Phone Interview Screening Questions [Template]

Time is of the essence in hiring — especially in a competitive candidate market — so you have to make the most of what you got.

That’s why setting up a phone interview, also known as a screening interview or the pre-interview, is a wise use of your time as a hiring manager. It allows you to get a high-level idea of who your candidate is and whether the initial expectations from both sides are aligned before you progress them to the face-to-face interview stage. Think of it as getting a pulse on whether the candidate might be right for the role… and if your company is right for them.

Use these phone interview screening questions (for all sorts of roles) to help you get an idea if your applicant-turned-candidate is more than just a good fit on paper for the role. ☎️

Jump to:

  • <a href="#purpose">The purpose of a phone screen interview</a>
  • <a href="#prepare">How to prepare for a phone screening interview</a>
  • <a href="#questions">Phone interview screening questions</a>
  • <a href="#followup">Following up after the phone interview</a>

<div class="inpage-callout-container"><p class="inpage-banner-text">💡 Pro Tip: Your candidate is also interviewing you about what it is like to work at your company. They need to feel confident in their decision to move forward and invest in the interview process with you and your business. Be prepared to answer their questions and briefly share information that’d get them excited about moving to the next interview stage.</div></p>

<div id="purpose">The purpose of a phone screen interview</div>

As part of your interview process, the phone screen happens before you send out an interview invitation email for the initial in-person or first interview.

It’s your chance to briefly ask about the candidate's personal and professional background, along with their salary expectations. This helps ensure alignment between you and the candidate before you progress to the next stage: the first face-to-face interview.

During the phone screening, you can get a better idea of:

✅ The candidate’s interest in the role and company

✅ How serious the candidate is about proceeding to the next step

✅ Their experience and qualifications as they relate to the role

✅ Their communication style and personality

✅ How they might contribute to your team and business

✅ How fast the candidate needs the hiring process to move (if they are interviewing elsewhere)

📣 How to conduct a job interview like a pro (even if you’re not a pro)

<div id="prepare">How to prepare for a phone screening interview with a candidate</div>

As a hiring manager gearing up for a phone screen, here's what you can do to make sure you're ready to roll:

  1. Review the candidate's CV: Get familiar with the candidate's background, experience and qualifications. Highlight anything you want to delve into.
  2. Set the tone: Plan what you’ll tell them about yourself and the company. A warm and friendly tone can help the candidate feel at ease.
  3. Understand the role: Refresh your memory about the position you're hiring for. Ensure you know the job description inside out and understand the responsibilities and expectations (even if you wrote it yourself!).
  4. Craft engaging questions: That’s where the rest of this article will come in handy! Ask interview questions that’ll help you gauge the candidate's suitability for the role and your company.
  5. Anticipate questions: Be ready for the candidate's questions too. They might want to know more about the company, your team or the interview process.
  6. Watch the clock: Manage your time during the call. Cover the important stuff without making the discussion feel rushed or unfair to the candidate.
  7. Prepare salary expectations: Be ready to discuss the salary range for the role and any benefits. This can be a crucial topic for both parties.
  8. Take notes: Have a notepad handy to jot down key takeaways and impressions during the call. It'll help when you're comparing candidates later. Even better would be to keep your notes stored in your applicant tracking system.
  9. Be flexible: While you have talking points, be prepared to go with the flow. Conversations can take unexpected turns, and that's okay.
  10. Know what comes next: Will you schedule an in-person interview? Will there be a follow-up call? Have a clear plan in mind and let the candidate know what they can expect from you after the call.

The phone screen is your chance to make a great first impression on the candidate too. So, put on your friendly hat and have a productive chat. 🚀

<div id="questions">Phone interview screening questions</div>

There are a few types of interview questions you can ask. Feel free to throw in some role-based questions (or even remote working interview questions, for example) and choose from the more general questions below that can apply to all sorts of jobs.

💡Remember: a phone interview is meant to be fairly brief — 25-30 minutes tops. So, while we’ve provided a long list of questions to ask, you should stick to just a handful that will give you clarity about whether you want to have a more extensive interview with the candidate down the road.

Introductory phone screening questions

These phone screening questions are intended to break the ice and get the conversation going with your candidate.

1. Tell me about yourself and your work experience.

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

3. How far along are you in your job search?

4. What are your long-term career goals?

5. What did you know about our company before applying for this role?

Work experience phone screening questions

One of the most essential purposes of a phone interview is to learn more about a candidate's work experience — beyond what they’ve written in the answers to your job application questions and what they’ve put on their CV.

6. Tell me about your most recent work experience. What did/does your day-to-day look like in that role?

7. What is an accomplishment you are most proud of from a previous position?

8. What strategies did you use to prioritize tasks and manage your workload in your previous position?

9. What skills or expertise did you gain from your previous job that you believe would be valuable in this role?

Phone interview questions to assess interest in the role and motivation at work

When hiring a new team member, one of the most important things you’ll want to assess in a candidate is their motivations at work and their genuine interest in your company. Ideally, you’ll want someone who’s motivated to help your company succeed in a way that relates to their job role.

10. What drew you to apply for this role? (Note — If you reached out to the candidate, you can rephrase this: Thinking back to the message I sent you about this opportunity, what interested you most about the role?)

11. What’s the most exciting aspect of this opportunity?

12. What’s most important to you when considering a new job opportunity?

13. Do you have any reservations about anything in the job description?

14. What type of work environment do you thrive in?

15. What type of leadership style do you prefer?

16. What about our company values or mission resonates the most with you? (Pro Tip: We recommend reiterating your company values or mission statement during the introductory part of the phone screen. That way you don’t catch candidates off-guard with this interview question).

17. What are you missing in your current role that you’re hoping to get in your next opportunity?

18. What are you hoping to learn in your next role?

19. What motivates you in your day-to-day work life?

Skills-based phone screen interview questions

While the following questions are focused on the hard skills a candidate has, pay attention to how they answer them and demonstrate their soft skills at the same time.

20. What’s your experience with/using X, Y, Z? (This could be a tool or even an industry.)

21. How do you go about learning something new in a role?

22. Have you ever had to do [insert task] before? What was that experience like?

And finally: wrapping up the phone screen

Add these pre-screen interview questions to your list — they’re the top, must-ask questions to include at the end of the interview.

23. Do you have any questions for me?

24. If we progress in this process, how soon could you start working here?

<div id="followup">Following up after the phone interview</div>

Once you’ve wrapped up your phone interview, it’s time to assess your candidate (refer back to your notes for this) and decide if you’d like to carry on with them in the interview process.

Like your phone screen, for the next interview make sure you have a list of interview questions to ask every candidate. You can use one of our interview question templates to help you out and to ensure you have a fair and equal interview process.

If you’d like to proceed with a particular candidate, be sure to move the process along as quickly as you can. Hiring moves quickly and when candidates are on the job hunt, they’re likely talking to other companies and going through other hiring processes. At the end of the phone screen, let them know what the next steps will be and when they can expect to hear from you.

Good luck and happy hiring!

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Alessia Musso
Alessia is Homerun's resident Canuck and Content Writer based in London. She's been writing B2B content for small and medium-sized businesses for eight years and is passionate about helping people feel more confident (and happy!) in their jobs. When she’s not researching the ways growing teams can improve their hiring, she’s probably thinking about pasta, books, craft beer, and the importance of the Oxford comma.

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