5 Steps to Succeeding in Phone Interviews

This post is about the five things you have to do before every phone interview. Now don’t get me wrong, there are more than five things that you should do. But this post is about the five things you absolutely have to do in order to succeed (in my opinion). So lets take a look!

  1. Research the Company

It is vitally important that you know a lot about the company. I have worked with recruiters who start the interview by saying “So, tell me what you know about ABC Company?” Now if you can’t answer that question reasonably well, how do you think the rest of the interview is going to go? If that happens and you can’t speak to what a company does intelligently you might as well hang up the phone and save you both some time. In addition to that it will save you the embarrassment of asking things like “so what does your company do?” You would be surprised how many times I have been asked that question and every single time I am absolutely shocked. So spend some time on the website, browsing products and recent news articles. Maybe go to YouTube, most companies have an account there and they have a lot of neat videos. Sometimes those videos even tour the facilities you might end up interviewing at in the future. At a bare minimum you should be prepared to answer that question. If they ask you what you know about the company and you don’t feel confident saying a few lines about their business then it is back to the drawing board.

  1. Chronicle your accomplishments

I trick I like to employ is I like to look at each of my last three jobs and write down one or two examples of things I did there that went above and beyond. What you will find is that when you do this you will easily be able to answer the questions where they ask for different examples and scenarios because these examples will be applicable. During most interviews they will ask you to walk them through your experience and it’s great to be able to give an example or two of how you made an impact.

  1. Prepare questions

At some point most recruiters will ask you if you have any questions.  This might be at the beginning or it might be at the end of the interview. Either way, you want to make sure that you have a few to ask. This should be easy because frankly, you should have questions. Accepting a job is a big decision, you would be crazy not to wonder about why the job is open or what you will be doing. But let’s say, for the arguments sake you didn’t have any questions. You still need to prepare questions to ask because it’s not all about you. Having questions prepared shows the person interviewing you that not only did you prepare but you are a thoughtful person who is calculated in their approach to big decisions. A few examples are; Why is the role open? What characteristics or traits have made people in this role successful in the past? What is the biggest challenge you foresee the person who comes into this role will have? Etc.

  1. Research Interviewer

If nothing else it is important to do this just so you don’t say something stupid. For example let’s say this person worked at a ABC Company. Knowing that will keep you from saying something like I wanted to interview at ABC Company but I heard that the people who work there aren’t very motivated (really you should avoid saying anything negative in your interview). Or perhaps they graduated from a university and you say you opted to attend the university you attended because the other local universities programs weren’t strong enough. In addition maybe they have something in common with you that you can bring up in the interview, perhaps you both have a similar background. The fact of the matter is the more information you have the better. So do a little bit of research here.

  1. Review your resume

This is kind of a small point but I do think its overlooked. You want to be able to speak to what you have done in your career. You also want to be prepared to walk them through your resume, in most interviews you will have to do something like that. You don’t want to have a whole bunch of ums and pauses as you do this. So take a few minutes and read through your resume aloud and reflect on these roles. You also should be prepared to discuss any gaps in employment and why you left certain roles. It helps to print out your resume and write notes. That way when they ask for that information you have it available to you.

So that’s it. There is my list of the five things you have to do. Did I leave any out? Perhaps you disagree with a point. I welcome any discussion. Thanks!

Interview with Epic CV

Recently I did a Q&A session with Epiccv.com , a website that focuses on resumes. The questions were asked by Epic CV and the answers were my responses. Please feel free to review and let me know your thoughts on my answers. If you have any questions or follow ups please feel free to let me know as well!

Q: What are the three most common mistakes applicants make in their resumes? 

A: For me some of the things I see frequently are poor formatting, having an objective (often different from the job they applied to) and spelling errors. For me all three of these can potentially be deal breakers. Poorly formatted resumes and resumes that contain grammatical errors show a lack of attention to detail, which is never a good thing when you are looking to make a hire. The objective to me is a big error I see frequently and I always advise people to get rid of it. The reason I say get rid of it is that you stand to gain nothing from having it but it can derail your chances to land the job. If I have a posting for a Mechanical Engineer for example and your objective says mechanical engineer as well, it really does nothing for your chances of getting an interview. However if it says design engineer and isn’t a match I might be inclined to pass.

Q:  How much time do you spend on one resume at first glance after you receive it? 

A: The first glance is about ten seconds. In that time I determine if they are someone I am passing on or if they are worth further consideration. If in that ten seconds I see things that lead me to believe they could be a potential fit then I invest more time looking at their resume.

Q: What is the first thing you look for in a resume?

A: The first thing I usually look for is that if it is well put together. Is this resume aesthetically pleasing and does it demonstrates a professional put time into making this look presentable.  The next thing I look at is their most recent job title, that is usually a good indicator of whether or not I should be reader further.

Q : What are the three main eliminating factors of a resumes you review?

A: Spelling errors, long gaps in employment without explanation and lack of detail from previous jobs.

Q: What are the three main attributes in a resume of a candidate that will be called for an interview?

A: I look for experience that matches the role I am currently recruiting for, solid work history  and the technical expertise that match requirements.

Q: What do you think of graphic and video resumes?

