What Type of Questions Will I Be Asked?

The typical questions asked during a phone interview are usually surrounding a candidate's technical ability and their overall character. The company has already seen through the job application form and resume (or CV) submitted, what the details are surrounding the candidate (e.g. qualifications, work experience) -- so the company uses a phone interview to act as a 'screening process' to ensure the promising candidates who performed well in the interview are provided a 'pass' into the next stage of the recruitment process, usually a face to face job interview.

What Does the Screening Process Involve?

The 'screening process' (phone interview) will be assessing specific aspects of the candidate -- such as - can what the candidate said on paper (i.e the resume etc.), be matched in reality? Are they 'right' for the company? etc. Therefore, the typical questions asked during a phone interview are mainly around getting to know all about you. Below is a list of categories that are areas of the interest that the phone interviewer are likely to be keen to find out about you. You are likely to find that many of the common questions in a phone interview will fall into at least into one of the following eight areas.

1. Clarifying Your Job Application Form/Resume/Cover Letter -- often in phone interviews, the interviewer will want to question you about your resume and ask you to elaborate on particular elements of your work experience and qualifications -- and exactly how they fit in with the role that you are applying for. Such an example could be "Can you tell us more about what the X-role involved when you working for X-company?" and then go on to further ask "How could you implement such skills for the job role you are currently applying for?". 

2. They Want to Know About You - you can almost guarantee that the classic "Can you tell me a bit about yourself?" question is coming, other common questions of this type include "What would you say is your biggest weakness?" and "What is your greatest asset?" these style of question can often be either the 'make or break' of the interview. They are trying to find out about your personality and generally what you are about -- and whether that can fit in with the company work atmosphere etc. Make sure you are fully prepared for such questions by writing out scripted answers and practice with them, record yourself answering such questions and analyse it -- how you can improve your answer further? I also recommend that you check out a pretty great book by Ron Fry  the '101 Greatest Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions' it would likely be a real help for you in preparing answers to such questions. 

3. Competency Based Questions - there is also the likelihood, certainly with the more modern phone interviews, for a competency based question (or more) to arise -- these are questions which the interviewer asks, in which you have to answer with past experiences. For example, the interviewer may ask something along the lines of "Can you give me an example of a time when you had to lead a team through a troubled period?". Again, preparing for such competency-based phone interviews can be rather difficult to get right, so another pretty decent book I at least recommend checking out would be 'Competency-Based Interviews: How to Master the Tough Interview Style Used by the Fortune 500s' by R. Kessler.

4. Technical Questions - they may ask you on the job role 'in particular' and assess your technical ability to do the job over the phone -- I personally consider such questions to be very much like a verbal examination. It will depend on the company (and the interviewer to some extent) on how many of these type and style questions there will be asked as well as their difficultly level (so prepare for the worst, prepare for a grilling). An example of such a question may surround a particular computing skill e.g. a simple test of knowledge on a computer programming language such as C ++, if you were applying for an IT based job.

5. Job Requirements (Salary) - in some cases (and certainly not all) you may be asked as to what salary you are expecting to get from the job as well as the overall compensation package. Although it is important that you conduct research into the typical salary that the job role you are applying will get on average -- such as on Payscale.com and other various sites, it is often advised, if possible, that such details on your end shouldn't be given on the phone but instead should be discussed in person.

6. Your Interest in the Job - they are of course wanting to know that you are genuinely interested in actually carrying out the job -- it is not far from simple logic to know that a motivated worker is likely to be far more productive one, than that a uninterested worker, holding all else equal. So expect questions such as "Why are you interested in pursuing this job role?". They are wanting to know what motivates and drives you. Come across as energetic yet professional -- for example go on to say as to why you will enjoy some of the challenges that it will present you and that you will enjoy and thrive in the work environment that you are situated in etc.

7. What Value Can You Add to the Company? - remember this interview is about 'what you can do for them, not what can they do for you' they are giving you the opportunity to tell them, what specifically and generically you can help the company achieve. Although they are unlikely to ask such a question directly, interviewers are looking to provide you with opportunities to tell them exactly what can you do yourself to improve their company. Such an example could be that the phone interviewer asked a competency based question along the lines of "Can you give me an example where you had to fix a problem you caused?". To demonstrate that you can add value to a company you could perhaps talk about when you were editing the company's website you used to work for, that you happened to distort its layout, however when you were researching on how to fix this issue, you stumbled across SEO which is the study of improving website searchability. So as a result, not only did you fix the company's website, but implemented some SEO techniques and as a result the site had received greater traffic and from this greater sales. Which you then go on to state that you could very well do the same for the company you are applying for and estimate as to some of the results they should expect to achieve e.g. greater sales.

8. "Have You Any Questions?" - this is very much a disguised question. Although technically they are asking you for questions, you should treat the questions you are asking, like answers to their original question 'Have You Any Questions ?'. Probably, the worst response you could come up with is a simple 'No, thank you'. Think before the interview about the type of questions that you should ask, one of my personal favourites is "Can you describe to me what characteristics and skill set would make a person ideal for this job role?" -- as this provides with the chance to these very same aspects later in the follow up thank you email.

It is worth noting that every phone interview is different and hence so will the questions, however if you cover and prepare for all of the eight areas above, you place yourself in a very strong position to pull off a successful phone interview. If you have any general remarks or other typical questions asked during an interview or experience then I encourage you to please share a comment in the comments box below.