Archive for ‘Interviews’

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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.

Summary:

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

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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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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.

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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