So..I am going to have a phone interview with a company tomorrow. I never had a phone interview before so I don't know anything about it except that I am going to talk to someone over the phone.

This is a PHP developer position. Is she/he going to ask PHP questions only? or is she/he going to ask any other questions?

Please advise me!

  • 4
    Phone interview to real interview is like phone $&# to real $&#. Try to enjoy it. – Job Feb 21 '11 at 19:42
  • They're basically going to filter you out based on your ability to answer trivia questions correctly. – Edward Strange Feb 21 '11 at 19:46
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    Perhaps you should Clarify this. From the question it sounds like you've used a phone before. Is this your first interview? Is that what the question really is? – S.Lott Feb 21 '11 at 20:24
  • @S.Lott // yes! exactly. This is my first phone interview. – Moon Feb 21 '11 at 20:56
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    I didn't ask if it was your first phone interview. I asked if it was your first interview. – S.Lott Feb 21 '11 at 21:19

Imagine a regular interview, but with more broad and general questions with the aim of determining whether you are good enough to warrant spending the time for an in person interview. That's pretty mmuch all there is to it.

Except you can do phone interviews wearing only your underwear.

  • 12
    +1 for underwear. Naked is even better. – Andrew Arnold Feb 21 '11 at 19:58
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    I usually prefer to dress as if I were going in for the interview . . . and then pretend the other person is in their underwear. It's easier to believe when you can't actually see them. – Ethel Evans Feb 21 '11 at 20:24
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    "Except you can do phone interviews wearing only your underwear." - except? – Edward Strange Feb 21 '11 at 20:31
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    @Malfist: What kind of jobs do you usually apply for? – nikie Feb 21 '11 at 22:33
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    +1 for "warrant spending the time..." Amazing how many people apply for a job without the basic skills. – DBlackborough Feb 21 '11 at 22:53

It's Just like a real interview, they can ask anything. But they don't want to waste anyone time with travel and Such.

Usually 15 min, to to see if you meet base requirements, but I have had them go to 1.5 hours. Take it very Seriously, if you do well they will bring you in for a face to face.


I would recomend turning off the computer and doing it somewhere quiet with minimal distractions. The idea is that they want to figure out over the phone if you are worth talking to in person. That way if not they can save everyone the trouble of an in person interview.

If you have any questions about them you can probably ask as well.

  • I'll second the importance of turning of the computer. The last thing I want in a phone interview is to ask a candidate a question, only to hear typing noises and then an answer after the approximate time it takes to read through Google search results. – smithco Feb 21 '11 at 20:39
  • +1. Yes, definitely turn off your PC and walk away from it. You're not focused on the phone conversation when you look at your PC. That's very annoying and not a good idea if you want to make a good impression. – nikie Feb 21 '11 at 22:35

I've had a few. Two separate types of interviews - one is from the hiring manager, one is from an HR person.

The HR person is essentially ticking stuff of a sheet and so forth. At the least, you should be prepared to answer some trivia-style questions. The general idea is that the HR person provides a first pass.

The hiring manager is liable to be considerably more broad. Some of the team may be present as well.

Some advice:

  • Sit down in a comfortable place.
  • Have a quiet talking spot.
  • Take notes.
  • Be mindful of nervousness affecting your speech patterns.
  • Try to speak extra clearly
  • Speak professionally.
  • Charge your phone.
  • Visit the restroom.
  • Put on some nice clothes to get you in the 'pro' mood.

And the usual pre-interview advice: get some rest, get some decent food, don't panic.


One person, usually a manager or lead engineer, often does phone screening to find out whether it's worth the time (etc.) to have other members of the team talk to you. I would expect less puzzle type questions (since it's a manager), and more questions to flush out the details in your resume, exactly how much and what depth of experience you had with any of the bullet points in your resume (e.g. making sure they are not BS). Have you written 100 lines or 100k lines of language X, etc. Maybe some actual problem solving questions regarding one of the projects on your resume. How did you solve that? Why?

On phone interviews, communications skills are important. Make sure you have a good phone line in a quiet place, and maybe a notepad so that you can get all of the interviewer's questions answered. This is also another chance to throw in more details of any other expertise or experience not mentioned in your resume, but that might be of any interest to this particular reviewer or company.

As with any interview, if the position fits, make sure you sell yourself. Company's rarely hire people who don't sound like they want the job, especially when the guy or gal they call after you does.

  • Now, in my experience a phone interview is done by someone not actually on the team I'll be working with. It's a pre-screening done before the first round of fully interviews to see if it'll be worth the time/resources to do a face to face. – Tyanna Feb 21 '11 at 20:46
  • @Tyanna - At huge companies, an initial phone screen might be done by someone not on the team. At smaller companies, a phone screen is usually a quick filter done by someone who knows more about the actual work involved, and there aren't that many of those individuals in the company. – hotpaw2 Feb 21 '11 at 22:24

I only had one of these with a Big Company. This may apply to your particular case, or not at all.

The very first phone screening was with the recruiter. We had a little talk about my background, education, and past experience; then a quick series of trivia-like questions (relevant to the position, though). The recruiter, who wasn't an engineer, was clearly expecting a pre-selected response she probably had next to the question.

I then had a couple of phone interviews, this time with engineers, that were more similar to technical conversations, including some algorithmic and programming questions first, and then some actual coding in Google Docs.

Depending on the company, and the volume of resumes they get, they may skip the initial HR screening and get you interviewed directly by an engineer.


The exact structure and content of the interview will depend on the circumstances. Sometimes a phone interview is an attempt to weed out the obviously unqualified candidates by asking very basic, high-level questions about knowledge and experience before deciding whether or not to conduct a face-to-face interview. Sometimes it is a regular, more detailed interview, but done over the phone because you and the interviewer(s) are in different cities and travel isn't possible.

Treat it and prepare for it like any face-to-face interview. Be relaxed, confident, and honest.


They will ask technical questions, "tell us a bit about yourself", probe your motivations. The usual stuff with less stress than a face to face.

Phone interviews are a good way for you to sell yourself without any judgements based on appearance, dress, skin colour, whatever. All they have is your CV (Resume for our US of A readers) and your answers.

A subsequent face to face then usually sets off on a better footing...

  • A CV in the US is considerably different from a resume. – Paul Nathan Feb 21 '11 at 21:26
  • @Paul Nathan - I've always wondered about that. What are the main differences? – Rook Feb 21 '11 at 23:31
  • From my understanding (major caveat there. :-) ), a CV is more common in academic environments or other environments where a bulleted form is not optimal. It's sort of an essay about what you've done. A resume is a bulleted list of education and jobs and what you accomplished with them. I have much more exposure to resumes than CVs. – Paul Nathan Feb 22 '11 at 0:01
  • @Paul Nathan: We don't have "Resumes" in Europe, only CVs. From my expat US colleagues and your description they are the same thing when applying for a job. – gbn Feb 22 '11 at 4:35

It's unlikely they'll into PHP questions that involve explaining the syntax. You could expect questions about certain frameworks and if you liked them. To decribe MVC and generally "higher level" questions. What's SQL injection and how do you prevent it? That sort of thing I'd expect.

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