Phone Interviews

Many job seekers breathe a huge sigh of relief when they learn they have been invited to participate in a phone interview.  They assume that will be a much easier interview and easier preparation since they can have notes in front of them.  In reality, phone interviews can be more challenging than face-to-face interviews because you lose all the visual cues.  You can’t tell how someone is reacting to what you are saying.  They also can’t see your facial expressions or gestures so you have to rely on your voice to deliver the entire message.  There is a tendency to take phone interviews less seriously but that can be a costly mistake.  You have to ace the phone interview to advance to the next steps in the process.  Some tips for success with phone interviews:

  • Preparation – Prepare as if it were a face to face interview.  Think about the questions you may be asked and how you want to respond.  Research the company.  Talk to you networking contacts with knowledge of the company.  Prepare questions in advance that you want to ask your interviewer.  Become knowledgeable about their products, services and competitors.  Be as prepared as possible to put your best foot forward.
  • Engagement – Without visual contact, it can be harder to stay engaged.  Be sure you are somewhere you can minimize distractions.  Do not have a TV or music playing in the background.  Be sure you will not be interrupted.  Tell yourself this is the best use of your next hour and give it your 100% attention.  Listen carefully and respond thoughtfully.
  • Stand Up – You have only your voice to make an impact so use it to its fullest advantage.  Standing up expands the diaphragm and can make you sound more confident.  It is ok to move around a bit but don’t walk so far that it impacts the volume of your voice for your listener.  Be strong and confident in your communications.
  • Smile – Why smile if they can’t see you?  People can hear the smile in your voice.  You do sound different if you are smiling.  Remember to smile to demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm.
  • Mirror – Put a small mirror near the phone.  Use it to remind yourself to smile while you are speaking.    Use it to check your engagement during the interview.
  • Listen carefully – Be sure you understand the question before you jump to answer.  Be sure you don’t cut off the interviewer before the full question is asked.  If you hear them trying to jump in, take the cue that your answer is too long.  Ask clarifying questions if needed to be sure you are addressing what they are asking.
  • Next Steps – Before the call ends, be sure to ask about next steps and timeframe.
  • Summarize – Thank the interviewer for his/her time and offer a brief summary of why you are interested and qualified for this position.  End the interview with reinforcement of your key points.  It is what they are most likely to remember.
  • Thank You – Just because the interview is by phone doesn’t eliminate the need for a handwritten thank you note.  Differentiate yourself by sending a handwritten thank you note within 24 hours.  If they are on a tight deadline also send an email but don’t eliminate the handwritten thank you note.  It makes a difference in the process.

Tis the Season to Advance Your Career: Networking Over the Holidays

Learn more about networking over the holidays! Appearing in Career Attraction, this piece will show you the do’s and don’t of networking during the holiday season. Please read the full blog here  ’Tis the Season to Advance Your Career: Networking Over the Holidays


When It’s Time to Leave

Resigning from your current job requires tact, care and professionalism.  You do not want to burn bridges.  You may need a reference from this company in the future. It is also a small world these days and you could work with these people again down the road in another company.  Here are some suggestions to ensure that you leave on a positive note.

  • Resign in person.  Do not send your manager an email or leave a voice mail.  If at all possible, meet in person to share your news.  If that is not possible, at least speak live on the telephone.  Stress the positive aspects of the company and your experience working there.
  • Put it in writing.  Follow-up the conversation with a formal written letter of resignation.  Keep it simple, brief and positive.  Show your appreciation for your supervisor and the company by thanking them for the opportunities you had while you were there.  It is not necessary or appropriate to give reasons for why you are leaving.
  • Provide notice.  Absolute bare minimum is two weeks notice but give more if you are in a more senior position.
  • Offer Assistance.  Offer to help with the transition by documenting processes and procedures or training others on the team.
  • Request References.  Ask while you are still there if key contacts would be willing to serve as references in the future.  Ask if you may connect with them on LinkedIn to stay in touch.  If appropriate ask if they will write you a recommendation on LinkedIn.
  • Telling Others.  Once you have officially notified your manager, ask if it is ok for you to tell others on the team.  Notify close colleagues personally. If you send an email to others to let them know, keep it brief, positive and professional.  Connect with colleagues on LinkedIn so you are able to easily stay in touch.

How you leave a position says a lot about you as a professional and your brand.

Use Holiday Fesitivies to Advance Your Career

‘Tis the season for holiday parties and gatherings with both business and social contacts.  These activities can help you advance your career if you use them appropriately.

Holiday Office Parties

  • Network like crazy.  This is an amazing opportunity to make connections outside the group with work with every day.  Try to meet as many people as possible and ask about what they do.  Keep track of people you want to follow-up with back in the office.  Use this informal opportunity to make a positive impression and build your connections.
  • Use Every Opportunity to Connect.  Resist the temptation to hide in the corner or spend the entire evening with the people you work with every day.  Take advantage of the opportunity to network as much as possible.  Talk to people waiting in line for the bar, the buffet or even the rest room.  You have something in common already so use the opportunity to introduce yourself and learn about what they do.  You may be pleasantly surprised by who you meet and what you learn.
  • Keep it professional.  Yes it is a social event but it is still a business event.  You have to face these people on Monday morning.  You do not want to be the talk of the office on Monday morning.  Do not do anything to stand out in a negative way.  This is not the time to overindulge, make unwanted advances, bad mouth the company or take over the microphone for karaoke.  Keep it professional and you’ll have no regrets.  Drinking too much at the party could be a career limiting move.
  • Dress professionally.  While it is fine to get in the spirit of the festivities and dress up a bit, keep it professional.  Avoid anything suggestive, revealing or inappropriate.

