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Posts Tagged ‘interviews’

Mastering the Phone Interview

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

By: Alison Green

More and more employers are using phone interviews as screening mechanisms to narrow down their applicant pool before deciding whom to interview in person. Phone interviews can range from short and perfunctory, to long and in-depth, but they’re generally intended to obtain some basic background information about you and to get a better sense of who you are.

The keys to acing a phone interview are being professional, prepared, and enthusiastic. Here are 10 ways to ensure you are.

1. Be prepared. You want to go into the call understanding who the employer is, so before the interview, go to its website and read enough to get a good feel for its clients, work, and general approach. Don’t leave the site until you can answer these questions: What does this organization do? What is it all about? What makes it different from the competition?

2. Know the job description. There’s nothing worse than a phone interview where the candidate doesn’t seem to grasp what the job is all about and why it would be a good fit. So as part of your advance preparation, go through the job description line by line and think about how your experience and skills fit with each line. Don’t be alarmed if you’re not a perfect fit; people get hired all the time without being a line-for-line match. The idea is simply to have thought through how you are a match, so that those thoughts are easily retrievable and can be turned into answers on the phone.

3. Think about the questions that you’re likely to be asked, and write out your answers to each of them. At a minimum, cover these basics: Why are you thinking about leaving your current job? What interests you about this opening? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What experience do you have doing ___? (Fill in each of the major responsibilities of the job.)

4. Think about how you’ll answer questions about salary history or expectations, so you’re prepared with an answer and not caught off-guard if this common topic comes up.

5. Come up with several questions of your own, because at the end of the conversation you’ll likely be asked what questions you have. Good questions at this stage are about the role itself and open-ended inquiries about the office culture. Make sure to end by asking what the next steps are and what the timeline is for getting back to you.

6. Pay attention to your tone of voice. On the phone interview, the interviewer can’t see your body language or gestures, so tone of voice matters more than ever. Your goal is to sound upbeat, interested, and engaged, not sluggish, distracted, or unenthused. And let your personality come through; after all, a major reason for the phone interview is to get a sense of what you’re all about.

7. While you shouldn’t sound stiff, don’t have an overly casual manner either. While the interviewer wants a sense of your personality, a phone interview is still an interview, not an informal phone call with a friend. I’ve phone-screened candidates who I’m pretty sure were lounging on the couch, watching the game with the sound down, and snacking while we talked. That’s not the impression you want to make!

8. Remember that a great benefit of phone interviews is that you can have notes in front of you. Take those answers you wrote down in step #3 and keep them in front of you. Just make sure you don’t sound like you’re reading a script.

9. Keep your answers to-the-point. One thing employers look for in phone interviews is the ability to answer questions directly and concisely, because they want to hire people who can organize their thoughts and convey needed information quickly. So keep your answers fairly concise. Of course, if there’s more to tell after your short answer, you can certainly ask, “Does that give you what you’re looking for, or would you like me to go more in depth about this?”

 10. Don’t do a phone interview while you’re driving. You won’t be able to fully concentrate, and if the interviewer realizes you’re driving, it will come across very poorly—because of safety and because it looks like you’re not treating the conversation as a priority.

Acing the Interview: Secrets of a Hiring Manager

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

By Alison Green

Job interviews are nerve-wracking, and job seekers often agonize over what the interviewer is looking for and how to best present themselves. As someone who has interviewed thousands of candidates, here are eight interviewing secrets from the other side of the desk.

1. The small stuff counts—sometimes a lot.

Candidates often act as if only formal contacts, like interviews and writing samples, count during the hiring process. They’ll send flawless cover letters but then follow up on their applications with poorly written emails with spelling errors. Or they’ll be charming and polite to the interviewer but rude to an assistant. Hiring managers are noticing all of this, so it’s crucial to pay attention to the little things, too.

2. Interviewers can tell who did their homework.

The difference between candidates who spent time preparing and those who didn’t is stark. Before any interview, candidates should spend time on the employer’s Web site, getting to know the company. Read enough to get a good feel for its clients, work, and general approach. You want to come away able to answer these questions: What does this organization do? What is it all about? What makes it different from its competition?

3. Candidates should ask questions too—and they should be good ones.

The interviewer wants to know that the candidate is interested in the details of the job, the department, the supervisor’s management style, and the culture of the organization. Otherwise, the candidate will come across as not that interested or not that thoughtful. Good questions at this stage are clarifying questions about the role itself and open-ended questions about the office culture. Save the questions about salary and benefits until the employer makes an offer.

4.  Being likable, matters.

Interviewers are human. We want to work with people who are pleasant to be around. So be friendly and try to really show interest in the people you’re talking with.  Don’t feel you have to hide your personality, or be so formal that you become stiff or impersonal.  We want to get a sense of who are.

5. Enthusiasm matters, too.

Job seekers sometimes worry about looking desperate. But it doesn’t look desperate to express your interest in the job or check in to ask about the hiring timeline. However, enthusiasm does cross the line if you are calling more than once a week, calling earlier than the date by which they said they’d get back to you, or sounding like you’re eager to take any job as opposed to one in particular.

6. Be prepared with stories.

As you talk with your interviewer, look for ways to share specific experiences from your past that illustrate how you might approach this job. Give concrete examples of times that you’ve used the skills they’re looking for, so that your interviewer can almost “see you in action” —something that hypothetical answers don’t allow.

7. Avoid cliché answers.

If you’re asked about your weaknesses, don’t offer up clichés like “I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist.” Interviewers have heard these answers hundreds of times, and you’ll come across as disingenuous. Instead, talk about a real weakness, and then follow up with what you’re doing about it. For instance, you might say something like, “I realized in college that I wasn’t as naturally organized as I wanted to be. So now I make lists religiously, and I check them every morning and every afternoon to make sure that nothing is slipping through the cracks and all my priorities are correct. I haven’t lost track of anything since I started this.”

8. Treat the interview as a two-way conversation.

It’s easy for candidates to feel that an interview is an interrogation where they’re the only one being judged. But the most successful interviewers are two-way conversations in which the employer and the candidate have an honest discussion of the needs of the role. But your interview won’t be a two-way conversation if you’re just waiting for the employer to deliver a verdict. So remember that you should be assessing them right back, by gathering info about the job, about the manager, about the company culture, so that you can figure out if this is a job in which you’d do well and be happy.

Job Fairs: How To Make Them Worthwhile

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

By Louise Kursmark, Master Resume Writer

Job seekers flock to career fairs like bees to a hive—and why not? They are a central source of potential employment and networking opportunities with multiple employers in your community. So while you’re job hunting, make it a point to look for and attend job fairs—and follow these tips to make the event a worthwhile investment of your time.

1. Do your homework. Contact the organization running the job fair and ask for a list of companies that will be attending. Research those companies and choose 5 – 8 as your “prime targets” for the job fair. Be prepared, though, that the advance list is not the final—some of your target companies might not be present and others that you haven’t researched will be. So be prepared to change your plan of attack once you are on site. Here’s some great advice and resources for company research!

2. Get your resume ready. Job fair recruiters will look at literally hundreds of resumes in a day. Try to make yours visually distinctive while remaining professional, and write interesting and unique content! Proofread your resume very carefully and have someone else read it as well. Bring several dozen copies with you to the job fair, encased in a portfolio so they stay fresh all day.

3. Dress for success. Wear the same clothing you would for an important interview. Your goal is to present a great image and impress the recruiters with your professionalism. Check out guidelines for job fair and interview attire

4. Start with your target companies. When you arrive at the job fair, review the attendee list (remember, it probably won’t exactly match the original!). Highlight the locations of your target companies and approach them right away. Then you can pursue other companies—secondary targets, new targets, or any other company that sounds interesting.

If your target companies are very popular, be prepared to wait or circle back when the booth is less busy.

5. Be ready with your introduction. Do you have a 2- or 3-sentence introduction of who you are, what you’re looking for, and why you’re valuable? If not, you’ll feel tongue-tied and awkward at the job fair, you’ll look unprepared, and you’ll waste an opportunity to make a great first impression. Explore ideas and scripts to jump-start your preparation

6. Use your company research. As the final sentence of your introduction, add something that relates to what you learned about the company from your research—or something you know or have surmised. For example, “I was reading that XYZ plans to expand into Russia. That sounds interesting and a fit with my background—I was a Russian minor in college and have studied Russian history extensively.” Companies like to know that you are targeting them specifically and that you know something about them, so acquire some knowledge and use it to your advantage.

7. Prepare for the next step. It’s unlikely that you’ll have an in-depth interview at the job fair. Your goal is to make a good impression, establish potential interest, leave your resume, and capture contact information. Get the business card of each recruiter or write down their name, job title, phone number, and email address.

8. Follow up. Of course it would be great if you started getting phone calls right after the job fair! But don’t sit around waiting. Reach out to every person you spoke with. Send a professional email with details about positions you’re interested in. Personalize your note by saying something positive about the company. Attach another copy of your resume. Keep track of all of your contacts and conversations, and follow each one through to the final stage—whether it’s a “not interested” message or, ultimately, a job offer!

How to Follow Through Effectively Post Interview

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer

Congratulations! You’ve finished an interview and are now thinking, “I’m glad that’s over!” But is it really? Turns out your work is just beginning! Think about how you are going to stay on the interviewer’s radar screen. How do you follow up?

