Hello? How well do you phone interview?

As more hiring managers are pressed for time, phone interviews have become commonplace as an initial screening for candidates. While not fighting traffic and interviewing from the comforts of home sound amazing, there are some downsides to the phone interview. You won’t be able to rely on visual cues or exude professionalism with your appearance. So, how do you prepare? Here are some tips to make sure your phone interview leads to a face-to-face:

Can you hear me now?

There’s nothing more annoying than dropped calls. If you’re planning to use your cell phone, make sure that your battery is fully charged and you are in an area with good reception. Even moving from one room to another in the same house can make all the difference. If you have a smartphone, make sure you turn off your notifications for the duration of the interview. You don’t want to get distracted with personal text messages or email notifications. Additionally, turning on your “do not disturb” setting will avoid interruptions by incoming calls.

Be serious, yet, positive

Don’t underestimate the phone interview, it might be your only shot at the job. Some candidates find standing to be empowering. But if that makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, just sit up straight. Regardless of which technique works for you, be confident. Go beyond the traditional “hello” when greet your interviewer. Business guru Brent Peterson suggests you start the call by saying “Hello, this is [your name]” or “Hi [interviewer]. It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.” By stating your name or the interviewer’s name, you put the interviewer at ease that they have reached the right person and that you are ready to talk. Keep this positive momentum going: unclench your fists, relax your facial muscles and put on a natural smile.

Say it like to you mean it

During an in person interview, tripping over your words or speaking over the interviewer may not be as noticeable. You don’t have this luxury over the phone. Answer questions directly and elaborate when necessary without being long-winded. A good rule of thumb is keeping responses to under two minutes. Don’t “confuse the interviewer’s silence…as an invitation to keep talking,” advises UNC-Chapel Hill career services director Jeff Sackaroff, “wait for the interviewer to respond.” Keep in mind that how you speak is just as important as what you say.

Avoid distractions or being a distraction

Just because you are conducting an interview from home, remember that you are working. Your full attention must be on what the interviewer is saying. Now is not the time to fold laundry, update your Facebook status or tidy up. Block off up to an hour for the interview, ensuring your interview space is quiet. Likewise, don’t be a distraction. Avoid nervous ticks such as tapping your pen, rocking back and forth on a squeaky chair or breathing heavily are sounds that can be very distracting for the interviewer. Another tip: Stay hydrated. You will likely be talking—a lot. So, avoid an uncontrollable cough or incessant throat clearing with a glass of water at your side.

Want to talk more about phone interviews? Leave me a comment or give me a call.

 

I’m Not Old: 5 Tips for the Seasoned Candidate

When asked about her age, a friend of mine always replies, “I feel young so my actual age is irrelevant.” If only you could put that as your birth date on a job application. The fact is, as much as we’d like to think people don’t judge candidates based on age, we know that many times employers do. Here are some smart ways to fight ageism in the workforce:

You are experienced. Walk into that interview with your head held high.
This isn’t your first rodeo. You know how to sell a prospect; what gets a contract signed and what gets you in the door. You can lead others and mentor a younger team that will relish your experience and learn from it.

Technology is your friend.
LinkedIn – utilize it. Mastering this tool debunks the theory that only young folks know how to use social media. LinkedIn is the ideal place to showcase your impressive experience. Reach out to previous employers and peers to write recommendations on your behalf. You can build a vast network because you’ve been in the workforce for years. With a comprehensive profile, you’ll garner the attention you deserve.

Time is on your side.
Most likely, your children are grown or nearly there so your personal demands are lighter than younger professionals. Not that you want to work all the time, but knowing you are available can be a big bonus for a potential employer.

You’re efficient.
You know how to do your job; you’ve been doing it for years. You get to work on time and stay until the job is done. Being older doesn’t mean you are slower, just smarter than those who are less experienced and most likely less efficient. You can get your job done quickly because you know what works and what doesn’t.

You’re happy.
You know what makes you happy. You don’t need your employer to provide cocktail hours, counseling or field days at the workplace. You’ve already found happiness in your work, your home life and other things that fill your days.

Now stop feeling like a dinosaur and embrace who you really are – a knowledgeable, seasoned professional!

From Fired to Hired: 5 Tips for the Recently Unemployed

So you got fired. While it’s natural to feel like a failure, don’t. There are plenty of successful people who have been in your shoes – Oprah, Walt Disney; even Steve Jobs was fired from his own company!

During her commencement speech at Wake Forest University, Jill Abramson, the recently ousted executive editor of the New York Times, recalled something her father used to say. “It meant more…to see us deal with a setback and try to bounce back, than watch how we handled our success.” Makes sense.

What matters now is how you overcome this hurdle. With the right approach, you can end up in a better position than before. Here’s how you can start turning things around.

Make Nice

However tempting, don’t burn any bridges. You want the reputation that precedes you to be a positive one. Keep the lines of communication open with colleagues. You never know when you’ll work with them again.

