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Decoding Phone Interview Questions

July 16 2020

Most companies begin their interview process with a phone screening. Phone interviews allow employers and recruiters to vet potential candidates based on their skills, experience and job expectations before investing time in in-person/video interviews. As a candidate, if you have applied for a specific job, it is always important to be prepared for a phone interview because it’s easy to get wrong.

Here are 6 common phone interview questions, decoded:

1. Tell us about yourself

This is the most commonly used ice-breaker interview question. As a candidate, your answer must be brief but wholesome and relevant to the job posting. You must be articulate. Most phone interviews are scheduled for 30 minutes or less, therefore, practice and time your response. Technical questioning begins within 5-10 minutes of the introduction questions and initial technical questions are usually picked up from the areas covered in your “tell us about yourself” answer. Candidates have the power to direct the interview towards their technical strengths just by how well they answer the introduction questions.

2. Why are you interested in this role?

Rather than saying “I am in need of a job and this one seems perfect”, focus on what drew you to this opportunity, role, and company (besides pay rate/salary). Review the company website, job description and be prepared to justify a couple of specific reasons like location, project duration or any relevant project examples.


3. Describe what you do in your current role/your current job ?

Like the question “tell about yourself”, this provides context for the interviewer to get a sense of the candidate’s skillset and expertise. Recruiters also see whether the candidate can communicate effectively or not. Relevance is key. Candidates need to remember the responsibilities listed in their resume and connect those lines to the ones in the job description. Ensure to focus on the “must haves” of the job posting. Recruiters expect candidates to not only be role specific, but also explain how their responsibility has contributed to the team, project and organizational goals. Candidates can also shed light on the skills and technologies they have learned during their current work tenure.

4. Are you interviewing with any other companies or have other offers in the pipeline?

The purpose of this question is to gauge the current availability of the candidate. Employers expect candidates to emphasize their excitement about the opportunity. As a candidate, you can mention that you are actively exploring new opportunities in the market and would prefer to choose the one that considers your experience and expertise as an asset. Be honest about your current situation. If recruiters sense that a candidate is close to accepting another offer because of pay rate/location/duration of the project, they may not want to invest more time into you. Recruiters try to dig more information by asking questions like “How does this opportunity compare to others you have?” and “What excites you the most about this opportunity”.

5. What do you do to ensure that your technology skills are current?

Through this interview question, the recruiter is able to gauge a candidate’s enthusiasm for the industry and the current trends. This also opens room to conversations around career development, professional growth etc. As a candidate, you must convey your eagerness and curiosity to learn by letting the recruiter know about the various platforms you utilize to keep your skills relevant. This could include blogs, forums, online courses or even personal projects you have taken over during spare time.

6. What skills or characteristics make up an effective remote worker?

Given the ongoing impact of COVID-19, most recruiters will make this question an integral part of their initial screening process. Effective remote workers are self-driven individuals, with excellent self-discipline, communication and time-management skills. They are also able to function under little to zero supervision. Remote work may not be suitable for all candidates, hence this question allows recruiters to better understand whether or not a candidate would thrive outside an office setting.