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How (Not) To Phone It In

May 2, 2016

 

In my previous post, The Alarmingly Simple Reasons You're Not Getting an Interview, I covered the ways in which you might be sabotaging your chances of landing a coveted interview. In this post, I'll explore how (and how not) to successfully get through the next step — an initial phone screening interview — in order to be shortlisted for an in-person interview.

 

Call me crazy, but I believe most people possess common sense.

 

Or at least enough to know how to conduct themselves during a phone interview.

 

Recently that belief was put to the test with mixed results.

 

I'm in the process of helping one of my clients find its first leader. This is an exciting time for the organization. And after helping them for nearly a year, I'd like to feel a great deal of confidence when handing over the reins.

 

After collecting numerous resumes and cover letters, I narrowed the field to the top candidates and suggested to my client that I conduct an initial phone interview with each to get a better sense of their background, experience, work style, and potential fit.

 

I'm happy to report that most of the candidate phone interviews went well — so much so that it made it difficult for the Board to decide which applicants they'd like to move forward.

 

That said, there were a few no-nos that came up that nearly floored me. 

 

Here's a rundown of things to avoid if you're hoping to move past an initial phone interview:

 

Rambling on...and on...and on...

I had a candidate give an terrific answer to one of my questions...and then proceed to keep talking, and talking, and talking until neither one of us was sure of where he was going or what the original question was.

 

Not answering the question

Of course, there's an opposite but related problem. One candidate I spoke to didn't ramble on, but then again, when reviewing my notes, never seemed answered the question either. And this was not one of those "If you were an animal, what would you be?" kind of questions, it was a straight-up, legitimate business question.

 

Somehow the candidate ventured down a path that, while interesting, didn't tie back to my original ask.  And when I tried to steer the conversation back, this candidate again went off on an unrelated tangent.

 

No bueno.

 

Interrupting the interviewer

Not only is this rude to do in your everyday dealings but c'mon, during an interview where you know you're being vetted?

 

A serious misstep.

 

Throwing in a racist comment

Yes, this actually happened. Worse, I don't think the candidate even realized what he had said and how offensive it was.

 

Needless to say, he was immediately disqualified.

 

Going through a drive-thru during the interview

I wish I was making this up as it sounds like perfect sit-com material, but sadly, no.  And frankly, I didn't think this was one I'd need to list.

 

Common sense, people, common sense.  That burger can wait.

 

Failing to sell yourself

I had a candidate that, on paper, had the most relevant experience and was extremely qualified — hooray, right? Yet somehow that person failed to convince me of his awesomeness. Even after some gentle prompting, he just wasn't connecting the dots and selling himself.

 

Did I mention this was an interview? Where you're competing against a bunch of other candidates?

 

The Takeways

Maybe it was nerves, maybe these candidates weren't being mindful of their responses, or maybe they really didn't want the job. Whatever the case, don't let these faux pas happen to you.

 

Remember that the person on the other end of the phone is really hoping you'll make her screening job easier. Ensure this happens by answering her questions — succinctly and by weaving in your relevant experience — and by demonstrating courtesy and common sense.

 

© Amy Blaschka and www.rbpconsulting.org, 2016.

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Now it's your turn: Ever conduct an interview via drive-thru? Have any others to add to the list?  Please share your phone interview horror and/or success stories in the comment section below.  

 

 

 

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