Phone interviews are the first live, real-time interaction you have with the company you’re interviewing with…and them with you.
It is a time where you really want to shine.
The phone interview is meant to screen potential candidates and narrow down who should be invited to an in-person interview. So you really need to stand out.
One way to set yourself apart: prepare and ask smart questions.
You’re not asking questions for the sake of asking questions though. Your questions are so much more than that.
Preparing phone interview questions to ask is just as important as as preparing answers to their potential questions to you or practicing your pitch. You want to make a good impression, and it’s your chance to do the following:
- Learn more about the company
- Show your interest in the position and company
- Determine if the company and the position are a good fit and if you want to pursue the opportunity
- Show the interviewer you took the initiative to prepare for the interview and have done your research
You’ll stand out by preparing and asking your questions, so don’t put off this important step!
Prepare and write down your questions in advance
As you prepare the interview questions you want to ask your interviewer, keep in mind you may not have time to ask all of them. However, it’s still a smart idea to prepare more questions than you think you’ll need or have time for.
One benefit of this is that if some of your questions are answered during the interview process, you’ll still have questions you can ask at the end. You don’t want to do all the work to prepare and then be left with nothing to say.
Make sure that you WRITE DOWN your questions! You might think that you’ll remember them, but don’t set yourself up for failure.
If you write your questions down, you’ll make sure you remember them. Plus, you will be able to write them down exactly how you want to say them — this ensures you don’t misspeak or mumble in the moment trying to figure out how to say what you want to say.
Finally, writing down your question allows you to easily take notes on the answers. Remember some of your questions might get answered during the interview, so this way you can jot down the answer and make a note not to repeat the question later (otherwise you might look like you weren’t paying attention!).
First, develop a list of questions specific to the position you applied for so you better understand the duties and responsibilities
Re-read the job description and highlight anything from it you want clarification on. Significant lengths of time often pass between when you applied and when you have a phone interview, so refreshing your memory will help you prepare your questions as well as highlight your strengths and experiences for questions the interviewer asks you.
Think critically about what you really want to know about a job. Think about what day-to-day life will be like, as well as what the future looks like. What answers will help you to know if this job is in line with your goals and the life you want to live? What is truly important to you? What will make an impact on your life every day?
For example, ask questions like these below:
- Can you share the reason the position is open?
- What are some of the most challenging aspects of this position?
- What are some of the most rewarding aspects of this position?
- Who does this position report to?
- Can you describe the secondary responsibilities of this position? Are there things I will be responsible for that aren’t in the job description?
- What are the expectations for the person that takes on this position?
- How is success measured in this role?
- What opportunities for advancement are there?
- Are there travel requirements or opportunities to work remotely?
- What is the expected work schedule? Is overtime typical and/or expected of this position?
- How quickly are you trying to fill the position?
- Ask any questions to clarify something you read in the job description that was confusing. Better to know as soon as possible!
Some of the example questions above may not be appropriate to ask your interviewer. Adjust and prepare accordingly by finding out who you’re being interviewed by and what their position is within the company.
For example, if your phone interview is with someone in Human Resources, they may not have specific knowledge about challenges the person in that position faces. If you’re unsure, it doesn’t hurt to still ask your question, because it shows you have been thorough in preparing for the conversation and that you are thinking seriously about the role.
Then, brainstorm questions that you have about the company as a whole
This includes things like the organizational structure, company culture, and benefit or retirement packages. The goal of these questions is to evaluate whether you’ll be a good fit and gather more information about the company that you could be working for.
You can formulate these questions based on your research of the company, conducted either online or through your network. Asking a question in a way that highlights you know something about the company’s recent successes or their mission statement shows your initiative and awareness of the company — which is a major plus.
Some example questions are:
- How would you describe the company culture?
- What is the organizational structure of the company?
- What training resources are available to employees?
- Can you tell me more about the benefits with this position, like healthcare or retirement?
Don’t focus too heavily on these questions, though. At this point, you want to be showing your interest in the role — not in how many vacation days you get. These questions should aim to answer high-level questions you have about how the company works, and should give that impression to the interviewer.
How to phrase your questions to get good answers (and impress your interviewer!)
Once you’ve drafted all of the questions you have, organize them in a way that makes sense to you. We recommend prioritizing them in order of importance to ensure you get your most essential and important questions asked in the time available. It’s very likely that you’ll only get to ask 3 at the most, unless your interviewer isn’t on a tight schedule or happens to know a lot about the position.
You generally want to avoid questions that have yes or no answers, so that you can give your interviewer plenty of space to respond freely. This also helps you to avoid making any inadvertent assumptions that could display ignorance about the role or company, or rub the interviewer the wrong way.
Make adjustments to your questions on the fly
The nature of the phone interview allows you to keep your resources close by and take notes in a way you typically cannot in a face-to-face interview. With your trusty interview question sheet prepared and standing by, remember to:
- Cross off questions that are answered during the interview so you don’t accidentally ask them later on.
- Jot down notes and answers next to the questions that are answered during the course of the interview for future reference.
- Note which questions will need to be answered at a later date, either based on information you receive during the phone interview or if the interviewer tells you they cannot answer the question at this stage.
- In a similar vein, write down new questions that you think of during the interview that you want to ask at the next stage. It will help you to have some initial questions prepared.
- Write down (then ask) questions that you think of during the interview that you want to ask the interviewer based on new information you received or something you just didn’t think about before.
The last tip is important because even though you prepared questions in advance, they may become obsolete during the interview itself.
For example, you may learn some of your questions question don’t apply or wouldn’t be appropriate to ask at this stage, but as a result you think of another variation of a question or a new one completely.
It’s important to keep the questions you ask relevant by not limiting yourself to the questions you prepared in advance. Remember, the phone interview is a conversation that just happened and the questions you ask at the end should reflect that.
The questions you ask are also part of showing how smart and engaged you are, so they should not be throwaways. This is another opportunity to impress.
Save forward-looking questions for the end of the interview
Save your last few questions during the phone interview to be about a certain topic: next steps.
With these questions, you want to show your interest and eagerness for the position, especially if it’s genuine. These questions will convey that to your interviewer:
- When can I expect to hear back from you on next steps?
- What are the next steps in the interview process?
- Can I provide you with a list of references?
- Do you have any questions about my qualifications or are there any other questions you have for me?
These questions can serve as your wrap up and help bring the interview to a conclusion. Plus, if you get answers to these questions, you’ll reduce your stress and worry about when you’ll hear back from them!
Asking phone interview questions is so important: it provides you with much needed information about who you’re interviewing with and highlights you as a strong candidate for consideration. Give yourself the best chance possible and prepare interview questions in advance!