Whether you’re a small business or a big corporation you need the best minds in your team. The interview process is especially important for companies and organizations. It allows you to take your pick of the best from a large collection of applicants.

Just because a potential candidate looks good on paper doesn’t mean that they are fit for the job. Good academic records and technological knowledge do not guarantee that a candidate is ideal for the position.

By conducting an interview, you are able to identify whether or not they fit into your company’s culture and vision.

The main objective of phone interviews is to narrow down your list of applicants to a handful who will be invited to the formal interview.

As a hiring manager, you need to determine if a candidate has the right technical skills for the job. You also need to assess whether they are a good fit for the company’s culture.

You can do this by asking questions that are specific to the role. The questions should also give an applicant a chance: to show their critical thinking skills, personality, and ability to think on their feet.

Phone interviews act as a gateway for the more qualified candidates. You get to select the candidate that upper management would like to interview. It is essential that you pick only the most qualified. This will prevent loss of time and resources once the formal interviews begin. So how do you prepare for this task?


1. Read the applicant’s resume 

Reading the resume is the first step in understanding the skills that your candidate possesses.

You can verify the details on their resume as the interview continues.

Based on the details on their resume, you can ask them how they see themselves contributing to the role as well as the company.

Allow the candidate time to express themselves. you can ask questions such as:

  • How are your skills a match for this position?
  •  What skills have you recently acquired?
  •  What was your experience during your internship?

2. Build rapport

Interviews can be very stressful for most people. As the interviewer, you need to put the interviewee at ease. This allows you to get a better picture of who they are, and what they can bring to the table.

You can start by asking simple questions such as:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why are you in the job market?
  • When are you available to fill the position?
  • Tell me a bit about your background.

These questions determine whether or not to continue with the interview.

For example, if you need a position filled immediately a candidate who will not be available for a month or so is not an ideal candidate.

3. Avoid bias

Interviews are more effective when done objectively.

So far, the only interaction you have had with the candidate is through their resume. If you are impressed by their resume and determined to bring them in for a formal interview, then you might miss some red flags that pop up during the phone interview.

If a candidate has the required skills but their resume is not very impressive you may end up rushing through the interview without really getting to know their strength.

When going through the resume avoid judging applicants based on their age. There is a common misconception that younger applicants may not be a great fit for senior positions. However, this age bias can prevent you from making a good hire.

4. Be prepared to offer information

The phone interview gives the candidate a chance to answer and impress the hiring manager.

However, it also offers you the opportunity to clarify details concerning the hiring process. You will be able to address any concerns and requirements.

At the end of the conversation, the candidate should understand what is expected of them during the recruitment process.


1. What made you apply for this job?

This question allows you to gauge just how much the candidate wants you to hire them. Consider candidates who give a passionate and enthusiastic answer. This question allows you to determine:

  • How much a candidate cares about the role.
  • If they sound uninterested or apathetic.
  • If a candidate feels that their role is in line with their career aspirations.
  • If a candidate understands what they need to do to succeed in this role.

This question allows you to assess how motivated the candidate is about the role. Sometimes people apply for jobs simply because they need a paycheck.

However, a quick interview will allow you to separate those who are more passionate about the role of those who are simply qualified.

2. What previous experience do you have that will help in this role?

This question allows you to assess whether or not the job applicant understands the role they applied for. They will be able to give you detailed answers to how their past experiences fit into the new role.

The answers should highlight how their knowledge and experience will contribute to tangible and measurable results.

Even though the previous experience is often preferred, you should not dismiss a candidate simply because they haven’t held a similar role before. One key thing to look out for is their openness to learning new skills.

People with previous experience may have a problem being inventive in a similar role. This might lead to stagnation within the department. By asking a potential candidate this question you can gauge how creative they can be within the specified role.

3. Why did you leave your previous employment or why are you leaving your current job?

There are so many reasons why somebody would want to change employers. An applicant may be motivated by a bigger paycheck or a more senior position.

Reasons why somebody would want to change employers. Source: Leaderchat

This question allows you to explore these reasons. If a candidate uses this opportunity to talk about how horrible the previous employer was, consider this a red flag.

It indicates an inability to check one’s emotions and shows a lack of professionalism.

The use of personal attacks against the previous employer or colleagues could be a sign of immaturity. Hiring such an individual could be problematic in the future.

