ALC Consulting

October 8, 2009

From the Other Side of the Table

Written by a medical device recruiter, but the recommendations apply to any situation working with a recruiter.

For more information, go to: http://recruiterearth.com/profiles/blogs/confessions-of-a-medical

Confessions of a Medical Device Recruiter (Posted for all my Recruiter Friends – do I hear an Amen?)

How to Get the Attention of Your Favorite Recruiter

I love the recruiting business. Nearly 25 years in the medical industry and I’m still like a junkie about the newest Gee-Whiz device or “inside scoop” into what’s going on in … your company…

But, in the past few months, with this oddly strong need for fearless and unflinching leaders in our Client companies, I find myself struggling to keep up with staying in communication with viable candidates I’ve known for years who are among the unfortunate thousands being laid off through no fault of their own.

My daily email drawer has swelled to 200 – 400 per day – not counting the Viagra and WOW ads nor the 1000 or so emails that go to our general mailbox or to one of my staff. It’s daunting to open up Outlook and see that 329 emails have come in since I left the office at 9pm the night before. Incoming phone calls have increased to a dizzying pace and I hear the urgency in the voicemails of many of the candidates.

To combat this, I’ve increased my average of 20-40 telephone appointments per day by decreasing the average time on each call and tacking on an extra hour or two to the day. My team is charged with reaching out to 80 people per day “live” on top of their other responsibilities which include research, staying current on industry news, email and writing up the final 2-5 candidates that they will submit for open positions.

I try to talk fast and listen faster and feel like I’m in “auctioneer training” half the time because the sheer velocity of the conversation.

Like most of you, I’m now working 70-80 hours routinely in the office despite having added two more employees to try to stay responsive to the candidates and clients that have built our company into such a player in the industry.

But I feel bad when I can’t get to you as quickly as either of us would like. Why? Because we really do try to help and there’s just not enough hours in the day. Most good recruiters – and all the great ones – want to create that “Perfect Storm” of matching executives to the right companies.

So here’s some tips to get your message out to your favorite recruiter(s):

1. Be succinct in communication. I do care. But if I can get a 16 second voicemail with your basic information and purpose of the call, I can get back with you faster. Name, most recent company, phone number (speak clearly and/or leave the number twice so I don’t have to replay) and purpose of the call are fine. Hopefully, you’ve checked my website and can give me the title or Job ID so we can get to the point quickly. And chances are, if you’ve been laid off, I probably already know the reason – and that it’s not a reflection on you. I understand.

1A. Be flexible. Please don’t leave a rambling 8 minute message and then tell me you’re available between 4 and 4:15pm next Tuesday. I do want to communicate with you, but like you, schedule my appointments a week or so in advance to be as productive as possible.

2. Email when possible. I can answer emails late at night even when I can’t phone you.

3. If possible, ALWAYS “apply” online on my website for a position you’re interested in rather than asking me to look over your resume and see what I have that may be a fit. When you express an interest in a position, it “flags” one of my recruiters and puts you at the top of the heap to be contacted – generally within a day or two. If I receive a general “please let me know what you think” query, I save it for the weekend and then assign it to one of our administrative staff – and currently – as of today there are 3291 resumes in queue for general processing. Actual number. And we can only process 100-200 per day per staff person. By applying online and telling us what you’re interested in – you’ll generally get a response (either phone or email) within a few days on most positions.

(Note to self: hire another recruiter).

4. Look at our forum
Medical Device Guru. There are nearly 5000 articles, resume tips, news stories and tons of ideas – that we update daily. You may also want to join the Linkedin Group of the same name or on Twitter .

5. On that same topic, make sure your resume is pristine – and descriptive, including not only your current/most recent company and a brief description- but the website as well – embedded in your resume. If you list your company as “Tyco” or “JNJ” rather than the division or SBU, I can’t as quickly assess where we might have a spot for you. By embedding the URL that best reflects your role, or describing the functional areas of responsibility you managed, my staff and I can have a greater understanding of your career relative to your total organization.

