Phone Interviews: Ace the Call

In today’s job market, phone interviews often serve as the first true interaction between recruiters or hiring managers and potential employees. It’s a true interview, not simply a phone call to schedule an in-person meeting. Unfortunately, many jobseekers don’t understand the ultimate importance of the phone interview.

Time Matters

When you schedule your phone interview with the recruiter, make sure you will have the time and quietness this phone call deserves. In most cases, the recruiter will give you an estimate of the call duration, allowing you to better schedule the interview. Ensure you will have more than enough time for the call; give yourself an additional 20-30 minutes than the estimate just to be sure.

Get Ready

Treating this like an in-person interview may mean getting dressed and ready; for some people, dressing for success helps put them in a more professional state of mind. Prepare a notebook, pen or pencil, or a word processing application, and your resume so you can quickly jot down any information during the phone call. Having your resume handy will allow you to scan over what the recruiter has in front of them about you, as well.

Quiet, Please!

It’s not always easy to find a quiet place. However, when participating in a phone interview, it may help to be in a secluded room with the door closed. For many job seekers, phone interviews may have to happen during a work day at a current job. Schedule the interview for your lunch break and find a quiet place to speak without interruption.

Tips and Tricks

Refrain from having food or drink (besides a handy glass of water in case you’re prone to dry throat when nervous), don’t chew gum and refrain from smoking. Again, treat the phone interviewer as if they were the hiring manager sitting right in front of you. As in an in-person interview, address the interviewer by name and smile while you talk. If the interviewer doesn’t offer the next steps, make sure to ask when your interview is over.

Interviewer Tips – Keeping It Cool During the Interview

A lot of the focus on the interview process is put on the interviewee, but why? There are two (or more) people in the room during the interview: the interviewee (job seeker) and the interviewer (hiring manager). Both people are meeting someone new, both people are preparing to ask and answer questions, and both people are quite possibly more than a bit nervous about the whole thing.

If you happen to have an interview coming up which you’ll be conducting, you should prepare much in the same way that the job seeker has to. Of course, there are subtle differences in the preparations, but the idea remains the same. You should be prepared and have a solution to everything that may come up in the interview. And above all else, you need to make sure you focus on the candidate and make them feel comfortable enough to open up to you while still maintaining a professional atmosphere.

Sharing

It’s not uncommon for a hiring manager to not give the interviewer enough time during the process. This could be because you’ve done so many interviews for this one opening that you’ve set yourself into a routine or it could be because this particular candidate has a little more to say.

Either way, ask questions and let the candidate speak. Stick to the basic questions at first and allow time in between for a solid and fulfilled answer. It’s easy to get a little carried away talking about the position or the company, but if you cut the candidate short of time, you may never know what he’s capable of.

Prepare

Job seekers are reminded every day of how they should always prepare for an interview. They know the standard questions and, if they’re smart, they’ve rehearsed the proper answers so they don’t forget during the interview. You should follow suit.

Not all candidates are the same. If they were, your job (or at least this aspect of it) wouldn’t exist. Before each interview, or even the night before, thoroughly read the resumes of the candidates you will be interviewing. Leave small notes in each folders with a targeted list of questions. Just as job seekers are told to research the company, you should research them – to a point. For example, candidate #1 may have had experience in an exciting industry or in another country. Ask her about this past experience and what it brings to the table now.

Group Thoughts

While the interview rests on your shoulders, the candidate will also have to work with the rest of the team. Ask your receptionist if she has anything to say about any of the candidates. If this will be a second or third interview with a candidate, there is always the possibility of having future colleagues asking the candidate a few questions, as well.

Bottom Line

Keeping it cool during the interview process isn’t always easy, unless you happen to love conducting interviews and it’s among your greatest skills. For the rest of us, however, being prepared and remembering these few (small) tips can break the ice and make both of you more comfortable.

Ready for Success: Tips for Acing Your Interview

You meticulously checked your resume for spelling and grammatical errors, you detailed the skills and experiences that directly pertain to the position you’re after and you’ve sent it in and, after waiting patiently, received the notification that you scored an interview. Great! You made the short list and now it’s time to showcase your personality, drive and skills that give you an edge over the other candidates. Interviewing is an art, and only the best artists will win. Make sure you’re ready for an interview.

Research is Key

You should have researched the company while tweaking your resume and writing your cover letter, but now is the time to really research the company you’re interviewing with — and they’re competitors.

You’re selling yourself during the interview, particularly your skills and what you bring to the table. Know the company’s history, their strengths and weaknesses and what their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses are. Be prepared to offer up which of your skills and experiences are going to strengthen the company’s weaknesses and solidify their strengths even more.

