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by Capitol Standard | April 24, 2017


Man talking on phone

Every day, qualified candidates fall out of the running for good jobs for one petty reason--they suck at answering phone interview questions. 

But there's a very simple formula for winning at phone interviews--and it's more obvious than you think.

Here are the rules:

Rule 1: Only Apply to the Jobs You Want  

The first, and possibly most obvious rule, is to actually want the job. 

Phone interviews leave very little room for error. If you don't want the job, you're least likely to convey excitement over the phone or do the basic research it takes to have a substantive conversation. 

Job seekers today, although using modern tools, still rely on ancient instincts. 

Don't let fear drive your job search strategy--instead, use updated insights. Don't apply to jobs you don't want. Choose quality over quantity. 

Rule 2: Write Yourself a Script 

The second rule is all about preparation. Again obvious, but many will find themselves unprepared. 

If you have a mentor or friend who is willing to help you, have them ask you the below questions. Record the conversation so you can go back and hear your answers. You should be able to catch your mistakes and fix them. 

Your most ruthless friend will be incredible at this. They will need to completely get into character and show no mercy. You should actually be nervous while they are asking you questions. 

Your script will be a breakdown of common interview questions and how you would answer them. Here's an example: 

Thank you for your interest in Company A. Tell me a little bit about yourself. 

Note: This is where you talk about your values. If you're new to the city mention why you're here and where you're from. 

"I grew up in a big family that put teamwork and loyalty above everything. So you can say collaboration and managing complicated projects is in my blood." 

"I'm new to Washington, DC. I moved from the Boston area about 6 months ago to complete a fellowship in engineering. So far, I'm really enjoying this city and plan on continuing my career here."

Thank you for your interest in Company A. Tell me a little bit about yourself. Walk me through your resume.

Note: The best way to answer this question is to show growth. Instead of rattling off your resume, tell the story of your career. Use numbers when possible. 

"I started as an intern at Company B. For 3 months, I was trusted to manage their social media presence and was able to grow their following across 6 different platforms by a combined 20,000 new followers. It was at that time I was offered a full-time position as their press assistant. For about a year, I worked to identify and engage influencers. Before I left for a press secretary position, I was able to improve their Klout score by 20 points."  

Why do you want to work for Company A? Or, Why should we hire you? 

Note: People make companies. Talk about the values you admire and how you fit. 

"I have been following Company A for some time now. I first learned of you when I signed up to volunteer for your home building project. From that moment, I thought to myself that any company who gives back in such a tangible way is a company I want to be part of. 

And with a background in digital marketing, I believe I can bring a fresh perspective on a team that has less of that.” 

What are your salary requirements?

Note: This is a difficult question for many but if you've done your research you should be able to breeze through it. Always go above what you are willing to take. The best book I've ever read on salary negotiations is: How to Make $1000 a Minute.  

"I know I can fill the needs of this position and I'd love to learn more, would you be willing to talk salary in person?"


"For this search, my requirements are in the 60-70k range." 

More Common Interview Questions

(If no one is around to help, pull out your iPhone and record yourself answering these common interview questions.)

How did you hear about the position?

Why did you want this job?

Why should we hire you?

What are your greatest strengths?

What are your greatest weaknesses?

Tell me about a time you faced a challenge and how you handled it?

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

How do you work under pressure?

Why are you leaving your current job?

What's your management style?

How would your friends describe you?

What do you think we could be doing differently?

How would your coworkers describe you?

Do you have any questions for us?


Don’t leave your success up to chance. Practice, do your research and be prepared.


Written by Ursula Lauriston. A version of this post previously appeared at Capitol Standard.