6. Link to your favorite headhunters – like me – on LinkedIN

7. Be generous in recommending other people to us if a position we present to you is not a fit. If it’s a confidential referral, we will honor that. Interestingly, you should know that the single biggest referral source I have for the most senior level positions that I typical work on – is YOUR BOSS. Of course, I can’t tell you this, but more often than not, if you’re talented, but have no room for promotion in your current organization, your boss will confidentially share your name. There’s a lot of good people in medical – and it’s such a small world, is it not?

8. Be patient with us – and any recruiter you work with. The medical device world is still hiring a strong pace. The New York Times reported on January 24, 2009 that white-collar unemployment is 4.6% as opposed to 11.3% for blue collar workers. This is little solace to the 4.6%, but I believe that medical device will continue to fare well in the near future. Even at our company,we’re fortunate to have more opportunities today than this time last year. But the bar is higher and candidates that are difficult, uncooperative and demanding are not getting in front of our clients. It’s human nature. There’s a great saying in my business… “People are hired for what they do – but fired for who they are.” In this environment, as everyone is trying to do more with less, your work-place demeanor and ability to work – and play well – with others is being assessed throughout the interview process. Right or wrong (though it doesn’t happen often) I’ve pulled candidates that were egregiously rude to my adminstrative assistant simply because they could be an HR nightmare to my clients. (Remember that the title of this blog is “Confessions of a Med Device Headhunter… I’m just telling the truth…)

9. It’s OK to “touch base” every week or so if you’re in active consideration for a position and haven’t heard anything. We’re not perfect and sometimes things DO fall through the cracks – especially when the hiring manager is taking a few weeks to set up interviews because he/she is working 70 hours+ per week and doing three jobs – or has lost admin help – or is travelling. We do try to communicate the process, but so much of it is out of our control. By the same token, give us a little breathing room. Noone want to place you more than WE do.

10. Do your homework once we have an interview scheduled for you. While we will do a verbal prep with you and send you materials on our client, you can increase your odds by doing your own homework on the company. We’ve created the Interview Prep Guide for Medical Device Careers as a help – it’s 24 pages packed with medical career interviewing ideas. And its free.

Finally, every day – many times a day – I get asked how the job market looks – quick answer – it’s very strong in many niches within medical device. The smaller companies seem hungry to add top talent and even some of our Fortune 500 clients are planning responsible additions in Q1. Frankly, no company is going to grow without smart, dedicated, and creative talent to weather the next few quarters. While Legacy MedSearch is but one executive search company (and there are alot of great companies like ours), we had a 40% growth last year and are already ahead of plan for 2009 as of May with a week left to go. My guess is that we’ll place 4 people again this month and at least as many in June

I really hope one of those people – is you.

Thanks for working with us. We really are trying our very best.

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September 28, 2009

The Secret to Finding Jobs When “There Are No Jobs”

Filed under: connections,job search,Networking — Anne Cloward @ 6:18 am
Tags: , , ,

Condensed from an article by Richard N. Bolles, (author of What Color Is Your Parachute?) in Bottom Line Magazine, September, 20009.

Common Strategies That Do NOT Work

% Success

Strategy

Notes

7% Mailing out resumes /submitting or posting them online They get lost in the massive pile. Often are scanned by machine and never get viewed by human eyes.
7% Responding to ads in trade journals Only lower level positions are posted here.

Might work if you have an exotic skill set.

10% Responding to ads on Internet job sites These jobs are usually posted as a last resort or if you are in IT. Your information is often sold and you get a lot of spam.
5-24% Responding to jobs in newspapers Mostly low-paying minimum wage jobs are posted here.
5-28% Working with a private agency or search firm Many employers are cutting costs and not using them. Recruiters are struggling.

Best Strategies That Do Work

% Success

Strategy

Notes

33% Networking for leads Employers like personal recommendations. Build your network
47% Knocking on doors unannounced at employers of interest Works best on small to medium companies, NOT large corporations.
69% Calling on companies of interest listed in the Yellow Pages Works with small companies. Best to schedule and informational interview.
70% Partnering with other job seekers More eyes looking out for you, but you need to reciprocate.
86% Taking inventory of yourself, then targeting potential employers It can give you a focus and clarity that other seekers don’t have.

Upon reviewing this information, how will you modify your job search?

August 19, 2009

A Cautionary Tale–Part 1

Filed under: Outrageous,Scams — Anne Cloward @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , ,

As a job seeker, I find it disheartening that there are many people putting forth all of their efforts to make money from desperate people. These next few posts will deal with scams that I have found in my Inbox lately.