What to Expect

Certain questions are standard during the interview process, whether it’s for a bartending position or an executive sales position.

  • Tell me about yourself.

○      Keep it job-related, at least in some fashion. Your answer should be personal, but only to a limited extent. This is your opportunity to bring real-life skills or experiences to the table.

  • What do you know about this company?

○      Your research will pay off here and it’s a prime opportunity to relay your dedicated research to the interviewer.

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

○      Be honest, but put a positive spin on your weaknesses by offering what you do to try and correct them. As for your strengths, offer those that are relevant in the form of skills.

  • Why did you leave your last job?

○      Again, be honest, but don’t offer negativity. Your interviewer does not want to hear that you didn’t get along with your last supervisor or that you didn’t like the hours.

  • Why are you a good fit for our company?

○      Again, offer your skills as an answer and be positive. Your skills, experience and personality should all come into play in your answer: You want this job and you can improve the company through your work and dedication.

Presentation

How you present yourself is pivotal during an interview. Dress professionally and spend that extra few minutes while getting ready. Greet your interviewer with a handshake and smile, and make frequent eye contact throughout the interview. To prepare yourself for the interview, practice interviewing, research and practice the answers to questions you anticipate, and remember that the interviewer is a human, too, albeit an important one at the moment. You don’t want to appear nervous, so if you’re prone to nervous energy, try and calm your nerves before the interview.

During your presentation, you should appear focused on the task at hand. Turn your phone off prior to the interview, toss the gum you’ve been chewing and relax.

In Closing

Always offer your interviewer a handshake, thank them for their time and ask for a business card. Politeness goes a long way in any personal contact; your interviewer is no different. Follow up your interview by sending a small thank you note to the interviewers. Thank them for their time and remind them that you are interested in the position and what skills you bring to the table. A handwritten note can be much more personal, however, if your penmanship isn’t amazing, type the note and sign the letter with your signature.

How Career Coaching Can Help You Find the Right Job

 *This article was originally seen on Simply Hired. Kenya McCullum is a freelance writer based in California.

In recent years, it seems that the American workforce has become increasingly unhappy in the office. In fact, according to the “2013 State of the American Workplace Report” recently released by Gallup, about 70 percent of U.S. employees do not feel engaged or fulfilled in their work. Even more stunning is the fact that 18 percent of the workers Gallup surveyed reported to being so unhappy with their jobs that they actively try to undermine their employers in some way.

While workers who don’t want to suffer in silence may find a way out of a job that makes them miserable, if they take the first position that comes along, they run the risk of ending up in the same place they started — same disengagement, different company. But in this day and age, how can you really find a job that keeps you engaged and makes you happy?

Whether you’re thinking of transitioning into a new career or want to make the most of your current career, a good place to start is by finding out what your passion is and figuring out how that passion translates into a career. Of course, that’s easier said than done, and though we’re often told to follow our bliss, we have to find our bliss first.

That’s where a career coach can help.

“Oftentimes people think about coaching as only reaching out to it when you’re in dire need. Although coaching can help you work through and overcome obstacles, it’s really important to know that you’re the source of the answers and a coach can help you to unlock them,” said certified career coach Sheila Boysen-Rotelli of Professional Success Coaching. “A lot of times, it really comes from a place where you feel like maybe you’re a little bit stuck, and you’ve gone as far as you can on your own, so you need a little more support to get to that next level of success.”

But what is a career coach, and how can a coach help you attain that next level of success?

Boysen-Rotelli says that although coaching can be defined in many different ways, career coaches generally help you get into the right mindset to go after the type of job you want, while giving you the tools you need to impress potential employers when those perfect opportunities do come along.

Finding the right career coach for you

Anyone can put up a shingle and offer career coaching services, but that doesn’t mean they all have the experience needed to help you reach your career goals — or any experience at all for that matter. Since there is no licensing process associated with career coaching, it can be hit and miss when you’re looking for a qualified coach.

“Unfortunately, we’re at a point right now where a lot of people market themselves as a lot of different things, but they don’t necessarily have the education to back it up,” Boysen-Rotelli said. “A lot of folks are marketing themselves as a coach, even though that’s not completely what they’re doing.”

For example, Boysen-Rotelli says that some people who call themselves career coaches are basically selling their advice and promising solutions to their clients’ problems that they are not qualified to deliver. One way to avoid those who overpromise and under deliver is to search for qualified coaches on websites run by professional coaching organizations. For example, theInternational Coach Federation (ICF) not only provides a list of its members to consumers, it also offers credentials to coaches that certify their expertise and experience in the field.

