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Recruiting tips
phone interview questions

Developer Phone Screen Questions

Recruiting tips
phone interview questions

Candidates tend to look similar on paper, but it’s possible to identify the ones who really matter with the help of screening. There are two main ways to screen candidates in IT: through technical screening and phone interviews. Both of these methods verify different skills, but when combined, they are a highly efficient way of pre-selecting people who should be invited to the on-site interviews. The more precise you are in your technical screening, the more you reduce your candidate pool without sacrificing the final Quality of Hire. That’s a win for everyone because, a) you’re not wasting time on non-viable candidates, and b) non-viable candidates don’t waste their time talking to you.  Without a doubt, the right phone interview screen questions can help you achieve your recruitment goals. Here’s the list of the best questions to ask in a phone interview.

Developer Phone Screen Interview Questions

  1. Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?
  2. Why did you apply for this position?
  3. What are you looking for in your next job?
  4. Why does this position appeal to you?
  5. How can you contribute and help us grow?
  6. Tell me about your current or most recent job. What did you do?
  7. Could you describe your typical work week?
  8. In your previous roles, what major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them?
  9. What challenges do you look for in a position?
  10. Do you prefer working on your own or as a part of the team?
  11. Which work environments do you function best in?
  12. What keeps you motivated?
  13. What are your biggest strengths?
  14. What are your biggest weaknesses?
  15. Why do you want to make a career change?
  16. What are your long-term career goals?
  17. What are your salary expectations?
  18. Are you willing to relocate for this role?
  19. If you were offered this job, when would you be able to start?
  20. Are there any questions that I can answer for you?

Please note: the last question is really important because you get to show the candidate that you think about their needs and not just those of your organization.

Phone interview questions objectives

The best questions to ask in a phone interview screening aim to verify a number of things, from job experience to working preferences, expectations, and attitude, to name but a few.  As a recruiter, it is your duty to decide whether it’s worth your company’s time to invite a given candidate to the interview. In the case of technical recruitment, we actually recommend pairing phone screening with technical screening.

A combined skill screen can be carried out with a platform designed to assess programming skills, like our very own DevSkiller. Since it’s impossible to assess someone’s ability to code on the phone, technical screening proves extremely efficient because it imitates real work that needs to be done and has high predictive validities. That said, phone interviews can be of help because they give you an idea about who your candidate is and what they believe they can achieve.

RECOMMENDED READING: 45 behavioral questions to use during the non-technical interview with developers

Tips to connect with candidates

software engineer phone screen questionsDo your homework. Ditch last-minute scrambling. It makes you unfocused and disorganized. While on the call, don’t shuffle papers or look for files, people can hear you. Needless to say, the same goes for eating and drinking when you’re talking to the candidate.

Say the candidate’s name. Findings of a Dennis P. Carmody and Michael Lewis study, “provide evidence that hearing one’s own name has unique brain functioning activation specific to one’s own name in relation to the names of others”. Ths means that your brain actually lights up when you hear your name. Use your candidate’s name in conversation, but don’t overdo it. Try to be as natural as you can.

Make it personal. Have the CV of the candidate and their profiles ready so you can be specific. Once you check out the CVs and their profiles, it becomes much easier to choose which questions to ask in a phone interview.

Create a conversation. Instead of grilling the candidate, talk to them about their experience. Use active listening techniques to show that you’re paying attention to what they’re saying. This is especially important when you’re on the phone because you can’t use your facial expressions and body language.

Don’t interrupt people. It is important that you allow people to finish each point before you jump in with questions or comments.  This limits your understanding of the message and simply frustrates people.

Why you need to treat phone interviews and phone interview questions seriously

Remember that you cannot underestimate the importance of phone interviews. When a recruiter calls the candidate, it’s probably the first time they ever speak to a representative of your company. The recruiter in charge of conducting phone interviews should have great telephone communication skills. Audit your phone interview procedure and see if there’s anything you can do to make it even better. There are a number of factors to consider, for example:

  • Is the person adopting a positive tone? Does their voice create a pleasant visual impression or a negative one?
  • Are they providing details about why they’re calling?
  • Are they identifying themselves using their name and the company name?
  • Are they familiar with the candidates’ education and employment history?
  • Can they communicate the value of the company and its culture clearly and cohesively?


Remember that phone interviews should never be treated as a substitute for face-to-face interviews. In fact, the ability to screen your candidates thoroughly early on eliminates non-viable ones and allows you to focus on candidates who can really help your company grow.

What are your favorite phone interview questions? Can you see any similarities in how your top performers answered them while interviewing?

For more proven examples of good questions to ask in an interview, check out our The definitive book of developer interview questions for savvy recruiters.

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