A: I think while it could be a way to stand out, most of the time you are better suited to have a well put together standard resume that highlights you as a professional and is submittal to the average ATS.

Q: What do you think of a functional resume format?

A: I prefer candidates to have a functional section as opposed to doing the formatting as entirely functional. When that is the case I find myself looking for employment history and not giving full attention the functional portion.

Q:  Can you share up to five quick tips for applicants in order to pass ATS screening?

A: Make sure you match keywords from the job description in your resume, use standard colors and fonts, make sure you spell check, explain gaps in employment and if you are going to have an objective on your resume make sure it matches the job you are applying for.

Q:  What is your position on photos on resumes?

A: perhaps I am boring but I am against it. I have seen many resumes with pictures on them and never once have I thought to myself, “oh good, this person put their picture on their resume”. Frankly if it doesn’t help  you get an interview then it doesn’t belong on your resume.

Q:  Why is professional resume writing service worth a couple of hundreds of dollars? 

A: To answer that question I think all you have to do is ask yourself a question back, “what is the value you place on getting the job you want?” For me that is certainly worth an investment of a few hundred dollars. The market is so competitive these days that if you don’t put yourself in the best possible situation to be successful, you won’t be.

Q:  What is your opinion regarding resume length?

A: 1 to 2 pages. I wouldn’t advocate it be any longer than that. I have been recruiting for 6 years and my resume is one page in length.

Q: What are the three main points, undergraduates or fresh graduates, need to present in their resume?

A: They need to do a really good job of highlighting the skills they have built up from school and perhaps from internships. Coming into the workforce you wont have years and years to draw upon but you can most likely find value in the courses you took. For example if you are trying to get a job as a software engineer and you got a computer engineering degree, you want to make sure you find a way to incorporate the projects you worked on during your schooling as well as the languages you have built up experience with.

Q:  What do you advice to your clients regarding references?

A: Your career is just as much about building relationships as it is about accumulating skills, make sure you don’t burn bridges so that you have contacts down the road. As far as your resume is concern, leave any mention of references. I think outing references available upon request is pointless. If the company requires references they are going to ask for them regardless of what you put on your resume.

Q:  And what about cover letters?

A: I may be in the minority here but unless a job specifically asks for a cover letter I skip it. As a recruiter I hardly ever look at them. Besides if the employer asks for them the one other exception I would say is that if you have a long period of unemployment, or something else that merits explanation it might be a good idea to include a cover letter. You can use the cover letter to explain the gap, why it happened, why it isn’t a concern for your future employer and why you are a good fit for the role etc.

Q: What is your advice on making employment gaps less prominent on a resume?

A: The one thing I look for is an explanation as to what you did with your time. I always tell people if they are laid off, take courses or volunteer, do something with that time along with looking for a new role. Then when it’s time to explain that gap you have something that adds value.

Q:  What would you like to see in resumes more often?

A: I would say I would like to see more keywords. I work on a lot of technical roles and I love it when a programmer lists all of the languages they have used. It really makes my job easier on the front end.

Q: What are the most irrelevant parts of a resume for you?

A: This would be a tie between the objective portion and any resume that has “references available upon request” on it.

 

Q: Do you check online presence of a candidate exclusively through links provided on a resume or you dig deeper?

A: I always go to LinkedIn but that is as far as I go.

Q:  In the end, please add a couple of sentences about resumes for our readers.

A: One of the things that can get you noticed is quantifiable results. A bullet that says “saved my company 100k by reducing downtime 15% over a 1 year period by implementing a new lean procedure during a Kiazan event” lets the prospective employer see that you have accomplished things and it gives them an idea about what you can do for them.

About this site

I would like to thank you for visiting my website and I would like to strongly encourage you to ask questions and comment on any post you take the time to read. The purpose of this site is to provide useful information for anyone looking for a new job or is considering making a career change. I am hoping to provide content that will empower my readers and help them be successful in their careers. With six years of hands on experience in interviewing and hiring for a multitude of organizations I have been able to learn the hiring process from the inside. I hope to not only answer the questions or my readers but also provide the answers to the questions they don’t know that they should be asking.

As a head hunter I gained valuable experience with many different clients in many different industries and as a corporate recruiter I learned what it is a company is looking for and what the process consist of from the inside. This experience has given me a very unique perspective to understand the hiring process from multiple perspectives. My hope is to pass some of that knowledge to those who can benefit from it most. I welcome all questions, inquiries and feedback.

Video Interviews (Why Companies Use them & How You Beat Them)

As a recruiter the type of interview I get the most push back on is video interviewing. People hate doing them. Some people don’t like the way they look on their computer and some people don’t like the feeling of talking to a computer screen. The advice I would give to those people is that you better get used to it. More and more companies are utilizing video interviews because of the cost saving ramifications and the convenience they afford the hiring team.

Types of Video Interview

So when most people think about video interviews they think about your standard video interview in which you are speaking with someone live, usually via Skype of some other video service. And while yes, currently this is the most used, some companies are using another format of video interviewing where you are answering prerecorded questions. At my last company we had implemented this for most of the technical roles we were recruiting for. These interviews would usually have about 5-10 questions, a mix of standard interview questions and technical questions, usually determined by the hiring manager and the recruiter.

