Doostang News April 19: Overcoming the Phone Jitters

42-19047283VP – Mergers & Acquisitions, San Francisco, CA
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Although many Americans are tethered to their cell phones, when given the opportunity, many opt for the non-verbal mode of communication. Whether we’re now rusty on our phone etiquette or speaking into the receiver was always just a little awkward, a lot of people simply feel uncomfortable when it comes to picking up and dialing. Lay down some stakes – such as an interview, a request for information, or a verbal follow-up thank you – and making a phone call can take a lot more courage than expected. But just relax, and read on for a few tips that might make the game of telephone just a little bit easier…

Make a Plan

One reason you’re probably terrified to make that call is because you think the dialogue is going to feel contrived; it will be filled with awkward pauses and the conversation will feel aimless. In order to avoid this feeling, plan out ahead of time what you’re going to say and what questions you’re going to ask. If you need to, write it down. You’ll often find that when you get into the swing of it, things will move along a lot more smoothly and you’ll shed your nervousness in no time.

Be Courteous

When you reach out to someone, first make sure that you’re doing so at a good time. Before you launch into conversation, first pause to make sure that the other person is able to speak. Also, remember to be polite. The person on the other line won’t have any body language to go off of, so make sure you use good manners and speak in a friendly tone. If you smile while you are speaking, you’ll automatically add warmth to your voice. When you do this, that other person is more likely to reciprocate and the conversation will feel much more comfortable.

Don’t Overthink It

While you may have written out a plan, when it comes to picking up and dialing, don’t make it a bigger deal than it is. The longer you sit there and stare at the keypad, the more you’re going to get worked up. Just pick up the phone, dial the number, and put it to your ear.

Get Pumped Up

Before you make an important phone call, do something that will get you excited and feeling more confident. Go on a run beforehand or listen to an upbeat song that you like. This will take your mind off of things and get you feeling a little more secure about everything.

Stand Up

If you stand up while you’re on the phone, you’ll have more energy. Standing up allows you to breathe better, which gets more oxygen going to your brain. You can also pace around the room at will, which can also keep you more in the zone. Go by the old adage that says, “Think on your feet”!

Reward Yourself

Tell yourself that no matter how the phone call goes, you’re going to go do something fun afterward. That way, you’ll have incentive to make the call in the first place, and you’ll begin to associate making important phone calls with positive outcomes in the future.

It’s no fun waiting by the telephone for an important phone call, and it’s even less fun waiting by the telephone while you work up the courage to actually make one. Just remember to feel more confident, have a little more forethought, and brush up on your phone etiquette and you’ll be good to go!

Goodbye for now,

The Doostang Team

I Bombed the Phone Interview – Now What?

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC GetInterviews.com

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It had been one of those days. You know the kind when everything goes wrong. Murphy’s Law kicked in and just as you struggled to put out the latest fire, you received a call from a hiring manager or recruiter about a great job. The phone call is always the first interview and it is crucial. You knew that yet you were distracted and stressed.

The employer had already reduced the candidate pool to a select group and you made that group based on your resume. That day he was calling candidates for further elimination in order to whittle the group to a smaller number for face-to-face interviews. Unfortunately, that call came right when chaos broke loose in your world and you crashed and burned. What can you do to salvage the situation?

First, take a deep breath and get past the urge to kick yourself. Okay, so you blew it but it doesn’t have to stay a hopeless situation. Be proactive and take some steps to turn the situation around rather than indulge in self-pity. Attitude is everything! Here are some suggestions:

  • Eliminate distractions immediately. You weren’t ready for the call, yet you answered the phone anyway rather than letting it roll to voice mail. Whatever the distractions were when you hit the call button, get rid of them fast. You have a limited amount of time to rescue this situation and you need to get busy.
  • What questions did you not answer well? Think about it and jot down a few notes. Get your thoughts organized and think of what you should have said.
  • Get your resume in front of you. It’s your cheat sheet and it is also the document from which the hiring manager is working so you literally need to be “on the same page”. That also means knowing which version the employer is viewing. If you’ve sent multiple versions out for your job search, you should track those so you don’t look stupid by having to ask “Uh, which resume are you looking at?” in the interview.
  • Find a quiet place. If you have to go sit in your car so you don’t have screaming kids in the background (or whatever), do it. Get your mind in “professional business mode”, away from the more casual/crisis mindset.
  • Prepare a question about the company. You are trying to make a new impression, so you want to talk intelligently to the hiring manager or recruiter. This should not be a question about the JOB but about the company. Impress him/her with a question that shows you’ve done your research and have a serious interest where the company is concerned.

