Dial me This: Questions to Ask in a Phone Interview

questions to ask in a phone interviewLet’s face it. Getting a job isn’t a walk in the park. With such a high number of people looking for work, more employers are trying to find ways of narrowing down their applicant pool. One increasingly popular method is the phone interview. This helps employers save time and resources by weeding out unqualified or unsuitable candidates.

The phone interview may seem like a great idea for some job seekers, but it’s more than just answering questions while still wearing your pajamas. There’s still a lot of preparation needed to excel at this type of job interview because it is just as important as a typical face-to-face interview.

One of the most frequently asked questions to Movin’ On Up is what to ask during a phone interview. Some questions that work for regular interviews might not for an initial phone screening. But which ones do you ask? Here are some guidelines on what to ask during a phone interview.

Don’t be a Time Guzzler
Phone interviews are generally quick and to the point. They typically don’t last as long as normal in-person meetings, so it’s not the time for idle chit chat. Make sure your questions are quick and to the point. Employers often schedule several phone interviews in a short period of time, so taking too much time runs the risk of cutting into other applicants’ interview times, which could reflect poorly on you.

While there is no set number of questions to ask, consider asking prior to the call how long you can anticipate the call being. Try limiting yourself to three to five questions. Good phone interview questions clarify job duties or inquire about the workplace structure. They shouldn’t be very in-depth and require a lot of discussion.  Just prove that you’ve done your homework and show your interest in the employer.

What Not to Ask
Things like benefits, hours, or job salary may be important to you and affect your decision making, but there will be plenty of time to talk about them if you move forward. The phone interview is typically to clarify key points before the next step in the process. If it comes up, answer and ask. Don’t just start those conversations.

Phone interview questions need to be short and to the point, because the interviewers will often make decisions based on what you ask. Make sure your questions couldn’t easily be found on the employer’s website. This gives the impression that you’re ill prepared. Instead, try asking questions that demonstrate your preparedness. Start questions with, “so, I noticed on your website that…”

Ask Away
You may want to ask some specific questions relevant to the position or employer. It’s best to ask behavioral or open-ended questions. Here are some examples of questions you could ask:
•    Who would this position report to?
•    What are the daily responsibilities of this position?
•    What is the hiring process like?
•    How would you describe the company culture?
•    How are you evaluating candidates?

Asking About the Future
There’s one important question you should ask at the end of an interview. Find out about the next steps and the employer’s timeline for getting back to you. That way, you’ll know when to expect to hear back from the employer, and you won’t be sitting around waiting for more information, wondering why they haven’t called back or sent a letter.

It’s better to confirm the next steps in as much detailed as possible. Assume a more active role and try to get a commitment from the interviewer on when you’ll be contacted and what happens next. Try not to settle for “we’ll let you know,” but for a more specific plan of action.

By using these helpful hints on what to ask during a phone interview, you will improve your chances of getting more offers, and you will also feel more empowered and prepared throughout the hiring process. What are some of your favorite questions to ask during a phone interview? If you’ve had any phone interview experiences, share them in the comments section below.


  1. shirley brooke

    What not to ask ,benfits, hours, salary…These are the questions to ask why would you work otherwise, Salary, hours, and benefits. Lets get real here! Otherwise you bare just wasting our time!

    1. Post
      Jared Cole

      They are important questions to ask, Shirley, but generally not during an initial phone screening interview. Phone screenings weed out the unprepared, unqualified candidates to find the best ones to interview in person. Once you make it to the second or third interview, then you can talk in-depth about hours, culture, benefits, etc. That’s when it’s your opportunity to see if the job is right for you. Thanks for your comment, Shirley!

  2. Frank Lee

    “…are important questions to ask, Shirley, but not during an initial phone screening interview. Phone screenings weed out the unprepared, unqualified candidates to find the best ones to interview in person.”

    I disagree.

    There is no reason a phone screening should not be used to ask these questions to weed out employers for whom are not going to pay at least the minimum you need to get started, and work hours that will work for you.

    I personalty hate working on weekends. Why would I want to work for a place that works 1 Saturday or more a month? So I can despise the job and have to go through the process all over again in a short time?

    Waiting to ask these questions is wasting YOUR time. One simple rule in life to remember is it is YOUR life. Don’t let others choose your fate.

    Employers are not gods. They are people too. By no asking what you really want to know, the second interview you will have just wasted their time and more importantly wasted yours. Time better spent looking for the better fit company.

    I’ll have to say I’m with Shirley on this one.

    1. Post
      Jared Cole

      I think there is some miscommunication. The whole point I was trying to make is that those types of questions generally take a lot of time to explain, which isn’t what you want in an screening phone interview. If they are that important to you, then ask them, but be aware of your time. Interviewers aren’t gods, but they do have deadlines and schedules to uphold, and if you go over the schedule meeting time asking questions about what’s in it for yourself, it can reflect poorly on you.

      Thanks for your feedback, Frank. It was a great chance to clear things up.

  3. Michelle

    I totally agree, you don’t want to seem that is the only reason you are there at the interview. Like asking how much are you going to pay me, is there health benefits? Once you are a contender for the job it would be a more appropriate time to ask.

    And one thing you better be aware of is make sure you are rested and alert for that phone interview, you need a sharp brain and its best not to have long pauses when they ask you a question. Do your best to be confident and witty, give it your all.

    1. Post
      Jared Cole

      Excellent advice, Michelle! Most of the best practices in interviewing still apply to phone interviews, but isn’t 100% the same. What experiences do you have interviewing?

  4. Trish

    I too feel it is important to find out up front what the pay is. They HAVE a range in mind. That’s good enough to know if I’m interested in driving across town in the 100+ temps for an interview. That way I’m not wasting my time or theirs if the pay isn’t even close to being a liveable wage. Benefits don’t impress me. I can’t pay the mortgage with extra days off or insurance. In fact with insurance it cuts my pay

    I just went on an interview for an accounting position where I have to use my hard earned skills and education. They want to pay the same as a new burger place opening up! Why would I sit in an office all day long when I can go have fun and eat for free for the same pay??? With the food job there is also the flexibility to trade schedules with a co-worker if you or they want a different day off. Not in an office job. It’s strict 8-5 with lunch.

    1. Post
      Jared Cole

      Thanks for sharing, Trish. Job preferences are different for everybody. If you’re that concerned with pay, you can ask for a range. What works for some, may not work for others, so it’s always important to use your best judgement when asking screening phone interview questions. What’s on the blog is a guideline.

      Let me know how your job search is going. I hope you find something that works for you soon!

  5. Dorothy Peabody

    I agree with Jared 100% however, I have been asked the question of what I expect as a minimum salary and of course then you can answer a truthful answer but I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one bringing it up because in this economy there may be hundreds of people interested in the very same position. Jobs are too few and far between. You can always work hard to work your way up the corporate ladder.

    1. Post
      Jared Cole

      It all boils down to using your best judgement. Jobs may be tight, but you should consider doing research into the employer so you can ask the right questions that will inform you if the employer is right for you.

      Again, screening phone interviews are quick, so make sure you ask the ones that are important to you and about the employer in a timely manner.

      Thanks for the support, Dorothy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *