When I started my career as a headhunter in 1986 I was constantly talking with candidates on the phone to determine their fit for an open position at a client. In 27 years the tools have changed a bit and I would say that more interviews occur on the phone today with prospective employers vs. back then. Add to that the fact that so many of us have one phone — a cell phone — and therefore can be reached anywhere we are, and you can start to see how these calls are becoming more problematic and lead to a loss of opportunity when not handled well. Here are a few tips and observations for how today’s job seeker can and should respect the phone interview.
1. If you get a call from a prospective employer on your cell phone, or even on your home or work line, be sure that the opportunity to get into the right distraction-free, focused frame of mind is there. If it isn’t, ask the caller politely and professionally if you can call them back or schedule a time to speak later, and be specific about the details. This is an interview. You wouldn’t meet a prospective employer in your home while cooking dinner for your kids and with them running around. Treat the call the same way.
2. Think about how you would be focused on your responses and even the questions asked when in a live face-to-face interview setting. The phone interview should possess no less focus. If that means that you go into a room by yourself with no distractions, so be it. Maybe in front of a mirror so you can see yourself and almost answer your reflection as if it were the interviewer.
3. Always be prepared to talk with a prospective employer by phone when you are actively job searching. The call can and will come at any point in time. You have to be ready. You have to keep track of the jobs for which you applied by printing out/saving the postings, along with what you sent, since all of these items will be critical to have with you during the telephone interview.
In a job market that taxes every hiring manager in terms of the volume of candidates they are seeing on paper or via email each day, you need to deal with the reality that a major hurdle in the process comes on the phone. Handling that moment without preparation, focus, and planning can end your chances for new employment in a split second.
David Lewis is CEO of two firms: OperationsInc, an 11-year-old Human Resources Consulting firm, and AllCountyJobs.com, a network of 29 regional job boards in the Northeast US. His firm just launched Job Search 101, a training program for recent and soon-to-be grads on how to find a job. Got to www.OperationsInc.com and www.AllCountyJobs.com for more info.
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