Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Is That Job Offer a Good One?

We frequently place candidates at early-stage high-tech start-ups in Silicon Valley.  A common question we hear is, “Is this a good offer?” in regard to the shares that are offered as part of a package.  We don’t have a crystal ball that lets us see the future, but we can offer some basic insight into how you can evaluate this part of your offer.  Hopefully it will help you decide whether or not to take that next job.

(A) The following is a brief summary of things to remember, in regard to stock options, when you are negotiating an offer from a startup:

When joining a startup, and negotiating the offer, make sure that you ask the following questions:

(1) What is the valuation of the company at the present time?  In general, you can use the company’s value during the latest round of financing.

(2) What is the current number of outstanding shares? 

From the answers, you can calculate what percentage of the company you will be receiving and the stock price at the time.

(B) The following is the typical option grant by percentage after Series-A financing, based on the position you are being offered:

Title                                                % capital        

CEO                                                 5-10%         
CFO (usually hired at a later time)      1-2%             
VP                                                   1-3%    
Director                                            0.5%
Essential employees                          0.25%
All others                                         0.05%

Standard practice is usually 4 years vesting and a one-year cliff, no acceleration, no bonuses, and no severance. 

(C) Here are a few other things to consider when you negotiating your offer:

Other than the typical salary/stock benefits, you may also choose to negotiate for the right to exercise options for 12 months (typically it's 3 or 6 months) after you leave the company. 

Financially speaking, the worst time to join a startup is immediately after Series-A financing is closed. (This is because you will get less equity, and take a higher risk as at this point as the startup is not revenue-generating.)

The best time to negotiate salary/stock options is at the time the company makes you an offer.  Therefore, it’s not wise to accept a “We will re-evaluate the number of shares in 6 months” scenario, as it typically doesn’t work out well for the employee.  Also, remember that salary and stock options stated in a job offer are always subject to approval by the board. So while it is unlikely that the offer will change, please keep in mind that there is a slight chance that it could.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bay Area Living


Are you thinking about relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area?  Considering moving here for the nice weather and great start-up opportunities?  I thought I’d share a few insights into life out here that may help you think about whether or not Bay Area life is for you…


If relocating here is something you are already considering, I’m going to assume that you already know about the start-up culture here, the many high-tech job opportunities there are, and how established companies such as Apple, Google, and Facebook have their headquarters here as well.  This blog post will mainly focus on the “other” aspects of Bay Area living.


There’s no doubt about it – we are located in a great part of the US.  The weather leaves little to be desired (we do have seasons, but winter and summer are mild) as you won’t be rained out most days and you will never need to shovel snow out of your driveway here. 

This is a beautiful part of California, less than an hour to our spectacular coastline with beaches, cliffs, and wildlife.  We are only a few hours drive from the majesty of Yosemite or some fantastic skiing in Lake Tahoe.  Napa is also just a few hours away, if touring the vineyards and enjoying wine is of interest.  It’s a non-stop flight to Hawaii, and if you travel to the Far East for business you can get direct flights from San Francisco.

If you like to hike or bike, there are lots of paths and mountain roads, plus plenty of open-space preserves to explore.  Some of us complain when it’s cold (in the 50’s in winter) or hot, but in all honesty we are truly spoiled.


As far as dining is concerned, the Bay Area offers many amazing restaurants, cafés and coffee houses, and due to the multi-cultural nature of the area there are endless ethnic dining options as well.  We have some great sports teams, from the SF Giants, to the SF 49’ers, to the San Jose Sharks.  There are also some fantastic science and art museums in the area, as well as the SF Symphony, Ballet, and Opera House. 


There has to be a down side to all this, doesn’t there?  Well, most people who move here have to downsize.  If paying over 1 million dollars for a postage stamp lot and a small house doesn’t sound appealing to you, you may want to reconsider a move.  Housing prices throughout Silicon Valley are exorbitant, causing many workers to seek housing farther out where it’s still expensive but not quite as outrageous. 

