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You Got an Interview!
When you have a phone interview, remember:
- verify the address where you will be meeting
- the name of the person whom you will be meeting
- a phone number for your contact
Keep your resume and pre-filled job application handy for phone interviews. You will be nervous enough; you don’t want to draw a blank when you are asked a question.
I love Google calendar for this. I can send myself texts, emails, and pop-ups for any appointment I have. I suggest setting a reminder for the day before, 2 hours before, and 1 hour before.
The Phone Interview
Aside from having a baby, moving, or buying a car, there is nothing that causes more excitement and anxiety than being called for an interview during your job search. The thrill of receiving that call is coupled with anxiety about what to wear; directions to the company; who do you meet with; will they be nice; what to say; and what questions to ask. In my last hub, “Unemployed? How to Find a Job in Today’s Market”, we discussed resumes and job applications, but only touched on what you need to nail the interview.
First of all, take a breath, while being unemployed may seem like life or death, it really isn’t. It’s just an interview. Believe me, if you are like everyone else out there, and I’m guessing you are, you’re going to be nervous, it’s expected. By being prepared for the majority of situations you will face, it will lessen the anxiety and make each interview easier.
Today, employers call potential employees for a short phone interview. It’s basically a test to see if you are worth setting aside an hour (more or less) of their time to meet to you.
After the phone interview, write all the information down in your calendar and set reminders. Always give yourself enough time to arrive. Leave your house about an hour (or more) before the interview because you never know what might happen on the way there.
You do not want to leave anything to chance. Do NOT think you can remember it all – WRITE IT DOWN. Arriving late because you got lost is unacceptable.
Attire - Dress for Success!
A good rule to follow is to wear business attire.
Men: that means a suit, tie, and dress shoes. Sneakers are not allowed in an interview, EVER.
Women: blouse, dress pants or skirt WITH stockings or tights, and heels or flats. Again, NO sneakers or flip flops – EVER. I know, stockings, right? Yes, it is old fashioned, but it is classy none-the-less, and remember, you want to make a good first impression. You will not get a second chance.
It should go without saying that you should be freshly showered and shaved and scent-free: NO perfume, cologne, or body spray. Too many people suffer from allergies and trust me, you do not want to give your potential new employer an allergy or asthma attack when you first meet.
Your clothing should be clean and wrinkle free. Looking like you just rolled out of bed, after sleeping in your suit all night, does not win you points.
Do's and Don't's
Do NOT Wear These:
Cover or Remove These:
Do NOT Do this:
perfume, cologne, or body spray
t shirts, low cut shirts, belly shirts
sneakers, excessively high heels
chew gum or food
excessive makeup or jewelry
Of course, brush and floss. Did you ever try to carry on a conversation with someone who has bad breath or something stuck in their teeth? Do you want to be remembered as the interviewee with incredible resume, or the one with incredibly bad breath?
For those of us who still smoke, try to refrain from it on the way to your interview. Either way, make sure you have some strong breath mints. I like Altoids. Not only will it freshen your breath, but it will prevent dry mouth during the interview.
Upon Your Arrival...
Since you left your house early enough, you still have a few minutes to stop by the restroom for a quick hand wash and a look in the mirror. Do not dawdle! Check in with the receptionist and let her know you have arrived. Most likely they will have you fill out a paper application while you are waiting.
You arrived on time looking very spiffy and professional. The employer calls you in to their office and asks you to take a seat. Remember, BEFORE you sit, introduce yourself, shake their hand, and say something like, “It’s good to meet you, Mr. (or Ms.) ________. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.”
Sit up straight, smile and look at your interviewer. Aside from having something stuck in your teeth, there is nothing more distracting than trying to hold a conversation with someone who is looking at everything, BUT you.
Next, they will review your resume and ask questions about it. This is a simple and direct approach which shouldn’t cause any surprises. Keep your answers simple. You can elaborate, but do not embellish.
Everyone dreads the question, “Why did you leave your last job?” Remain calm and NEVER say ANYTHING negative about your former employer or position.
If your former employer downsized, say that. Do NOT expand upon it with your own theories! A simple reply would be, “Unfortunately, my former employer downsized.”
If you are unsure why you were terminated, contact your former employer to get the official reason. Talk to your superior, and acknowledge your role in the termination. State that you have learned from the experience and that you hope to be more successful in your next position. Remind him that you are still looking for work, and ask what he might say about you, if he were contacted.
You can send an email to the Human Resources Dept:
Dear Human Resources,
I hope you can answer a question for me. I do not wish to misrepresent myself or (company name ). When prospective employers ask why I am no longer with (company name ), how should I reply?
Thank you for your help.
If you were fired or quit...
...a few simple answers might be:
Option 1 - I was dealing with a number of personal problems that led me to disconnect from work, and ultimately led to my departure. I’ve had the time to take care of these issues and I am back, focused, and ready to exceed your expectations.
Option 2 - Looking back, I realize that I made some bad choices and should have done things differently. I've taken this as learning experience so I can avoid those mistakes in the future. I hope I can have the opportunity to prove this to you.
Option 3 - Honestly, I wasn't planning to leave, but I came across an opportunity with (interviewer’s company) which seems like a more stable situation that exactly matches my skill set.
