Job Search: Don’t Get Hung Up On The Phone Screen

Phone InterviewCountless times, I’ve heard clients say to me “It’s just a phone interview.” Just a phone interview! Like it’s no big deal. Well it is a big deal, because if you don’t make it through what’s also known as the phone screen, you don’t get the face to face interview, which means  you also don’t get the job.

The phone screen has become a rite of passage for someone making a career transition. Before a recruiter decides to advance your resume to his or her client, before an HR professional sends you to the hiring manager, before a hiring manager takes the time to meet with you in person, there has to be a phone interview.

In today’s competitive market, the phone screen is necessary to whittle down the pool of candidates. Without some sort of screening mechanism, no work would be done, there would just be interviewing. That means the phone screen is not to be taken lightly.

A common mistake made by job seekers is not taking the phone interview seriously enough. How do you prep for a phone interview? The same way you would get ready for a face to face encounter. Research the company, prepare to answer questions about your background complete with anecdotes, and have questions ready for the interviewer.

The disadvantage of a phone interview is you don’t have the visual cues like body language, to see how your answers are going over. But there are some benefits. You can have notes in front of you that highlight your successes and why you’re a perfect fit for the position. In addition you can have your own questions written out so you don’t forget to cover everything.

Another thing you can do on a phone interview that you can’t do in person, without looking mildly insane, is to smile and stand up while your speaking. Smiling and standing dramatically improve your delivery. Smiling adds a positive energy to your voice while standing adds more power. They’re two simple tricks, but if you’re doing them and your competition isn’t you’ll be the stand out candidate.

~Linda

Executive Job Seekers Dive Off the Fiscal Cliff

The Fiscal CliffWe’re rapidly approaching it, December 31, 2012. Midnight of the new year brings with it the proverbial fiscal cliff with its tax increases and spending cuts that some economists believe will stifle growth and drive the country back into a recession.

As the sluggish economy heads towards the fiscal cliff, businesses have already reduced their spending and expansion plans, uncertain whether lawmakers can agree on a budget. But times of uncertainty and change can bring with them opportunity.

Many of the executives I have the pleasure of working with are leaders in change, fearless risk takers who can peer over the cliff and see a path to prosperity. They’re the people who know without risk there is no reward. They’re individuals who are used to taking control of their own destiny by taking calculated risks on behalf of their companies and for the betterment of their own careers.

During these uncertain times, they’ve taken the leap and successfully landed in better situations, not letting fear of uncertainty hold them back. We can learn a lot from these fearless leaders who refuse to be crippled by circumstances. No matter what happens, businesses will continue to operate, goods to be produced, and services provided.

Now more than ever, companies need visionary leaders to help them navigate through these troubling times, which is good news for talented executives who thrive on challenges and who have a record of driving change.

As John Fitzgerald Kennedy said “There is nothing more certain and unchanging than uncertainty and change.” Successful executive job seekers know this. Where others see uncertainty they see opportunity, they look over the cliff, plan a course of action and execute a flawless dive, oftentimes making a large splash in their industry.

~Linda

LinkedIn: Updating When You’re Unemployed

I’m frequently asked by my clients how soon to update their LinkedIn profiles when they are no longer employed. That’s why I read with interest a post from the Wall Street Journal’s “Ask At Work” blog. The question involved how soon after leaving a company should one update their LinkedIn profile, especially in light of a bias by recruiters for people who are currently employed.

The answer to me is, it depends. I do believe that honesty is the best policy, but I also believe the world is not black and white and there are extenuating circumstances. For instance, some executives are retained by companies as consultants to ensure a smooth transition, while others are still on the payroll due to their severance packages. In each of those instances you might want to keep the box checked that you’re still with the company. Why, because there is still a bias against people who are unemployed.

This is in opposition to the post.  The author refers to Nona K. Footz, managing director of executive recruiting firm RSR Partners. According to Footz, in the past recruiters often passed on candidates who were “on the beach” (A.K.A. out of work). “But the market has changed, and as long as there is a positive story as to why you were let go, you should not be afraid to be transparent with your situation.”

I commend Ms. Footz for being open minded with her recruiting candidates, but have spoken with several recruiters who’ve confided in me that they prefer candidates who are currently employed. While there are some exceptions among recruiters, like Ms. Footz, who understand that the current economic conditions have left some very talented people on the market, for the most part, the bias still exists.

Ms. Footz also says, “it looks worse if a recruiter calls you thinking you’re still at Company X and you have to break the news that you’ve left.” I disagree. The goal is to get the call and once you have the recruiter on the line, you have control over telling your transparent story while building rapport with the recruiter.

The post also suggests that you should update your profile immediately with the information that you are no longer employed so your network can be your eyes and ears and refer jobs to you. However, if you’re actively using LinkedIn (actively being the operative word here), you can still reach out to your network and achieve excellent results.

Finally, should you use the months and years indicating the time you worked or just the years. Again, it depends. Which makes you look more appealing? LinkedIn is your marketing brochure, using either months and years or just the years are both being truthful, but you need to go with whichever tells the better story about you. Remember, its about being honest but also about being smart with the goal of getting the phone to ring.

~Linda