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Take That Phone Screen Interview Seriously

Posted by Rob Riggins

Phone interviewThe first step in your interviewing path to a new cleared job is typically a phone-screen interview, before an in-person interview is scheduled.

That saves everyone time. What many cleared job seekers don’t realize is that their casual preparation and responses to phone-screen interviews may sabotage their chances to land prime job opportunities.

It’s natural in today’s world to treat interviews a bit more casually than past generations approached them. But recruiters and hiring mangers are entrusted with making candidate recommendations and hiring decisions that cost employers thousands of dollars. Their careers hinge on making the correct decisions, so interviews – even if they’re initial screening interviews — are far from casual endeavors for them.

For that reason, it’s always a smart idea for job seekers to err on the side of seeming too professional rather than too casual when interacting with prospective employers.

Consider these strategies to ensure you make the most of each phone-screen interviewing opportunity:

Research. Find and analyze some basics about the company. How it was founded, the contracts it supports, various locales where it does business and other basic information are easily found with simple web searches. Also, read any relevant company blogs or news. Working tidbits from those into the conversation can give you an edge over other candidates.

Connect. Check your social media profiles and talk to your contacts to see who in your network already works at the company, or if anyone can provide an introduction or referral for you. You’re seeking information to make you a better candidate than your competition. Information that may not be on the job posting, but may be critical to success in the position.

Meet their needs. Yes, you want to know about the job for which you’re considered, but there won’t be any job if you can’t convince the recruiter or hiring manager that you’ll fill the company’s needs. This is not the time to ask about benefits or what the employer may offer you, unless the employer brings it up. Instead focus on what you offer the employer, and how you solve their problems. One way to do so is take the information that you uncovered during your research and write a list of your success stories you can work into your discussions.

Learn about the interviewer. It’s always helpful to know something about the background of the person interviewing you. Check LinkedIn and conduct Google searches. Colleges, professional positions and even service organizations can offer you an easy way to connect with the interviewer. If you both went to the same college, mention your alma mater. If the recruiter worked with a mentor, mention that mentor’s name in passing. But try to follow the example of trial attorneys and don’t ask any questions for which you don’t know – or have some idea of – the answer. Allow the recruiter or manager to take the lead. For example you could mention you had heard the manager had worked at Leidos. Then listen for the response. You don’t want to ask if they enjoyed their time at Leidos and then find out they were dismissed. Also be careful about name-dropping. You don’t want to speak glowingly of a mentor or colleague and later discover the person was a professional rival of the interviewer. Don’t tell everything you know, either. You don’t want to seem like a stalker.

Dress for an interview. No, you needn’t wear a three-piece suit but you should dress professionally even if the interview is on the telephone. Wearing professional clothing impacts you psychologically. When you dress professionally you act more professionally.

Choose a quiet location for the interview. You don’t want to be distracted by a dog barking or a garbage truck rattling when you answer questions. If you will interview via Skype make sure you know what is in the background. You don’t want an interviewer to see a toddler in diapers running behind you as a harried baby sitter gives chase. Remember when this happened to Professor Robert Kelly when he was being interviewed live?

Smile. Even if the interview is by telephone, smile. It will reflect in your voice. No one wants to hire someone who sounds gloomy, troubled or unsure. As difficult as it seems, try to approach the interview with a positive attitude. Let the interviewer know you are pleased to have the conversation.

Converse. Yes, you’re going to answer and ask questions. And you likely are nervous But you don’t want to sound like a hostile witness in a court of law. No, this doesn’t mean you need to sign up for Toastmasters. But practice your answers so that you can convey them in a friendly, upbeat tone. And speak up – no one wants to strain to hear a mumbler.

Be prepared to talk about salary. In the cleared community it’s common to talk about salary in initial screening calls. Government contracts don’t allow the flexibility in salary that many private sector companies can employ. The last thing a recruiter wants to do is move a job seeker with unrealistic salary expectations further along in the process. That’s why it’s important even before this preliminary stage to assess what your compensation requirements are. One area where contractors can sometimes be more flexible than salary is in benefits.

Ask about next steps. It’s frustrating to end an interview and wonder when you might know the outcome. If the interviewer doesn’t share next steps in the process – they often do – ask about it by saying something like “Would you please share your next steps in the process and when you hope to have a hiring decision made?”

Phone screen interviews are the norm for most companies. You should plan now on how you’ll handle those interviews. That will give you an edge when a recruiter or hiring manager invites you to one.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 02, 2018 5:35 am

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