Phone interview questions to ask when you’re short on time


Here at Hertalis, we make a point of really getting to know each candidate, in a way that doesn’t take hours of conversation.  That’s because our clients expect results, fast – so we can’t hang around when it comes to our candidate screening process. We put together this post to help you decide what phone interview questions to ask when you’re short on time.

Why use a phone interview?

The phone interview is an essential step in the selection process. Usually, we will have seen a CV or LinkedIn profile first to check for essential criteria.  After that, if they’re a candidate that looks good on paper, we set up a short phone call to discuss further.  Use the time wisely to discover whether the candidate is best suited to the role on offer and whether you should proceed further, or not. 

How to interview a candidate by phone in just 10 minutes

Use our tried-and-tested approach to identify the candidates that you’d like to progress to the next step in the selection process. In addition, this is a great opportunity to sell the key benefits of the position.  Remember – prospective candidates will also be assessing the role and company, so make it a two-way conversation.  Quick doesn’t have to mean careless. 


Identify the key information that you want to find out before picking up the phone. It can be helpful to write out your questions in advance so nothing gets missed.  This means that you’ll be able to add to your standard questions (the ones you ask everyone) with a couple of specifics.  Consider – what is it exactly that you want to know? Asking someone to talk about their team structure will give you a longer response than asking how many direct reports they have. Keep your questions concise.


We make a point of calling the candidate at the exact time that we’ve agreed. Respect their time and they’ll respect yours.  Once on the call, set the scene. Remind them you only have 10 minutes but that you really wanted to take the time out to find out more about their experiences.  This approach helps keep you both on schedule – you can always agree to talk again another time if there’s more to discuss


Use the phone call to screen for red flags. In other words, what information can you uncover that would mean this application shouldn’t proceed?  It’s often easy to find reasons to progress a candidate’s application – your role is to look for the reasons that it shouldn’t.  Ask the probing questions, follow up on anything from their CV that wasn’t clear or seemed out of place.  It will avoid wasting your time and the candidates time


Always give the candidate the opportunity to ask questions. The best conversations are give and take. You want your candidate to finish the call feeling like they have learnt or shared something important to their application. Their questioning skills will also reveal a lot about them as a candidate: their level of interest, understanding of the role and company they might be joining. Their curiosity is a keen indicator at this early stage so don’t underestimate how important their questions will be in the process of getting to know your candidate.

Killer questions for a 10 minute phone interview

Here are our hottest tips for the very best questions to ask on a phone interview.

  • How’s your day going? (N.B. We think this is a far better icebreaker than “How are you?” as it tends to reveal more about the individual)
  • What interests you most about this role? And, what would it take for you to make a move from your current position?
  • What are you motivated by?
  • How many direct reports do you have?
  • Tell me about your day to day; how much time do you spend doing X compared to Y? (e.g. managing others vs. executing tasks)
  • What do you enjoy most about your role?
  • What would you like the next step in your career to look like?
  • Walk me through your current package
  • When did you last feel out of your comfort zone in the workplace?
  • What made you join your current company?
  • How do you find working with your current line manager?
  • Have you made any other applications? What stage are you at with these?
  • What start date are you looking for? Any holidays coming up?

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