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.


An App To Help You Ace Your Job Interview?

Application For InterviewWe’re humans who are always looking for ways to make our lives easier and more productive. These days that means apps (unless your spending your time on Angry Birds, then your productivity definitely comes into question).

There are apps for everything and job searching is no exception. The latest app I’ve run across that’s designed to help you in landing your next position is InterviewPrep. It’s free and that’s always a bonus. It’s designed to work like a flip card (remember index cards?), with an interview question on one side and guidance on the proper approach to answering the question on the other.

Overall, the questions are good ones that are often asked in interviews and the suggested response strategies are also insightful. However, to appeal to the masses, the app deals in vague generalities. While helpful in preparing for an interview, the app doesn’t and can’t give you feedback on several things.

For instance, it can’t give you feedback on the way you specifically are answering questions and whether your answers are raising red flags for the interviewer. The app also can’t help you deal with unique problems or liabilities you might have in your background and how to address them.

While I think the app is a great primer, especially for those of you just starting out your careers, nothing replaces the insight and advice of an experienced career coach who can listen to your answers and then instruct you on how to make them better and more polished.

I’ve worked with hundreds of executives and professionals, many of whom think they are great at interviewing because they’ve conducted so many interviews themselves. But, there’s a big difference being on the other side of the table. After leading some role-playing with even the most seasoned executives and professionals, there’s always been room for improvement (in some cases, a lot of room).

So don’t worry if you haven’t downloaded the latest app, sometimes nothing beats some good old fashioned coaching. In other words, on your next job interview you won’t be hapless if you’re app-less, that is if you engage the services of a professional, because there will always be some things that require the human touch.