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A phone interview is designed as a tool to help recruiters and hiring manager’s pre-screen potential applications before they decide who makes the final cut for face-to-face interviews. It is truly a function of necessity. When hundreds of applicants submit resumes for a single job the reviewer needs to find reasons to rule people out. Once they’ve developed a pile of qualified potential applications, they still don’t have the time to meet with everyone. Enter, the phone interview. Candidates should be as prepared for this conversation as they are for the formal interview process. Here are some ways you can answer the most common phone interview questions and have a chance for an in-person meeting.

Tell me about yourself.

So many candidates approach this question in exactly the wrong way. The interviewer is trying to discern what makes you a good fit for their job. Candidates often start at the beginning, but what you should do is start with the present. Tell them about your direct experience that would help them fill the position they are looking for now. Keep the answer short but informative.

What are your strengths?

They may also ask about weaknesses. This question is designed to help them understand your own ability to assess your experience, work style, and mistakes. They also want to see if you can think on your feet. If you can, focus on soft skills for these answers. Tell them about particular instances where your skills helped you excel. Engage them with a story, but still keep the answer short.

What salary are you looking for?

Interviewers really just want to know if you’re asking for more than the position is paying. This is a simple way to rule out candidates to move forward. However, you should never fully answer this question on the phone. Tell them that you don’t have enough information about the job yet to make a determination but your salary requirements fall within their expected range. Chances are they at least provided a range with the job ad.

What is your experience?

This will usually be followed by “with” and a specific skill. This is to determine if you really have the background they are looking for in a candidate. When they pick out a specific skill that means they are focusing on it for the job search. If you do not have experience with the skill they’re asking about, offer something similar and describe how you can learn

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