Phone Interview Tips and Questions to Help You Stand Out From the Crowd

Congratulations! Your tailored resume and cover letter has paid off with an invitation for a phone interview. This can be a make-or-break opportunity, as the potential employer will use it to evaluate you and other candidates, then choose who she wants to bring in for face-to-face meetings.

But this isn’t just an opportunity to sell yourself. You can use that phone interview to learn more about what the company’s looking for and what the role entails, as well as determine if you want to move your candidacy forward.

You can’t ever be sure of the questions you’ll be asked in a phone interview, but with some research and forethought, you can still prepare for the call. Here are some phone interview tips and questions you can ask that will help you outshine the competition, learn more about the job and decide if this is the right opportunity for you.

1. ‘So, you volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, too?’ 

A phone interview isn’t for chit-chat. But if the conversation allows, some small talk can be appropriate, especially about topics that could help build rapport.

For example, your pre-interview research might reveal that you and the company support the same charity. Or the interviewer’s LinkedIn page could show that you went to the same university. Since interviews are designed to demonstrate your soft skills, a little small talk might start things off on the right foot and shed some light on the company culture — and whether you’d fit in.

Use this opportunity to try to get a sense of whether this is the kind of work environment you’d be comfortable in, or the hiring manager is someone you’d be happy working for.

2. ‘Tell me more about the job.’

Do your research before the call so you know what to ask about the company and the open position. For example, ask how required job skills will be used (and be prepared to explain how you’ve used those same skills in your current or earlier work situations).

You could also ask why the position you’re applying for is important to the company, or whether the position is expected to change in the near future. These types of questions make clear your interest in the job and the company as a whole, and the information you learn can help you prepare for the next round of interviews. You’ll also find out a lot about the direction and future of the job, which should help you determine if it fits with your career goals.

3. ‘What’s the next step?’

Phone interviews typically last 15 to 30 minutes. But block out more time, just in case your talk runs longer. As the conversation comes to an end, ask the interviewer about the next step. Be sure to find out when you should expect to hear from someone in the organization. You don’t want to be left guessing after the call.  

Don’t try to wing it through a phone interview. Using phone interview tips and questions like these will help you score a face-to-face interview if you decide that the job is truly one you’re interested in pursuing.