This leads us to another potential downside:  the commute.


If you can manage to live close to your work, you are one of the lucky ones!  Unfortunately, California does not have a robust public transportation system, so you may find yourself spending much more time with your car than you thought possible.  Of course, a bad commute may be ameliorated if you are able to work from home a few times a week or if you can drive during “off” hours.  However, many people have figured this out, leading to a long “rush hour” starting at 3pm most days. 

Final Thoughts?

So, is it worth it?  Only you can decide.  The Bay Area is definitely a wonderful place to live, but it isn’t for everyone.  If it weren’t such a great place to live, it wouldn’t cost so much!   But first, come for a visit and check it out to see if you feel that the Bay Area is a cultural match for you; how well could you fit into this extremely diverse and intellectually intense environment?  So come for a visit, check out what we life here has to offer, and see for yourself if this is a place you could call home.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Put a Positive Spin on It (Part 3)

Lately we’ve been sharing how you can put a positive spin on a difficult or negative work experience.  Today we’re going to share a third story, one that shows that you can learn from your mistakes.

Negative Spin

My last position was at a small company that had created an interesting and innovative product.  The goal was to negotiate a contract with a large corporation and to eventually sell the company.  The product wasn’t complete and it had some weak spots that we tried to hide.  Most of the employees at my company spoke Russian, but the other company’s representatives were all American.  During one of the joint meetings, one employee said to his peer sitting next to him, in Russian, “They are such idiots!  Let’s hope they don’t ask us about the “black box!”  At the conclusion of the meeting, one of the members of the other team thanked everyone for meeting, in Russian!  We were not able to make a deal with them, most likely because of that comment.  This is not a company I am happy to be a part of and thus I’m seeking a new position.

Positive Spin

While the facts of the story above remain the same, you can put a positive spin on it by explaining how even a big mistake can have a positive outcome:

As a result, we had to work harder as a team and re-focus our efforts on improving the product.  Personally, I have learned several things from that experience.  I don’t make assumptions about people I meet and I have learned to never underestimate a team that I am negotiating with.  

Furthermore, while the loss of this deal was devastating at the time, we were eventually able to spin-off the department and create a new successful company!


Even though this story highlights a big lapse in judgment, the ability to learn from your mistakes, or those of your team, is an important and valuable skill.  Furthermore, the ability to re-group and re-focus one’s efforts after such a “failure” shows both resilience and a positive attitude.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Put a Positive Spin on It (Part 2)

 In our last blog entry we gave an example of how to spin what could have been a negative work story into a positive one.  Today we will share another example of how you can discuss a difficult or challenging work experience in a way that will highlight your ingenuity and resilience.

Negative Spin

I was put in charge of writing an installer for a product with two separate components that needed to “talk” to one another.  Testing the installer was incredibly difficult because each component was created at a different office and it was not easy to coordinate my testing schedule with two other people in two different locations.  I could see that finding a time we could all work on this simultaneously was going to be an ongoing and consistent problem.  This was exacerbated when each person blamed the other and my management didn’t seem to care that we were “set up” to fail.  My frustration that the process, by design, was not working and that nobody listened to my suggestions has led me to seek better opportunities elsewhere.

Positive Spin

I was given the task of writing an installer for a product with two separate components.  I could see that this situation was not going to work, since each component was created at a different office and it was not easy to coordinate my testing schedule with two other people in two different locations.  I realized that something had to change in order for my project to succeed, so I took the initiative to create a “work-around” in the installer.  While my work around allowed me to create the installer, it wasn’t the most efficient way for the company to proceed in the future.  I was able to find people within my company who noticed what I had done and asked me what changes we needed to make for the next release.  While this was a challenging time for me at work, it gave me the opportunity to learn new skills, allowed me to make a positive change in the way the company works, and even led to a promotion!


