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5 phone interview questions and answers you can prepare

The phone interview is often the first interaction you will have with a recruiter. These are often short behavioral sessions, where you meet the recruiter, learn more about the role, and tell them more about yourself.

For the most part, these are casual interviews, usually much less stressful than the technical and onsite interviews. But, that doesn’t mean you get a pass on preparation. If anything, it means you should be even more thorough in your preparation because this is your first meeting and it is imperative that you impress the recruiter so you move forward. 

Part of the preparation for your phone interview should be researching the company and getting a good understanding of their mission, values, culture, and products. We can’t tell you exactly what the recruiter will ask in this call, but we can give you a sense with these 5 phone interview questions and answers you can adapt.

1. Tell me about yourself

It is very likely that the phone interview will start with the recruiter asking you to introduce yourself. That means you should 100% have your elevator pitch prepared. The research you did on their mission and values will help you because you want to connect your experience to their goals, so they know you are a good fit for the culture. 

When you prepare your elevator pitch, give a high-level recap of your experience, starting with your education and moving through past positions and projects. Highlight the impact you made as much as you can. When you are concluding, show how you connect to their mission. For example, “Building a safer Internet is something that is really important to me and it’s exciting to see that Google feels the same way.”

For an elevator pitch template, review our guide to writing a strong elevator pitch.

2. How did you find this role? / How did you find out about this company?

For the most part, just be honest when answering this question and then add a little bit about why you applied. Don’t overdo it, but make sure they understand you are excited about the opportunity.

You can say, “I found the job on LinkedIn/Google Jobs/Stack Overflow/etc. I was really excited to see an opening on the machine learning team because I have been following the company’s trajectory for a while now and I’ve been so impressed with the ways you have been solving this complex problem. Given my past experience as a machine learning engineer at [Company X], I thought it would be a great opportunity.”

3. What are you looking for in your next role?

Depending on where you are in your career, you can answer this question in a couple different ways. In general, they are looking to hear a response that aligns your goals with the role’s responsibilities and the company’s mission.

If you are interviewing for your first job out of college, try a response like this:

“I am looking to start my professional career in a position where I can learn a lot about the field and continue to grow my strengths. I also want to combine my love of product design with helping people find great homes, which is why I am interested in working at a place like [this company]. I am also looking for a role that includes opportunities for professional growth, which I know is one of the great benefits at this company.”

If you are interviewing for a new position, make sure to keep your response positive:

“I’m at a point in my career where I am ready to take on more responsibility and I love that this role has the opportunity to mentor a junior team member. I am also looking to move to a more mission-driven company, which I can see is really important to the team here.”

4. What are your salary requirements?

If you are asked this question, or anything related to salary, our best recommendation is to be polite, but do not give a number or even a range. If you give a number at any point in the interview, you can be pigeonholed later down the line when you want to negotiate.

There are a few good ways you can stay polite while not giving a number. You can say, 

  • “You know, I haven’t thought about salary at all yet, I’m just trying to focus on giving my best in the interviews.”
  • “I’m not sure yet, I’ll need to do some research on industry standards first.” 
  • “Right now, my main goal is finding the right fit and then I am open to negotiating on salary later.”

We created a guide to negotiating while maintaining a positive impression that you can use to ensure that you go into those conversations with confidence.

5. Do you have any questions for me?

This is another question that will very likely come up, if not in your phone screen, then definitely elsewhere as you go through the interview process, so it is very important that you prepare. You want to make sure that your questions show your passion and drive to learn, which helps recruiters and interviewers determine if you will accept and remain interested in your role for a long time.

Here are some good questions you can ask:

  1. What are your favorite aspects of working at [company]? What is the most difficult part of your day at [company]?
  2. I read that [recent update about company]. How does that affect [the mission, the work of the engineering team, etc]?
  3. How much guidance can I expect from my supervisor and how much ownership can I expect for my projects?
  4. How much interaction do we have with other teams?
  5. What opportunities will I have to learn and/or teach my teammates?

By reviewing these phone interview questions and answers, you should be able to start getting ready for your upcoming interviews. Try writing down your own responses and practicing them in a mirror or with a friend. Be sure you find a quiet place for your phone interviews, as well, so that you can stay focused and show the recruiter that you care about the opportunity.

Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. If you want to work with a mentor 1-on-1 to get help with your phone interviews or any other aspect of the job search, join Pathrise. 

Apply today.

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