Phone Interview Questions to Streamline Your Hiring Process

See also: Interviewing Skills

Often used as a precursor to a face-to-face interview, telephone interviews are an integral part of the hiring process.

With a phone interview you can ask questions that will help form a better opinion of the candidate and determine whether they are as suitable for a position as their CV would suggest.

It also allows the candidate to find out more about the position and whether they believe it’s suitable for them.

Typically phone interviews last between 20-30 minutes, meaning it’s important to determine which are the most important questions to ask in order to effectively streamline the hiring process and come away with a more solid opinion of the candidate’s suitability.

While opening with the pleasantries, getting an idea of the candidate’s background and conveying information about the role in question is standard practice. However, it’s where you go from there that will have the most impact on the interview.

5 Effective Phone Interview Questions

1. What do you know about the company?

Candidates that are serious about the position will put in the effort to research the company.

By asking them what they know you can gauge how interested they are in the position and the company as a whole. Giving a substandard answer or having very little knowledge suggests a lack of effort, and can be a good indicator that they aren’t very interested in the role. It would also suggest a degree of laziness.

Conversely this question has scope for expansion, allowing the recruiter to ask for elaboration or for the interviewee to give a more detailed answer.

Having a good understanding of the company to which you are applying and the sector in general is important for all candidates. Read more on our page: Commercial Awareness.

2. When have you faced major obstacles in your role and what did you do to overcome them?

This question often puts interviewees under pressure and can be a good way of finding out more about how they are as an employee, rather than just a candidate.

The answer to this question will provide details on the candidate’s past and determine how suitable they are for aspects of the role in question. As the interviewer, you can guide the candidate through some of the tasks they might want to talk about to ensure that it’s relevant.

Also, depending on the answer to the question, you can tell a lot about a candidate: if the story they are telling doesn’t quite ring true then it’s highly likely it isn’t.

3. What is your greatest strength/weakness?

Asking a potential employee what their strengths and weaknesses are not only helps you find out just that, but it also helps give you an idea of what the person at the other end of the phone is like.

This is a question that most interviewees will have a stock response prepared for, yet nonetheless, whatever the answer it’s bound to give a glimpse into their character.

The internet is full of standard responses to the question ’what are your weaknesses?’; a simple Google search returns the dos and don’ts of answering, yet it’s still an important question to ask.

Additionally, as well as telling you about a person, it can also give you an idea of how that person views themselves and whether you believe they could be a good fit for the role.

4. If you were to start this job tomorrow, what are the first things you would do?

The answer to this question can give a good insight into how well the candidate understands the company’s objectives and values.

It also offers them a chance to show their initiative and what they could offer the company. In addition, it will also give some kind of an indication of what kind of approach they will have to position (should they get it) and how much instruction and ‘baby-sitting’ they might require.

5. Are you currently interviewing anywhere else?

Asking a final question that refers to the next stage of the process and whether the candidate will be able to continue to that point will give a good idea of how serious they are about the position and the practicality of a face-to-face interview.

It can also be a good opportunity to gauge when the individual would be available to come in for an interview or if they have holidays or other commitments preventing them from attending for a period, and possibly then deeming them unsuitable.

The Skills You Need Guide to Getting a Job

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Getting a Job

Develop the skills you need to get that job.

This eBook is essential reading for potential job-seekers. Not only does it cover identifying your skills but also the mechanics of applying for a job, writing a CV or resume and attending interviews.

While these questions are only guidelines, asking them, or variations of them, will help the interviewer gain a better idea of the candidate and how suited they are to the role.

From these questions it is possible to obtain information regarding the individual’s career, skills, strengths and weaknesses, their approach to the job in question and some indication of their personality.

This stage in the interview process allows both parties to consider what is best for them and to find out a bit more about each other. A phone interview also saves a lot of time and effort if the candidate isn’t suitable for the role.

About the Author

Will Bridges is an HR Consultant at Unum, one of the UK’s leading financial protection insurers. Unum specializes in providing Income Protection through the workplace, and is committed to helping the UK’s workforce get a back-up plan.