Online interview tips and questions for startups

By Jaidev Kumar 
| November 30, 2021

Finding a suitable candidate by interviewing online and on phone is a bit risky job and it can lead to end up hiring of a non-relevant resource that does not fit into the required role. There are numerous reasons that can cause this to happen. And reasons are mentioned below:

  1. The candidate himself/herself is not replying to your answers on the phone
  2. The candidate is reading from somewhere and replying to your questions.
  3. Someone is helping the candidate in replying to the questions, especially if the answers are delivered after a pause or gap.
  4. Sometimes candidate avoids answering the questions by saying that I am outside and I cannot hear you properly due to noise and request to call after an hour or so. And in the meanwhile, they know a few questions that you have already asked them and get their proper answers by reaching some place or person.

To coup up with all such situations, we have to ask questions systematically that start with easiest and then lead to some difficult or tricky questions. And the sequence is not the same for every type of role. But we will try to summarize most of them here. Now it depends on us how do we choose from the below listed/described questions and make a list that fits a particular role and this works best when you are hiring a freelancer for your particular project.  Following is the list with their goals behind every question.

Initial Assessment

  • Where did you find this job?

Goal: This question is asked in order to know whether the job role is selected with interest by searching and then choosing on a particular forum or someone recommended that he/she is capable of doing it, or he/she is really looking for a job in our firm and continuously searches for the desired role on your company website. And hence the best-expected answer is that keep on searching on our website. But, we may not hear this in 90% of the cases.

  • Why have you chosen this role?

Goal: This question is asked whether they just applied to get the counteroffer or to get self-evaluation, or he/she does not even remember that they applied here because people apply in bulk to different jobs when they are in desperate need of one job.  Hence the expected right answer would be the job requirements matching with my interest and expertise, and this would be the best answer.

  • How many years of experience do you have?

Goal: This question will tell us the total experience a candidate has and the answer will be very useful in asking the following questions. Because an applicant might have worked on one technology/field/machine throughout the whole experience. Then the following question will segregate the years working in different areas.

  • How many years have you worked on XYX technology or field or machine, etc.? and why is it of your interest.

Goal: This will tell us that how much experience the applicant has for the particular technology that we require him to work on and will give us a good insight into his/her level of expertise. A candidate may tell us that the complete experience is on the technology that we require him to work with.  Or maybe a meager part of the total experience is with the required one. Therefore we can calculate that whether the total experience is just the repetition of the same thing for many years or the experience is diversified and assorted skill set.

Communication Skills Check

  • Have you ever been doing reporting by using email, templates, manually preparing reports, using any tools, etc.?

Goal: The goal of this question is to find out that how much responsible the person is in the current role because if the reporting, emailing, report preparation is the normal routine or even with less frequency, we can say that the person holds a good position in the current organization, as he/she reports to management and company rely on him/her. Therefore the communication skills are better at this first stage.

  • What was your reporting style?

Goal: If they have done the reporting in real they will tell us what and how the information used to flow within the organization and with outside clients.

  • Have you been involved in management meetings or client meetings?

Goal: Here the candidate may bluff with us by saying yes because if he/she is involved in client and management meetings it means he is a trustworthy and vocal person, and that is the impression we will take from the answer “Yes” but this can be sorted out by asking the following question.

  • Have you ever negotiated with management or client?

Goal: Now the question is tricky, if the answer is yes then, you may ask him/her what is the success factor of the negotiations that you have done so far. And if the answer is no, then you may doubt his/her involvement in management or client meetings.  And the revealed success factor or percentage will tell us the tentative effectiveness in communication with others.

Technical Skills Check

  • Have you ever mentored any juniors with your skills and expertise?

Goal: This is a very important question because a company selects or assigns this type of training task to those who are really experts in their company. And if the training sessions, in case the company is small or medium then they directly put junior candidate/s under his/her supervision to transfer the knowledge and train them so that they can be indulged in different projects.

  • What do you do for self-learning?

Goal: This question will tell, that how eager or passionate the candidate is for learning and exploring new things. And the answer would tell us whether they are open to new things or not. Because most of the time people just say that, Yes always ready to learn and explore new horizons but in actual they do not want to change and come out of their comfort zone. And in case if they simply say “Yes” then ask the next question immediately to verify whether the said affirmation is true or false.

  • How much or many new things have you learned for the last 6 months or 10 months?

Goal: If they really have learned anything new they will not take any pause and name it immediately or there won’t be any extra hiccups in the reply.

  • What technology/machine you would like to work on as your favorite and why?

Goal: Here the candidate will certainly name something and then tell the reason also. The answer will give a beautiful insight of mindset and working track for choosing technology or machine, etc.

Personality assessment

  • When do you feel bad?

Goal: Actually we are asking about the things that he/she dislikes or annoys. So we will get to know the real insight because sometimes people get annoyed by very normal things due to unknown reasons.

  • What can make you happy in this world

Goal: The real things that are loved by someone will come up, that could be a bad thing or a good thing or just an ordinary thing. But for sure it will give us their mindset and ambitions in life.

  • Whom would you impress in this world if you want to?

Goal: This will tell us the most loving person in the life of someone, and the person they want to impress will tell their choices in life. That could be anyone, a celebrity, or a family member, or a wife or sibling also. We can ask them further that why is that so?  So the reason will also be given by him/her.

  • What type of music/movies do you like?

Goal: The answer to this question will tell us whether the person is funky by nature or very calm, sad, and emotional. And the particular type of music/movie has specific type lyrics/theme and they like it too. Therefore the answer will be very helpful by knowing likes and dislikes.

  • How do you feel if anyone ignores you?

Goal: Here the answer will tell us, that how a person reacts when he/she is ignored for an unknown reason. The expected answers would be, I do nothing, I just feel bad, I will talk to the person that why I am being ignored, I will ignore them too, etc. But remember that every answer has a mindset behind it.

  • What is important in your life?

Goal: When a person reveals the important thing/s in his/her life, then we know the preferences and their degree of attachment to important things. And we would know that how far they can go to keep them perhaps.

  • What games do you like (indoor/outdoor)

Goal: This is a very important question as it will tell us whether the person is a social type or not. As people playing games outside are more social as they interact but people who do not go outside are shyer or non-social.

  • Why this field is of interest and what inspired you in it?

Goal: Here will get to know the interest and expertise level at the upper level.

The above set of questions are just a startup for evaluating someone briefly by taking them on a phone call. And all types of questions can be asked within a 10 to 15 minutes call. This guide is very precise and to the point to get the overall overview of a candidate within a few minutes.


The interviewing techniques vary from person to person and region to region, because skills, communication, and personality are built with the culture of the region where the person is residing and the language they speak. Culture and Language have a very big influence, for the reason that some languages are spoken in a very detailed manner and hence when they start speaking the second language then the influence is from their mother tongue, so the choice of words is the same, from their mother tongue while expressing their thoughts. Similarly, if the environment of the place is different for learning, e.g. everyone in the region is a farmer hence the motivation of one person to learn other than farming is not enough as there is no community of his/her interest. Therefore the person’s skill set would not be much polished or high. So, one should know or ask some basic questions before starting the phonic interview just to know how to evaluate.

Hence, we can conclude that one must know a few things prior to the phonic interview and those are the place where the candidate belongs to the mother tongue and ethnicity. These are very important things to know before conducting the interview on the phone for international people or local people both.


Synerge connects freelance experts with startups.

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