So why do companies use these?

The main reason companies use interviews like these is that they expedite the process. For example a typical hiring process is a recruiter interview followed by a hiring manager (these first two done over the phone) followed by a final onsite interview where you might end up meeting with several people. The problem with that is that process can take a really long time. So if a company was to substitute the 2nd round with a prerecorded interview you can have all the hiring managers questions answered and save a lot of time.

Instead of worrying about scheduling another phone interview, the recruiter simply sends you a link that can be completed at your discretion. Often that means completing it that very same day which can remove one to two weeks from the process. In addition to that, most people can get a better sense of if the person is going to be a fit when they watch them as opposed to just listen to them.

How to Beat them

While video interviews can be intimidating I have a few simple guidelines I recommend so that you can make sure that you come out on top.

  1. Make sure you prepare as you would for any other interview. The video specific tips aren’g going to help at all if you aren’t ready to answer the questions asked of you.
  2. Make sure that you practice using the software or platform beforehand. If you need an account make sure to register well in advance. If its as simple as logging, try to log on early so that the beginning of your interview isn’t fixing technical issues.
  3. Make sure that the area is well lit and you are visible. Don’t be too far away or too close. Make sure that you it is easy for the hiring manager to see you.
  4. Have a clear wall behind you for the interview. Perhaps you are the worlds greatest Backstreet Boys fan, that’s great, but nobody wants to see their poster on your wall behind you while u=you explain how you are capable of contributing to an organization. WIndows are bad as well, they can be an unnecessary distraction.
  5. Dress as if it was an onsite interview. Just because you are in your home doesn’t mean you get to wear your pajamas. Dress to impress, they can see you after all.
  6. Be confident. People sometimes get nervous seeing themselves or even just because its something they haven’t done before. Don’t let it throw you off your game. Know that it is weird for some of the managers doing it as well and put your best foot forward. Speak loudly, clearly and be sure of yourself and your accomplishments.

So there you have it. You know why companies use them and you now know how to beat them! Good luck!

Applying for Multiple Roles at a Company

I have had many candidates ask me if i is ok to apply to multiple roles at the same company. The answer to that is yes and no. The first thing you should you should know about applying for multiple roles is that the company knows about it. As a recruiter, when we review applicants in the ATS (applicant tracking system), there is usually a drop down on each candidate that shows you what roles they have applied to.

So for example, if there are multiple roles in the Quality Assurance Department and you are a quality engineer, as long as you are qualified, feel free to apply to two or at the most three. This is reasonable and most recruiters and hiring manager will not hold it against you. Now if you apply to 10 or 15 roles it is safe to assume that you wont receive a call for any of them.

Even if you are qualified for one of the roles it is unlikely a company will pursue you further because when you apply to so many roles they wont consider you a serious candidate. Another thing you want to do is be upfront with the company that you have applied to. If you are in process for one role and a recruiter contacts you about a second role, make sure that you inform them of the situation. Often they will know this as most recruiters and hiring managers will communicate if they have interest in the same candidate for different roles.

The big take away here is that if you are interested in a company, you are doing a disservice to apply to as many roles as possible. You would be surprised how often this happens. Find the role that you are most interested in pursue that role. You will give yourself a much better chance at securing employment.

Common Interview Mistakes (that you should avoid)

When you spend as much time as I have around the hiring process you see a lot of mistakes being made. In my book I have laid out before you can avoid the vast majority of these but to make sure I wanted to take a few minutes to just quickly go over the top mistakes I see candidates make while interview for while in the hiring process.

The biggest mistake is under preparation. There is absolutely no excuse for coming in and not knowing what the company does. I have literally been asked “what does your company do” and it is absolutely revolting. It just says to me, “I took no time to prepare for this because this isn’t important to me and neither is your time.” Know what the company does and prepare solid questions to ask everyone you speak to.

Showing up late is another deal breaker. Often it is your first impression, whether it’s not answering a phone call for a phone interview or showing up late to an onsite interview, its interview kryptonite. Drive there the day before, Google Map the route to know what kind of traffic to expect. Whatever it is you need to do in order to be on time, do it. Imagine you are one of two candidates who have exactly the same background, education and skillset but you arrive late and the other candidate does not, who do you think will be getting an offer.

Mentioning something inappropriate. This is another one where it’s almost shocking to see people make this mistake. Don’t talk politics or religion or even sports teams. This is a professional job interview, so make sure to keep it professional. For example, I am an avid Chicago Bears fan who happens to live in Wisconsin. The rivalry that’s exists between the Chicago Bears and the Greenbay Packers (I can’t believe they made it into my blog and book, ugh) is one of the most storied and heated rivalries in all of sports, there is no way I would mention that in a job interview.

Disparaging any of their employers or bosses is a huge no. I have mention this many times in my book because it is that important. I don’t care how terrible your boss or company was, you aren’t going to say any of that. Have positive things to say about everyone and every place that you worked. Nobody wants to bring toxicity into the workplace and when you talk poorly about your past employers and contemporaries that is exactly what you are doing.