13 Questions Hiring Managers Love to Ask in Phone Interviews (and How to Answer Like a Pro)

13 Questions Hiring Managers Love to Ask in Phone Interviews (and How to Answer Like a Pro)

Most of us don’t like surprises in the job search. Because honestly, finding and landing the job of your dreams is stressful enough—tossing an extra curveball on top doesn’t help.

So we’ll help avoid any surprises in one of the more difficult parts—and often the first part—of the job search: the phone interview. If you’re unsure what to expect in that call, here are some of the more common phone interview questions you might face, and some advice on how to answer them with ease.

1. How Did You Find This Role?

There are two reasons why someone would ask this: They’re genuinely curious (this information can be helpful for refining their recruiting process), and they want to understand why you applied and how you ended up in front of them (which we’ll cover in the question “Why do you want this job?” later on, too). If you came across the job a unique way, like through a personal connection, this can be especially important information for the interviewer to know.

How to Answer It

Easy—just say where you found the job (on a job board, through LinkedIn, via a networking contact) and a little bit about what made you actually apply.

For example, “I heard about an opening in [department] through a friend of a friend, [Name], and since I’m a big fan of your work and have been following you for a while I decided it would be a great role for me to apply for.”

2. Tell Me About Yourself/Walk Me Through Your Resume.

Asking this question, says Smith, helps connect the dots between you and the position. Sometimes the person interviewing you won’t be the hiring manager but a recruiter or someone in HR who has little background in your field. In that case, they may have zero context as to what makes your resume a good fit.

“And for people who have a really diverse background or random jobs,” she adds, “it can be hard for the person reading the resume to make those connections.”

How to Answer It

Wascovich points out that what the interviewer is really looking for in your answer is: “Tell me about yourself as it’s relevant to the role you’re currently interviewing for.”

So focus on those skills and experiences that are most applicable. You can simplify your answer by using the “Present-Past-Future” formula. Explain where you are and what you do now, segue into what you’ve done in the past, and end with a brief explanation of what you’re looking forward to doing in the future (and how it relates to this job!).

3. What Do You Know About Our Company?

The interviewer wants to know if you’ve done your research. Anyone can apply to an open job posting that’s up their alley. The right candidate will be passionate about the company itself and what it stands for.

How to Answer It

Do not just regurgitate their “About” page. Rather, pick one or two qualities of the organization that resonate with you—their mission, their product, their brand, their company culture. Explain why you admire them, and provide an example of how they tie back to you.

For example, if you were applying to The Muse, you could say: “I’ve been reading your career advice articles for years, and I love your mission of helping people build careers they’re passionate about. I spent the past 10 years in roles I didn’t love before finally finding my niche in sales, and think it would be an amazing experience to help others avoid the path I took and find their dream career.”

4. Why Did You Leave/Are You Leaving Your Last Position?

While it might feel like the interviewer is digging for dirt, there’s actually a larger purpose to this question: Why you left a previous job (and how you talk about it) can say a lot about your work ethic and attitude.

This should not stop you from being honest if you were terminated for whatever reason. Being laid off or fired isn’t something to be ashamed about, nor is it always entirely your fault. And overcoming it professionally and proactively only impresses an interviewer more.

How to Answer It

No need to get deep in the weeds if you were let go or fired. The interviewer doesn’t want to rehash the uncomfortable details—they’d rather see what you’ve learned from the experience. Simply say “I was let go for [reason]” and explain how this has made you a better and stronger employee.

If you’re moving on for another reason, whether you’re no longer growing, dislike your boss, or want to try something new, avoid badmouthing your past employer (even if you desperately want to) and focus instead on what you’re looking forward to accomplishing in your next role.

For example, you could say, “I’ve been working in project management for several years now, and while I love the work I’m doing, I’d love to apply my skill set to the tech space—and believe this job would be the perfect opportunity to do so.”

5. Describe What You Do in Your Current Role.

Like the question “Tell me about yourself,” this provides context for the interviewer to get a sense of your skill set and expertise. It also shows whether or not you can effectively communicate your value proposition—as Wascovich points out, “If you can’t describe how you contribute on a daily basis, why should I hire you?”

How to Answer It

Don’t just focus on the “what” of your job—emphasize the impact. How do your responsibilities contribute to your team or company goals? How does your work make things more efficient or effective? What skills have you developed over time in this role, and how are they an asset to your company?

6. What Are You Looking for in Your Next Job?

This question, says Smith, “sets the expectation…in terms of what this person’s going to come in here and do for us and what they want to do for us.” Ideally, your goals and the role’s should be aligned.

Your answer also says a lot to an interviewer about whether or not you’d be a good long-term hire. For example, you may be looking for a job where you can grow and move up in the next couple years, while this role leaves little room for mobility. Hashing this out now helps both you and the hiring manager avoid a bad fit.

How to Answer It

“If you already have a job and you’re looking for a different one, it’s because there’s something missing, there’s something lacking in your current position. And I think it’s okay to be honest about that. And there’s a way of doing it without badmouthing anybody or speaking poorly of your current employer,” says Smith.

She suggests taking the approach of: “I’m at a point in my career where I’m really looking for more X.” Or you could say, “I believe I’ve really honed X skill, and as a result am excited to pursue Y.”

7. Why Are You Interested in This Role?/What Attracted You to This Company?

Similar to some of the questions above, the interviewer asks this because they want to see if you did your research and actually care about who they are and what they do. What they don’t want to hear is, “I need a job and this one seemed cool.”

