PHONE INTERVIEWS

A phone interview is a great way for companies to speak with someone about a particular position in order to narrow down the number of candidates they’ll bring in for in-person interviews. While you’re not meeting someone in person, it’s just as important to be prepared well in advance of your phone interview to ensure you’re ready for anything.

A couple of years ago, while employed as a freelance copywriter at Banana Republic’s world headquarters in San Francisco, I decided to find something more challenging to do for work. While it was an interesting place to work, it was only a matter of time before I knew writing page after page of copy about men’s and women’s clothing was going to become dull and boring.

Luckily, I’d recently finished my certificate in technical and professional writing, and my friend Victoria, whom I went to school with, worked for a biotech company I’d been interested in working at. With some encouragement, Victoria helped me update my resume to include my technical writing abilities, and once complete, I applied for a technical writer with the company.

It helps when you know someone who already works for the company, as they can often get your resume into the hands of a hiring manager. As it turned out, that’s exactly what happened to me.

About a week after I submitted my resume, a person who turned out to be the manager I’d later work for called me to say she’d received my resume and wanted to conduct a phone interview. After scheduling the phone interview, I researched the company’s website, as well as spoke with Victoria, to get the inside scoop on company culture. 

On the appointed day and time, the hiring manager called me and we discussed:

* My Background
* Resume facts
* What I was looking for in a position
* Other questions I had regarding the position.

Tips for the Phone Interview

* Prepare! Have an updated copy of your resume in front of you during your phone interview
* Listen carefully to the questions you’re being asked
* Avoid distractions! No gum chewing, loud music, friends in the room, playing with your pet, or taking a shower, please! Your focus needs to be with the person you’re on the phone with at all times.
* Be polite and listen intently. When you’re done, ask politely what are the next steps regarding the interview process. 
* Have a list of any questions you might have for the interviewer
* Follow up with a thank you letter and/or email
* If at any point you feel the position isn’t a good match for you, simply tell the hiring manager. Honesty really is the best policy!

“BEEN AT THE SAME JOB FOR YEARS” RESUME

Last year, after many years with the same employer, my orthodontist to be specific, my mom was about to be back into the job market. The orthodontist retired, and my mom decided she needed to find another job instead of working for the orthodontist who took over her former boss’s practice. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a resume. 

No matter what your age, if you’re just entering the job market, or trying to find another job after years and years with the same employer, a great resume is always needed. In my mom’s case, she was concerned that nobody would hire her because she’d been at the same employer for so long. 

If you’ve been at the same employer for a very long time, don’t worry. As you’ll see from the enclosed resume, my mom held various job positions with the same employer. For her resume we listed each job and the responsibilities for each (bulleted) along with the dates for each position. In her case, she listed job titles in reverse chronological order, but you’re welcome to list them in any order you choose. It’s all up to you! Just be sure that your job history is clear, and, if there are any gaps between dates, and/or jobs, be certain you have an explanation for each (took some time off to raise my family, did volunteer work for the Peace Corps, etc.) during your phone/in-person interview.

So for my mom’s resume, we created the following sections, which gave a nice overview of her skills and background: 

* Heading

* Overview

* Professional Experience 

* Education

* Computer Skills

* Additional (Volunteer Work, Awards, Etc.)

Back In The Job Market Resume

THE COVER LETTER

Just like peanut butter really isn’t the same without jelly, a great resume isn’t the same without a  great cover letter. A cover letter is the perfect way for someone who is about to review your resume to quickly get an idea about you in a way that is brief, to the point, and concise.

I’ve used many different formats of cover letters over the years, either mailed or via email, so pick one that’s best for you. In general, a good cover letter should include: 

* Your address and the date at the top of the page

* The name and address of the person you’re sending your resume to: always try to get a name if a job ad doesn’t specify one by calling the company. If an ad says “no calls”, I usually call anyway to try and get a name from a receptionist if possible without giving my name. 