We have all had challenging and difficult work experiences we can share, but finding a way to spin those stories in a positive way will make you stand out as a creative and positive candidate.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Put A Positive “Spin” on It

Everyone has interesting stories to tell.   But HOW you tell your story can make all the difference in the world.  Think about how you want others to view you, and also about how you can make the best out of a less-than-ideal situation.  Here’s an example of two different ways a candidate can put a spin on a prior work experience.

First Perspective

When I took the job with “Company X”, I immediately found myself in the middle of a political battle between two divisions, the one that I joined and a rival.  These two groups were fighting for control over a core business in this company and it was a very unpleasant start with the company.  Our group eventually won the competition and then spent the next two years constantly working with the rival team, trying to integrate and adapt their complex technology into the final product.

In the end, after all of these battles and compromises, the final product was unsuccessful.  The industry itself suffered a downturn after the “dot com bust” and my workplace atmosphere declined as well.  For three years I dealt with management changes, layoffs, and a depressing work environment.  I decided I had to leave and seek a more dynamic and positive opportunity.

Second Perspective

When I joined “Company X” the company was in the middle of choosing whether to go with one group’s technologies and approach to a problem or that of a rival team.  There was an open opportunity for someone to lead the decision-making process and merge the two departments into one cohesive team.

Since I was new to the program, I was able to take a more neutral role between the teams, urging them to take small steps and provide small deliverables so that we could merge the two approaches and see if it could really work.  Within two weeks we were able to see that it was not going to work easily.  This led us into a two-year-long exploration of major technologies and innovation, as well as collaboration with a Canadian team. In the end, the new product and the whole infrastructure were created and used across one of the major divisions of the Company X.

After the “dot com bust” there were many changes in the company, including layoffs and re-organizations.  These changes also opened up new opportunities, and I was able to work with groups in France, HCI groups, and graphic designers as well as actively participate in usability studies.  This exposed me to new ways of thinking and allowed me to seek broader experiences than I would have had in a more prosperous economic climate.


While both of these stories are true, and in fact are really the same story, they send very different messages.  Which message would you prefer?
During an interview you don’t want to send out any negative hooks or appear to be a complainer.  Put a positive and constructive spin on your stories and not only will you seem like a more upbeat person, but you will also show your ability to make the most of any opportunity that presents itself to you and come across as a creative and optimistic person.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tips on Preparing Your “Stories” for Interviews

In past blog entries, we have mentioned that it’s very important to have some interesting but concise stories to use during your interviews.  It’s critical to walk into your interview prepared for the questions you will be asked, and choosing and preparing your stories ahead of time is a vital part of that process.  Here are a few tips to help you prepare.

•Why Tell A Story?

So, why do you want to tell a story?  When someone asks you a question during your interview, it’s more personal and interesting if you can use an example of a particular work project or problem that you have faced and describe how you handled that situation.  Telling a story will be more compelling and genuine that simply listing your accomplishments – make sure that your voice comes through and that it doesn’t sound rehearsed or cliché. 

•Which Stories Should You Choose?

Think of at least 3 great stories that you can use to answer several questions that you would expect to be asked during your interview.  Take a careful look at your resume and find 3 instances where you are proud of your work and that illustrate your unique skills and expertise.  Make sure these stories are relevant to the position for which your are interviewing.  These 3 stories should showcase your motivation, creativity, positive attitude, intelligence, and spirit.

•Preparing Your Stories

Prepare each story ahead of time, keeping in mind that each should be concise and no longer than 3-4 minutes. After you choose 3 stories, ask yourself the following questions about each one:

-- What was this project about? (Be as specific as possible by including the numbers instead of adjectives).
-- What challenges did you face?
-- What were your individual contributions (not the team)?
-- How did you solve the challenges presented?
-- Why did you choose to utilize specific technologies?
-- What was the outcome?
-- What did you learn from this experience?

•Make Sure to Follow Through

Make sure you conclude each story with a lesson that was learned, a successful outcome, or something else that highlights the relevance of this particular work experience.  For example, if speaking about a “failure” or problem you faced, make sure to include what you learned from it and how you have managed to approach things in a different way because of this incidence.  This “follow through” will not only wrap up a story, but also show your ability to learn and grow from your experiences.

