By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC
Most first interviews are via telephone. A hiring manager sees your resume, thinks you may be a good fit, and calls you. It is very important to be ready for that first call because it is your one chance to move forward in the hiring process. Flub it and you won’t get a second opportunity. Make the sales presentation of your experience count.
Control Contact – Do not list every possible telephone number at which you can be reached. A home number and cell number are typically all an employer needs. If your cell is a company phone, list only your home number or obtain a personal cell phone. A company phone should not be used for job search. Do you spend a great deal of time during the day in situations where it would be difficult to talk spontaneously to a prospective employer such as meetings or in a shared office? Make sure you have a very professional voice mail message and check your messages regularly. Return all calls as soon as possible and if you end up in a “phone tag” situation, be persistent and proactive.
Focus – If you receive that first call while driving or any time you cannot devote 100% of your attention to the conversation, ask the caller if you can return the call. Distracted conversations make for poor interviews. When an employer or recruiter calls, they understand the time might not be good and are generally open to scheduling a call for a later time. Try to schedule the conversation as soon as possible and don’t forget to get a name and number for a contact.
Practice Tough Answers – Many people have some sort of obstacle in their current career search or a past problem that may come up in an interview. Be especially prepared to discuss such issues, not because they are more important but because they cause the most anxiety. Knowing what you are going to say to tough questions makes them much less scary.
Google Yourself – Be aware of information about you in the public realm. Make sure you conduct an Internet search on yourself. Employers will be doing this so you need to be on the same page. Be aware that your social media activities will also be reviewed by many employers or recruiters. If you have a Facebook page or Twitter account, it might be examined by employers. Be careful what you put there and don’t be surprised if a related question arises in the interview.
Use Your Resume – The resume’s usefulness does not stop with gaining the interview. It is your guideline for steering your interview. Carry your own copy with additional notes added. It is impossible (and unnecessary) to include all information in a resume so having additional facts and figures that support information in the resume can be a great aide in the interview. Think of it as a sort of “cheat sheet” for helping you to remember facts during the interview.
Be Informed – If you apply to a company, know something about that company! Knowledge is power. If a hiring manager calls ten people and only two of them can speak informatively about the company, its mission, and its products/service, those two will be the ones to move forward in the process! Ask informed questions that make sense and are company-focused.
Give Scenarios – Employers want to know not only what you’ve done but they want to know in what context. Be prepared to back up your claims to skills and expertise with specific scenarios and details about your performance. For example, if you have experience in project management, be ready to talk about a couple of projects you handled successfully. Select “stories” that will demonstrate your expertise. Bring in details and make sure to emphasize successful results of your efforts.
Curb the Chatter – Are you enthusiastic about your potential? That’s great but don’t let it get control of your tongue. An interview is a dialogue – it isn’t a monologue opportunity for you. Let the interviewer get a word in! Answer the question presented and keep your answers on topic. It is very easy to rabbit-trail off and chatter away but it is not helpful. It’s frustrating to the interviewer who probably has a limited amount of time and the information you chatter about may not even be relative. If you have trouble knowing when to stop talking, practice with a stopwatch. Limit your answers to two minutes if possible.
When the employer or recruiter calls you, you are “on”. Think ahead about what you will say, how you will handle specific questions, and have “stories” prepared that will demonstrate the skills and experience you offer. Use your resume as a guide and don’t prattle on about topics. Let the employer ask questions and ask some of your own. An interview is a conversation! Relax and make a great impression!