What is a phone interview and what role does it play in the hiring process? Many companies use phone calls with candidates who look good on paper to determine if those applicants are ready to move to longer, face-to-face interviews. This is sometimes called a phone screen.
During this call, you’ll typically speak with a recruiter rather than the hiring manager. This is a critically important part of your job search. If all goes well, the recruiter will move you onto the next stage. But if they come away with a poor or incomplete impression of you, things are unlikely to progress.
Because this conversation usually lasts 30 minutes or less, consider a phone interview your opportunity to sum up what’s most attractive to you about the job and the company, as well as the skills and qualifications you bring to the table.
How to prepare
1. Keep your job search organised. If you’re applying for several jobs, it can be hard to keep track of which company you’re talking with. There are several ways to stay organised and you should choose the approach that works best for you. With an Indeed account, you can keep track of every job you’ve applied for. Even if you found a job posting somewhere else, you can add it to your account and keep track of where you are in the process.
2. Write down or highlight the skills the job description calls for, taking note of the phrases and terms you might want to use in your responses. For example, if you were applying for a job that called for data-driven problem solving, you could expect to be asked about your analytical skills. An answer you could prepare is: “Analytical problem solving is something I’ve practised throughout my career. In my current role, I use data on campaign performance to make changes to our email strategy. Being able to understand cause-and-effect in any given situation is incredibly important to reaching our goals.”
Remember that this will be a brief interview, so practise keeping your answers short and on topic.
3. Prepare your answers to the following questions:
- What are you looking for in your next job?
- What are your salary expectations?
- What are you looking for in terms of company culture and benefits?
- If you were offered this job, when would you be able to start?
- What is your availability for an in-person interview in the next few days?
- If the job is out of state: Are you willing to relocate?
- Why are you looking to leave your current company or make a career change?
This last question can be hard to answer. Be honest but stay positive. Companies are looking for problem solvers and people who overcome tough situations. For example, if you don’t get on well with your manager and believe it’s decreasing your chances of being promoted, you could say “I’m looking to join an organisation with more opportunity for growth and professional development.”
4. If you haven’t already, it is crucial that you research the company before the phone interview. Read through this employer’s Indeed Company Page so that you’ll be ready to answer any company related questions.
5. Think of some questions you can ask the recruiter that will help you determine if this company and job are the right fit for you. You can review the questions to ask recruiters in our Essential Job Search Guide. It’s a good idea to prepare 2–3 questions.
During the phone interview
If you’re at home, it may be tempting to take the phone call while sitting on the couch or in your pyjamas. Avoid doing this. You don’t need to wear a suit, but put on an outfit that makes you feel ready for work. Brush your teeth and style your hair. Sit at a table or desk, or stand.
Find a quiet place with good reception to take the phone call. You should clear away as many distractions as possible and choose somewhere you won’t be interrupted. Turn off or silence any other devices that may make a noise during the call.
Make sure you have a pen and paper for notes and a copy of your CV, cover letter and the job description in front of you. (If you don’t have the job description anymore, ask the recruiter to send it to you when you’re scheduling the phone screen.)
One benefit of being on the phone is that you can take a moment to collect your thoughts, look at your notes, and breathe before answering a question. It’s always ok to pause for a few seconds — these breaks in the conversation often seem longer than they really are. If you need extra time, you can say to your interviewer: “That’s a great question, let me take a moment to think about it.”