Prepping for a Phone Interview: Your Go-To Cheat Sheet

By Victoria Robertson on September 11, 2020

Every interview is different, but that doesn’t mean that the basic, core questions aren’t covered in every interview. In fact, most employers will go through the basics prior to discussing the position itself (and the company) in further detail.

Phone interviews are typically meant as a way to weed out individuals that wouldn’t be a fit for the position, and to highlight those that have potential to be brought in for an interview.

Basically, a phone interview is the first step in the hiring process, as it gives the employer a snapshot of your background, personality, and overall “fit” for the position.

With that in mind, you can prepare for phone interviews with a basic, six-question cheat sheet to ensure you have well thought out, prepared answers for the most common questions asked in a phone interview.

Photo Via: Pixabay.com

1. Tell Me About Yourself

In most phone interviews, an interviewer will begin by explaining the company and the position to you in a little more detail than is provided on the job description. However, this overview will only take a few minutes, and then the line of questioning will begin.

More often than not, an interviewer will begin with some iteration of “tell me about yourself.” And, if you’re anything like me, you scramble to think of a single coherent thing you can articulate.

Preparing for this question in advance allows you to think about your goals, your past work experiences, and even your hobbies that align with the position. You don’t want to sound too rehearsed, but jotting down a few notes on your background can help make this a much easier question to respond to.

2. Prepare for Behavioral Questions

Behavioral questions are huge in an interview. While they aren’t always asked on a phone interview, they may be, and they will tell the interviewer a bit more about your personality without having to meet you in person.

These questions, such as “tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership,” are fairly common, and also easy to prepare for in advance. Take a few minutes to write down bullet points on a time you were a leader, overcame an obstacle, implemented a change, stood up for something, acted like a team player, went above and beyond, etc.

You never know what type of behavioral question will be asked, so jotting down a few ideas in advance can only help get those creative juices flowing for when the actual questions are asked.

3. Prepare to Explain Employment Gaps

Some individuals have employment gaps in their resume, and you will almost always be asked about them, so have an educated response prepared.

For most, this will relate to college and school breaks, etc. For others, this is going to mean explaining a gap of employment so as not to make you look bad. Thinking about these gaps beforehand gives you the upper hand in terms of being prepared for the line of questioning and having well thought out responses prepared in advance.

4.  Salary Requirements

Again, this isn’t always asked, but it’s a question you should be prepared to answer.

First, you should do your research. Does the job list a salary? What is your current salary? What is the median salary for this position? How badly do you want the job (i.e. are you willing to take a pay cut)?

In most cases, it’s best to reply that you are open in terms of salary, especially if you don’t want to lose a position by risking overshooting what it will pay. That being said, if you are in a position in which you have a job and won’t take less than your current salary, articulate that plainly so that the interviewer can determine if moving forward even makes sense for either of you, saving you both time in the long run.

5. Why Do You Want This Position

Most employers will ask you “why us” or “where did you hear about us.” Basically, they want to understand what drew you to apply for this position, and why you’re interested in this company.

Doing your research in advance of the interview and bringing up some of the company’s core values or other pertinent details will only solidify your interest and tell the interviewer that you’re very much interested in the position.

6. When Can You Start

Last, but not least, you will be asked when you can start. Again, this is up to your unique situation. It’s always best to let them know you can start whenever if that’s possible, but most individuals will say they require two weeks’ notice from the offer acceptance.

If you need more time, you should not only state that, but also explain why in order to show that you’re still interested in the position, but have other circumstances at play that require additional time.

The above, six-question cheat sheet is a strong starting point when it comes to preparing for your next interview. It’s important to note that not all interviewers will ask these questions, but they at least give you a solid foundation to answer any other questions that arise.

Remember that a phone interview may just be the first step in the process, but it’s the most important one as well, as it’s going to solidify a good first impression that will help carry you throughout the rest of the process.

Victoria is a dedicated writer who graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She currently writes freelance pieces for various sites and works in Marketing for Myndbee Inc., promoting their current mobile app, Picpal.

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