The ideal candidates are those who are looking for a new challenge, or who have been waiting for an opening within your organization. Some applicants can take this opportunity to highlight the positive aspects of the role and the company.

This shows a good attitude. Something that any organization can benefit from. Select interviewees who have professional habits.

Consider whether a candidate’s reasons for moving are compatible with the role advertised. A candidate could be moving due to a lack of upward mobility in the current organization. You need to consider if your organization will provide this. If not then they may not be a good fit.

4. What are your salary expectations?

This is a crucial question for multiple reasons:

  1. It helps you determine the candidate’s seniority in their previous employment. In most industries, the salary range for similar positions is more or less the same. A candidate who is receiving a salary that is much higher than the usual range is probably too senior for the position offered.
  2. It allows you to filter out anyone who makes more than you’re willing to offer. People don’t usually go back on salary. Even if they accept the position, they are likely to leave soon.
  3. It helps you decide how the rest of the interview will go. Once you determine their seniority you can ask the appropriate questions. Consider this; two IT specialists one earning $100 while the other earns $150. These are essentially two different candidates. One probably holds more roles than the other. In order to get the best out of the two, your interview questions will have to differ in some way.
  4. It gives you an opportunity to assess your offer. If most of the candidates earn more than you are offering, then you could be paying below the industry standard. It would be a good idea to rethink your offer. Raising the salary or including more benefits can keep the ideal candidates interested.

The question is best asked at the beginning of the interview. However, if the applicant is unwilling to answer then consider asking it again later on. Note that if you are unable to meet an applicant’s financial requirements after salary negotiations, they might decline your job offer.

5. What type of environment do you work best in?

A candidate should be able to pinpoint their ideal work environment. This question allows you to determine whether or not the applicant will be a great fit for the company culture. Some companies and organizations have a fast-paced culture that thrives in collaboration. Others demand that their employees be self-motivated and proactive.

Getting a great fit for your company is imperative. If an individual is not suited for your work environment, they might end up causing more disruption than good. No matter how talented an individual is, they will not perform optimally if the environment does not suit them.

The workplace environment is more than just culture. It includes resources and infrastructure that enables work. Employees need a comfortable working environment too.

Factors of workplace environment influencing employees performance. Source: Ispatguru

6. How soon can you start?

it’s important to determine how much time an applicant needs before they can come work for you. Consider factors such as:

  • Do they need to relocate? Some candidates may need to move once they land the job. Enquire about how much time they need to prepare and settle down before they can begin working
  • How much notice do they need to give to their current employer? Some companies require two weeks to 1 months’ notice before an employee can leave. This period allows the company to find a replacement. Beware of candidates who would rather up and leave without giving prior notice as this is unprofessional.
  • Do they need to finish their contract first? If they are currently hired, they might have a couple of weeks or months left on the contract. You need to determine how much longer their contract lasts.

This question allows you to determine whether or not you’ll be able to give more time to the successful applicant. You can always get a temporary replacement as you wait for your ideal recruit.

7. Are you willing to travel?

If the specified role will require regular work travel then it’s a good idea to introduce this expectation at the beginning of the conversation. Let your candidates know how much travel they will be expected to do in this capacity.

A candidate may be open to travel two or three times a year, however, regular travel may put them off. Select a candidate who is open to traveling as much as is necessary.

Try to explain why travel is necessary for this role. Inform the applicant of the provisions that will be made during travel, if any. You could sweeten the deal by highlighting how to work travel enriches their job experience.

This is also a good opportunity to find out if they have the travel documents in order, or if they have a preferred mode of travel. Remember that some people experience a lot of anxiety when traveling by air or sea. Hiring them can cause them distress. This will eventually affect their work.

8. Do you have the required educational background or certification for this role?

It is important for you to fact-check what the interviewee says to what is indicated on their resume. Sometimes people feel a need to embellish their qualifications. An unscrupulous candidate can lie during the phone interview just so they can secure a face to face interview.

If an applicant is nervous, they may fail to mention skills that are relevant to the role. By making reference to their resume you can ask them to tell you more about their qualifications.

You can also enquire as to whether or not they are part of an Association that is relevant to their role. Even more importantly you need to make sure that your candidate has the proper certification and are licensed to operate within the state

9. How did you deal with conflict in your previous employment?

The main reason for this question is to help you to determine the level of professionalism the candidate has. Office spaces often involve a lot of interaction. In most organizations, people often have to collaborate on tasks and share equipment.

