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7 Ways Candidates Blow A Phone Interview

I’m consistently amazed by how unaware the average job seeker is of how to establish a positive first impression on a phone interview. I hear the same frustrated complaints from employers of all industries and sizes – that candidates who voluntarily submitted their resumes in hopes of discussing a position they’re supposedly interested in just can’t seem to get it together. Remember when all you needed was a solid resume to be guaranteed a face-to-face interview? For the sake of saving time, resources, and money, recruiters have become much more selective on who they decide to meet in person. In an effort to weed out time-wasters and soft-skill-deficient candidates, recruiters are conducting phone screens to find out who’s off their game.

1. They’re unprepared to take the call.
If you’re 4 beers deep at a Yankees game or trying to wrestle a dirty diaper off a screaming baby, you probably shouldn’t answer a call you don’t recognize. Yet, most of the candidates my recruiting team speaks with are under the impression that it’s better to answer a call you’re not completely prepared for than to miss the call altogether. It’s not. If you find yourself in a situation that isn’t suitable for a professional conversation, don’t pick up. Instead, call back within 24 hours, after you’ve collected your thoughts, can speak confidently, and have locked down a quiet location.

Not to mention, they start timing you from the second they leave a voicemail, which brings me to my next point. If you’re actively looking, you should have a professional voicemail with specific instructions to avoid an unwanted game of phone tag. For example, “Hi, you’ve reached Mark Smith. If you’re calling in regards to my resume, please leave your name and number as well as the best times for me to reach you.”

2. They expect the recruiter to fill in the blanks.
“Hi, what job did I apply for again? What company are you calling on behalf of?” It pains me to admit this, but these responses are the norm when an employer reaches out to a candidate, even for high-level positions. You’re a job seeker, which means you probably apply to several jobs each week. We understand that it’s tough to keep track, but it’s essential – if only for the sake of a recruiter’s sanity – that you start taking notes. Just by picking up the phone and saying, “Hi Wendy, you must be calling in regards to the Customer Service position I applied for last week.” Mind blown.

3. They conduct an unorganized job search.
This goes hand in hand with my last point. Today, it’s not enough to print out a handful of resumes and call it a day. We always recommend that our candidates keep a spreadsheet of every job application they submitted with corresponding dates, company names, and relevant contacts. Or, if you’re a tech wiz, try these awesome job search apps. That way, when the phone rings, you’ll have a handy guide that’ll save you from playing guessing games. Also, it’s important to keep your background information and portfolios within arms reach to provide some quick material for preliminary questions. It says a great deal about your personal brand if you’re prepared to answer a challenging question, and even have some on-hand stats to back up your argument. And for bonus points, don’t forget to browse company websites and connect with HR personnel on LinkedIn. Taking that extra step makes a huge impression.

4. They don’t understand why recruiters really call.
More often than not, recruiters aren’t calling to simply schedule a personal interview; they’re calling to conduct a prescreen. In other words, to decide whether they want to move you forward. Remember all that research you were supposed to do when you applied for the gig? Use it to show recruiters you know something about how their company culture works and that you’re serious about the job.

5. They have a bad “radio personality.”
Phones are tough – all you have to make an impression is your voice. Candidates, especially introverts, often fail to heighten their energy over the phone. Nobody’s expecting you to sound like Ron Burgundy, but you should at the very least sound excited, confident, and prepared. Excessive “umms,” stammering, or sounding like you’re dead inside are huge turnoffs to recruiters. The only way to overcome this obstacle is through practice. Record yourself on any device you have handy, and ask yourself this difficult question: “Would you hire you?” Getting your career narrative down in a way that engages and connects with an employer is essential to winning that face-to-face meeting.

6. They have a weak or unprofessional online presence.
Chances are, if recruiters are interested in what you have to say, they’ll be googling you before then end of your conversation. A half-complete LinkedIn profile or a racy Facebook picture is all it takes to eliminate you from the game. Just last week, one of my recruiters found a candidate with a stellar background and scheduled her for an interview right away. But just minutes before their call, she discovered an R-rated photo online that involved a stripper pole. Needless to say, the recruiter’s mind was made up before the conversation started.

7. They fail to treat a phone interview with the same decorum as they would a personal one.
Just because you didn’t put on a suit or block out time in your day doesn’t mean it counts any less towards your chances of securing the job. Request follow up procedures, send personalized thank you notes, and be sure to highlight any takeaways to reinforce your sincerity. Take it from me, the small things really do matter.

photo credit: Phone Talkin via photopin (license)

When to Walk Away From a Job Offer: 7 Red Flags

If you’ve been job-hunting for a while now, you may want to jump at any job offer you can get. However, it’s important to evaluate the offer before making any rash decisions. Consider any red flags that may have come up during the process to determine whether the job is right for you. Here are a few to watch out for:

It’s a big step down. In today’s economy, you might think that taking a job that you’re overqualified for isn’t so bad. But it can make employers think that you’re not resourceful enough to find an appropriate job for your experience and qualifications. You might have to be flexible in your salary requests, but don’t accept a title well beneath your qualifications. Know your worth and determine your bottom line before heading into an interview.

The company offers you the job—immediately. This may be an indication that the organization has experienced a lot of turnover in the position and desperately wants someone to fill the spot. While waiting for the right job offer can be frustrating and costly, it’s often worth the time to be at a company that’s the right fit for you.

The hiring manager seems to be concealing information. If you’ve asked questions about your daily responsibilities or your supervisor and have received the run-around, the hiring manager might not be telling you everything you need to know about the opening. Some employers might do this in fear that you’ll find the position unattractive—so be sure all of your questions are answered before signing a job offer.

You can’t see yourself working in the environment. If you can’t see yourself working in a particular company’s culture, it might not be the best fit for you. You’ll be spending much of your time at the office and you need to feel comfortable in order to put your best foot forward.

Something inside of you says it’s not a good idea. Your gut feeling is often the best indicator of when something is right for you. If you’re feeling uneasy about any step of the process, step back and re-evaluate the offer before putting anything in writing. Do this by asking more questions of the employer, doing some additional research or talking with former and current employees if possible.

There aren’t any available growth opportunities. No room to move up at the organization? You might want to continue looking if the employer says that promotions are atypical. Ask questions about how the hiring manager moved up in the firm and how promotions are typically handed out to determine the company policy.

You don’t think you would get along with your potential colleagues. Conflicting personalities and work styles can make for an unpleasant workplace to say the least. Observe the culture of the company when you head in for an interview and evaluate how well you get along with the hiring manager initially. If you feel that you might be uncomfortable or unhappy in this work environment, it’s probably best to look for a better opportunity.

What else should job seekers watch out for before accepting a job offer?

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