* Introductory Paragraph: Mention the ad/job you’re applying to and a brief reason as to why you’d make the perfect applicant for the position (which I usually call an “opportunity”) 

* Middle Paragraph(s): One or two paragraphs, your choice, mentioning the major highlights of your work/life experience and why you’re in the job market (new opportunities, interest in a new field, etc.). You might also mention why you’d be the perfect person for them to speak to if you haven’t already done so in the first paragraph. Remember, your goal is to get an in-person interview! Phone interviews are great, but some good one-on-one time with the hiring manager is even better!

* Closing Paragraph: Let people know you’re available for an interview (phone/in-person) and look forward to discussing your background as well as how you’re going to make a great member of their team. Be enthusiastic!

Don’t forget to check for spelling errors and read the cover letter a few times to ensure you’ve included everything you’d like. 

TIP: Sometimes, if I’m not sure what to put in my cover letter relating to the job I’m applying to, I simply copy and paste the qualifications and duties mentioned in the job ad into my cover letter. Of course, I’m careful to only include the ones which I do have previous experience. NEVER lie in your cover letter, however, as companies often conduct  background checks before and/or after you’re hired. If you’re caught in a lie, that may be grounds for termination (being fired).

Cover Letter Example

FUNCTIONAL/SKILLS RESUME

Another type of resume you might consider using is the functional/skills resume. Instead of listing your job history in chronological order, this type of resume if organized according to your skills. It’s the perfect resume if: 

* You’re changing careers
* A chronological resume doesn’t indicate all of your skills and accomplishments
* You’re returning to the workplace after many years for any number of reasons
  (raising families, military service, etc.)
* People just entering the workforce (ie. students graduating college) 

According to authors John Brereton and Margaret Mansfield, “A functional resume will highlight your abilities, not necessarily how well you climbed the corporate ladder. However, many employers are suspicious of functional resumes, thinking that people using them may have something to hide. Avoid this problem by confronting it head on in the Overview/Objective section of the resume:

‘New Psychology B.A. with experience in counseling and student relations seeks personnel position. Pre-college experience includes 10 years as a successful administrative assistant at a Fortune 500 company.'” 

Or, explain your career change and/or return to the workforce in your cover letter:

“Ten years of engine repair in the Air Force showed me I was best at working with people, so I enrolled in courses in training and instructional design.”

Unlike a chronological resume, where you list your most recent position first, a functional/skills resume lists the skills/experience you have as opposed to going into specific details about each job you’ve held. I’ve included a sample functional/skills resume at the bottom of this post, but in general, this resume should include: 

* Overview/Objective
* Experience (Skills)
* Brief Employment History
* Education/Training
* Any Other Pertinent Information

To see a sample of a functional/skills resume, click on the resume below:

INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS

At the company I work for, informational interviews are not only allowed, they’re encouraged. What’s exactly is an informational interview? It’s a great way for you to speak to someone who is either in a career you’re looking to get into, or perhaps someone who works for a company you’d like to find more information about. In short, with the proper strategy, an informational interview is an excellent tool used by the job seeker to gather information they’ll need in order to be successful with their job search. 

For example, after several years in the job market, I decided I might want to move to New York and work for VH-1 networks in their marketing department. A contact of mine knew the Director of Marketing, and after a couple of phone calls, I made an appointment to speak with him to discuss his role, the types of people he liked to hire, and, most importantly, his career background. 

One important thing you must remember is that an informational interview is NOT a job interview, where you’re interviewing for a specific position. It’s an opportunity for you to get “your foot in the door” and hopefully help you to be remembered should a job opening become available. Additionally, it’s a great way for you to chat with someone in a job position you might like to transition into.

Here are a few pointers which have served me well when I’ve tried to set up an informational interview:

Determine Why You Want An Informational Interview

Do you want to know more about their background? Perhaps you’re changing careers and want more information about a specific career. Or, maybe, you’re looking for your first job and need to get some face-to-face time with a hiring manager. Whatever your situation, have a strategy!