This is potentially problematic given that people are not always on the same page. This raises the potential for conflict.

The ideal candidate should be able to point out work-related conflict.

  • How did they handle professional conflict without pointing fingers?
  • Did they provide a solution?
  • Do they show empathy towards the co-worker’s situation?
  • Were they able to establish guidelines to prevent future conflict?
  • How did the actions contribute to a better environment?

Workspaces can become very volatile if not properly checked. The ability to resolve conflict, solve problems, and negotiate makes a candidate invaluable.

10. How can you improve our service or products?

For any organization or company to thrive, it must upgrade its products or improve its services. Can the applicant add value to your establishment? Look for an innovative and creative applicant who understands the company’s goals.

An applicant’s responses can show their understanding of all your products and services. In addition to this, the candidate should be able to identify your target demographic. Their responses should include ideas on how to improve sales or increase your social awareness.

Go for a candidate who offers Solutions that put you above your competitors.

Consider asking your candidates to make suggestions on how to improve the market performance of your least popular service or products.

This question allows you to test how quick your candidates are on their feet. However, some candidates may take longer to come up with proper responses. Try not to write them off. Instead, consider the value of each response.

11. What is Your Management Style?

It doesn’t matter what position the candidate has applied for. This question is relevant even for entry-level applicants. Why? Well, it allows you to gauge their leadership potential.

As a hiring manager, you need to choose a candidate who can play multiple roles within the organization.

Ask about a time the candidate was called upon to lead a group or manage a project. Does their management style align with your company culture and value?

12. Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

This question does not require a candidate to predict the future. It does however require them to share their long-term vision with you.

  • What are their goals and aspirations?
  • Do they intend to get further education qualifications?
  • Would they like to start a business?
  • What role can they see themselves playing within the company in 5 years?

This screening question allows you to determine whether the candidate fits into the organization’s long-term plans.

13. Do you have any questions for me?

At the end of the phone interview allow the interviewee to ask questions. Candidates who are keen on joining the organization often have their own list of questions either about the role or the company at large.

At the candidate’s request, you can clarify issues, or offer more information. This allows a candidate to determine if your company is a good fit for them. Just as you are looking for the perfect candidate, they are looking for the perfect job.

Make sure that you are aware of the company’s vision, future plans, and opportunities.


There are usually a lot of signs that a candidate is not a good fit.

Nobody wants to hire someone who isn’t the right fit. But how can you weed them out? Below is a list of things to look out for.

If your candidate falls into any of these categories, they may not be a good fit.

1. Talk about money…. a lot

It is always a good idea to discuss salary and remuneration with a potential candidate. However, the conversation should not take up most of the interview.

If the candidate keeps bringing the discussion back to money even after you have made clarification treat that as a red flag. Individuals who are motivated by money alone rarely make good employees. They lack passion and interest.

2. Curse during the interview

Cursing is not an unknown phenomenon in the workplace, but this is not an excuse for foul language during an interview. If a candidate curses a few times they are likely to be unprofessional when presented to upper management, colleagues, and even clients.

This may hurt the company’s reputation and cause lasting embarrassment.

3. Sounding distracted throughout the conversation

Unlike face to face interviews, phone interviews do not occur in a controlled environment.

An interviewee may have to tend to urgent matters such as answering the door or calming a crying child. Such acts are understandable. You can offer to call back in a few minutes when things get calmer.

What should set your mental alarm off, is a candidate who seems distracted by something they could control but chose not to. For example, a candidate watching tv or scrolling down their Twitter feed.

Their answers are bound to be slow, and inconsistent. This could signal that they are not interested in the job.

4. Lacking enthusiasm

Most candidates often get excited when they get a callback. This is an indication that they would love to work for you. Enthusiasm shows that an applicant cares about the role.

A lack of it during the interview is a huge red flag. It could signal that the individual has no passion or interest in the role.

They are simply going through the motions. Calling such a candidate in for a formal interview could prove a waste of time.


Phone interviews allow you to filter out any unqualified candidates. Strive to keep the interaction simple.

Ask questions that determine whether or not the candidate is qualified. Interviews are meant to help you select the best match for your company or organization. So, don’t be afraid to seek clarification.

When done right, phone interviews set the pace for the much deeper face to face interview. Successful screening interviews guarantee that candidates who come for the next interview round are the best the company can choose from.

13 Phone Interview Questions for Uncovering the Best Hires

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