Social Holiday Gatherings

  • Network Constantly.  Use each gathering as an opportunity to meet new people and learn a bit about what they do.  For those with whom you wish to have a more in depth conversation, ask if you can follow up after the holidays.  Most people like to talk about what they do so just ask and you’ll be surprised by what you learn.
  • Share Your Focus.  If you are seriously looking for your next opportunity, let people know what you are looking for so they are able to identify opportunities to help.  They may have contacts at your target companies.  Don’t spend the entire event pressing people for contacts but bring it up as appropriate in your conversations.  You never know what valuable connections may result from a casual conversation at a social event.
  • Behave Professionally.  Make a great impression so people will remember you positively and will want to introduce you to their contacts.
  • Make Introductions.  Help others meet people at the event by offering to make introductions.  They will appreciate the connections and they will value your support.

How is Your Job Search Going?

There are many job seekers who have been in the market for quite awhile.  They can be caught off guard when an interviewer asks, “How is your job search going.”  Here are some key considerations.

Be Prepared – Anticipate the question and be prepared to answer it.  Thinking about it in advance gives you an edge in preparing your response.

Don’t Get Defensive – Yes, you are frustrated and discouraged.  Resist the urge to get defensive.  Some one is asking because they care or they think it is a logical question to ask. Don’t shoot the messenger.  Don’t give them reason to question whether you can control your temper.

Just Answer the Question – Most people asking don’t need to know all the details, frustrations and disappointments.  Give them an honest answer but don’t go into lots of detail. If they want more detail they will ask.  “Slower than anticipated”, “several irons in the fire”, “I’ve come close but nothing final yet” are all reasonable and honest responses.

Seize the Opportunity – Since they asked, use it as an opportunity.  Ask for networking contacts and referrals.  Do you know someone in your finance department I could talk to for an informational interview?  Do you know anyone at XYZ company?  Give them a specific way they can help you by identifying appropriate contacts.  Acknowledge that you know it is all about the networking and solicit their support.  If you are not already connected on Linked In ask if you can send an invitation.

Returning to Work After a Long Break

Common Mistakes of Those New to the Workforce or Returning After a Long Break

  • Impatience – It is easy to get impatient on a new job but you have to fight the urge to complain.  There is a learning curve you have to endure to learn the company, the department, the systems, the products, etc.  You have to learn how things get done.  Don’t expect to receive the most challenging and rewarding projects first.  Even though you talked about them in the interview, you have to learn the basics and prove yourself with your early assignments to earn the more interesting projects.
  • Deadlines matter- When a manager gives a deadline, take it seriously.  It isn’t a wish list but an expected deliverable.  You should work to beat the deadline whenever possible.  If for any reason you think you may not make the deadline, do NOT wait until the deadline to let the boss know.  Raise the red flag early, express your concern, brainstorm ways to overcome the obstacles.  You are not perceived as a hero if you wait until the last minute to ask for help.
  • Questions – Do not be afraid to ask questions.  They expect lots of questions initially and will be concerned when you don’t ask.  The challenge is to ask the same question only once.  Take notes.  When they explain something write it down so you don’t have to ask again.  Identify “go to” resources who can answer certain types of questions for you.
  • Be punctual and present – Do not start a new job showing up late, leaving early, requesting time off.  Show that you are committed to success on the job and reliable.  They need to be able to count on you.
  • Pay Attention to the Culture – Observe the culture and adapt.  Is it an open door culture where you can pop your head in with a question or are you expected to make an appointment?  Do people eat lunch together or alone at their desk?  Pay attention to the expected dress code.  Don’t be the most casual person in the office.  As you perceive who the successful people are, watch and mimic their behaviors.
  • Clarify Objectives – Ask for goals.  Ask what will be measured.  How is success defined in this job?  Be sure you know what is expected of you so you can meet and exceed those expectations.  If no one tells you, ask.
  • Prepare to invest in yourself – you need to allow extra time at the beginning to get yourself acclimated.  You may need to do some outside reading or research to get up to speed on various topics in your job, you may need to boost your Excel skills or learn PowerPoint.  Take initiative and invest time in helping yourself succeed in the job.

Five Key Skills Critical for Success on the Job

  • Ability to Communicate – To succeed in most jobs the employee must be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.  You can be very smart, you can have great ideas but if you can’t communicate you risk being passed over for the next exciting project.
  • Work Effectively on a Team – The ability to effectively work as part of a team is critical to success in most organizations.   That means sometimes being a leader, sometimes being a good follower, monitoring the progress, meeting deadlines and working with other across the organization to achieve a common goal.  Employers want employees who can effectively work as part of a team, not as a lone contributor.
  • Ability and Willingness to Learn – The world is changing, business is changing and the pace of change continues to accelerate.  To succeed in most organizations you need to have a passion for learning and the ability to continue to grow and stretch your skills to adapt to the changing needs of the organization.  Little demand for dinosaurs these days.
  • Ability to Influence, Persuade and Negotiate  – There are few jobs you can do in a vacuum.  In most roles you need other people to do things so you can do your job.  There are steps in the process before your area of responsibility and often steps after you do your part.  Usually you do not have authority over those people.  You need to have the skill to develop mutually beneficial relationships in the organization so you can influence and persuade people to do what you need them to do in turn ensuring you are delivering what they need.  You need to be able to negotiate win-win solutions to serve the best interests of the company and the individuals involved.
  • Ability to Analyze the Data – With increased computer skills, many employees can build spreadsheets and manipulate the data in various ways.  What elevates an employee above the crowd is the ability to analyze the data.  Don’t just total the columns, calculate an average and sort the data.  What story does the data tell?  What questions does it raise?  Are there different ways to interpret the data?  Instead of handing your boss a spreadsheet, give them a business summary and highlight the key areas for attention.  Suggest possible next steps.  Using the data to manage business decisions is a critical differentiator.