•Keep your Goal in Mind

It is essential to continuously keep your goal in your mind when preparing and telling your stories.  A good story is not only compelling but will tell the listener more about you.  Are you the kind of person who would fit well in this company? Would this team enjoy working with you?  Your goal is to meaningfully discuss your own projects and to make certain that your interviewers get a good understanding of your accomplishments even if they are not familiar with the specifics.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Resume Triggers

What emotion does your resume trigger?  Are you leaving your readers with positive or negative thoughts about you?  Every resume will trigger some response.  The goal of your resume is to trigger a real conversation, a desire to meet and speak with you, while also avoiding any negative triggers.  So take the time and effort to craft a resume that will help you meet this goal.


A negative trigger is something on your resume that will concern, upset, or merely annoy your readers.  Here are some examples of things better left off your resume:

• Using clichés like “team player,” “results-oriented,” etc…  Be more creative when describing your value as an employee.

• Repeating the same phrase throughout your resume – this can be annoying.

• If applying for a job as an individual contributor, using words such as, “I led the team…” or “I managed that…” may lead a reader to subconsciously believe you are really looking to be a manager and that you are the wrong person for the job.  In this case, you’re not likely to even get an interview.   What’s a better option?  Just mention your individual contributions to a project and clearly explain how your work was successful in that area.

• How much is enough? Don’t include too much information on your resume.  Your reader will get tired and annoyed, and most likely will have to work too hard to find the “good” information.  This applies both to the length of your resume (how many pages do you realistically expect people to read?) as well as  having too many bullet points for each project you discuss.  Keep it clean, simple, and interesting – leave room for your reader to ask for more information if they are curious.


• Show people that you are well rounded, interesting, and curious.  Try to connect with your reader by understanding the psychology of the position and knowing what information to include or highlight.  You can do this by reading into the “desirable” part of a job search (for example, if they prefer a Mandarin speaker but don’t require it, and you don’t speak the language, you can highlight your interest and knowledge of the culture and desire to travel there).   This can add another dimension to you as a person, as well as to your potential “fit” in the position.

• Have a well-executed, uncluttered resume.  For example, for each job or project, a nice format for your bullet points could look like this:
      • What you did and which technologies or tools your used (in one sentence)
      • What was the result? (very brief).
A clean and precise format such as this will automatically show that you are logical and result-driven.

• Be interesting!  Show your reader that there is more to you than just a list of jobs and projects.  Let them understand who you are.  Under “Interests” or “Hobbies” put something about yourself that will most likely prompt people to ask you for more information.  Examples: Performing music (not just playing), mountain climbing, worldwide travel, love of art… This section, generally at the very end of your resume, doesn’t need to be job-related.  Try to spark your reader’s interest and maybe even make a connection.


A good resume will not only generate a positive response, but also a curiosity that should trigger some good questions, allowing you the chance to show off your attributes and your work experience. 

When you do get that first interview, make sure to show integrity, a strong desire to work there, and the kind of person you are.  Do your best to trigger a desire to work with you, to spend time with you, and to get to know you better.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

New Job Negotiations… Are You Looking for a Different Title?

 Our last blog entry explored the idea that you can negotiate for a range of “perks” other than just a higher salary.  Today we thought we would cover the area of Title Negotiations, since this is a common concern when a person wants to accept a position at a new company.

Purpose – Why would you want to negotiate for a better title?  Your title is very important; it has an impact on how well you can perform the job at hand as well as your future opportunities and prospects.  Titles are used by others (including future hiring managers) to quickly assess a person’s place in the company and the scope of their responsibilities.  Having a mismatch between your title and your position can make it significantly harder for you to accomplish your goals.

Timing – The best time to start this conversation is after you have been offered the new position.  Show your enthusiasm for the offer, and say something like, “Thank you!  I am very interested in joining your team in this capacity, but I have a few concerns about the title.  I would like to discuss them with you because I feel the current title doesn’t clearly reflect the responsibilities and authority of the position, and I believe a change would be a good idea.”

