Phone Interview Questions to Ask Job Candidates

You’ve sourced some great candidates, but now it’s time to give them a phone or pre-interview to validate that they’d be a good fit for your role.

What is the main purpose of a phone interview?

The primary purpose of the phone interview (also known as pre-interview, or phone screen) is to discover five key criteria in the candidates you’re interviewing.

  1. Ensure they are experienced for the role
  2. Determine their qualifications meet the needs of the role
  3. Gauge interest in the company & company mission
  4. Understand their communication style & skillset
  5. Figure out if they’ll enhance your company culture to drive innovation

Below, you’ll find a series of sample phone interview questions (also known as the pre-interview or pre-screen) that can be used to assess whether your applicant is the right match to be a successful future employee.

Best Phone Interview Questions to Ask Candidates / Applicants / Future Employees

What makes a phone interview good instead of great is failing to assess the criteria above. Great phone interviews take a screening one step farther to ensure your hiring manager will be satisfied with great candidates to screen further. Happy hiring managers in turn trust you to meet their hiring needs in the future.

Here are our top phone interview questions you should be asking.

Ice Breaker Phone Interview Questions:

These initial questions are designed to break the ice when you first get on the phone.

1. Tell me about yourself.

2. Why are you looking for a new opportunity?

3. How did you find out about our job opening?

4. What do you know about our company?

Phone Interview Questions to Assess Work Experience/Resume

An important part of the pre-interview is to determine if the candidate’s resume is accurate or embellished. Below are great phone interview questions for learning more about a candidate’s resume/work experience.

1. Tell me about your current or most recent job. What did you do on a daily basis?

2. Can you completely describe what your role and responsibilities are in your current/previous position?

3. An important skill for our position is X. Can you describe your experience using X at your previous positions to accomplish Y and Z?

4. How long were you responsible for using X to accomplish Y and Z at your current job?

Best Phone Interview Questions to Assess Motivation and Interest

One of the most important factors in hiring a new employee is to find candidates with the right motivations. After all, you don’t want to hire a new employee whose only motivation is a higher salary. Here are the pre-screen questions we recommend for uncovering motivation.

1. What other jobs are you looking at?

2. What about this position interests you the most?

3. What are your salary expectations?

4. What’s most important for you when considering a new company?

5. What about our company resonates most with you?

6. What motivates you to come to work every day?

7. How would this position get you closer to where you want to be in 5-10 years?

8. What do you hope to learn/gain by taking this position?

9. What did you like/dislike about the culture at your last company?

10. What type of work environments do you prefer?

Best Phone Interview Questions to Assess Qualifications

For these questions, you’ll want to take more care in how you customize them based on the specifications of the role. Here are a few general phone interview questions that are great for assessing their relevant skills.

1. What makes you a strong candidate for this position?

2. What are the first three things you would do if hired for this role?

3. How well does your past experience translate to meeting the responsibilities of this role?

4. What tasks related to this role would you not enjoy? Which would you find the most enjoyable?

5. What challenges do you expect to face in this role? How will you overcome them?

Best Phone Screens to Learn About Culture Fit

Along with determining their motivations and relevant qualifications, you’ll want to quickly screen the candidate to see if they will add to yourculture. One of the most common reasons that employees leave jobs quickly is because of poor cultural fit. Therefore, an important part of the initial screen is to mitigate employee churn due any flags you encounter in the culture you are hoping to create

1. What type of work environment do you prefer?

2. What kind of direction/leadership do you prefer?

3. What is something that you’re working on improving professionally?

4. How would your previous boss and co-workers describe you?

5. How do you handle stress/pressure?

6. Do you prefer to work independently or as part of a team?

Bonus: Behavioral Phone Interview Questions

Check out our post “Behavioral Based Interview Questions” for a complete list of behavioral based questions you can use for in-person or phone interviews.

Below we’ve added a few great behavioral phone interview questions that you can quickly add to your pre-screen.

1. Describe a time where you had a conflict with someone on your team. Did you resolve the conflict? What was the outcome?

2. Tell me about a time where you were working on a major project for your current role. What did you do to ensure everything ran smoothly?

3. Describe a time where you had multiple tasks/projects with similar due dates. Did you meet the deadlines? How did you manage those tasks/projects to ensure you met both deadlines?

4. Tell me about a time when you failed to meet expectations at work (it happens to all of us). What did you do? How did you communicate the outcomes with key stakeholders? What would you do differently?

And the final phone interview question…

If offered the job, how soon can you start?

Final thoughts: Phone interview questions to ask future employees

Conducting a phone interview is a straightforward process. Making sure you ask the right questions can ensure that your in-person interviews are more valuable and effective.

Don’t forget that for every interview, you’ll want to manage the applicant tracking process effectively.

Further reading