Network

If you don’t know someone at the company you’re interested in conducting the information interview at, call their main number, ask friends who might know someone, or use your current business contacts.

Make Contact

Call or email the person you’d like to conduct your information interview with. Be polite, concise, and brief if you speak with them on the phone. Ideally, get them on the phone. Messages may not be returned. Explain who you are, how you got their name (if applicable) and would they possibly have 15-20 minutes to speak with you in person any time in the next few weeks?

If they say no, be polite and thank them for their time. If yes, congratulations!  Remember to stick to the time allotted, unless they suggest meeting for a longer period of time. You’re here to interview them, not the other way around. However, they may ask for a copy of your resume, so have a neat copy of your resume available only if they ask for it. 

Thank Them

Nothing makes a better impression than a nice thank you card or email. Be brief, polite, and thank them for their time. Send your thank you card or email the day after you meet with them. And, be sure to keep them posted of any new contacts, job leads etc. you have followed up on in case they gave you any leads during your informational interview.

INTERVIEW TIPS

I’m not one to enjoy spam when I open my email, but yesterday I received an email from a career website, theladders.com, that I’ve used before (which for some reason went into my spam folder) with their top 10 tips for successful interview tips (see below). Their website is a good choice for jobs in a variety of fields paying $100,000 or more. 

 

  1. Research the company and be prepared with a “good” level of knowledge. Know enough to show the interviewer you respect the opportunity and their time! 
     
  2. Be on time. Ten minutes early is best! Bring a clean, well-presented copy of your resume.
     
  3. Dress the part – business-like and professional is always a smart choice, unless you’ve had a phone interview first and they tell you a tie isn’t needed for the in-person interview.
     
  4. Be kind to every employee you meet – the receptionist, yes, but also the parking lot attendant, the janitor, and the intern.
      
  5. Think “what can I do for this company?”
      
  6. Sell your capabilities to do a job for the company. Stick, mostly, to the business side and how you can solve problems. The interviewer doesn’t want your life story, rather, they want to know your business capabilities.
       
  7. Never say bad, mean, unkind, or even true things about your current or former employer, boss or fellow workers if it makes you look like a big complainer or gossip.
     
  8. Save the “money talk” for last. Focus on the job, your ability to contribute, and all the great things you can provide before reminding your future boss how much of the hiring budget you’re going to soak up. If you’re asked about salary during a phone interview, defer the questions by asking the interviewer, who will often be from Human Resources, what is the salary range they’re offering. Usually, they will let you know, and then you can decide if it falls within your salary needs.
     
  9. Thank the interviewer for their time and ask questions. This shows true interest in the position/opportunity.
       
  10. Send a follow-up email thanking the interviewer and remind them, briefly, what you discussed and how you can contribute. This serves as a good “memory jog” to the interviewer and reminds them of the details you want them to remember from your previous discussion.

RESUME TIPS

I’m feeling a bit random today, but had more thoughts about putting together your resume. It’s easy to write your resume once you decide what you’d like to include in it.

Follow the following tips to help it from getting thrown in the trash, and of course, making it look great: 

* One half inch to one inch margins are ideal. 

* Use and easy to read font like Arial or Time New Roman

* Spell Check! Enough said! 

* Honesty Counts! Tell the truth on your resume. Many people have been fired once lies on their resume have been discovered. Tell the truth!

* One to two pages (at most) is a good length. No need to write a long novel! 

* Don’t include your marital status, race, age, sexual preference, religion, or citizenship. 

* Use accurate job descriptions and your title. Always use action verbs when describing your job. For example: trained 50 technicians, planned company offsite meetings, investigated false insurance claims, etc. etc. Hiring managers as well as the individuals you might encounter when you’re interviewing want to look at your resume and understand what you accomplished in each position. 

* References: Most hiring managers know you probably have reference available. If you don’t, it’s a good idea to speak with former bosses, coworkers, etc., who can attest to what is was like working with you. Ideally, you should not put “Reference available on request” in your resume.