How to Answer It

There must be something that drew you to the role or company (besides money or perks)—focus on that.

“Take a minute to go back and look at the company’s website or press releases or look at the job description again and be able to pull out a couple of specific things to the company…something that can personalize it for their recruiter a little bit so that it’s not super generic,” suggests Smith. Then, connect that to your experience, career trajectory, and goals.

8. What Are Your Salary Requirements?

While it may seem presumptuous, a lot of times interviewers will ask this in phone interviews to quickly eliminate anyone who’s out of their budget.

Oftentimes recruiters are given a certain amount per position, and rather than bring a candidate all the way through the process only to get stuck on salary, they want to ensure the person is comfortable with what they can offer upfront.

How to Answer It

This is not meant to be a trick question, nor will shooting high necessarily put you out of the running. However, you’ll want to do your research to make sure you provide an accurate number or range that’s appropriate for the role and that you can back up with evidence of your value.

“Find out what the market bears for your particular area, and then figure out where you fit into that based on your experience and your education so that when you go into the interview and you’re asked that question you’re prepared to say, ‘Based on experience, based on this data, based on the market…my ideal salary would be in the range of X to Y,’” says Smith.

Talking salary depends heavily on where you are in the process. If this is an initial phone screen, you might have better luck keeping your answer vague, such as “Right now I’m really interested in finding the right fit and am open to negotiating on salary.” Then, if they press you for a more specific answer you can give your range (this is why preparing ahead of time is so important!). Regardless, don’t bring up money unless they do—you’ll be in a better position to get the salary you want later on.

9. What Type of Manager Do You Work Best With?

This question, like many others, comes down to fit. The manager-employee relationship is crucial for success, and the interviewer wants to be sure you’d get along and work well with your potential boss. And don’t we all want to work for a manager we jibe with?

As Smith explains, “If I know that the manager tends to be maybe a little bit more hands on and someone comes in and says that they don’t like micromanagers or that they like a manager to just trust them to do their job and back off, that might not work so well.”

She adds that this won’t necessarily sway their decision to not bring you back—rather, “it’s just another data point that I can share with whoever’s making the final decision.”

How to Answer It

“Don’t try to answer the question the way that you think they want to hear it. Just be honest,” says Smith. If it helps you craft a good answer, offer some examples of past good managers you’ve had or management styles you’ve come across that you’ve liked. And avoid mentioning any negative feedback or stories about old bosses or leaders.

10. Why Are You the Best Candidate for the Job?

Plenty of people are qualified on paper for a single job. Interviewers want to narrow down their pool to those who stand out from the pack—and asking this question helps them do so.

How to Answer It

What’s great about this question is that it allows you an opportunity to really showcase what makes you special outside your application. So run with it!

What’s one thing no one else would bring to the table that you have? It could be past experience, a certain passion or skill, alignment with the company’s culture, or merely your grit and determination to solve a specific problem. You can also take this approach to the question, “Why should we hire you?”

11. Are You Willing to Relocate?

This is a logistical question for interviewers to weed out anyone who’s immediately not a good fit purely based on where they’re located. This doesn’t mean they won’t consider letting you work remotely or paying for you to relocate if they really want you and can make it work—but it certainly gets considered when choosing between two great candidates.

How to Answer It

Simple: If you’re not in the area, tell them whether or not you’d move for the role. If it’s a bit more complicated, explain your situation succinctly and with an emphasis on how much you want the job.

For example: “My kids just started school so we wouldn’t be able to relocate until their year is up. I’m really excited about this role, and I’d be more than willing to make it work remotely if you see that as a possibility.”

12. When Can You Start?

Sometimes a hiring manager needs to fill a position right away. In that case, they’d probably only consider you if you can start immediately. But when there’s no rush, they still ask this to strategize internally as to how long they’re willing to wait for the right hire.

How to Answer It

“If you’re not working, obviously [you] can say, ‘I’m free to start whenever you need me,’ and that’s always a great answer,” says Smith. But if you need to give notice at your current job, have a vacation planned, or have some other time constraint you’re working with, you can say something along the lines of, “I would be available X days/weeks after getting the offer” or “I can start anytime after [date].”

13. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?

With this question, the interviewer genuinely wants to offer you the chance to get your questions and concerns addressed. Because after all, you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you!

But the questions you ask also give them insight into your values and expertise—so make sure they’re thoughtful and tailored to the role, company, and person you’re speaking with.

How to Answer It

Prepare two to three questions ahead of time around the company or role’s goals, the team dynamic, your future manager, or the company culture. Even better, jot down any questions that pop into your head as you’re talking with them—this will show you’re paying attention and tailoring your responses accordingly.

As you’re wrapping up the phone call, adds Smith, “it’s always a good idea to find out what the next steps are” if the interviewer doesn’t bring it up. This can be as simple as asking, “What is the next step in this process?” or “When can I expect to hear from you next?”

The best way to nail these questions in the moment is to prepare as much as possible beforehand. When you take the time to do your research into the company and interviewer, compile notes, and practice your responses, it becomes that much easier to answer with confidence.

As Smith notes, often “you don’t know when you’re going into the phone interview what type of interview it’s going to be unless they’ve told you up front.” This could be just a first round screening call, or the only interview you’ll have. It could be with a third-party recruiter, or the direct hiring manager. Either way, you’ll want to make a great impression—and you can do so by following these phone interview tips and best practices.

 

Source:  Alyse Kalish – The Muse