But just because a coach has experience doesn’t mean that coach is right for you. It’s also important that you’re compatible with the coach you choose because you will be delving into many personal issues when working together. Once you find coaches who have the professional chops to get the job done, you should also get a free consultation with them before making your choice — which will help you find the one you feel most comfortable with.

What to expect from career coaching

Although all coaches have a different process, Boysen-Rotelli says that the following are some of the things you may experience when going to a coach.

Setting expectations. During the initial meeting with a career coach, you will generally have a discussion to set expectations for the relationship. At that time, you can tell your coach what you hope to get out of the process, and your coach will also let you know what is expected from you, so that you can get the most out of the experience. For example, in order to ensure that her clients have realistic expectations, Boysen-Rotelli stresses that although no coach can promise a client will get a job, she can promise to help clients gain valuable tools that will make them more attractive to potential employers.

And coaches should have realistic expectations as well, Boysen-Rotelli says. While the ultimate goal of coaching is to help clients find their passion, coaches realize that in today’s economy, clients may be more concerned about paying the bills first.

“It’s challenging right now to find something new and not everyone’s in a position where they can spend months and months exploring their passion,” she said. “From a sustainability standpoint, they need to find the next paycheck before they can do that — and that’s understandable. But what you eventually want to get to is the place where you’re finding a way to marry up your passion and your livelihood.”

Assessments. Boysen-Rotelli gives her clients the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory assessment tests in order to help find job options that will make them feel most happy and fulfilled. This is an important starting point in her relationship with clients, as it helps her understand what’s important to them and how their personalities fit with certain careers.

One of the most important aspects of coaching, says Boysen-Rotelli, is the clients’ ability to make mental breakthroughs that will help them gain the success they’re looking for. In order to do that, she assigns homework exercises to her clients that require them to reflect on where they want to go and how they can get there.

“I find that in most coaching engagements, homework really is a big part of it,” she said. “I think a lot of people have the misconception that coaching is about going to this sage, wise person who is going to tell them exactly what they need to do to be successful. But that’s not exactly what coaching is. Really the client’s the one doing all the hard work, and homework is a big part of that.”

All careers have their ups and downs, but if you’re experiencing the downs and not the ups, there’s always a chance you’re simply in the wrong career. More likely, though, you just need some direction and advice to find the career that’s right for you and understand what it takes to thrive in that career.

15 Second Resume Test

We often read about the importance of elevator or thirty-second pitches – how we need to know our personal brand well enough to coherently communicate this vision to someone with whom we find ourselves on an elevator.  And while being able to verbalize your brand is critical, we also need to consider what our marketing materials say about us.  What kind of impression is your resume making to a recruiter?  Is the resume communicating your desired message a hiring manager?  If you are not sure, why not take the 15-Second Resume Test?

Ask your friends or colleagues for help. Tell them you are going to give them a document to scan for 15 seconds. Do not mention that the document is a resume or that it is yours.  Hand them a copy of your resume with no header (name/contact information) to make it anonymous – at least initially. Allow your friend to read the document while you keep track of time.  After fifteen seconds take the resume from the reader – do not allow the reader to continue past 15 seconds.  Ask what your friend to tell you what he/she remembers about the document and record their comments.  Keep track of the comments and repeat this test with other friends at least 3 more times.

After a handful reviews, one usually discovers themes from the readers – the common comments tell you what are the most memorable parts of your resume.  In other words, this is what a recruiter is remembering about you, this is what you are promoting as part of your brand.  Now ask yourself if this is the most crucial information you want a hiring manager to remember about you?  If not, you have some work to do in crafting a document that communicates what you want an employer to remember.

So what should a resume communicate in 15 seconds?

  • Work experience for the past 7-10 years (less if a younger professional)
  • Level – are you senior executive, middle management, etc.?
  • What field/industry are you seeking employment?
  • Skills you can offer (technical, language, industry certifications – CPA, CFA)
  • Major accomplishments/tangible results

When crafting your resume, consider your brand and what you want the reader to remember about you and accentuate these pieces on your document.  Then, take the test; you may be surprised by what your resume communicates about you!

Author:

Kevin Monahan is the Associate Director of the Notre Dame Career Center.  In this role, he leads the center’s  employer relations efforts in addition to coaching young professionals in career management and career change capacities. He combines career consulting services with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituencies.  He is the author of the Career Seeker’s Guide blog.

This post was originally seen on the Personal Branding blog.