Epic questions to ask in a phone interview

Epic questions to ask in a phone interview

What do you expect from a telephone interview?

Phone interviews are a powerful screening tool for employers to make sure they only see great candidates when a CV is not enough to differentiate between them. 

It is part of the interview process and one of the best tips I can give you is to prepare it as you would do your homework for an interview. Research the company and review the job description to build a list of questions about what you don’t know or want to clarify during your telephone call. 

What’s good about screenings calls is that they’re a lot more informal than face to face interviews and you will usually be talking to a recruiter rather than the hiring manager. You don’t need to wait until the end of the call to ask your questions. Instead, engage in a two-way conversation where you both can find out if you are right for each other. Yes, you also need to use the telephone interview to screen the company by asking them killer questions. 

Asking great questions will not only help you decide if you want to continue with the process but will give you a competitive advantage on the other candidates. You will know a lot more about the job by the time you reach the face to face interview stage and will be able to ask even more epic questions! That’s what makes them so powerful.

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Enough about how good phone interviews are… Here are my top tips to answer and ask killer questions during a phone screening:

The company: What do you know about us? 

You’ve done your research so tell them everything that you’ve learnt about your potential employer. The recruiter will also give you a bit more information about the business. Ask about anything you couldn’t find on the internet and they haven’t talked about already:

  • What are the biggest opportunities for the company in the next 5 years?
  • What are the biggest challenges the company is facing right now? 
  • Who are your key competitors?
  • Can you tell me more about the company culture?
  • Can you give me more information about your services / products? 

The job: What is your understanding of the job? 

Here they want to know if you’ve grasped what the job is about. Again, the recruiter will fill in the gaps if you haven’t covered everything. When they’re done talking, ask them:

  • Can you tell me more about how this job became available? Find out why they need someone. Are they recruiting because the last person in the job left or was promoted? Is it due to growth or because it was too much work for one person to do it alone? Is it part of a strategic change in the department? 
  • What is the typical career path for someone in this role? Here you are asking about career progression in a more subtle way than ‘When can I be promoted?’
  • Who does this job report to? Once you know, go and stalk them on LinkedIn to find out more about them.

The requirements: Can you talk me through your CV? 

They can also ask you specific questions about your work experience or qualifications. Needless to say that you need to only highlight what’s relevant to this role, remember that they have already read your resume (it’s probably right in front of them as you speak).. 

  • How often will I use XX skill / method? What systems do you use? Etc. You can ask more technical questions but the likelihood is that the recruiter’s knowledge will be fairly limited. If they can’t answer, keep those specific questions for the face to face interview. If they can answer, great! Use this to build more questions for the next stage.
  • Can you tell me more about the company’s induction process? What training will be provided? Find out how much they are going to invest in you when you start your job.

Wrap up: What is your current salary? Notice period? Do you have any holidays booked? When are you available for an interview? 

Those are all the deal breaker questions; if you give them a straight answer it might disqualify you so tread carefully and be as vague as possible. But it’s also your chance to ask for anything that is a deal breaker for you. If it’s one of your top priorities, don’t leave it until the offer stage to talk about it. You’ll be devastated if you have to decline the job because they can’t give you what’s important to you, plus you’ll have wasted precious time and energy.

  • Can you talk me through the bonus structure? Especially important for commission-based roles where you are promised a six figure salary if you meet your targets.
  • What is the likelihood of working flexible hours / part-time? If they don’t know, that’s fine. Ask them to find out and come back to you with their answer. You can then consider if it’s worth your time or not. 
  • How much travel is involved? What is the company policy on working hours, working from home, taking work home? Work-life balance is important and you should understand what your life will be like if you take this job. 
  • What is your timeline and what are the next steps? If they haven’t yet explained when you’ll hear back and what’s next, now is your time to ask. 
  • Who will I meet for the next stage? Again, once you know, stalk stalk stalk!

Remember than interviews are like dates, you’re both here to decide if you’re right for each other before you commit. Don’t go hitting on the recruiter tho. You don’t want to be remembered as the candidate who epic failed her screening!

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