Research – Before you start this conversation, make sure that you do your homework!  Consider the existing structure of the company and be careful not to step on anyone’s toes (for example, don’t ask for the same title as someone above you in the org. chart).  Research current job listings and titles at other companies to find examples of the title you are proposing.  Does it match your job description?  If so, this should help your negotiations.

Strategy – Present the title change as a benefit to your employer, not just to you.  Explain how it will improve your job performance if people see you as “X” instead of “Y.”  Make sure that you give the manager good reasons to make the change (discuss your research), propose the new title, and explain why it fits.  (Some examples are: customer/employee perceptions, level of experience, or academic credentials).  If you can make the case that this title change will benefit the company, it will make it easier for you to get the improved title.

If you do decide to negotiate for a title change, remember to do your research, pick the right time to start the discussion, and come up with a winning strategy.  Making a strong case for the change will go a long way in helping you achieve your goal.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Job Negotiations… What to Ask for (Besides a Higher Salary)

Congratulations!   You just landed that great job, but perhaps the salary isn’t quite what you had hoped for.  If it’s not negotiable for the time being, take a look below for some ideas on other things you may be able to negotiate for… perks that can improve the quality of your life, provide a different form of compensation, and perhaps even make a new job even more exciting and fun.

What can you realistically negotiate for?  The following list will give you some idea of perks that Bay Area start-ups are often willing to discuss with a new employee:

Time – Time is a critical factor for many people in creating a work/life balance.

Is a flexible work schedule important to you?  Is your start/end time critical, would you like to work 4 (longer) days a week instead of 5?  Do you want to leave early on Fridays? 

Do you already have a vacation planned soon?  Make sure you mention it (and get time off, even unpaid) for that trip you already have on the calendar or one that you are considering.  If vacations are a priority, you can negotiate for more vacation days each year, or ask if you can accrue vacation days quicker the first year.

Place – Would you like to work from home some days? At work, are you hoping for an office of your own, or maybe a cubicle with a window or one in a quieter area?

Job Responsibilities – Are you interested in branching out a bit?  Trying some new challenge or working with a new technology?  Or maybe just taking on more responsibility?   This is a good time to ask for this kind of an opportunity (just make sure the hiring manager knows that you are still extremely interested in the actual job they are offering you).

Job Title – Perhaps you can negotiate to get that title you have been wanting.  Even though it may not increase your salary today, it may help you at your next job.  And if this start-up is acquired, it may make a difference in your future compensation.

Stock Options – How many will you receive?  Do you want to negotiate for more?  And how soon will they vest?  (There is typically a set schedule for this, but it may be negotiable at certain start-ups).

  Healthcare Costs – You can turn the current high cost of healthcare to your advantage.  If your spouse is currently covering your family, you can consider opting out of the company’s plan in return for extra compensation.

  Salary Evaluation – If you can’t get the salary you want right now, you can negotiate for a performance-based evaluation in 6 months, instead of having to wait for a full year.

  Growth Experiences – Can you get tuition reimbursements? Will they pay for you to go to conferences, seminars, etc?  And if so, how long will you need to work there before you can get these benefits?

Please note that when negotiating for compensation timing is key!  Don’t ask for too much too early… the BEST time to start this conversation is when you first receive a verbal employment offer.  You can take some time to consider any offers made during that conversation, and then continue it a later date. 

Also, prioritize what really matters to YOU, and ask for that.  You don’t want to appear greedy or difficult to please.  Asking for too many extra perks may make someone think twice about hiring you.  (It may help to first ask in which areas the company is most flexible.)

Since your happiness at work will make you a better member of the team and a more productive worker, make sure to mention this during your negotiations.  Taking the time to explain how the company will benefit will absolutely help with your negotiation!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The DO’s and DON’Ts of Follow-Ups

You’ve found a position at a company that you are really excited about, and now that you’ve had the big interview, what’s your next step?  If you want to be the one they choose, you need to let the team know that you are interested, even more so now that you’ve met them.   Landing a great job takes a bit of work and some skill – and your work isn’t finished after that interview.  Make sure to take the next step and follow it up with a nicely-written, professional email.

