Phone Screen Success

Unfortunately, phone screens are sometimes used by hiring companies as the first contact with candidates. It is unfortunate because nobody presents themselves as well on the phone as in person.  This applies to both the company and the candidate. To really have any meaningful evaluation by both parties requires a face to face meeting.

Therefore; the objective of  the phone screen is to not get “screened out” and set up an in-person interview.

Here are some guidelines to help you accomplish the goal of a obtaining a face to face interview.

The phone is a limited communication device. It does not deliver the more subtle communication of facial expression, tone of voice or body language.  To make sure you sound as enthusiastic as possible, stand up when doing the interview. This is a standard and time tested method used by tele sales etc.

Keep the conversation as short as possible. The longer the call, the more chance of being screened out before you have a chance to promote yourself in a face to face situation. A good practice is to answer a couple of questions and then try to close an interview with something like the following; “based on what I have heard about the company and the position, I am very interested. When would be the best time to schedule an interview?”

The point is to ask for the interview as soon as you feel is the right moment. Even if they don’t bite at that point, you have established that you are interested and maybe a bit more assertive than the average candidate.  Then rinse and repeat, answer some questions and then try to close a face to face again.

If by the end of the phone screen, you haven’t been successful setting up an interview, you need to ask one more time. If they still hesitate, you need to ask if there are any concerns regarding your background. The point is that if you can’t set up the interview then, the likely hood of it happening later are nil. You only get one shot, so at least try to find out what concerns they have and out weigh them will positives.

One thing to be careful of, is evaluating the opportunity during the conversation. You should have already researched the company and have a feel for what they are looking for prior to the phone screen. Now during the interview, you need to concentrate on getting the face to face.  Don’t distract yourself by evaluating the opportunity, when you should be focusing on demonstrating how you can do their job.

It probably won’t come up in the phone screen, but if it does, here is our recommendation regarding the salary question.

If you give an answer to “what salary would it take to get you to join us” question in the early stage of the interview process, at the end, your offer will be that number, no matter how badly they want to hire you. The problem with giving that number at the beginning or during the interview process is, that if it is too high, you may scare them off before they find out that you are well worth that amount, or if it is too low, you are leaving money on the table.

The best answer is no answer, “ it is too early to discuss salary, I hope you will make the best possible offer.” If they persist, you can say “ I currently make $ xxx and I hope you can put together an attractive offer. “ this is just negotiation 101, once you know they are interested, you are in a better position to maximize the offer.


Keep it short.

Ask for the face to face.

If no face to face, then find out why and demonstrate positives to out-weigh the negatives.

Don’t give a salary target number. If pressed give them what you make currently and then say state your hope for their best offer.

Don’t evaluate during the phone call.

Phone screens usually screen out the glaring mis-matches, which you won’t have because you don’t apply to jobs you aren’t a fit for.

Good Luck


Don’t Spam Your Resume-There are no Hail Mary passes in Job Searching

Makes me smile every time I watch that  clip. Wow, they achieved the possible but highly improbable outcome and won the game with 0 seconds on the clock.

These days it is a Hail Mary just to send in a resume for a job posting you are qualified for, because there are 1,473 others hoping to make the catch along side you.

One of the problems with job boards and online job sites is the ease of submitting ones resume.  It only takes a click, attache a resume and off it goes. It is so easy to fling that Hail Mary resume out there.

Maybe the thinking is, “I shouldn’t submit my resume, I’m not qualified for this job, but who knows, Doug Flutie scored a touchdown on a pass that shouldn’t have been caught, so what the heck”.

I can understand the urge, but don’t do it. 100% of the time you won’t get the job. It’s not the same thing.

Dan Schawbel just wrote a piece about The Demise of the Job Boards…. In it he refers to a women that has sent her resume out 1,700 times. Could she have been a fit for all of those jobs? No Way.

I suggest that a better use of time would be to research to determine which companies fit her requirements first. Once the list of companies has been defined, it becomes about references, referrals, affinity groups, the professional graph and personal contact. Work your network out to three degrees and find your best connection to the hiring manager. Ultimately, it is all about minimizing the perceived risk for the hiring manager. ( A lot more can be said on this topic in another article).

Back to the subject at hand, don’t spam your resume. Concentrate on the opportunities with the higher probability of fit and success that are based on minimizing the hiring mangers risk by building or mining connections from you to them.

