Kicked Out of the Interview Process by Phone Screening

Posted: August 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Career Coach, Interview Tips, Phone Interviews, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Kicked Out of the Interview Process by Phone Screening

I was sitting in my office looking out the window working on a candidate’s resume when my phone rang. On the other line was one of my “insiders”. The “insiders” are a group of hiring managers at Fortune 500, small business and growth-focused companies who regularly make hiring decisions.

These insiders allow me to give you, active job seekers, a real-world perspective on what today’s hiring managers are actually looking for in candidates. This particular call came from Alex (that’s not his real name but for the sake of anonymity, let’s go with it). Alex is a senior executive at a Fortune 500 company that has a plethora of openings and seems to always be in hiring mode (yes, even in today’s market). He was fired up!

How The Candidate Landed The Interview

Candidate Joe was referred by one of Alex’s closest friends giving him a significant leg up on the competition. His chances only got better when Alex saw that Joe held a similar position he was hiring for and, better yet, at one of their top competitors. To sum up what Alex said to me, “there was an 85% likelihood he would have gotten hired unless he completely blew the interview.”

Losing a Job You Basically Already Have

Today’s market is so competitive that companies often hire third parties to conduct phone screens, phone interviews and the like.  This is how Alex’s company filters through the hundreds and thousands of resumes, including those which are personally referred.  Candidate Joe was put through the usual phone screening interview and, thinking he had an “in”, he blew off one of the questions. No problem, right? After all, he knew a senior level executive, was referred by one of the guy’s closest friends, and currently held a similar position at a top competitor. In his mind, this was a done deal. The interview was mere formality.

What Happened to The Perfect Candidate?

One of the questions in the phone screening interview asked Joe “Give an example of when you’ve had to retain a customer by providing excellent customer service.” He provided no response to this question. All candidates must answer every question in order to be considered for hire. Due to his lack of response, he’s ineligible for hire for the next 6 months in this position.  I bet Joe was surprised when he received the following email following his phone interview: “Dear Candidate, thank you for your interest in the position. The original screening indicates there was not a match between your skills and our needs. You will be eligible to apply in six months. We encourage you to apply on our website for other positions.”

Advice for all Candidates

Every step in the hiring process has a meaning, whether you understand or appreciate that step or not, it’s there for a reason.  Ignoring a question that may seem “silly” or “stupid” to you can clearly be the end of your path with a company that you have all the skills and expertise to be a valuable hire to, no matter who you know and at what level. It’s imperative to remember that we all put our pants on one leg at a time, and every person in the process has a say in who gets hired.


Phone Interview Horror Stories

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Acing the Interview, Interview Tips, Phone Interviews | Comments Off on Phone Interview Horror Stories

In the past weekphone interview horror story alone, there have been media requests, client questions and hiring manager horror stories pass through my office all related to phone interviewing. The worst stories can sometimes be the ones that give us the most insight which led me to the idea of writing this blog post about phone interview horror stories.

Horror Story #1: Not-So-Smart Phone
With a name that starts with “Ad…” I get pocket-dialed all the time and that’s precisely what this candidate, or her, not-so-smart phone did in this case.  Just hours after being interviewed via phone for a professional position at a financial services Fortune 500 company, Juliana* was having a conversation with a friend about her plans to possibly spend the summer in San Diego or Los Angeles. That sounds like great fun, unless you’re a hiring manager that’s interested in keeping turnover low and the position you were considering Juliana for is based in Chicago. How did he know about the conversation with her friend? Her phone dialed his number back automatically from her pocket and, thankfully he didn’t answer, but his voicemail recorded the entire conversation. He also knows she’s got a new dragonfly tattoo.

Phone Interview Tip: Lock your phone during your job search to avoid pocket dialing.

Horror Story #2: Costly Distractions

Thanks to Emma Simmons for posting this phone interview horror story on Linked In. “The best examples…that I have seen so far? General wind problems including constant burping with no apology….to loud yawning during a telephone interview on numerous occasions.” It sounds like these candidates needed a refresher course from Emily Post. Burping and yawning? Gross.

Phone Interview Tip: Get a good night’s sleep and avoid soda before the interview.

Horror Story #3: Breaking It Down

After 6 successful interviews, this candidate was one step from a new job as a Manufacturing Plant Manager. Many times the last step in the process is merely getting a sign off from another executive which is why the interview takes place over the phone. In this case, even the CEO had already approved the candidate and was excited to bring him on board, until this happened.  Ring, ring. Hello. Begin crazy, unexpected interview. Rather than talking “shop”, the candidate began to talk about his recent separation from his wife. Despite the manager’s attempt to shift the conversation, several times, he continued to describe the details of their relationship until he had a full emotional breakdown. As he continued to cry, loudly, he went into the details of how he and his wife were making love the day of their divorce when her dog jumped up onto their bed with a pair of boxers in his mouth – that weren’t his! Let’s just say, he didn’t get the job and the manager had to report back why the supposedly superstar candidate his CEO and 6 other managers thought highly of was, less than stellar.

Phone Interview Tip: Stick to business-related topics.

These horror stories merely highlight how things can go completely awry during a simple interview that otherwise would be the first step toward a great new job. If you’ve got a phone interview coming up, check out these  Top 10 Phone Interview Tips to make sure you don’t end up as the subject of a horror story.




