July 19, 2018

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Telephone Interviewing: Act Like an Entrepreneur

You have sent out your resume, probably to several companies, and now you are in the process of waiting for responses. Be prepared, because with the neck-breaking pace that many employers maintain, the telephone is increasing in favoritism for the first interview screening. It is now more important than ever to be ready for the interview.

Rule #1: Think like an entrepreneur.
You have a product/service to sell, you have advertised it, and now you are waiting for responses. A smart job seeker/entrepreneur is aware that phone calls can come at the most unexpected times. When you are in a job search you should be checking your messages regularly, not neglecting after hours and weekends. More and more frequently, employers are taking home resumes and calling after work.

Recently, we dealt with a client who faxed his resume in response to a newspaper advertisement at 5:00 p.m. on Friday. When he checked his voice mail at 2:00 p.m. the next day he realized the employer had already called back asking him to call by noon. When he called, the job had been filled by someone with a second interview at noon. Disappointing, but this is a situation that could have easily be avoided.

Rule #2: Know your product (what you have to offer) and know their company.
Your preparation to take this phone call will ultimately determine whether you move on to the face to face interview. Don't attempt to take this call if you are rushing out the door or caught in the middle of something. Rather, ask to reschedule to a mutually convenient time. Make certain that you have the documents (resume, cover letter, newspaper advertisement, and company information) in front of you for reference. Take the call somewhere quiet where you won't be distracted. Most importantly, do your homework on the company before this phone call ever comes. Expect to deal with questions such as "Why do you want to work here?" In a targeted job search, you will have researched the company and will know the goals and problems facing them. You will also have spent time figuring out how to position yourself as the one who can meet those needs/goals. Again, this is an entrepreneurial tactic of never making a sales presentation until you know how your product/service fulfills the needs of your client.

Make certain that you keep a record of the companies you have applied to. With blind advertisements, obviously you will not have all the names, so be careful. When Mr. Smith from XYZ Medical Corporation contacts you at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday evening, he might not be selling something. Frequently we hear stories from our clients who have sabotaged their chances for a new job by mistaking potential employers for telemarketers. A savvy entrepreneur would treat every caller with respect and interest, realizing that the person on the other end might become their best client by eventually offering them a job. Just last week a telemarketer called me at home, and it turned out that his day job is that of an executive recruiter. We exchanged business numbers so that we could work together.

Rule #3: Make your answers visual.
More than ever, when you are not face to face with your interviewer, you need to make sure that your answers evoke a concrete image of what you can do and what you have to offer. Avoid short, one or two word closed answers. Remember that your voice will be your only communication tool, so be upbeat and positive while avoiding negative language and generic statements.

Rule #4: You have nothing to lose. Give it your all and do not settle for defeat. If an interviewer tells you that you do not really have what they are looking for, try asking for clarification. Sometimes employers use statements like this to see how applicants respond to adversity. Find out what you did not say or where you did not provide enough detail. You have nothing to lose, so respond confidently, and you might just get the job.

- Laura DeCarlo, CPRW, JCTC
President, Competitive Edge Career Service 1998

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