Spend your time with opportunities that have your highest probability of success, rather than tossing your resume out to places that you have 0% chance of getting hired.

At the minimum, be a good fit for the job, otherwise you have zero chance.

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The Resume is Alive and Getting More Lively

There has been a lot of recent talk of the resume being dead, hiring 2.0 and the newest whatever …….con-ver-blog-vid-podmetrical-seo’d… way to find your next career move.

It is time to set the record straight. The resume is not dead. The tendency to proclaim something dead might garner a little more attention with a dramatic headline, but as in life, things mostly adapt rather than die off.

The “old” resume used to be a piece of paper with an objective, describing the next job you desire, and a listing of companies you worked at along with some accomplishments for each position. It is more correct to say that the resume has evolved.

In general a resume is a summary of accomplishments. Reputation is derived from others acknowledgment of those accomplishments. So a resume is not really tied to the medium on which it is delivered.

If someone tells me about one of the attendees at a party, “he created the concept for public libraries, was an accomplished author, created a more efficient wood stove, invented the bifocal lens and was the ambassador to France“, I would say he has an impressive resume, even though I didn’t read this on paper or online.

Let’s consider the source of the resume is dead idea.

It is the SM (social media) folks flogging us with the standard,”it’s a conversation” “your blog is your resume” cat-o-ninetails. I sense more than a little self interest and sensationalism in declaring the resume is dead.

What has changed is the available tools and methods to drive attention to yourself and your acomplishments.

Certainly blogs are the easiest way to promote yourself. All you need are typing skills, command of your language and ideas that establish you as a contributor in your field. The search engines will find you and people (including recruiters) will visit your blog.

A blog post can certainly prompt contact from a recruiter. But don’t be distracted by the idea that all you need to do is write some posts that will attract organic recruiter search traffic. Ultimately, you will have to have a track record of accomplishments.

I agree that ideally, as Seth Godin points out, if you are remarkable at what you do, you dont need a resume. He did not say “the resume is dead” BTW. Remarkable people have a reputation that precedes them.

But it all circles back to accomplishments which create a reputation.

Certainly the traditional resume has evolved to include blogs, videos, podcasts, social networking profiles-such as Linkedin or Facebook, twitter and friendfeed accounts etc…

Compared to the static resume document of yore, there now are alot more ways to get internet juice to promote yourself with a resume enlivened with new media, but there is nothing worse than responding to a promotion and finding there is no substance to the promotional item.

Bottom line, a resume is what you have delivered in your career, whether it be code, sales dollars, cost savings or increased market share. No amount of social media promotion will over come lack luster accomplishment.

On a more practical note, a resume is for the hiring company and should demonstrate how you can do the job they are looking to fill. So, if you are reaching out to a company, make sure your resume is tailored to their specific task at hand, if you want to stand out.

Oh, and don’t forget to link to your lively self on your blog and LinkedIn profile.

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Risky Job Changes

Risk is always a consideration when changing jobs. What are the downsides of making this move and is this a risky move for me?gambling

Usually when you hear the word risk, reward is not far behind. With job change, the reward does not necessarily increase along with the risk.

So first, let’s look at what the downside could be when making a job change. First we should note that when someone is just getting going in their career, there really isn’t much risk to any job move you make.

1. low job security: Once you realize that your job security is not provided by the company you work for you will realize that a job change is not risky in that sense. Your job security is derived from your skills and value in the market. If a company is having financial problems, you can move along if you have built up your career equity. The risk is more about the fact that it is a pain and inconvenient to look for another job when you weren’t planning on doing so.

2. skill atrophy: For example, if you move to a company that is using legacy or proprietary technology then the risk is that you are limiting your options in the market and not growing your knowledge and skill set. Interestingly, skills can atrophy if you stay at the same job too long as well.

3. network dilution: If you are the best performer in your group or company and no one challenges you or motivates you to higher performance you risk losing your “edge”. Cultivating a network where you are the star does not provide you with the kind of reference network that will increase your value in the market. Chances are you will sink to the level of your peers if you stay around them too long. The risk is that your value will decrease with the quality of your references.

The other kind of risks are related to the “fit” of the specific job change you are considering. In this case both you and the company have risks.

