I’ve done my share of phone interviews for internships as a student. After a few of these calls, the interviewer never called me back. Looking at these and the ones that went well, I’ve come to a conclusion about how to answer some of the most common phone interview questions that could stump students.
This advice is for students who are about to graduate and apply for their first job or apply for an internship while studying. The dreaded phone interview that many companies use in the preliminary stages of recruiting may seem easier to handle than an in-person interview.
But don’t forget that it’s an interview with a faceless voice. The lack of human warmth can make you more uncomfortable than you realize when you’re preparing for the interview.
My point is, you should not ignore preparation for a phone interview. Don’t take it lightly. The purpose of the interview is for the company HR to weed out the candidates they’re not going to call in for the in-person interview.
Caught in a frustrating tinny-voiced interview call, you could easily lose sight of how important the impression you make will be.
You’ll have an easier time of it if you prepare some of the common phone interview questions ahead of time.
Tell Me About Yourself
This dreaded question is so open-ended and seems so vague that you may be stumped in preparing a suitable answer for it. You won’t find experienced interviewers asking it. But be prepared to have some inexperienced new hire in the company HR team to come up with such a question.
The interviewer may not have been creative or astute in the questioning. But you can be both in your response. Think about the specific job or internship position, and prepare your answer in a way that’s relevant.
Don’t be vague. Stick to specifics. Don’t talk about your love for basketball when you’re applying for an internship with a publisher unless that’s part of the job requirement!
What Interests You About this Internship/Position?
You may not have mentioned your objective on your resume, so the interviewer may not know what exactly you’re seeking on the job. If you’re not very clear about what the role entails, you should ask “Can you tell me more about the role for which you’re hiring?” If after the conversation you find that the role doesn’t interest you, you should immediately let them know so there’s no more time wasted.
What are Your Strengths?
Since most of us have been taught not to be boastful about ourselves, this question can seem harder than it should. If you’re not sure about your strengths, ask your college professor who has taught you for a while, or someone you’ve worked for.
Then pick one of your strengths and offer some proof of it. For example, have you won awards because of it? Have you ever felt proud of some accomplishment achieved with the help of this quality?
Also, don’t forget that the strength should tie in with the role in question. If you’re applying for several closely-allied but different internships prepare unique answers customized for each.
And remember, it’s a brief phone interview. Keep your response brief and to-the-point.
Here’s what you should not do when answering this question.
Don’t provide a long list of strengths. They say nothing except that you’re incapable of analyzing the situation and providing a relevant answer. Such a response is the fastest way to elimination.
Also, don’t brush off your strengths self-effacingly. This is one time you need to emphasize the qualities you will bring to the internship or job.
The question may also be phrased in a different way, asking you your weakness. Don’t pick a weakness that’s really a strength. Don’t say I’m a perfectionist who never gets things done. You could phrase it differently by saying “I constantly worry about making mistakes and letting others down. This can be paralyzing sometimes. But I’m working on setting myself more achievable goals.”
Why Should You Get this Internship?
This question can seem a little bulky, but it’s actually a great opportunity to sell yourself.
Respond to it in a concise way that showcases two things: what skills you’ll bring to the role, how you’ll fit in with the company culture, etc. and what’s in it for you. You want to make it clear that the hiring manager is going to get an enthusiastic intern who has the skills that are the right fit for the job.
What Motivates You?
There may be several things that inspire you and keep you going from challenge to challenge. But for the brief space of a phone interview, you need to pick just one. Your response could be learning new things, or coming up with new ideas, or solving problems, or working well with the team.
Then go on to give examples of an occasion or two where you found yourself having to find the motivation to get through with a task. Describe how you managed to tap into the motivation. For example, when you apply for an internship with a scientific journal, you could say, I am motivated by working towards a set goal on a deadline. I feel a sense of accomplishment from achieving these deadlines.
Give me an example of
There could be any behavioral quality to replace the star in this question. It could be “Give me an example of when you motivated your team” or “Give me an example of a goal you didn’t meet and how you handled it.” The possibilities are endless.
Respond to the question briefly following this structure: present the situation, the action you took (or failed to take) and the results. Even if you haven’t specifically been asked a behavior question, this is how you should answer questions on the phone interview and in face-to-face interviews.
These are some of the common phone interview questions students get asked when applying for an interview or a job right out of college. Try to smile through the interview, since it comes across in your voice in a positive way. Speak slowly and clearly, and keep your head but don’t be too laid-back that you’re lying on your couch as you respond!
With a little preparation and practice beforehand, you’ll breathe easier during the interview, whether it’s planned or impromptu.