So let’s talk interviews.
How about the dreaded Phone Screening Interview first? Employers use the Phone Screening Interview as a cost-saver – and often outsource the screening, so the person you’re talking with might not be someone you’ll be working with or for, and that person may not even know too much about the job. What the screener is looking for though, is:
1. Do you follow the rules?
2. Are you well spoken?
3. Can you think on your feet?
4. Are you prepared for the job?
Following rules? Yep, a big potential red flag, so follow the rules for your interview. If you are to call the person at 1pm ET, call at 1pm ET. Not 1:07pm. Not Pacific Time. This simple test demonstrates that you can follow directions. I know, for some of you, that feels trivial and a stupid reason to be judged in an interview, but – hey – them’s the rules. Organizations have learned that screening this way delivers employees with integrity, and good work ethic. So be on time.
Well spoken? Do you use a lot of, well, uh, y’know, speaking tics? Do you swear? Do you sound bored, and slightly jaded? Kinda like you can’t be bothered? Unenthusiastic? Or are you someone who speaks well and could represent the organization well in one-on-one contacts with customers and clients?
Thinking on your feet – did you know there is a interviewing tactic which attempts to get at your behavior? So a line of questioning might be thrown at you to test your drive, your motivation, your innate preferences. If you are expecting questions about job skills, this approach can throw you. Be prepared to be agile, and listen carefully to the question that’s being asked. And answer it well. A great resource for this is the book Interview Like A Top MBA by Shel Leanne.
Finally, they want to know if you are prepared to do the work, so you will need to speak to the job description and clearly lay out where you align with the job. What you’re shooting for, of course, is to be such a great candidate that you get called in for an in-person interview.
But phone interviews can be tricky. Especially for those of us who are particularly good at reading people, and get a lot of information from body language and inflection. So what do you do to make a phone interview really work?
First, do the interview in a place other than your office desk. Why? Well, you sit there every day, don’t you? Doing mindless, boring tasks, and taking call after call after call. You may not realize it, but your desk energy is probably pretty bleah. And if you have the habit of talking on the phone while watching CNN livestream and playing Spider Solitaire (hey, I know how you roll), then you might do the phone interview with the same energy and distractions. So get up and move somewhere.
Second, I often suggest people do the phone interview standing (because it shifts your energy), and in front of a mirror if possible.
A mirror serves as a proxy for the interviewer – if you look at your face and you are scowling, then it’s likely that your phone voice and energy is transmitting that scowl. So smile, just like you would if you were face to face. Use your hands. Be animated.
Did you know that only 7% of why someone likes you is because of what you say? According to the research of Dr. Albert Mehrabian, we respond well to another person’s tone of voice (38%), but it’s facial expression and body language that persuades us most (55%).
In a phone interview, then, it’s vital for you to make sure your tone of voice and body language (which can only be felt, not seen) are firing on all cylinders. That’s why I suggest the mirror. See?
Have note cards in front of you with key points you want to make, and always thank the interviewer for his or her time. Ask what the going-forward process is like, and express your interest in the position. Always. [Unless the job's a dud - in that case, be gracious because you never know what job that recruiter may be filling in the future.]
Finally, write your thank you note. Email is fine, and a handwritten note is terrific. Whichever you choose – or both – make sure they go out in the first 24 hours after your interview, and always offer to provide more information or answer further questions.
And now, my Interview Follow-Up Rule Of Three.
Write your note within 24 hours. That’s your first post-interview contact. Wait a week. If you have not heard anything from the interviewer, write another email or place a phone call inquiring about the process. This is your second post-interview contact. Wait another week. If you haven’t heard anything at all, send one more email. And then let it go.
HR departments around the world are inundated with potential employees. Hounding someone (or semi-stalking) does not engender happiness or warm fuzzy feelings. Contact the person three times, then let it go. It always seems that once you let it go, voila! – the phone rings, and you are in the mix for the next round of interviews.
Next week: How to Ace In-Person Interviews.