Phone interviews are a special kind of audition — one that you have to pass on your way to an in-person interview, which is also often the last step before you're offered a job. Interviewing candidates over the phone is a cost-effective way of narrowing down the hiring pool, so you have to stand out if you plan to make the final cut. Asking the right questions over the phone might be the best way to ensure you're one of the lucky few who move forward in the process.
How Much Time Do We Have?
Ask this question as early in the interview as possible. Most phone interviews are intended as a quick elimination of unsuitable candidates, according to US News and World Report, so your interviewer might only have a few minutes to chat with you. Asking about time constraints upfront shows how much you value the interviewer's time and helps you plan out the level of detail you can go into for each question. Knowing how much time you're allotted can also give you a hint of how well you're doing; if the interviewer says at the beginning that you have 15 minutes, you can take it as a good sign if he stays on the phone with you for half an hour.
Do You Have a Copy of My Resume With You?
Most interviewers have your resume and application available when they call you, but it's good to make sure. If your interviewer has your resume in hand during the call, you can answer questions about your history by referring to it and expanding on the key points here and there. If your interviewer doesn't have your documents close at hand, you can demonstrate how serious you are about the job by immediately emailing a copy so everyone is on the same page.
What Does This Position Pay?
Salary can be an uncomfortable topic to broach, especially over the phone, but it's likely to come up at this stage of the hiring process. Employers sometimes ask about your expected salary as early as possible in order to get an idea of your expectations going forward. If your salary range is prohibitively high, the company can perhaps eliminate your application before investing a lot of time on recruiting you for a job you might turn down later. By asking about salary yourself, you can put the ball in the interviewer's court and work from the company's offer, rather than hoping your own salary request is in the right range.
Phone interviews tend to be short and to the point. They often end inconclusively, with neither side making any commitments to the other. By closing out your phone interview with a direct question about what to expect going forward, you can get a crystal-clear idea of how well you've done. If the interviewer tells you that successful candidates will all be contacted within a week, for instance, you can finish the call with a firm idea of when you'll know whether you've been eliminated or not. Asking about the next step also gives your interviewer a chance to schedule your in-person interview right away, which is an excellent sign that you did well over the phone. This question also gives you a natural way to ask for contact information, which can be crucial to a successful follow-up later, says interviewing expert and author Laura DeCarlo at Job-Hunt.
Phone interviews can feel like an extra hurdle in the way of getting that job you want, but handling yours the right way can actually make the process much easier to get through. Asking direct, perceptive questions at this early stage in the process signals your intent to take the job seriously, and it encourages the employer to schedule that all-important in-person follow-up. Apart from the good impression your intelligent questions make on the interviewer, the answers you get can point the way forward in the process. Going into your phone interview well-armed with the right questions can make the difference between an early elimination from the hiring pool and moving one step closer to your dream job.
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