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10 Ways to Ace the Phone Interview

telephone interviewIt’s no secret – If you blow the phone interview or phone screening; your chances of going further as a job candidate are slim.

Phone interviews are a really practical, low cost way for recruiters to narrow the field of candidates pretty quickly. It is a great way to screen the initial field of candidates and make some preliminary decisions about setting up face-to-face meetings. If you learn how to ace the phone interview, you improve your chances of getting your resume moved from the “possible” pile to the “yes” pool.

During a telephone interview, the employer is mostly verifying the information you have on your resume and whether you like it or not, the recruiter is evaluating your communication skills.  If you have had your resume written by a professional resume writer, make sure the language used on your resume is still representative of your own “voice”.

All that being said, here are 10 ways to ace your next phone interview:

1. Find a quiet spot to do your phone interview. The last thing you want is to have distracting noises in the background, be they children, pets, music or just a noisy street or subway car.

2. Do not accept phone interview calls at your current work place or office, during working hours.

3. If you are using your cell phone, find a place where signal strength is strong and stay there until you finish the call.  I know it’s 2015, but this is something we still have to worry about.

4. Speak clearly and watch your tone and energy level during the telephone interview. One seasoned recruiter from a Big 4 Accounting firm shared with me that job seekers who sounded drowsy or low energy usually were not called again.

5. Be professional and polite in your phone interview. If you are on a speaker phone, acknowledge everyone who might be in the room. Watch your use of slang in your phone interview.

6. Be prepared to explain everything you have on your resume including dates of employment, career transitions and employment breaks.

7. Listen carefully. Since you are not in front of the recruiter, you can’t read their body language so it is very important that you listen carefully and answer clearly.

8. Ask questions in the phone interview. The most important question you should ask is when you will be able to schedule the face-to-face or SKYPE interview and move you one step closer to getting the job offer.

9. Smile. Your pleasant persona will actually come across over the phone. A fellow call center manager with whom I worked several years ago actually kept a mirror in her desk drawer. You knew she was on the phone with an irate customer when she took it out.

10. Be very clear about the next steps when you get off the phone. Wrap up by clarifying details about the next steps for you as a job applicant. Do not get off the phone before restating your interest in the position.

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3 Benefits of Interview Coaching

Black women at WorkI’ve been doing interview coaching for almost 16 years!!  That number surprises even me sometimes when I think about my first career center job while I lived in California.  I had returned to school to get a business and became hooked on Career Development while completing my HR classes.  I quickly finished my MBA with an emphasis in Strategic Human Resources management and the rest as they say, is history.

Interview Like a P.R.O.

As a Career Counselor and a HR professional, I spent countless hours sitting across from job applicants who I felt could be great employees, if they were just able to get past the job interview.  Too many of the people I worked with, were just struggling in one job interview after the next.  Many applicants looked really great on paper, had great experience, but could not make the connection in the job interviews, between their resumes, their resumes and what the employer needed. After working with lots of new graduates, new immigrants, seasoned professionals and career re-entry employees, I was convinced that I needed to find a simple, easy to learn, yet effective technique to train people on how to prepare for and succeed in a job interview.

After weeks of doing a series of mock interviews with frustrated job seekers, who wee returning to the workplace after life challenges, I developed the Interview Like a P.R.O. technique.  It is this approach that I have used successfully for years in interview coaching sessions.  With a little bit of tweaking over the years, this strategy is my preferred methodology to help people prepare in a strategic way for job interviews.  Since recruiters always say that lack of interview preparation is their number one issue with job seekers, why not improve job interview preparation with interview coaching. Here are three clear benefits from doing an interview coaching session.

Benefits of Interview Coaching

Pump up your confidence  for the job interview.  The job interview is nerve wracking enough just because you are anxious about meeting strangers and bragging about yourself.  By participating in the interview coaching process, you become more confident about the overall process, because essentially, you get to practice for the real thing.