The first approach is with a thank you note, either by email or snail mail. The delivery choice is based on knowing your interviewer’s preference and determining which method will work best based on the company culture.

Be focused. The thank you note can be short but should be targeted to the discussion you had during your interview. It allows you to reinforce your strengths and sell the value you will bring to the company. It also provides you with the opportunity to highlight any qualifications that you may not have discussed during the interview.

Know your industry. If you are writing a thank you note for a position as a grant writer or as an editor, your thank you note will be used as a sample of your writing style. In this case, you will probably be expected to write more than a brief note. If you are applying for a social media marketing role, you may need to write a brief note, demonstrating how you can get your message across in a limited allocated messaging environment.

Be relevant. After reflecting on your interview discussion, think about how you can be a resource to the company. For example, if you discussed a specific project and you come across an article on this topic, share it with the interviewer as a follow up after your thank you note. This allows you to appear in their radar screen once again. It is a gentle reminder that you are still interested without making begging inquiries.

Know your media. You can communicate by phone, email, mail, texting, through a social media site, and/or in person. The approach you selected should be based on what will be best received by your interviewers. You may have multiple interviewers and each one‘s style is different, so multiple communication options may be necessary.

Get connected. With the use of social media outlets, think about how you can connect with the interviewers. The use of LinkedIn can offer another gentle connection to reach out and invite your connection to stay connected. Make sure you customize your invitation note on LinkedIn. You can choose to follow the company as well. Consider following their competitors so you continue to build intelligence in the industry.

Think long term. Follow up requires a multifaceted approach. It is all about building lasting relationships. People tend to refer people they know to colleagues looking to fill other positions, typically before they are even open or advertised.

Following up after an interview is a delicate process of reading the cues that you perceived during your meeting. There is a difference between following up appropriately relative to the situation versus over-engaging and being seen as annoying. The balance comes into play as you think about what style works best based on the industry, the personality types involved, and the type of position. For example, a sales position in certain industries may require assertive follow up, but in another industry a softer style may work better. Knowing your audience, your industry and your abilities allows you to choose the best follow up strategy.

Remember, you are establishing connections and building relationships for the future. Best wishes for success!

You Applied for the Job… Now What?

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

By Andrea Santiago

Some of the most common job search questions often involve the method job seekers should utilize to follow up with a potential employer or hiring manager after submitting a resume to a potential employer for consideration.
Many career experts, including Lindsay Olson from US News & World Report’s Money/Careers blog, agree that how you follow up depends upon a number of variables, and you need to approach each situation accordingly.
However, there are several common denominators that apply to most circumstances, and these guidelines will help you when you’re trying to navigate the job search process after you have submitted your resume.
The best resume follow-up strategy is to submit such a fantastic resume that you don’t have to follow up. If your resume is spot-on for the position, the hiring authority may contact you first, before you even have to follow up on anything.
So how do you “wow” hiring managers with your resume?
Customize your resume – Pay close attention to the verbiage used in the job ad and job description. Incorporate the potential employer’s words and key phrases into your own resume, (where applicable of course—true to your qualifications of course!)

Research Resume Samples – There are numerous websites that now provide resume samples and resume builders for a variety of industries.

There are many ways to create an attention-grabbing resume. But even the best resumes will still require you to proactively reach out to the hiring authority to get feedback regarding your application and status. If your resume does not stop the hiring manager in his or her tracks, and you don’t receive a call from anyone inviting you to an interview, it doesn’t mean that you are not qualified. The hiring manager may simply be overwhelmed with many good applicants. Sometimes, you can draw additional attention to your resume and help yourself stand out over the other applicants if you are able to follow up effectively and professionally.

How you proceed depends upon the circumstances of your application. Did you apply online, through a friend, via a job fair, or some other method? If you know someone in the organization, it may be acceptable to contact that person directly. Otherwise, you should be careful not to contact the wrong person, or follow up too frequently. Below are a few basic resume follow-up tips that apply to most situations:

  • Be courteous and respectful of the person’s time.
  • Don’t stalk the hiring manager or over-communicate. You could come across as desperate, or you may just annoy the hiring manager so much that they could rule you out based on that. A good rule of thumb is no more than 1-2 times per week, for 2-3 weeks.
  • Don’t go above or around the hiring manager or contact listed on the job ad. Some career experts recommend it, but in my experience as a recruiter, and as a hiring manager, that tactic usually does more harm than good.
  • Your follow up should be brief, well-written, (or well-spoken if you’re leaving a voicemail), and free of errors, typos, or grammar mistakes.
  • Email is less intrusive and generally more accepted than phone calls.

If you follow those basic guidelines when following up on your resume or job application, you will convey a high level of interest, tenacity, and professionalism that employers want from their prospective employees.