Other interview questions and sample answers may include:
Tell me about yourself:
For the past ___ years, I have worked at _____managing _____ while learning, operationally, what it takes to run such an organization. So far, I’ve learned: it takes dedication, determination, and passion. With all three, both you and the company you work with, will be successful. Throughout my time there, I’ve truly enjoyed my experience but I am looking for a new place to thrive.
What experience do you have in sales/ customer service?
I have worked with clients, answering their questions and concerns, as well as finding solutions for them.
What are your strengths?
I’m diligent, attentive to detail, and I can multi-task effectively in order to complete a task by a deadline. I possess patience and empathy which best helps me work well with clients.
What are your weaknesses?
I struggle with maintaining focus. However, I have taken steps to correct this character flaw. I make a list to prioritize what needs to be done, and as I complete each task, I check it off.
Tell me about your job responsibilities.
I provide answers to any question regarding our programs to clients and manage client complaints. I maintain our online database that requires constant updates. I also schedule appointments and ensure every location has the supplies needed to maintain working order.
What challenges do you face?
I struggle to balance the workload, because my position used to be a two person operation, but I find that prioritization works best when completing multiple tasks at once.
Why do you want to work here?
Option 1: I have researched the company and find that this position would provide new challenges and opportunities for me to succeed. I am interested in learning a new field while growing within a company.
Option 2: I’m driven about advancing my career and I feel that this is the place to do it. I feel that I can help the company be successful in achieving their goals. I’m diligent and determined to get the job done.
Option 3: When other companies are closing, the opportunity for growth and advancement is available with _____. I was excited to see on your website that you feature employees giving their opinion about your company. These days, so many people seem to hate where they work. It's wonderful to see that your employees are proud to talk about how much they love their jobs. Additionally, I love that ______ is involved in their community and gives back to those less fortunate.
What can you bring to our organization?
I take the initiative and I’m a fast learner when it comes to embarking on a new task. I have previous experience with clients and have a drive for customer satisfaction. My goals include meeting the clients’ needs until they are completely satisfied.
What sort of challenges are you looking for?
I am looking for a place where I can challenge myself to learn a new field while applying previous knowledge and experience and master it.
What are your short term goals?
My short term goals are to secure a position that will help me advance my career. After that I’m looking to make myself a successful, integral member of the team at _______. I’m looking to do a good job, and be recognized for it.
Describe a time you have provided excellent customer service. Why was the customer "WOWED".
When I was working at _____, I would often have clients that worried about how they were going to pay for an unexpected expense. All too often, they were barely getting by and didn't know where to turn. I would assure them that our facility would work with them regarding any expenses and I would also refer them to local resources that might be able to assist them with other issues. It was very fulfilling to see the weight lifted off their shoulders and the smile of relief when they realized there was actual help available to them.
Making our guests happy is our number one priority. How would you help us make this happen?
Smiling at a guest and being polite, is the best gift to give anyone. A guest likes to be treated with respect. When you treat customers fairly, are polite, and provide good service, they will be happy to be a repeat customer.
Describe your ideal position.
My ideal position involves customer service, as well as completing projects in an efficient, timely manner. Resolving customer inquiries and making the client feel that their needs have been met is a core value of mine.
Research the company before the interview!
NEVER say “I don’t have any questions.” ALWAYS ask questions related to the job or the company. However, this is NOT the time to ask about pay, benefits, or perks. That information will be given to you when you are hired.
What questions do you have for me?
You do NOT need to ask ALL of the following questions. Pick three or four, only.
The first three questions are considered to be a bit bold and may surprise some interviewers. However, it shows you seek out constructive criticism – a VERY POSITIVE quality that employers are looking for.
- Do you see any gaps in my qualifications that I need to fill?
- Are there any reasons I’m not fully qualified for this position?
- Now that you've had a chance to meet and interview me, what reservations would you have in putting me in this position?
Additional alternative questions
- As an employee, what does it take to be a successful member of your organization?
- What type of supervisor will I have the potential opportunity to be working with?
- How would you describe the atmosphere in the workplace?
- Is there room for growth within the company?
- If I were to start tomorrow, what would be the top priority on my to-do list?
- What improvements or changes do you hope the new candidate will bring to this position?"
- "Why do you like working here?
- What kind of training will I receive?
- Are there opportunities to cross-train with other departments or positions?
- What does it take to be a successful part of the team?
- What are some things the employee in this position could contribute to make the office more inviting or enjoyable?
- What are some behaviors which are not covered by the company’s policy, but are inconsistent with your expectations?
- When should I expect to hear your decision regarding the position?
When the interview concludes, stand up, shake their hand, and say, “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I look forward to hearing from you, Mr./Ms. _______.”
When you arrive home, take the business card that you were given and send a quick email thanking your interviewer again.
If you have not received a response regarding the position within a week (or whatever time frame you were given) send a quick email (or call) to see if the position has been filled.
Sample Follow-up Inquiry Email
Dear Mr. /Ms. (interviewer’s name),
I would like to take a moment and thank you again for meeting with me regarding the (position) with (company name).
Also, I was curious if there was an update regarding my interview on (date). I would be more than happy to answer any additional questions you may have. Please feel free to contact me at your convenience.
There are always a lot of different scenarios that may crop up during an interview or your job search, in general. These are only a few that I have encountered. Please leave a comment if this did (or did not) help you and any questions you may have. Good luck!