Interview Thank You Notes: The Down and Dirty

Posted: April 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Interview Tips, Phone Interviews | Comments Off on Interview Thank You Notes: The Down and Dirty

Yesterday someone forwarded me a blog titled “A Thank You Note That Cost Him The Job After The Final Interview”. With a title like that how could I not read it? I start reading and reading and reading and I feel like I’m in a movie that’s never going to get to the point. Finally, the thank you note. Nope, she never shares the actual note. I just wasted 3 minutes of my life I’ll never get back; it’s like a movie that drags on just enough to keep you in the theater and then ends just as bad as it started. Rrrggh.

thank you notesWhat was her point? Spell check. He had so many spelling, and grammatical, errors that she couldn’t move forward with hiring him. He’d had his wife check all his communications previously but this time she was asleep when he arrived home from the out-of-town interview so he went it alone. The teamwork system he and his wife had was working for years; this was an internal promotion that he lost because he didn’t want to wake her up.

The #1 change in the job market from 2010 to 2011 has been interviewing. They’re happening in 2011! With interviewing comes thank you notes. Here’s a guide on the down and dirty of interview thank you notes for job seekers at all levels in today’s highly competitive market.

WHEN to send a thank you note: I recommend sending thank you notes within 24 hours of the interview.

WHO to send thank you notes to: Everyone you interviewed with, and any administrative assistants that provided travel, scheduling or support in the process. Yes, send one to each individual person; group thank you notes are a big no-no.

HOW to send the thank you note: In the day of email everyone wants me to stay email is okay so here you go “email is okay” for the first thank you note. If you want to be the top candidate and stand out from the crowd, I strongly recommend sending a handwritten thank you note. (yes, to everyone you interviewed with from the recruiter to hiring manager and the administrative assistant that scheduled your interviews)

WHAT to write in a thank you note: Keep the note brief, concise and clear. The message should be personalized to each individual recipient, thanking them for taking time to meet with you and expressing your interest in the position.  Email notes: use spell check and take the extra time to read over your note twice. Avoid copying and pasting the same note to more than one recipient.  Handwritten notes: use your best, most clear penmanship and include your personal business card.

A well executed thank you note strategy can land you in the Top 5% of candidates. This is an important part of today’s job search process and needs as much attention as your resume or interview.

10 Tips to Ace the Phone Interview

Posted: April 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Acing the Interview, Interview Tips, Phone Interviews | Comments Off on 10 Tips to Ace the Phone Interview

The dreaded phone interview has become a regular part of today’s hiring process. Why? Employers have quite a few reasons why the do phone interviews, here are a few:

  1. Efficient Use of Time – 15 to 30 minutes per candidate vs. 60 minutes for face-to-face
  2. Fiscally Responsibly – interview out-of-town candidates without travel costs
  3. Highly Effective – screen candidates that are “maybes” and move them to “yes” or “no” status quickly

While these benefits are nice for prospective employers, the phone interview can cause anxiety for many candidates. If you have a phone interview coming up, use these 10 Tips to Ace the Phone Interview:

  1. Prepare.
    Do the same preparation and research the company just as you would if it were a normal, face-to-face interview at the company.

  2. Avoid distraction.
    Keep yourself free of any other distractions during the entire interview. Turn off email, your laptop, get a sitter for the kids, etc. Focus entirely on the interview and the interview alone.
  3. Quiet is key.
    Take the phone call in a quiet location such as a private office or conference room. There’s nothing more distraction than being in an interview and having background noise – for either party.
  4. Take Notes.
    Keep a notepad and pen with you during the interview and take notes on questions, answers, job description, follow-up interview dates/times, etc.
  5. Have Your Calendar Handy.
    Imagine the best case scenario – you’re asked to come for an in-person interview next week. Great news….if you have your calendar and can schedule it right away!
  6. Ask Questions.
    It’s a sign of a smart candidate when they prepare with questions. It’s also a reason to bring you in for further interviews – to answer your questions. Prepare a list of 3 to 5 relevant, company-specific, position-specific questions to ask the interviewer.
  7. Respect The Time.
    Your interviewer likely has quite a few phone interviews scheduled. If your time is nearing an end and you have questions to ask simply mention that you’d like to ask a few questions and that you also want to respect his/her time; allow them to take the lead.
  8. Dress Nicely.
    Studies prove that if you dress nicely, you feel better. Don’t believe me? Google it. Dress nicely like you would if you were meeting for an in-person interview. Afraid it will call attention at your casual office? Put on a blazer and dress shirt with your jeans. There’s always a way to kick it up a notch so you feel more professional – it will show in your voice.
  9. Smile, Smile, Smile.
    One of the oldest ‘tricks’ in the book is to smile. Any good salesperson will tell you that you can hear a smile on the other side of the phone – think of the last conversation you had with your best friend – can you tell if they’re smiling or sad? Gotchya. Remember to smile; people like to hire happy, positive, smiling employees.
  10. Send a Thank You Note.
    This is the #1 thing candidates forget to do with phone interviews. Whenever you interview, phone or in-person, send a thank you note. It’s a simple touch that goes a long way. Yes, email is fine. Handwritten is much better.

Pick up the phone, call your best friend and test out #9. It’s always nice to say “Hi” to a good friend anyway.

Go land that job and kick ass in your interview!