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6 Tips to Ace a Phone Interview

In today’s fast-paced economy, many employers are now opting for initial phone screenings of potential candidates as opposed to an in-person interview. This added step allows companies to sort through candidates without committing to the expense and time required for on-site meetings. It also requires an entirely different set of interview skills on the part of candidates, whose assets are suddenly condensed to their voice, tone, and personality.

If you’re searching for a new job, chances are you will experience at least one phone screening. As with any interview, you’ll need to bring your A-game if you’re going to land the job. We’ve compiled all of the tips you need in order to ace your next phone interview.

1. Don’t Wing It

Often, phone interviews are conducted by human resources employees who are trained to determine quickly whether you meet the basic job requirements, and make initial judgments about personality, temperament, communication style, and salary expectations. Therefore, although they are usually less than half an hour long, they can yield a wealth of information to the screener.

That is why it is so important to take the proper time to prepare (see below). If a screener calls you and asks whether you are available now for a phone interview, it is always in your best interest to let the interviewer know that you are not in a place to speak freely, but would love to schedule a call within the next week.

2. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

As with any interview, you should prepare by exhaustively researching the company and position you are applying to. You should also prepare to answer detailed questions about your work history and qualifications. Be sure you are able to address any significant gaps in your employment history, and can justify every career move. Know every bullet point of your qualifications so that you can go into detail when asked. Be sure your phone is charged and you have plenty of time if the interview goes longer than anticipated.

And, as a final step, search for a photo of the person you will be speaking to online (LinkedIn may come in handy here). You will feel more comfortable in your responses if you can visualize who you are speaking to.

3. Act Like They Can See You

While it may be tempting to conduct an interview in your pajamas, you’re much more likely to feel and sound professional if you look the part. Put on professional clothing that makes you feel comfortable and confident, brush your teeth, and get your game face on. Be sure that all sounds and distractions – televisions, pets, traffic noises – are accounted for and eliminated before the call.

And don’t forget to smile! Any customer service representative can tell you that smiles can be heard and felt regardless of whether the person you’re speaking to can see you. It will be much harder to sound tense, nervous, or uncertain if you have a smile on your face.

4. Act Like They Can’t See You

Now that you’ve covered the basics, take advantage of the fact that your screener will not, in fact, be able to see you. Get up and walk around – you’re more likely to sound prepared and confident if you are standing than if you are sitting. Compile all of your notes, your résumé, and your application in one place so that you can reference them easily during the interview. To eliminate the sound of paper shuffling, you can even tape your paperwork at eye level.

5. Request Next Steps & Contact Information

Before you hang up, be sure to ask your screener what the next steps will be, and when you can expect someone to follow up with you. Then, be sure to request your screener’s contact information (email and phone) so that you can complete the next step below.

6. Follow Up

Even if it’s “just a phone interview,” you should still follow up with a written thank you note to your interviewer within 24-48 hours. Be sure to express your gratitude for the opportunity to discuss the position in detail, and summarize what you spoke about on the phone. If you want to sound especially clever, include a short blurb and a link to an article about a recent occurrence at the company that you found during your research.

softs kills you need to succeed

The Soft Skills You Need to Succeed

We spend most of our time and energy focusing on the development of “hard skills” – degrees, accomplishments, certifications – never realizing that we’ve been developing an entirely different set of essential skills throughout our entire lives. While we were sharing swings on the playground, standing up to a bully in high school, and negotiating a chore chart with our college roommate, we were in fact developing “soft skills.”

Soft skills are the qualities we often take for granted while we are applying for a job or squirming in an interview. They are, however, the skills that allow us to communicate effectively, work well with others, and build professional relationships. As such, they are immensely important assets that we should be sharing with potential employers. In some cases, they may even be more influential in getting us hired than our work history and past accomplishments.

Here are some of the top soft skills employers look for:

1. Communication Skills

Communications skills are not limited to your ability to captivate a room or write the perfect email. Even more essential is your ability to exchange thoughts, ideas, and information with your team members and customers. Effective communication keeps office operations running smoothly, minimizes conflict among team members, and ensures that the customer is both satisfied and well-informed. All of which are great for business. This quality will likely be on full display during the interview process, so be sure to let this skill speak for itself through your actions and words.

2. Teamwork and Collaboration

The ability to play well with others is even more important once you leave the playground. Employers want to know that their employees can get along well, as this allows them to generate creative ideas and collaborate for the efficient and effective completion of tasks. Whether leading, following, or monitoring progress, a valuable employee will be sensitive to the needs of their colleagues and willing to contribute in a variety of ways. Be sure to emphasize the quality of your professional relationships in previous and current positions, and include examples of effective teamwork in your answers to interview questions.

3. Adaptability 

Employers want to know that you are committed to the longterm success of your business and industry, and that you are willing and able to keep pace with important changes that may come your way. A passion for learning, an interest in expanding your skills and testing your wings are all important qualities that bode well for your career and your employer’s bottom line. Your résumé should tell the story of your continued growth, and you should highlight your interest in continuing this trajectory when in discussions with your potential employers.

4. Problem Solving

This one is a no-brainer. Employers are always on the lookout for employees who can think on their feet and resolve the many unanticipated problems that arise in a fast-paced work environment. When issues arise that could delay or hinder a project – just before the hard deadline, no doubt – an employer wants to be confident in their staff’s ability to rise to the challenge and handle obstacles effectively. Be sure to share your own experiences with a potential employer by clearly describing how you identified a problem, your approach to resolving that problem, and the colleagues you either included or supported through its resolution.

5. Sense of Humor

No, your employer is not interested in your extensive collection of knock-knock jokes. But they are looking for employees who can bring some levity to tough situations. One person’s light-hearted take on a setback can be extraordinarily valuable for the entire work atmosphere, and bring some much-needed positivity to otherwise negative situations. Whenever possible, showcase a lighthearted attitude in your application, cover letter, or during your interview with a bit of strategic silliness or self-deprecation. You may be surprised at how well it’s received.

When it comes to your soft skills, it’s best to show, rather than tell. Start by making sure there are no typos on your résumé or cover letter, and that your language is clear and concise. Call attention to your soft skills by demonstrating how you have used them effectively in your career. For example, instead of stating that you are a great problem solver, describe how you helped identify inefficiencies in business processes and the process by which you and your colleagues improved them, being sure to include the results of your endeavors.

Finally, be sure you’re always improving on your existing soft skills or challenging yourself to learn more. Work with a mentor, take a course, or volunteer your time to continuously improve your most essential tools for success.

5 Tips to Show Your Interviewer That You ‘Fit’

We’ve all had that amazing interview for that perfect job. You wait and wait for the acceptance email only to be told, “you’re not the right fit.”

What happened?

While your résumé, credentials, and interview skills are all essential to landing the job, effectively standing out from other qualified applicants often boils down to “fit.” There are many nuances that define “fit” across roles and industries, but there are some steps you can take to nail down this elusive quality in your next interview.

Read more →

The 5 Biggest Interview Mistakes, and How to Avoid Them

We will all have an awful interview at some point in our lives. And that’s ok – trust me, they make excellent stories. On the other hand, the best interviews are more akin to a conversation than a simple question and answer. But how do you work past the butterflies in your stomach and the cold sweat on your palms to fully engage the person sitting across the desk?

Read more →