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Phone Interview: Rules and List of Questions

Phone interviews are an excellent tool that helps streamline the hiring process. Such interviews require much less time from each participant in the conversation. In this article, we’ll explore how to conduct a phone interview with a candidate correctly.

Phone Interview Basics in Questions and Answers

What is the goal of a phone interview?

The goal of a phone interview is to evaluate candidates over the phone to determine whether to invite them for an in-person interview. This helps save time and streamlines the hiring process.

How to conduct a good phone interview?

Prepare for the interview in advance by creating a list of questions to ask the candidate. Using software can help you plan the conversation and keep track of key points. Additionally, pay close attention to the candidate’s answers and take notes to revisit later.

How long should a phone interview last?

It’s best not to prolong the conversation and try to stick to a plan. A phone interview should typically last between 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the type of job and the level of the candidate you are evaluating.


Usually, 15 minutes are sufficient to assess whether the candidate understands the job, its responsibilities, and has reasonable salary expectations. At the same time, it gives the recruiter enough time to verify the provided information and decide whether to proceed with this candidate.


Remember that you will likely spend slightly over two minutes on introductions. So, you realistically have about 10 minutes for questions. Keep this in mind; there isn’t time for general questions about strengths and weaknesses.

How many questions should be in a phone interview?

There should be from five to ten questions. Most of the typical questions in a phone interview are so extensive that they rarely provide valuable information about the candidates. You need challenging questions that directly relate to work situations.

Advantages and disadvantages of a phone interview

Phone interviews, as a means of gathering initial high-quality data, have become the preferred method as they provide results with shorter timeframes and lower costs compared to conducting face-to-face interviews or other types of in-person interviews.


However, phone interviews come with a range of different issues that can diminish the value of this candidate assessment method. But if you understand the weaknesses of such interviews, there’s a higher chance of making the right decision and finding a truly worthwhile candidate. Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of phone interviews.

Advantages of Phone Interviews:

  • More cost-effective and easier to conduct than in-person interviews (1:1).
  • When conducted correctly, they can yield equally relevant information about the candidate.
  • Can be conducted on a broader geographic scale (e.g., when seeking remote workers or candidates in different cities).
  • Answers to questions are as current as in-person interviews.

Disadvantages of Phone Interviews:

  • Respondents may not always answer the call and can hang up at any time.
  • Behavior and body language cannot be assessed.
  • Interviews are typically shorter than in-person interviews.
  • No visual aids or materials can be used during the interview.

How to Understand That a Candidate Is Not a Good Fit

Phone interviews differ from in-person interviews, so you should pay attention to the following factors that often indicate a candidate is not a good fit for your company:

  • Focus on Money

If the candidate talks excessively about money, they might not be the right fit, as you typically don’t want to hire someone solely motivated by compensation.

  • LinkedIn Profile Discrepancies

 When the skills listed on a candidate’s resume do not match those on their LinkedIn profile, or vice versa, and the candidate struggles to explain the discrepancies, it’s a red flag.

  • Lack of Motivation

Most companies seek motivated candidates. It’s challenging to envision someone as motivated but lacking energy during a phone interview.

  • Unclear Career Goals

If you sense that the candidate is uncertain about the specific position they want and is open to other roles with different responsibilities, this indecision can be a problem. Candidates who are unsure about their career goals tend not to stay with a company for long.


Listen to your instincts! If you’re an experienced recruiter and feel that something is off about the candidate, seek a second opinion, even if you can’t pinpoint the exact issue.

Questions for a Phone Interview with a Candidate

Many people wonder whether they should prepare questions for a phone interview or if it’s better not to prepare and see how the natural conversation with the candidate unfolds.


Typically, at this stage of the interview process, it’s better to ask the same questions to each candidate. Asking consistent questions is a good way to compare candidates and ensure equal conditions for all.


Of course, interviews will still vary because specific answers might prompt you to dig deeper into certain aspects. The key is to try and maintain a specific set of questions during each interview.


The questions should aim to learn more about the candidate, such as expanding upon the information presented in their resume and cover letter, and assessing whether the candidate’s professional experience is a good fit for your job opening.


Here is a list of top questions for a phone interview. There are more questions than needed, so you can select those that best suit your needs.


  • Why did you apply for this job?
  • What is your current and expected salary?
  • What do you find most challenging about this position?
  • In your opinion, what is the most important thing to consider in this role?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • What experience do you have that will help you succeed in this position?
  • Can you share an example of a successful idea you’ve taken from concept to implementation?
  • What common mistakes do other candidates make for this position?
  • Tell me about an impressive product or service you’ve encountered recently. Why did you like it?
  • What is important to you in a job?
  • How would you describe your approach to work?
  • What motivates you?
  • In what work environment do you perform best?
  • What are your hobbies outside of work?


At the end of the interview, don’t forget to inquire if the interviewee has any questions left. It’s essential to provide answers to any questions that your candidate may have, whether they’re related to the job or the hiring process. After you’ve addressed any necessary inquiries, conclude the interview by thanking the candidate for their time and providing your contact information.

Phone Interview Script

Hello, I’m______, and I received your application for the position of ______.

I’d like to conduct a brief phone interview, which should take about 15 to 30 minutes, to discuss your qualifications and interest in the position.


Is this a convenient time for you, or would you prefer to schedule a different time for the conversation?


Why are you interested in this position and working for our company?


Please describe your responsibilities in your previous job. How has your experience prepared you for this role?


Could you explain whether you work in a team or independently, handling most tasks on your own?


What new processes/tools did you need to learn for your previous role, and how did you go about learning them?


Please describe the computer equipment and software you regularly use.


What salary range would you find acceptable?


Thank you for your time. You can reach me at [Your Phone Number]. Feel free to ask any questions.


Our next step is to complete phone interviews and decide who to invite for an in-person interview. We will certainly communicate our decision to you.

6 Tips for Phone Interviews

Here are a few tips to make the phone interview process smoother and less time-consuming for both interviewers and candidates. Knowing how to prepare for a phone interview will help you quickly switch into interview mode and identify the most suitable candidates.

  1. Fact-Checking

When a candidate mentions specific numbers or facts in their resume, make a note of them or inquire about them later in the interview. If their answers match, it’s likely that the candidate is not embellishing their skills and achievements.


  1. Speak Less, Listen More

The recruiter’s role is to ask questions and listen to what the candidate has to say. Avoid talking about unrelated matters and focus on the main points while keeping your objective in mind.

  1. Smart Scheduling

Plan for 15-minute calls but allocate an hour in your calendar. This way, if you find a talented candidate, you can extend the conversation a bit longer. For less impressive candidates, you can wrap up the discussion in 15 minutes.

  1. Avoid Burnout

Do not conduct phone interviews for more than 4 hours a day, or you’ll become exhausted. Candidates can perceive your lack of interest if you’re not engaged.

  1. Detailed Note-Taking

If you have multiple candidates, detailed notes will help you keep track and remember their responses in interviews. If you decide to proceed with in-person interviews, share your notes with all interviewers.

  1. Stay Organized

Use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to prevent candidates from getting lost in the process. This can be a standalone recruiting tool or a module within a more comprehensive HR system.


Phone interviews with candidates provide an excellent opportunity to save time and company resources while pre-screening and identifying the best candidates for 1:1 interviews. Careful preparation of questions and analysis of information allow for preliminary assessment and filtering out unsuitable candidates, ensuring more time can be devoted to truly talented candidates in the future.

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