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 you’re 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.


One of the Most Hated Job Interview Questions And How to Answer it.

Question MarksThere are two different kinds of people (actually, there are several different kinds of people, but for the sake of this post we’re going to focus on two types). There are the people that have always known, not only what they want to be when they grow up, (another question for the ages, asked both by career beginners and boomers) but at what stage of their lives they want to be there.

Then there are the people who don’t have a fixed path or objective. They’re people who sometimes happen across their careers serendipitously by exposing themselves to different courses in college and different jobs in the “real world”.

For the first group, the dreaded question of “where do you want to be in five years?” is easier to answer. They have a plan and a goal. They can answer the question and frame it so the answer dovetails with the goals of the organization with whom they’re interviewing.

Now, for the second group, that’s a much more difficult question to answer. I’ve had clients who are very envious of the first group, the ones that know exactly what direction they want to take. Members of the second group will often say to me, “If I knew what I wanted to do, it would be so much easier, I could just go for it.” And they could better answer the “where do you want to be in five years question?”

So for those of you out there who don’t know where you want to be in five years, a good answer would be to focus on the organization you’re attempting to join and how its mission fits with your own skills, attributes and passions. In other words, the answer could be along the lines of ” I want to be with a dynamic and growing company, where I can use my ability at doing X, Y and Z to help contribute to the company’s success.”

The bottom line when answering the question is to be authentic, highlight the skills that you bring to the table and demonstrate how your own personal growth will contribute to that of the company’s.


What Killed Your Job Search Canary

What Klled Your Job Search CanaryIn the early days of mining workers would carry a canary into a mine shaft to check out the air quality. If dangerous  gases such as methane or carbon monoxide were present, the canary would die signaling the miners that they would be next if they didn’t leave the tunnel.

In today’s job market, if you’re sending out a resume that doesn’t fly, in other words a resume that’s not getting you calls or interviews,  you should take a lesson from the miners, come up for air and figure out how to improve your resume. More often than not, a bad resume will kill your job search.

The following are some tips to preen  your resume to perfection as you mine for your next opportunity. First the obvious, no spelling mistakes, no lies and no liabilities. The first two don’t require additional explanation, but as far a liabilities, job hunters from seasoned executives to first-timers, often err on the side of over-inclusion.

Remember, a resume is your marketing tool, there’s no need to include negative information. You want the document to be the best representation of your background, not your life story. If there’s a liability that you have to overcome, save that for the interview and be prepared to address it then (it’s a good idea to get some coaching on the best way to field awkward situations that might have happened in your past).

That covers what not to do. What you should include in your resume is a powerful marketing statement at the top, something that really sells what you can deliver. The resume also must highlight your success stories, especially if you’re an experienced executive. Quantifiable anecdotes about your achievements grab a reader’s attention and in the right hands (an expert resume writer), they tell a compelling story about who you are as a strategist, innovator and leader. They make decision-makers want to pick up the phone and call you and they’re what make a resume fly.

Obviously, you’ll want to have your professional history included in the resume with your company, title, date and responsibilities in reverse chronological order, with the most recent position first. And of course, your education if applicable.

Just follow those tips and your resume will sing and even soar, then when you go mining for your next opportunity you’re sure to strike gold.