Here are our DO’s and DON’Ts when it comes to following up:

• DO take the time to thank the person or team who met with you

Not only does sending a thank you note show your good manners – it also provides you with the opportunity to show the team just how enthusiastic you are to work at their company.  Take the time to ask a good follow-up question in order to keep the conversation going.  Your follow-up will keep you fresh in the minds of the hiring team, which is right where you want to be!

• DO make sure to send your follow-up to the right people

Try your best to get the necessary contact information during your interview, but if you can’t then follow up with your recruiter and request the information for the manager or the most senior person who interviewed you.  Direct your email either to the team or to the lead person you met.  Also take the time to thank an HR person who may have helped you set up the interview.  And always contact people at work, not through a personal email address or phone.

• DON’T be a pest

During your interview, ask up front about the hiring timeline so you can set your expectations accordingly.  Send your follow up and wait for a response.  If there is none and you feel it’s appropriate, you can send another email, perhaps gently asking them where they are in the hiring process.  And then move on.  At this point, they know you are interested in the position and they will contact you if they want to meet with you again.

• DO be prompt & precise

It’s best to promptly follow-up by sending your thank you email the day after your interview.  This will give you some time to think of what to ask or how to present yourself carefully, while still making sure you are responding in a timely manner.  Carefully proofread your email for errors before sending it, and try to note precisely what excites you about the company and the position and what you can bring to the team.  If you made some technical mistakes during the interview and have now had the time to think them through, you can also attach a corrected solution to the problem. 

•DON’T be long-winded or generic

Don’t waste people’s time with a long-winded letter; take care to craft a concise follow-up note that cites specific reasons for your interest in this particular company.  The team should feel that your message was written especially for them, and not a generic thank you note you send to other companies as well.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Making the Most of Your Skype Interview

In our last blog entry, we addressed the ins and outs of telephone interviews.  Today we are going to address online interviews, using programs such as Skype.  While most people would rather meet face-to-face during an interview, it’s not always possible in today’s hectic world.  Because of an interviewer’s busy schedule or frequent business travel, a Skype interview may be the only choice.  Don’t feel pushed aside if asked to interview over Skype instead of in person – remember that it’s an opportunity to interview in a format that will give you much more feedback than a telephone interview.  Here are four tips for making the most of your next Skype interview:

1) Be comfortable with the format

An interview is not the time to get acquainted with new software, new hardware, or the process of video conferencing itself.  If you aren’t comfortable and at-ease during your interview, it will show.  Do everything you can to make things go smoothly. 

First, make sure you have the necessary equipment.  As technology is inexpensive these days, not having a properly configured setup or using a poor-quality camera is a really bad excuse for refusing a video call.

If you don’t Skype often and are unfamiliar with the program, practice with your friends and family.  Practice until you are fully confident that you won’t seem awkward and uptight with video conferencing.  Test the program and your hardware so that you feel at ease and relaxed during a real interview.

If you are familiar and comfortable with Skype, you may want to create a new account with a professional username to use just for your interviews.  And practice with this account to make sure everything is working smoothly.

2) Imagine you are on the other side

Since this interview is critical to getting that invitation to meet the team in person, you want to make sure that your enthusiasm, energy, and answers as well as questions come through undistorted. 

Test your hardware when practicing with friends and ask them for feedback.  Can they see you clearly? Can they hear you well?  Is the camera pointed at a funny angle?  Take the time beforehand to ensure you are set up properly before the actual interview.

Choose your location carefully.  Test to see if the lighting is good enough for people to see you clearly.   Find a place to sit where there a solid   or business-like background; this will ensure that the interviewer’s focus is on you and not your room.

3) Look professional

Even though you may be in the comfort of your own home, this is a real interview and you still need to have your “game face” on and look prepared, ready, and excited to join this new company.

