Thursday, January 31, 2013

Phone Interview Preparation Guidelines

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First, let me say that the old adage "You never get a second chance to make a first impression" is just as true for phone interviews as it is for face-to-face. For that reason, being well-prepared and attentive to the details of the interview process can put you ahead of your competition. With that in mind, let's cover some basic ideas that will help give you a "leg up" on the process.

1. First, do some basic research. Go and review the company's website, giving particular attention to their "About Us" pages, product line pages, and any other content areas that are relevant to your particular position. It always impresses an interviewer when the candidate demonstrates that they are familiar with the company and its mission, product lines, etc. Also, consider reading any recent press releases on the company if these are available. If possible, research the people who will be involved in the interview and learn as much about their backgrounds as you can.

2. Second, you will want to have an updated copy of your resume sitting in front of you during the interview. Frequently, the interviewer will want to walk down through your career history during the interview and having that information front and center will be quite helpful. For face-to-face interviews, bring at least four copies of your resume to the interview.

3. Review the job description itself and think of how you would respond to questions related to each of the identified job requirements. Be aware that your interviewer is listening for specific illustrations of how you have demonstrated that skill in past work environments and, equally important, how you are going to bring value to their company with that skill in the future. Remember that your interviewer is looking to see "How you are going to bring value to their company?" throughout the interview.

4. For the interview itself, make sure that you are in a quiet place where you do not have to worry about any interruptions. You don't want dogs barking in the background, people opening or closing doors, phones ringing, or any other background noise to threaten the quality of the process. Be prepared to receive the interviewer's call up to 10 minutes early or late...some interviewers will check a candidate's flexibility this way, trying to determine either preparation or frustration. Others may simply have an unexpected interruption that comes up on their end.

5. Interviewers are always interested in why past job transitions took place. Have an elevator speech ready for each one (very short and to the point). Be aware that they are listening for sticking power as they consider you for the position. "Will this person be around long enough for our company to realize their value and justify our investment in them?" is a question that is usually revolving in their mind.

6. Have 2-3 questions prepared for your interviewer (no more). Typically, an interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. This represents a real opportunity to impress your interviewer. The questions you ask can reveal a great deal about your intelligence, insight about the position, and/or the value that you might bring to an organization.

7. Be very, very, careful not to talk too much or too little. Be very attentive to social cues that your interviewer is wanting either more information regarding a question or wants to interject a comment during the discussion. Many candidates lose points during an interview because they either talk too much (provide more detail than necessary for a given question) OR they don't provide enough information to really answer the question being asked. If you are uncertain of your ability to strike this balance, do a practice interview with someone you consider to be a strong interviewer. Give them the job description and then ask them to ask you questions...follow-up by asking for their candid feedback.

8. Do you want the interviewer to call you on your cell phone or a land line? Obviously, a land line is more reliable but is not always convenient or available.

9. Prepare a brief "Thank You" note after the interview and have someone well-versed in spelling and grammar proof it for you. If you are working with a reputable recruiting firm, they should be able to help you with the proofing and tweaking process. They are in a unique position to provide feedback since they have first hand knowledge of the client, their culture, and the unique qualifications for the particular position. Since they often are the only ones with the hiring manager's email address and given that they may not be allowed to give it out, ask them to forward it for you. Also, consider sending a hard copy directly to the hiring manager, being sure to use high quality stationary. Provided your penmanship is strong a hand-written note is a nice touch

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