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Frequently Asked Questions about Phone Interviews

In most cases, the first interview for a job opening is conducted over the phone. Clients often ask us what to expect for this style of interview and how to be successful. Here are frequently asked questions we address and our answers.

Question #1: "How Long do Phone Interviews Typically Last?"

You want to be able to ensure that you are not interrupted during your phone interview. It is helpful to know how long the interview will take so you can carve out the appropriate amount of time within your schedule. Although it does vary, in most cases a first phone interview with a recruiter will last 15-30 minutes. Should the interview be with a hiring manager, it may be slightly longer. If you don't know what to expect, plan on 1 hour to be on the safe side.

We advise clients to ask this question when the interview is being set up: "How long should I anticipate the phone interview will be?" This allows you to make sure you are not interrupted for the duration.

Question #2: "What Kind of Questions Will I be Asked on My Phone Interview?"

Again, this can depend on who you are speaking with and what role are you seeking. A phone interview is generally a screening interview. The person you are speaking with is trying to determine if you are a good enough match to proceed in the hiring process. The next step may be a Zoom interview with the team, or an in-person interview. Before they invest that kind of time, they want to make sure you are a reasonable candidate for the opening. So, often the questions seek information about your background and your availability for the job. Here are some examples:

  • Tell me about your previous work experience

  • What kind of job are you currently looking for?

  • Why are you currently seeking a new role?

  • Why are you interested in this position?

  • If you were hired, when would you be able to start?

  • What made you decide to apply for this role?

  • What are your salary expectations?

  • What is important to you in the new role?

In some cases, the interview may go into more depth asking you some of the traditional interview questions, such as "tell me about a weakness and how you overcome it" but often phone interviews are more top-level and don't delve into those kind of details.

Tip #1: We advise clients to avoid answering the salary expectations question at this point in the interview if possible. You likely don't have enough information about the role yet, so it is best to wait until you are further along in the process. However, it might be wise to find out if this job will be way-off base for your salary expectations. For example, if their pay range is only 50% of what you are expecting, it is unlikely you will be able to find a workable solution and walking away now might be best.

Tip #2: Although you may want to take a month-long vacation to a faraway destination before starting a new role, it is best if you indicate you are available to start work as soon as possible. The company is hiring because they have a need NOW. If you say you plan to resign and give two weeks notice at your current job and then travel abroad for a month so you will be available to start in 6 weeks, they may decide not to proceed with you and instead choose someone that can start in 2 weeks.

Question #3: "What Mistakes Should I Avoid Making in my Phone Interview?"

We hear from hiring managers that job seekers often treat a phone interview too casually. It needs to be taken seriously if you want to proceed in the hiring process. Here are some tips for a successful phone interview:

  • Seek a quiet environment in which to take the phone interview. A noisy background will be distracting for you and the person interviewing you.

  • Don't use speakerphone. It is harder to understand what you are saying and feels less professional.

  • Don't attempt to multitask while you are on a phone interview. Emptying the dishwasher while talking to your mom is probably OK, but the clattering of dishes sends a message that you aren't focused on the interview.

  • Be on-time. Even though this is "just a phone interview," it is the gateway to the in-person interview, and showing respect for the interviewer's time by being available and ready is important.

  • Keep your answers short and appropriate. Over-talking or providing personal information tends to make the hiring manager question if you are a good fit for the organization. Keeping your answers concise and to the point is the best approach.

  • Prepare questions of your own. No matter what the format of the interview is, it is important to have your own questions ready to ask, as it shows you are engaged in the interview process.

Tip #3: Have your resume and cover letter in front of you during the phone interview. You may be asked questions specific to those documents, since they are what got you selected for the call. Although you likely know your resume inside and out, the stress of the interview may cause you to feel at a loss for words momentarily. Jogging your memory by glancing at the documents can be helpful.

Do you have additional questions about interviews? Revision Resume has numerous blogs on this topic providing helpful information to our clients. Click here to read our advice for ensuring you have interview success.

Need help with the hiring process? We provide a variety of services including resume creation, LinkedIn guidance, cover letter writing and resume critiques to clients in the Rochester NY area and beyond. For more information click here.



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