The important relationship to consider is the inverse relationship between a risk hire and the quality of the company. Companies assume risk when they hire someone to do a job they have never done before. The risk is; will the new hire be successful at the new position, will they come up to speed soon enough and how much resources will be required to get them productive. If you analyze why a company would offer you a “risk fit” job, at some point you will ask the question, why couldn’t they hire someone that is qualified for that job? The answer will be that the quality of the company cannot attract qualified candidates.

The risk to you is similar, will I be able to perform this job at a high level? A case can be made that a good strategy is to move to a new company in a position that you know you will excell. Then grow into new roles and responsibilities once you are a known performer and the promotion can be done with less risk on both sides.

The point is not that you shouldn’t make risk moves, sometimes it works, but be aware of what you are getting into by taking a job you have never done before.

In general, great companies hire people that are qualified and a company that gives you a promotion and a job you have never done, may have some downside issues to be aware of.

So risk can be managed by understanding the downsides and the factors involved in a job change. With this knowledge you can make the decisions that will minimize your risk appropriate to the goals you are trying to achieve.


5 Questions to Ask a Prospective Manager

How many people followed you over from your last company?

Who do you consider your best hire, why, and where are they now?

Why do you think I should come and work here?

What qualifications do you consider the most important when making a hiring decision?

How many people followed you over from your last company?

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Career Traction

When managers review resumes, one of the key points they look for is traction. If there is a succession of moves after only one year for the last seven years, there is no traction. If the job titles or amount of responsibility don’t increase over time, there is no traction in the job history.

Traction equates to passion, commitment, willingness to learn and take on more responsibility. All attributes required by startups. Without traction, it is clear that the person is a 9 to 5er and not the caliber of employee desired by a startup or any performance oriented organization.


5 Reasons to not work at a Startup

1. Getting two to five times more accomplished and building my experience and therefore my resume much faster is not my kind of thing.

2. Working with the top 20% in my field and learning from some of the brightest individuals in my industry means I won’t be the big fish in the little pond.

3. I’m much more interested in collecting a paycheck than looking forward to getting up in the morning and building something useful with a group of other people that share my enthusiasm for what we are doing.

4. I rely on the stability of my established employer even though I know that job security doesn’t come from my company. I prefer to rely on a faceless, impersonal corporation whose sole concern is self preservation, rather than on my skills and experience which provide my real job security.

5. That sounds like a really good opportunity for me but I hadn’t planned on making a move now.


Job Postings are Dead

Are job postings going to go away? No. The point is that a posting is a requirement that is fixed in time, when in reality a position’s requirements are dynamic and “alive” in the sense of being subject to change. This is especially true when an early stage company is building a team. The analogy is akin to building an amorphous jigsaw puzzle where each subsequent piece changes to fit in with the one preceding it. Hiring managers put the team together based upon the skills and experience of each additional member. The six job requirements that were posted originally have now changed, and the remaining three positions are much different than the originals.

The point is, not applying for a role at a company that is a match for you because you do not see a job posting is a major mistake. Good companies make roles for great candidates based upon the availability of the candidate.

Another fact to consider: The majority of hires are made prior to or without a job posting. Not submitting a resume to a “good fit” company is a very limiting proposition.

Bottom line: As you cannot really be described by a resume, neither can the opportunity available to you be described by a job posting. There are probably several different positions for you to consider. Don’t depend on seeing a job posting that fits your experience and interest. Find a great company first and then explore with them what you can bring to the team.


Handling Multiple Offers

At the peak of the bubble, top candidates were receiving up to ten offers. Is that a good thing? Yes and No. Since we are again in a period of multiple opportunities, it makes sense to re-visit the issue.

Of course it is good to have multiple companies interested in you from an ego standpoint, and it doesn’t hurt the negotiation leverage either. But the problem is that if you let all those deals go to offer stage, you can only take one job and therefore; you now have nine managers that do not have a fond memory of you. There is a better way.

If handled properly, you can have ten managers think well of you rather than just the one that hired you. As we mentioned, the hiring process is just as stressful and emotional for the hiring managers as it is for you. If you can decrease the negative impact of you not taking their job, you will be perceived in a much better light. Any interaction you have with managers and interviewers will create an impression. You always want these impressions to be positive. The community in your local professional field is not that huge, so chances are you will run into some of these contacts again. If you let an offer go out from a company you knew you would not work at, you are unnecessarily creating a less than positive impression with that hiring manager. Maybe they had to go to their VP to press for a higher than typical salary level to entice you to join. Now they have egg on their face, since you turned it down anyway.