Get Praise

Line up your references; you’re going to need them. Round up at least three good ones. If possible, make one of those from your most recent employer – even if they weren’t your direct supervisor. This should help dispel any negativity surrounding your recent dismissal.

Work On Yourself

This is a good moment to reflect. Are there things you can do to make yourself a better professional? Whether it’s taking a class, achieving a new certification or refining your presentation skills, now is the time to do it. Who knows? It could pave the way to your next job.

Look Good On Paper

And online. And in person. Polish your resume and social media profiles. You don’t have to start explaining employment gaps just yet. Be ready for interviews. Dust off that power suit and practice running through typical interview questions – including why you left your last job.

Get Out

Hit the pavement. Let it be known that you’re looking. Don’t be ashamed. Leverage social media. Reach out to former colleagues, classmates, clients and recruiters – anyone who can help you find a job. Try to meet in person. Network over coffee, lunch or happy hour. Remember, your next job offer will come from someone, not some job board.

Looking for a recruiter to help you land a new high-tech sales role? Contact us.

Overcoming Long-term Employment Gaps

Spent a prolonged time out of the work force? The reasons can range from voluntary – like taking time off to be a stay-at-home parent or travel – to involuntary – such as dealing with a medical emergency or being laid off. While it may seem undesirable, your gap in employment doesn’t mean you’re unhirable. Here are three ways you can close the gap.

On paper

You can do a bit of visual trickery to your CV/resume to downplay gaps in employment. Enter the years you were employed, rather than using the standard month/year format. You can also use a smaller font size and not bold your employment dates. Some candidates with extended unemployment find that structuring their resumes functionally, rather than chronologically, help with filling in holes. By focusing on accomplishments and skills, rather than the amount of time spent at a job, they’re able to highlight attributes that attract hiring managers. It’s also perfectly acceptable to only focus on the past 10-15 years and omit any unrelated work experience.

Online

Leverage social media as much as you can. The more bait you put out there, the better your chances of reeling in an interview. LinkedIn is great because it’s essentially another outlet for your CV/resume – and recruiters often use it to fish for talent. LinkedIn does use a chronological, month/date format to showcase work experience, which doesn’t help with long unemployment gaps. But, you can plug up holes by explaining what you did during that time. If you were a homemaker, say it. If you volunteered, write that down. There are marketable skills, such as budgeting, management and teamwork, that are applicable for many jobs.

In person

Chances are, you probably won’t be asked about an unemployment gap that’s under six months. If you are asked about your unemployment gap at the interview, don’t skirt around the issue. Just be natural, direct and brief in your response. Then, swiftly move on to the next topic of conversation.

Need some reassurance that a gap in employment will result in automatic rejection? James Caan, a successful entrepreneur and business thought leader recently said, “I am always more interested in the abilities and characteristics of an individual — if they haven’t been in work for a while but have the quality my company needs, I will hire them.”

Were you out of work for a while? Do you have any tips to share about getting back to work? We’d love to hear from you.

 

The Perfect Match

In all my years placing high-tech talent, I’ve found pairing the right candidate with the right job is a lot like dating. There are certain qualities you look for in a partner and when it’s a good match – you know it! Here are a couple of ways to tell if you’ve got a keeper:

The First Impression

When meeting a candidate if you’re immediately put off by his scraggly beard, chances are your clients will too. As superficial as it sounds, physical appearances matter. Bottom line is, you know the level of professionalism expected to get the job done. And if the person walking through the door is anything less, there’s no reason to move forward.

On the flipside, it’s a turnoff to candidates if they’re not shown the professional courtesy they expect. A bad impression could send a potentially good candidate running for the door or worse yet, garner your company a bad reputation among peers.

Good Conversation

Sure, it’s an interview. There are going to be questions that need answering. The tricky part is making the exchange interesting. The conversation needs to flow, not seem forced or have awkward silences. Find something in common – could be your alma mater, hometown, hobbies – and build on that. An engaging dialogue is a two-way street. Your attitude will either set the stage for a great conversation or an awful interrogation. If time seems to fly during the interview, chances are, it’s a good sign.

Common Ground

Travel, telecommuting, work/life balance – these are just some of the things to consider when finding a good fit. Is the company all buttoned up but you’re more comfortable working in jeans? Are weekends out of the question? As an employer, be upfront about what the corporate culture is like. As a candidate, be honest with yourself and the interviewer. If you want to come home for dinner every night but the job calls for extensive travel, it’s probably not for you.

Future Plans

Are you looking for a committed relationship or a temporary solution? Make sure your short and long-term goals are aligned. Is your ideal candidate one who can grow with the company? Are you looking to advance your career? Do you need someone for one project for only a brief period of time? These are questions you should ask yourself and your counterpart to ensure both parties are happy with the end result.

Happy Valentine’s Day!