Tactical Questions You Should Ask the Recruiter to Ace Your Phone Interview

Are you focused?

Are you frazzled trying to prepare or are you focused?

When you get your phone interview scheduled, are you frazzled or are you focused?

I’ve helped my friends finally get past the phone interview and advance to on site final round interviews for tech companies by helping them figure out exactly what to prepare.

Does this sound familiar to you?

Your job application made it past the resume screen(congrats!). A recruiter is now emailing you to set up your first phone screen.

You immediately go heads down preparing. Wrong!

I see this all of the time with my friends. As soon as they get an email from the recruiter to schedule an interview, they start a flurry of activity:

I need to write down EVERY single work highlight I’ve had and I need to MEMORIZE every story!

I need to learn JAVASCRIPT in ONE WEEK!

I need to BUY A NEW PHONE to make my voice sound better!

You need to chill out and start asking some questions. 

Recruiters are your allies with valuable information.

The recruiting team is there to help you navigate the entire interview process. This means you can (and should!) ask them questions about the interview. 

Figure out what you need to prepare.

  • Who’ll be interviewing you over the phone? Is it the hiring manager? Is it a person on the team you want to join?
  • What type of interview will you have? Is it a behavioral interview? Is it a case interview?
  • What will the interview focus on? Is it focusing on your experience? Is it focusing on your analytical skills?
  • What are additional things you should prepare for? Should you learn more about the new products the company shipped? Should you learn more about the financials of the company?

Knowing the answers to these questions will save you time, relieve mental anxiety, and most importantly, give you the best shot at acing the phone interview.

You can ask the recruiter these questions.

4 Questions you can copy and paste to your recruiter before a phone interview

1. Who will I be talking to?

If your recruiter hasn’t told you already, ask this question. You’ll get the interviewer’s name and usually their role. This will help you put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes.

If your interviewer is on the sales team, they’re going to bring a different perspective than if you’re interviewing with someone from the analytics team. With this information, think about what experiences you want to highlight that will resonate with your interviewer. 

With the interviewer’s name, you can look them up on LinkedIn to get more familiar with their experience and background. Phone interviews with a person you’ve never met and cannot see face to face is tough enough. Do some research to get a sense of who the person is to help you reduce your anxiety of talking to a stranger over the phone who is evaluating you.

2. What type of interview should I expect?

If your phone interview is going to be a general, behavioral interview, you’ll know to prepare for situational questions like, “tell me about a time you had to influence a team member to move forward with your idea.”

If it’s an analytics or case interview, you may be asked questions like, “how would you estimate how many Airbnb reservations are booked in one year?” or “how would you improve monetization for Snapchat?”

If it’s a product focused interview, you may be asked to list your favorite products, explain why, and how you would improve them.

Knowing the type of interview you’ll have will help you determine what content to prepare.

3. What will the interview focus on?

This is related to the previous question, but you can use this one to pin point how the interviewer will evaluate you. Each interview has a specific purpose. It could be any number of things like: Do you have relevant experience? Do you have good product intuition?

Again, this question helps you narrow down what to prepare. Time is limited, don’t waste your time preparing for something you won’t be evaluated on.

4. Anything in particular I should prepare?

This is a good catch-all question. The recruiter may give you additional insight or details that may be extremely helpful. They may say something like,

We’re really looking for someone with a strong analytics background, it would be helpful if you had examples of when you had to work with complex data to make a decision.

or

We want to know how well you work with engineering teams and your experience working on technical projects.

The recruiter is there to help you put your best foot forward, it’s part of their job!

Here’s a real life example. My friend “Brandon” used these questions to prepare for his phone interview at a brand name tech company. He aced his phone interview and went on site for his final round interviews.

Notice how the recruiter told Brandon exactly what to prepare. All Brandon had to do was ask two questions in a short email.

Don’t get frazzled preparing for your interview, get focused.

Make sure you’re preparing for the right things. Don’t go through the motions of preparing for every possible phone interview scenario, stressing yourself out. Figure out what the interview will focus on by literally asking, “what will the interview focus on?”

Just ask!


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