Friday, November 30, 2007

The Phone Interview

It's a crisp morning here in Charlotte and it dawned on me during my commute that I have neglected to keep you informed. Between traveling for Thanksgiving and all the planning my wife and I have been doing for our little man due in April, I have lost focus and I apologize.

Today's posting from Barbara Safani, courtesy of, highlights ten tips all candidates should consider when preparing for a phone interview. I like this article because the tips Barbara recommends are one's I suggest to candidates when prepping them for their interviews we have scheduled. While not comprehensive of everything one should consider, this provides a great foundation from which to plan you upcoming interview. Enjoy today's posting, and please let me know if you have any personal tips you have found helpful, as I will share them.

Ten Tips for Mastering the Phone Interview
By Barbara Safani

Phone interviews are becoming more and more common as companies gain greater access to candidates and as more recruiters and hiring managers work from virtual office locations. On the positive side, with a phone interview you don’t have to worry about having your suit pressed, and you can have your notes right in front of you. On the flip side, it’s much more difficult to establish rapport and get a read on the hiring manager during a phone conversation.

Below are 10 tips to get the most out of your phone interviews.

1. Schedule the meeting during a time when you won’t be distracted. A phone interview should be scheduled like any other interview. At the designated appointment time, be sure the dog is in the backyard and someone else is watching the kids. Don’t add additional hassle to an already stressful situation. If a recruiter or hiring manager calls you without advance notice and wants to interview you on the spot, use caution. If the interview "conditions" are not optimal at the time of the call, it’s best to tell the interviewer that you are very interested in the position, but need to schedule another time to have a conversation. That time can be as soon as ten minutes later if that works for you -- just make sure that you can take the call without being distracted.

2. Conduct interviews from a landline. Cell phones are a boon to modern communication, but the quality is still not the same as that from a land line. The last thing you want to do is frustrate the recruiter or hiring manager with a bad connection. Using a cell phone means you have a greater chance of getting distracted by multi-tasking when your attention should be completely focused on the interview. A landline forces you to stay in a relatively stationary locale. Plan your interview from a reliable phone line.

3. Create an office space. Dedicate an area as your office. This area could be as simple as a card table with a phone and your documents. Conduct your interviews from your "office". Being seated at a desk or table allows you to create an environment similar to an in-person interview.

4. Put a mirror in front of you. This helps you focus, and it anchors your conversation to the visual representation of a person. Monitoring your facial expressions helps you see if you are communicating your enthusiasm to the recruiter.

5. Have a glass of water nearby. If your throat is dry or you get a tickle you can take care of it before it turns into a cough and disrupts the flow of the interview.

6. Have your notes in front of you. A phone interview is like an open book test. You can have your research about the company and answers to potential interview questions right in front of you. Try organizing your key information on colored index cards by category so you’re not fumbling through papers in the middle of the interview.

7. Vary your voice. Since the other person can't see you, it’s critical that you vary the tone and cadence of your voice to communicate interest and develop rapport.

8. Use pauses effectively. Pauses in an interview situation are always difficult, and they can be especially awkward during a phone interview since you can’t judge what the interviewer is thinking by their body language. Rather than wondering what the person on the other end of the line is doing (or even if they’re still there!) use the silence to ask a question. For example, if the interviewer has just asked you about your strengths and your response is met with silence, make that an opportunity to ask a question like "What are the key strengths of your ideal candidate?" This tactic both takes care of the silence and allows you to learn more about the position.

9. Don't multi-task. We have grown so accustomed to multi-tasking; however, as mentioned in tip #2, it can be counterproductive during a phone interview. Don’t check your email or stick a casserole in the oven while you are engaged in a phone interview. Act the same way you would for an in-office interview, and maintain your focus.

10. Practice. Record some of your answers to prospective interview questions. Play them back and critique yourself. Are you easy to understand? Are you talking too fast? Is your presentation riddled with long pauses and "ums?" Do you communicate interest and enthusiasm? If necessary, rework your answers and your overall presentation.

Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers, has over ten years of experience in career management, recruiting, executive coaching, and organizational development. She is a triple certified resume writer and frequent contributor to numerous career-related publications.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Online Branding

The Ghouls and Goblins have come and gone and we now find ourselves three weeks from Thanksgiving - it never ceases to amaze me how time flies when you love your career. However, not everyone loves their current situation. In fact, many of you perusing this blog may in fact be looking to make a career transition. With that in mind, today's article highlights six ways you can proactively promote one's self. I encourage you to try a few of their suggestions, as I have utilized a number of them and have found them to be extremely valuable.

I would like to thank, Kirsten Dixson and William Arruda for providing today's article.

By Kirsten Dixson and William Arruda

We’ve written many articles about how you will be Googled in your job search and how having your own blog or website gives you a great deal of control over your personal brand online.

But what if you’re not ready to have your own site and just want to build an online profile quickly? Or, perhaps you came up as "Digitally Dabbling" in our Career Distinction Online ID Calculator, and you want to increase your volume of relevant online entries? All is not lost! Just use our Six P’s to build your online brand.

Write articles or whitepapers, and get them published in online publications that your target audience reads. Your online profile will be even better if these publications are highly ranked in Google, Yahoo or MSN. You can also submit articles to article banks to have them syndicated.

If you’ve ever purchased a book from or, you can post a book review on these websites. It’s key to review books that are relevant to your area of expertise. Off-topic choices may confuse the perception of your online personal brand. Even if you love to cook, don’t review a cookbook if you don’t want to work in the food and beverage industry.

Posting comments on others’ blogs is a powerful way to build your brand - yet it’s probably the most overlooked online branding tool. Dan Schawbel is a marketing executive who has creatively used this technique to increase his visibility. In fact, this tool even garnered him a mention in Fast Company.

You can find relevant blogs on which to comment at or through Google’s blog search. Read a blog for a while before you comment to get a feel for the author’s style and whether you want this particular blog associated with your own brand. Remember, you can’t take back the comment once it’s posted, so ensure that it’s professional, well thought out, and error free.

If you’re hesitant about posting, go with your gut and sleep on it. Be sure to link the comment back to your own blog or website if you have one. You could also link it to your LinkedIn or Ziggs profile if you don’t have your own site.

Participating in online discussion forums also helps you to connect with and become more visible to others who share the same interests, though it’s not necessarily a part of your public online identity that will show up in a search. You can find forums through Google Groups or Yahoo Groups, and some by-invitation forums may be available to you through professional associations. Bernadette Martin, founder of Visibility Branding, says online forums can be a valuable way to formulate ideas and strategies before presenting them to the public on the internet.

Write press releases about your endeavors (solo business project successes, what you learned from attending a professional conference, noteworthy volunteer work, information about an upcoming speaking gig or article, etc.), and post them to free press release distribution sites like

You can find more sites like this by Googling "free press release services". If you need the press release to rank highly (maybe you have digital dirt that you are trying to sweep under the virtual rug?), consider purchasing the search engine optimization services available from many of these content distribution sites.

One of the most important elements of your brand environment is your professional network. Since your network can extend your brand for you by spreading the word about your unique value, it’s ideal to get others to write about you online. Cultivate relationships with journalists and bloggers. If you’re writing a blog that people read and enjoy, they’ll write about what you are saying and link back to you. It’s that simple!

Also, leverage social networking sites like LinkedIn, Ryze, ecademy and Facebook to connect with your network and keep them updated on your accomplishments. Aim for quality of contacts over quantity, and only add your real colleagues and clients to your online network.

Use services like Ziggs, LinkedIn, Naymz, and ZoomInfo to create a basic online profile and increase the volume of Google results for your name. If your professional information already appears online, you are likely to have a profile in Zoominfo.

Since they automatically create your profile and twenty percent of the Fortune 500 use ZoomInfo for recruiting, you’ll want to claim your profile and update it regularly. To get the most out of these sites, post content that is consistent across all of your profiles and that matches your resume.

William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson are the authors of Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand and partners in Reach , a global leader in personal branding for career-minded executives and professionals.