So here is the deal. It is fine to get companies to want to hire you, just don’t make them go to the trouble of putting together an offer you never intend to take. The ideal approach is to evaluate the opportunity prior to receiving an offer. Once you have decided which opportunity is the best one for you, you proceed to the offer stage with that company and professionally request that the other companies refrain from making you an offer at this stage. You don’t have to close down all the options, it is good to keep the 2nd and maybe 3rd deal live as back up until you receive the written offer. The companies that you know you would not work there, you should be professional and tell them “I appreciate your interest but I have decided not to proceed with XXX” . Now if you run into the manager of XXX a couple years down the road at a great new start up, he won’t remember you as the guy that turned him down, but rather as someone he wanted but it didn’t work out.

In summary:

multiple companies interested in hiring you. Good.        Turning down a lot of offers.     Bad

BTW: some companies make offers anyway. As long as you have asked them not to proceed to offer stage, you are off the hook. Why they do it, I don’t know, since it doesn’t work.


Interview Process

An interview is a problem solving scenario. The company has a need or problem and you are there to solve it. Having a plan of attack for the interview will help you focus and get the offer.the interview

The process can be broken down as follow; Discovery: Provide Solution: Relate: Close

Your Goals for the Interview Process are;

Make them want to make you an offer
Evaluate if it is the right opportunity
The order is important, there is nothing to evaluate until the offer is imminent

You accomplish this in the interview first by listening  and then asking questions.

Find out the company’s problem. Position and responsibilities.

Show how you can do the job. Use Past examples

Close: demonstrate and express your interest in the company. Get feed back from each interviewer, show interest, ask if they will recommend you to next level.

Salary discussion, do not give a target at the early stage. Initially it is best to say something like “Make me your best offer.”

Discovery: If they give you an open ended question like “what do you want to do here at X?” before you know exactly what they are looking for, a detailed answer may send you down a road that is not in line with their expectations. For this scenario, it is best to answer generally, “I would like to work on interesting technology with a great team? And then ask a question like “tell me about what you are looking for, what is you ideal candidate for this position?

Provide Solution:  They may give you 6-8 items that are the requirements. Once you have these, you can go down the list and demonstrate how you are a fit for each one.

Handling Negatives: If you do not meet one of the requirements, you don’t bring that up. But they may, and the best way to diffuse a negative is to agree with it and then outweigh with a positive. For example you are right, I have never done X, but here is an example of a project where I had never done Y, I came up to speed quickly and we shipped it on schedule. Etc….

No negatives or confrontational discussion. Agree with negatives and then outweigh them with positives.

Get Quantifiable Feedback and Express Interest:  If two candidates have equivalent skills and background, the advantage will go to the person that expresses interest and exhibits enthusiasm for the company and project. Each person you interview with get feedback.  For example, when you feel things are winding down, say something like “based upon what we have discussed so far, I am interested in Company XXX and the project. Will you recommend me to the next round? Yes is the easy answer and if they are positive they will probably have no qualms telling you yes. No is different and people don’t like to directly say no, so they may say something like, “I need to discuss this with the rest of the team”. In which case, if you feel it is not positive, ask “ is there something about my background that concerns you, do you have any questions regarding my experience?”

An interview is a very short span of time and significant decisions are made in that short time. If you walk out of an interview and do not have quantifiable indication that it was positive, it probably wasn’t. If you can get potential reservations out on the table you have the chance to out weigh them with positives. If you don’t ask the question you will never know. Also asking the question after saying you are interested shows that you are more assertive than the average.

Handling the Salary Issue:  If you give an answer to “what salary would it take to get you to join us” question in the early stage of the interview process, at the end, your offer will be that number, no matter how badly they want to hire you. The problem with giving that number at the beginning or during the interview process is, that if it is too high, you may scare them off before they find out that you are well worth that amount, or if it is too low, you are leaving money on the table.

The best answer is no answer, “ it is too early to discuss salary, I hope you will make the best possible offer.” If they persist, you can say “ I currently make $ xxx and I hope you can put together an attractive offer. “ this is just negotiation 101, once you know they are interested, you are in a better position to maximize the offer.

So remember, discover the problem, demonstrate you can solve it,  get feedback and close the interviewer on the next step.

see also

5 Questions to Ask a Prospective Manager

Decision Time: Offer Stage

Offer Negotiation