You need to do these things very quickly after hanging up from the disastrous initial phone call because you want to call the hiring manager back and try to salvage the situation as soon as possible. Once you are ready, call the recruiter or hiring manager back. This is how you will approach the call:

“Hi Joe? John Smith here. We just spoke and I wanted to give you a quick call back to apologize for my distraction. Unfortunately, a crisis meeting (or whatever) had my focus at the moment. I was excited to get your call, but I should have rescheduled for a better time. ABC Industries interests me and you got my attention. My poor impression concerns me, especially when you asked me about XYZ (this is the question you bombed). A second opportunity to respond to that would be great. I also have some questions about the new product launch going on there at ABC Industries (this will pertain to the question about the company). Can we reschedule and let me take another run at answering your questions?”

You can also leave this as a voice mail in case you don’t get through. The point is you are being proactive. Your goals are to admit you weren’t up to your best which demonstrates character; acknowledge your poor response to a question; show your interest in the company; and request a second interview. Since 99.9% of the other candidates won’t go this far, you will immediately have an edge. You will be “the one who called back”. It will be an additional checkmark in the positive column for your candidacy and may well make the difference in getting you passed on to the next round of interviews.

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Eight Steps to Acing the Phone Interview

phone-interviewBy Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC GetInterviews.com

Venture Capital Associate (Pre-MBA), Boston, MA
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Most first interviews are via telephone. A hiring manager sees your resume, thinks you may be a good fit, and calls you. It is very important to be ready for that first call because it is your one chance to move forward in the hiring process. Flub it and you won’t get a second opportunity. Make the sales presentation of your experience count.

Control Contact

Do not list every possible telephone number at which you can be reached. A home number and cell number are typically all an employer needs. If your cell is a company phone, list only your home number or obtain a personal cell phone. A company phone should not be used for job search. Do you spend a great deal of time during the day in situations where it would be difficult to talk spontaneously to a prospective employer such as meetings or in a shared office? Make sure you have a very professional voice mail message and check your messages regularly. Return all calls as soon as possible and if you end up in a “phone tag” situation, be persistent and proactive.

Focus

If you receive that first call while driving or any time you cannot devote 100% of your attention to the conversation, ask the caller if you can return the call. Distracted conversations make for poor interviews. When an employer or recruiter calls, they understand the time might not be good and are generally open to scheduling a call for a later time. Try to schedule the conversation as soon as possible and don’t forget to get a name and number for a contact.

Practice Tough Answers

Many people have some sort of obstacle in their current career search or a past problem that may come up in an interview. Be especially prepared to discuss such issues, not because they are more important but because they cause the most anxiety. Knowing what you are going to say to tough questions makes them much less scary.

Google Yourself

Be aware of information about you in the public realm. Make sure you conduct an Internet search on yourself. Employers will be doing this so you need to be on the same page. Be aware that your social media activities will also be reviewed by many employers or recruiters. If you have a Facebook page or Twitter account, it might be examined by employers. Be careful what you put there and don’t be surprised if a related question arises in the interview.

Use Your Resume

The resume’s usefulness does not stop with gaining the interview. It is your guideline for steering your interview. Carry your own copy with additional notes added. It is impossible (and unnecessary) to include all information in a resume so having additional facts and figures that support information in the resume can be a great aide in the interview. Think of it as a sort of “cheat sheet” for helping you to remember facts during the interview.

Be Informed

If you apply to a company, know something about that company! Knowledge is power. If a hiring manager calls ten people and only two of them can speak informatively about the company, its mission, and its products/service, those two will be the ones to move forward in the process! Ask informed questions that make sense and are company-focused.

Give Scenarios

Employers want to know not only what you’ve done but they want to know in what context. Be prepared to back up your claims to skills and expertise with specific scenarios and details about your performance. For example, if you have experience in project management, be ready to talk about a couple of projects you handled successfully. Select “stories” that will demonstrate your expertise. Bring in details and make sure to emphasize successful results of your efforts.

Curb the Chatter

Are you enthusiastic about your potential? That’s great but don’t let it get control of your tongue. An interview is a dialogue – it isn’t a monologue opportunity for you. Let the interviewer get a word in! Answer the question presented and keep your answers on topic. It is very easy to rabbit-trail off and chatter away but it is not helpful. It’s frustrating to the interviewer who probably has a limited amount of time and the information you chatter about may not even be relative. If you have trouble knowing when to stop talking, practice with a stopwatch. Limit your answers to two minutes if possible.

When the employer or recruiter calls you, you are “on”. Think ahead about what you will say, how you will handle specific questions, and have “stories” prepared that will demonstrate the skills and experience you offer. Use your resume as a guide and don’t prattle on about topics. Let the employer ask questions and ask some of your own. An interview is a conversation! Relax and make a great impression!

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 75,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!