Practice interview preparation. Interview coaching gives you step by step information that you can use to prepare for the job interview.  Whether it is reading between the lines and decoding the job description or researching the company, interview coaching can help you get really good at preparing for the job interview.

Improve your ability to tell stories in the job interview. Interview coaching gives you the opportunity to practice telling stories that demonstrate past behavior.  After all isn’t that what employers want? Why not get some extra help shaping responses and tooting your own horn.

Whether you are looking for a new job (inside or outside of your existing company), looking for your first career position after graduating, seeking a promotion, changing companies or re-entering the workforce, doing an interview coaching session is a wise move.

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Have You Thought About a Career Portfolio?

Consider a Career PortfolioFor years, creative professionals like architects, designers, artists and writers seeking opportunities have used career portfolios otherwise known as the job search portfolio to communicate their abilities by displaying prior work, either done for employment or for leisure. In today’s competitive, knowledge-based labor market, other professionals are discovering the value of a well put together career portfolio.

If well thought out, the act of putting together a career portfolio will help candidates from any industry reflect on their skills and create an occupational focus for future employment. It can help employees develop a marketing tool which is strategically laid out to influence a potential employer when making a selection. Career portfolios can also help the employed or the re-entry worker with career transitions or the already employed get promotions or new jobs by identifying transferable skills. Not only does the portfolio work well as a marketing tool, it also helps to catalog professional development information as you move through your career.

Career coaches and counselors are increasingly recommending the career portfolio as an important job search tool to help job search candidates stand out from the competition in a competitive job market. Of course once you have made the decision to move forward with your career portfolio the next big decision is about what to include. In short, for your first pass – include everything you can find in your first pass. Over time you might choose to retire items from your career portfolio or choose to create one on line.

What to include in the Portfolio?
The overall objective of the portfolio is to provide support for the information included in your resume. In other words you don’t just have to speak about what you have done; you can also demonstrate what you have done. To do this effectively, the career portfolio must be conveniently designed for travel and the material must be easy to retrieve and attractively displayed. In selecting items for your portfolio, ensure that the item has a clear purpose and is tailored to suit your audience. In addition, remember that the visual presentation will reflect your professional standards so categories need to be clearly defined and labeled and special attention paid to the fundamentals like font and layout.

Key Items to Include in a Career Portfolio

1. Current resume which would include details on education, jobs and duties performed. You may choose to use a chronological or functional resume format.

2. Awards & Honors, Diplomas, Degrees, Unofficial transcripts or any other document that verifies your education or outstanding work, for which you might have been recognized.

3. Membership cards, licenses, training or technical certifications or any other documents that supports your qualifications are a great asset to a career portfolio.

4. Letters of recommendation, performance reviews, employment evaluations, “Job well done” emails or letters and customer satisfaction surveys are all perfect examples that will showcase work ethic or express the opinions of others about your work.

5. Work samples and research output could demonstrate skills specific to the job for which you are applying.

6. Sample publications, reports and papers written or presented are always a positive add for your career portfolio as well.

7. Miscellaneous evidence of work and projects completed could include event programs and photos of events you have helped to plan or coordinate.

Now that you know what to include in the career portfolio, the following are some general tips to keep in mind for the completing and presenting your portfolio:

1. Make copies of items for use in your portfolio – Do not use your originals. Heaven forbid that your portfolio gets lost or ruined. Replacing originals of your life’s work will not be easy.

2. When displaying or showing your career portfolio – be sure to hold it for the viewer to see it clearly. You already know what’s there, so avoid keeping it directly in front of you. It is a good idea to practice sharing your portfolio with friends, colleagues or career professionals and watch for falling content as you open and display.

3. Explain items in the portfolio by talking about the “why” or the “back story” behind your work. Be sure to place these items not only in the historical context of what you have done, but in context of what you can and will do for this new potential employer.

4. If you have opting to create your portfolio offline at first, use a medium sized binder and sheet protectors as an easy way to get started..

