Phone Screen

Your point-of-contact (POC) person may conduct a phone screen with you which will typically last between 30 and 60 minutes.

Whether your POC is technical or not depends a lot on the company and size of company. Usually in companies between 50 and 150 people, your phone screen may begin with a representative from Human Resources (some companies have begun calling it “People Operations”) who may not be technical but still have some pre-defined questions and answers from a hiring manager. At small companies you’re more likely to be speaking with a technical manager, and at larger companies you’re more likely going to deal with a technical recruiter. My advice: be prepared for a technical phone screen no matter who’s calling.

Whether the phone screen is someone from HR or a technical manager, the interviewer is going to be looking for potential problems in your answers with regard to questions they ask. Was the candidate able to communicate the idea effectively with their audience in mind? For example, can you explain something technical in non-technical terms to a non-technical HR interviewer.

Phone screen questions will usually start out with asking about your background, how you heard of the company and why you want to work there. Non-technical HR reps are more likely to ask the softer questions like “where do you want to be in 5 years” or “tell me about a time when you didn’t get along with a coworker”, where technical phone screens could start asking you to describe your project work, which programming languages you know, and so on.

It’s rare, but not unheard of, for an initial phone screen to do any sort of live coding, but hopefully the company has prepared you for this already. Most coding puzzles asked over a phone call will be quite simple and can be solved within a few minutes.

A common phone screen question asked is whether you’re interviewing elsewhere or have any job offers already. Be honest about your interview schedule, and don’t lie about whether you have any offers yet. Your schedule and possession of an offer letter will sometimes encourage the company to expedite the process, especially if you can let them know the due date of your offer letter. If the due date is very soon, you could tell your POC that you will try to extend your due date if the POC’s company could interview you sooner. Be careful putting too much pressure on them to hurry things up, it could backfire and make them think “well, they already have an offer, so we’ll move on to other candidates.”


  • be ready on time; better to be several minutes early
  • have pen and paper handy to write notes; this helps a lot for follow-up questions
  • pay attention; find a quiet place without distractions
  • have prepared questions, even for the initial phone screen


  • be late
  • eat anything during the call, even gum
  • take the call where there may be excessive background noise