Did I hear a groan?
Interviews are often met with anxiety. Especially when you are just coming out of college or grad school and are trying to “adult” for the first time. Even if you have a job and are looking for the next opportunity, phone interviewers can throw you curveballs.
One thing I can promise you is that the more you go through, the better you will get. That’s why I always accept phone interviews. Soon, these answers will roll off your tongue and you’ll see more and more job offers come your way. It takes practice. And I suggest writing out answers to the most common questions for your field and recite them to your friends or roommates.
Phone interviews are usually the calls that ask the same introductory questions. By themselves, they seem easy.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Or is it?
Recruiters are trained to read through answers and see if you can hold a conversation. They study your confidence, how many times you say “um” and if they are in a certain country with a required language, they might want to see how fluent you are. Usually, it’s about how you communicate and less about the specific answer.
Remember, it’s another person on the other end of the phone just trying to make a good decision for their team. Show them your personality and feed off of their energy.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
This is usually the very first question they ask you. It needs to be a short and sweet answer that you can recite in less than two minutes. This is an easy one to practice beforehand. Save the details for your more recent experiences. And don’t forget to include something about what you do outside of work. This is key because you can really set yourself apart and start a side conversation about something more interesting than work. Talk about a hobby or your pets. Maybe you just went on a cool trip. It’s important to set up that key differentiator right up front.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
This was one of my least favorite questions for a long time. I never knew how to answer because who wants to talk about their weaknesses? Could the wrong answer cost me the job?
First let’s focus on strengths. You should have 1-2 go-to points that are specific to the position. I refer back to the job description and check out some of the responsibilities. Is there a common theme? Pull out a few key words like “communication” or “B2B tech experience” and run with it. If you have time, talk about when you used those skills to solve a problem.
As for weaknesses, you want to talk about a skill that you are currently working on. For me, this has been writing. Writing isn’t my background and it has taken a lot of practice to get to where I am now. However, it’s something I am working on, by reading more and taking tips from a senior copywriter. As long as you have a solution to your weakness, you can talk about it.
Why are you leaving your current job?
This is a tricky question but it’s important to answer quickly and move on to the next question. It’s a common question that has no effect on your application, unless you start ranting about a manager or a co-worker. The answer needs to be polite and straightforward.
You can turn the question around and provide insight about what you are looking for in your next position. This way of answering is always more positive and shows the interviewer you are thinking about how you would like to move forward in your career.
Why are you interested in this role?
This answer needs to be more about the company than the role. Here is your chance to talk about the research you’ve done and why you want to join the team. Speak briefly on the role responsibilities and how you can confidently execute them. Then, touch on the company’s core values. Want to take it up a notch? Talk about a recent company event you saw on their social media and how you’d like to be a part of it. It shows you did your research and care more about the people you will be working with and less about the “job.”
Why should we hire you?
Because I’m awesome. Duh.
For this question, refer back to the job description. Go through the role and talk about why you are great at those responsibilities.
Is there a section on the job description of “nice to have” qualities? For designers, knowing HTML and CSS isn’t always a mandate. I always make sure to note that skill because it instantly makes me unique. Find your unicorn trait and mention it here.
What are your salary expectations?
This question shouldn’t make you uncomfortable. Everyone needs to get paid. And what you say here will have a huge impact on your offer letter. Make sure you come to the interview prepared to answer this question.
Do some industry research and calculate what you want and need as a salary. Then add $5,000. And that’s your salary range.
It’s important to give a range because it shows you are flexible and doesn’t strap you down to a single number. Great companies will meet you in the middle because they know if they give you what you need, you’ll do great work.
If you give a reasonable dollar amount and they still tell you that your range is $30k more than their budget, it tells you that they aren’t willing to pay for talent and don’t value their employees needs. This is a huge red flag.
Do you have any questions for us?
Now it’s time to turn the microphone around and see the personality of your interviewer. This happens at the end and if done right, can showcase your enthusiasm for the position.
Below are a few questions that you should ask:
Can you describe a typical day for this role?
What does the workstation look like?
Who would be my manager?
How is the work/life balance?
What is your favorite part of working for this company?
What are some challenges this role might face?
What is the career path for this position?
How will my performance be measured?
How would you describe the work culture here?
Can I have a tour of the office?
Of course, if there are industry specific questions you have, ask them here. Sometimes it’s good to know if you are working on Mac or PC, if travel is involved or what healthcare provider is used.
Interviews can be intimidating but the more you prepare, the easier they will get. Like I said earlier, remember you are talking to a human. Don’t be afraid to show your personality and crack a joke.
Always accept a phone interview for practice and who knows, it could end up being your dream job!
In the comments, let us know interview questions that have thrown you for a loop! How did you handle them?
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