5. Remove, reorder or relocate materials as they lose their relevance or your interest changes. Although your career portfolio is about cataloging your past, it is also about relevancy to your future

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5 Summer Job Hunting Tips for Teens

Teens at WorkWith Teen unemployment rate at 17.1% among teens 16 to19 years old in the US; landing a summer job may be harder than you think. If you are looking for a summer job or the parent of a student hoping to find a summer job, use these job hunting tips for teens.

Start looking early

One of the most important job hunting tips for teens is to start early. If you are still in high school, you might be thinking that now is too early to look for a summer job and you would be wrong. Many employers are already starting to think about what their needs will be for summer employment and are even starting to think about staffing schedules. Water parks and amusement parks which offer great summer outdoor job opportunities for teens, are already posting their jobs.

Look for seasonal jobs

Many places like water parks, botanical gardens, amusement parks, music festivals, zoos and even your local YMCA take on additional staff in the summer. Many of these facilities hire teens who are looking for summer jobs. The earlier you start applying the better off you will be.

Write a resume

You may be thinking that as a teenager looking for a summer job, you do not need a resume. However, in a competitive economy and a tight job market, I would rethink that strategy and get a resume completed as soon as possible. Visit the career or counseling office at your high school or college campus for samples to help you get started. Having a resume can really set you apart as you start to look for summer employment. For example, let’s say you visit the local YMCA and they are not quite ready yet to hire, one way to impress the manager is to leave a copy of your resume with your correct phone number and an email.

Network with friends and family

If you are looking for job search advice online, you will see the word “network” many times. Some teens don’t really know what that means and think they have to start looking for this special group of people to help with their job search. Not correct. You already have a network and just don’t know it. Parents, aunts, uncles, coaches, friends at school or in social clubs are a part of your network. Tap into that network early, before everyone else starts to ask for jobs. I landed my first job at 16 because my friend’s mother was a marketing executive for a company that was looking to launch a new product. You can do it too.

Clean up your social media profile

Today’s teens are super active on social media including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  By the time you read this, there may very well be new platforms that are popular among teens.   If you don’t know it by now, employers do look people up on social media.  I am not sure how many employers will look for teens on social media, but I do know teens are living on and through social media.  Just take a quick trip through your social media pages and make sure there is nothing there that will let an employer think twice about hiring you for a summer job.

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Before Workplace Stress Creates a Meltdown

melting stressRemember Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who quit his job by jumping down an emergency escape hatch, beer in hand about five years ago?

If the internet buzz and water cooler conversations were any indication, Slater was the everyday-working-man’s hero and a cult sensation for a while.  Everyone, it seemed, was living vicariously through Slater wishing secretly they could jump out of their jobs the way Slater jumped out of his.

For a little while, I imagine, employees everywhere dared to dream of the exhilaration and sense of freedom that must come from being able to get on an intercom system and vent about your company, your boss, your co-workers and / or your customers…before making a grand exit.

Many were thinking..”Wow! How empowering that must be.”

That is, until you wake up the next day and like the characters in the movie The Hangover, you try to retrace your steps and figure out what really happened. Yes, of course the world might on your side during your 15 seconds of fame, and that may make you feel really good. Then slowly it might set in… I don’t have a job AND now I have a very public, not-so-nice reputation in my own industry … making it hard for me to go back to the work I claim I love.

So I thought that while we continue to live vicariously through Slater and others who up and quit their jobs in grand style, we should have our own escape hatch at work.

You might find any little activity like these may be all you need to do to gain some perspective.

The goal of course is to find out what works for you in those tiny moments when bad judgment, if unchecked, could get the best of you.

Here are some possibilities for when workplace stress is getting the best of you:

Enjoy a treat

Go get an ice cream cone or yogurt or something “not-so-good-for-you.”  Sometimes all we need is a taste of childhood to feel adult again.

