Michael Tomaszewski
Fact Checked By:
Briana Dilworth
Briana Dilworth
Industry Expert Contributions:

Milica Petkovic, Gorana Ferizovic

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