Take care to choose a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted during the interview. And make sure that people in your household know that you are interviewing so you don’t have distractions (like people walking past or children making noise in the background). 

Dress and groom yourself – it’s just as important to look professional for a video call as it is for an in-person interview.  There are many funny stories out there of people who only dressed well from the waist up who for some reason had to stand up in the middle of the call!

4) After the interview

When testing your equipment, make sure that you know how to use the mute button, and also how to hang up.  And after the interview, take care to make sure that your system is really turned off!  More than one candidate has made the mistake of thinking that a video or cell phone call was over even though they were still connected.  So keep the discussion about the interview for later, when you are certain you are truly disconnected… just in case!

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Ins-and-Outs of Telephone Interviews

Telephone interviews pose certain challenges for a candidate, but due to today’s busy schedules, long commutes, and the desire for expediency, they are definitely a fixture in the current hiring process.  So how can you prepare for one?  And what steps can you take to come across as a great candidate over the phone?

Take it seriously.

A phone interview is often your chance to make a great first impression.  Even though it’s a just a stepping-stone, it can lead to serious discussions about a job opportunity, so make sure that you take it seriously.  Find a quiet place (with good reception) so that you can hear the questions clearly and the hiring manager can hear your answers.  Make sure your phone is fully charged and you have left plenty of time for the conversation.  If things are going well you don’t want to have to cut the interview short due to a low battery or a scheduling conflict.  And don’t ever interview while driving!  You will be distracted and it will show.

Be Prepared.

Make yourself a “cheat sheet” with bullet points that you can refer to during the interview.  This will help you to stay on track with your talking points and not go off on a tangent.

Think of common questions that are asked and prepare a clear, concise answer for each of them.  Several common questions are:
-What are you looking for in a new job?
-Why are you interested in opportunities with our company?
-Why are you looking for a change?
-What was your favorite project over the past few years?

Take the time to actually rehearse your responses to common questions, as well as any others you think may come up during your phone interview.  This will help you have a more fluid response, especially in the case of a language barrier.

It’s also a good idea to be prepared for some specific and technical questions that may arise, even during the first phone interview for a high-tech position.  For example, you may be asked for your ideas on how you would debug a certain problem (like a slow performing system), design objects to model the functionality of an application, or set a certain testing environment.   Preparing your response to this type of question will help keep you relaxed and on-point during the interview.

Be Clear & Concise.

The most challenging thing about a telephone interview is the lack of visual cues and body language.  Without those, it’s hard to know if the person on the other end is engaged, wanting you to continue with what you are saying, or trying to end this part of the conversation and move on.  Your goal is to have a dialogue with the person on the other end – not a monologue!  So keep your answers short (limit yourself to one minute at most) and listen for a response.  If more detail is needed, a follow-up question should be asked.

Often in today’s high-tech world, there is also a language barrier to overcome.  This is especially difficult over the phone.  Take the time to make sure that you are using the correct terms in your conversation.  We have had one client mistakenly use the word “project” for “product” and it created a good deal of confusion with the hiring manager. 

Play it Safe.

This is probably your first opportunity to get your “foot in the door” and get invited to visit this company for an in-person interview.  Play it safe and don’t come across as negative.  Do your research on the target company and make certain your answers don’t conflict with its culture.   Be careful not to come across the wrong way.

Make sure that you only speak about the positive aspect of things; you don’t want to seem like a negative person.  So if you are asked, “What do you dislike the most about your current position?” you can mention that you like your current company but are exploring this new one because it offers new challenges (and be specific here) that align with your interests.

Some last thoughts:

While a telephone interview isn’t the ideal way for you to express your desire to meet the team, it’s a common feature in today’s hiring world.  Do you best to be prep for it and view it as an opportunity to make that great first impression.  Your energy, knowledge, and enthusiasm can absolutely come through over the phone, so make sure that you start the conversation in the right frame of mind and with a positive attitude!