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!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

5 Tips to Ace That First Interview (& Get Invited Back for #2)

 You have that first interview lined up at a company you are really excited about.  You’ve already done your prep work and your research and you’re ready to go in and meet with your interviewer(s).  Here are a few tips you can use during that first meeting that will help you get invited back for a second interview, or even get a job offer right after the first one!

1.  First Impressions Count!

Research shows that people’s first impressions really do matter.  We know people who have been told, “I knew I was going to hire you as soon as we started talking.”  Your outfit, your handshake, your body language and eye-contact all have a more important role in the hiring process than you realize.  In that first minute, hiring managers can often assess cultural fit, which is critical in landing a job.  So do your best to present yourself well and make a great first impression!

2.  The Right Frame of Mind is Critical!

It’s natural to feel nervous when walking into a company and meeting people for the first time, but do your best to relax and seem comfortable.  Show that you have done your research, let them know how curious you are about the company.  Also, be appreciative of people’s time – realize that both you and your interviewers are taking time from work to talk (and that their deadlines won’t be extended just because they are spending time meeting you). This can help put you in the right frame of mind, and your confidence and abilities will shine through.  And feel lucky if you get a trivial question -- answer it as respectfully as you would a challenging one –- view it is an opportunity to earn some easy points!

3.  Ask the right Questions

During an interview, you aren’t just expected to answer other people’s questions – you need to have some good ones of your own.  Good questions often revolve around the substance of the job you are seeking, the team’s requirements for that job, and the technology used.  Also, ask some smart, thoughtful questions about the company and the employees – showing your curiosity (and that you have done some research) will let people know that you are engaged and interested in the position.

4.  Don’t ask the wrong Questions

Just as important as asking the right questions is NOT asking the wrong ones!  It’s never appropriate to discuss salary and benefits at a first interview.  Even in later interviews, it’s better to not start this conversation.  Always leave it to the interviewer to bring up these topics but plan ahead as to how you will answer them.  You want to create a game plan that will put you in a strong position to negotiate salary and benefits.

5.  Don’t be afraid to show who you are

While it’s normal to feel nervous, try to open up and be your true self.  Be a three-dimensional candidate and show who you really are.  People will remember you better if you do this, and they will generally like you more.  If for some reason you really don’t “click” with the team, then at least you know early on that it’s a bad cultural fit and not the right company for you.