How To Handle The Five Killer Telephone Interview Questions

You’ve submitted a resume, made it through an initial questionnaire and have managed to stand out from the stack of dozens of other qualified applicants to make it to the all important screening interview.  While it may be limited in its duration and scope, the initial phone conversation or interview can make or break your chances at landing the career of your dreams.  The questions will be broad and generic, but that doesn’t mean you can “phone it in.”  Read on for tips and tricks that will have you nailing the five most commonly asked telephone interview questions and up your chances for moving on to the main interview event.

1.So, tell me a little about yourself…

Has there ever been a more horrifyingly open-ended question, whether on a first date or phone interview, then the vague but conversation-sparking invitation to wax on about your best qualities?  Instead of approaching this posit with dread, take it as a golden opportunity to pitch your best self.  Provide a brief employment history, work in a few accomplishments that fit the specific job you’re applying for and end with a tie into why you’re interested in the current position to really wow them.

2. Can we talk about your experience?

Another humdinger of a leading question, your interviewer has some knowledge of your qualifications and skills from the resume or you wouldn’t have gotten a callback in the first place.  Preparation is the key here.  Whether a phone screening or a final round interview, spend some time reviewing the job listing and strategizing ways in which your prior experience would make you a good fit.  Work these in, briefly, to the phone interview to show the person on the other end of the line that you’ve done your job-hunting homework.

3. Tell me your strengths…

While you may be tempted to use this opportunity to wax on over your ability to organize a kid’s soccer team or bench press double your bodyweight in the gym, unless the position is head of the PTA or a personal trainer to the stars, keep the discussion about what you do well on point to the job at hand.  This may require you to analyze the soft skills or personality based traits required of your new position.  Come up with a few of these ahead of time and you’ll be ace-ing this question like a pro.

4. …And now your weaknesses

If ever there was a time for a canned answer, this is it.  It takes a certain type of skill to turn a question about a negative into a positive trait, but with a little creativity, we have faith you can knock it out of the park.  Personality skills that have an underlying positive bent, such as doggedness, need for diversity in your work and sometimes analyzing issues too closely, are all moldable skills that a good manager or HR representative will see as assets given the right work environment.

5. What is your requested salary?

We’ve certainly saved the best for last when it comes to tough initial screening questions.  However, a frank discussion of salary requirements is essential to ensuring you and your future employer are on the right financial page.  If you’re uncomfortable with setting a hard number, try giving a range based on research from online salary calculators or your industry or networking experiences.  If it’s a position you’re very interested, don’t be afraid to include the fact that you’re willing to negotiate these requirements for the perfect opportunity to build a long-term career.

As with your in person interviews, telephone screenings provide a great opportunity to make a strong first impression.  They may be brief in time and scope, but nailing them puts you one step closer to landing that gig and also provides invaluable experience that will help you prepare for future rounds of interviews.

Updated from the original on August 22, 2017