Have a buddy at work

Someone you can rely on who will talk you down off the ledge. A quick phone call or hallway meeting may be all you need.

Connect to your reality

Keep a copy of your child’s college tuition bill taped inside your top drawer. An orthodontics or summer camp bill could work as well as a mortgage statement or a photo of the new car in your future. Whatever your motivation, now is the time to remember it.

Take a few minutes, and go outside if you can

Go sit in your car. Listen to your favorite station – Music, sports or talk radio. Whatever floats your boat! Just get out of the situation and change your surroundings.

Engage your glass curtain

Finally, as my mother would say, and this has worked for me in the past, pull down your glass curtain, squeeze your toes in your shoes…and release. Aaahh! No one but you will know that you just took a mental vacation.

I caution you, of course, that this is not a long term solution and unchecked workplace stress can cause irreparable damage. Steven Slater learned that first hand. 

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7 Stupid Questions We Ask in the Job Interview

So far your job search strategy has workresume lies can catch up with youed well.  Your hard work and networking is paying off and you have landed a job interview for in your dream company.  You think you have interviewed well so far and done a pretty good job answering the questions from the interviewer.  Just before the job interview ends, the interviewer asks you a pretty simple question – Do you have any questions for us?  Of course you do.

Right about here, the words of a Frank Sinatra song comes to mind – “and then I go and spoil it all, by saying something stupid like…” the following kinds of questions.  Trust me; these are questions I have heard that just derails the entire process and could jeopardize the job offer.  I get it – we are nervous and so things just fly out before we have a real chance to think through them.  These 7 stupid questions we ask in the job interview, do not always come out like this word for word, but are in the ball park of what not to say.

What exactly does your company do?

When job seekers ask this kind of question about the company in the job interview it demonstrates a lack of company research. As part of the preparation for job interviews, job seekers should research basic company information such as the products or services the company provides.  You cannot interview well without knowing what the company does.  Yet, you would be amazed about how many times it gets asked.

Who would I speak with about taking longer lunch breaks because sometimes I will need to run personal errands or take care of family issues?

I’ve heard this kind of question more often than I care to remember. There is nothing wrong with getting clarification about a work schedule in the job interview. In this case, however, you do not want to sound as if you will be making up your own schedule to fit your needs rather than meeting the requirements of the company.

Is there any plan to get a union here at this company?

This was a question a colleague shared with me. Again, this is something that can be researched before the interview. You may very well not get a job offer if the recruiter gets the sense that you will organize employees into collective bargaining units.

How long do I have to work in this position before I can ask for a raise?

Your focus should be on getting the job offer for the position for which you are interviewing. If growth within the company is of interest to you, consider rephrasing the question. For example, “What are the opportunities for advancement for employees in this position?”

Can you guarantee me that I will still have a job here by next year?

No one can guarantee that a company will exist for any specific time in the future. You should be skeptical of anyone who might attempt to make you such a guarantee. Although stability may be a concern, it could make you seem desperate.  This type of question actually is heard pretty frequently from people who may have been laid off or downsized.  Try to get a sense of the organizational stability via company research, industry trends or general press or media.

What will you look for in the background screening? I am concerned about what you will find.

This question will be particularly worrisome to the recruiter if a job seeker raises it in the job interview. You can certainly ask about the next step in the hiring process, but to plant any seeds about what they may find in a background screening is not a wise move. Having said that, complete any background questionnaire honestly and clearly.

I did not get along with my last two supervisors; can you tell me more about my supervisor?

The age old rule is to not speak badly in the job interview about former employers or former supervisors in the job interview. Although the statement you are making may be true, it can also ruin your chances of a job offer. You don’t want the recruiter to see you as the problem employee who is unmanageable.

The actual words of that song I referenced in the opening is “..and then I go and spoil it all, by saying something stupid likeI love you.”  Your goal is to ask questions that will get the employer to say – We love that candidate. Let’s make an offer!


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