In a world of job portals and hiring black holes, just getting an interview can feel like an impossible task. I’ve been there. Now that I’ve seen the other side of the curtain, I can disclose in our defense that HR departments and recruiters are parsing through hundreds of resumes on a regular basis. Those are intimidating odds where every interaction counts.
Phone interviews can be used to speak with candidates who are geographically unavailable, but more often than not they are merely the first hurdle in a hiring process. Phone screens allow employers to get a brief look into the personality and skill set a candidate brings to the table without blocking key decision-makers’ schedules, reserving conference rooms, and struggling through an hour-long interview that’s clearly not a fit. Phone interviews also allow employers to evaluate a larger number of candidates before narrowing down the talent pool.
If all goes well, you’ll get an interview with the hiring manager and team. If the phone call is botched, you’ll go back to canvasing LinkedIn and Indeed. Follow the tips below to dial-up success.
- Set the scene. A corner booth at a busy Starbucks is no place to have a phone interview. It’s loud. It’s distracting. And your interviewer won’t think you respect their time. Find a quiet place that allows you to hear and be heard.
Eliminate any and all distractions including cell phone notifications, televisions, pets, children, and computers. Some experts recommend keeping a laptop open in case you need to quickly research something. This is a terrible idea. Interviewers can hear you typing and there is no feasible way you can continue a conversation while Googling the answer to the last question.
- Talk the talk. During a phone interview, you and the other caller obviously aren’t able to read non-verbal cues. One of the most common mistakes candidates make during phone interviews is demonstrating very poor listening skills. Elaborate on all of your great experience, but make sure you’re leaving enough time for the interviewer to provide insight or follow-up questions.
Don’t forget that we’re relying solely on verbal communication. You must also use proper grammar and pronunciation.
- Don’t forget your body language. We can’t see you, but your non-verbal cues do influence how you sound. First, sit up straight. You should not conduct a phone interview on an overstuffed couch or comfy bed. Sitting at a table or desk will prevent you from sounding groggy.
Dress professionally. If you’re wearing your jammies, you’re definitely not going to feel confident and prepared.
Most importantly, smile. It changes the inflection in your voice and interviewers can hear the difference.
- Use a cheat sheet. Your interviewer can hear you typing on a laptop, but we surely cannot discern your pencil jotting notes. Have your resume and a blank sheet of paper available in order to take notes and write down questions along the way.
A phone interview is not the time to be nonchalant about your preparation. It can be even more difficult to impress someone without shaking their hand and looking them in the eye. Take a little effort with the suggestions above and you’ll have no problem standing out from the crowd – in a good way.
Written by: Hannah Spellmeyer
Often I hear the words “just” and “receptionist” in the same phrase. Every time I hear this, it truly hurts. I’ve heard it from employers and I’ve even heard it from receptionists. Why is this crucial position for any company valued so lowly? Probably because people think it’s an easy job. Years ago on Administrative Professional’s Day, our staff filled in at the front desk in shifts so that our admins could have a nice lunch out of the office. I think it’s fair to say that it opened our staff’s eyes to just how hard a receptionist works. Imagine the phone ringing off the hook, a lobby full of people staring at you, your Outlook inbox overflowing with emails, and you’re supposed to keep a smile on your face and in your voice for eight hours straight, five days a week. Sounds impossible, right?
Your receptionist is often the first person your customers interact with. How much is a first impression worth to you as a business owner? In Greenville, receptionists make $10-$15 an hour and are often the least compensated in the company they work for. We’ve all had a bad experience talking with someone on the phone or walking into a business for the first time. Competition in any industry is so high, if the receptionist is rude, unhelpful, or just sounds bored, what is there to stop the customer from picking up the phone and calling the next company in your industry to try to place an order? Communication skills matter. In fact, as someone who talks on the phone and speaks with people in person all day, I can tell you that they matter a lot. First impressions count and you get what you pay for–these are generalizations for a reason. Are you as a business owner making the connection that this role is more than crucial to your company’s success?
So as an employer what do you need to be looking for when hiring a new front desk person? A top-notch receptionist needs to love interacting with people—both over the phone and in person. They must have a natural affinity for helping people and they must understand that their role is crucial for any company’s success. If you as an employer don’t take the position seriously, with your voice and with your actions, then how can you expect that of the person you’ve hired? The best receptionists know that they have to be “on” at all times. In the world of social media reviews galore, the #1 interactor with customers, your receptionist, needs to make it look easy—no one should have the slightest idea that their inbox is blowing up or that they’ve already answered 50 phone calls and it’s only 9 a.m. When I’m coaching my employees in support roles, I often make the point that if you show you know what you’re doing and you are polite and helpful, the customer will be at ease. Find a calm person with the proper administration skills who truly enjoys interacting with people, treat her/him as if they light up your office, and you can’t lose.
Besides managing the best support team in the Upstate, Karen enjoys the daily adventures of her dog Maddie and her cat Guillermo J. Gosling. She is a 13 year veteran with Godshall Professional Recruiting and Staffing where she has served in a variety of roles including recruiting, medical credentialing, and management.
We have all heard the phrase, “past performance predicts future performance” and I feel the easiest way to gauge future performance is from relying heavily on reference feedback. Whether you are a recruiter, HR professional, hiring manager or simply conducting interviews for your organization, checking references on potential employees is a must. Below are some tips, pulled greatly from past experience, on how to get the most out of checking references:
- If a candidate cannot provide a readily available list of references, this may be a red flag. Most understandably, candidates that are currently working are not going to list their current employer and shouldn’t be expected to. However, if someone is actively job seeking and interviewing, they should have a prepared list of contacts to provide you to ensure someone can vouch for their work ethic throughout the pre-hire process.
- A thorough reference list will include a great amount of diversity in the contacts listed. For example, being able to provide more than one contact from past jobs, contacts from all past jobs, and different levels of employees they worked with in those jobs, including both former co-workers and supervisors, is hugely helpful. It is also important that the candidate has made these contacts aware they are listed as a reference on their behalf. Nothing is worse than catching someone completely unaware of the reason for your call!
- Keep it professional–nothing personal and stick with facts.
- Remember to start by verifying the information provided by the candidate and then move into questions related to their specific performance in the role and with the company (some examples below). Additionally, when interviewing a candidate for a specific role, be sure to dig a little deeper into how their past performance will relate to what they may eventually do within your organization.
o Are the company names, dates of employment, and titles correct?
o How was their overall performance in the specific role? (Does title listed and job duties provided mirror feedback coming from the reference?)
o How did they treat both fellow employees and external customers?
o Were they prompt and reliable with work product and in regards to meeting deadlines?
o Did they adhere to office culture and standards: attendance, dress code, etc.?
o Are there any concerns? (Concerns are not always negative and may be helpful in determining how to train and ensure immediate success in the new role.)
o Are they eligible for rehire? (Or sometimes can be phrased as, “would you hire or work with them again?” depending on the relationship of the candidate to the contact).
- If you do uncover negative feedback in a reference, it may not be a “deal breaker,” but not worth ignoring. In this case, ask the candidate for more reference contacts as it is worth researching further to see if the feedback has validity and is consistently received.
Candidates that have done the necessary due diligence in providing prompt, thorough, and detailed reference information will undoubtedly be heavily considered for any job!
Written by: Rebecca Faulk