Obvious Scams

Dear Cloward Anne,

My Name is Azim Bin Abdullah ,a legal practitioner with Azmi Norah & Associates in Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia.I found your contact/profile some where over the internet and it gave me the greatest joy,that you are the one I have been looking for.Whom I strongly believe could execute this transaction with me.And being more positive that with your capability,that this transaction of transferring (US$19,000,000.00) Nineteen Million United States Dollars will be successfully accomplished.

My purpose of contacting you is for you to help secure the funds left behind by my late client,to avoid it being confiscated or declared unserviceable by the Bank.Where this fund valued (US$19,000,000.00) Nineteen Million United States Dollars deposited by my client before his death.

This Bank has issued me a notice to contact the next of kin or the account will be declared unserviceable and the fund diverted to the Bank treasury,So far all my efforts to get a hold of someone related to this man has proved abortive.Hence,I have contacted you. I am actually asking for your consent to present you to the Bank as the Next of Kin/beneficiary of my late client’s fund,since you have the same last name,so that the proceeds of this account can be paid to your account,then we can share the fund on a mutually agreed,based on percentage.

All the legal documentations to back up your claim as my client’s Next of Kin I shall provided them.All I require is your honest cooperation to enable us achieve this transaction.

The intended transaction will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any infraction of the law.However,if this business proposition offends your moral ethics,do accept my sincere apology.If on the contrary you wish to achieve this goal with me,then kindly get back at me with your interest immediately for further details.

Kindest Regards,
Bar.Azim Bin Abdullah (Esq)

When you see something like this, you hit Delete immediately. At least that is what I thought until I heard from an American in Africa who has a background in security who had to rescue some guy who came over to claim his money. The man was badly beaten for all his troubles.

Fake Jobs and Phishing Scams

These fake jobs often look legit. They even come with a logo from a major job board. But they only exist to lure you into revealing your banking information.

Dear Sir/ Madam

Would you like to work online from home and get paid weekly?

A T AND T WIRELESS TELECOMMUNICATION needs a bookkeeper in the United State,Canada europe and some part of Asia,so we want to know if you will like to work online from home and get paid weekly without leaving or affecting your present job? A AND T WIRELESS TELECOMMUNICATION run a Telecommunication and Accessories firm here in Hong Kong and we need someone to work for the company as a representative/book keeper in the United State of America, Canada,Europe and some part of Asia

Our company produces various Telecomminications equipments,and Internationally envied of which we have clients we supply weekly in the United states, Canada ,europe and some part of Asia


Our clients make payments for our supplies every week in cheques and via bank transfer, so we need someone in the United State of America and Canada. to work as our representative and assist us in processing the payments from our clients and will be entitled to a renumeration.

All you need to do is to receive payments from our customers in the United States,Canada,europe and some part of asia.deduct 10% commission and send the balance to us.

Do let us know if this is of any interest to you by responding via CEO personal email address:
partner_agent_dlee@yahoo.com.hk
with the following details.

FULL NAMES:
ADDRESS:
CITY:
STATE:
ZIP:
COUNTRY
SEX:
AGE:
CRIMINAL RECORD (YES OR NO)
MARITAL STATUS:
OCCUPATION:
E-MAIL ADDRESS:
TELEPHONE NUMBER:

Warmest Regards,
Mr. Daniel Lee,
International Sales
A T AND T WIRELESS COMMUNICATION. (HONG KONG)

The scam is simple:

  1. The scammers wire money to you with a stolen or fake check.
  2. You deposit it into your personal bank account.
  3. You wire 90% of the money to them.
  4. By the time the bank notifies you that the check is stolen, they are long gone and you are on the hook for the money.

Note: I used to work for Wells Fargo documenting their International Wire Transfer computer program. That is the way legitimate companies transfer money.

Next: Other schemes to part job seekers from their money.

July 20, 2009

Slip Sliding Away

Filed under: job search — Anne Cloward @ 11:39 am
Tags: ,

Back to old S and G again. Paul once said that the thought some of his earlier lyrics were a bit pretentious, but I do like the chorus of this one.

Slip sliding away, slip sliding away
You know the nearer your destination,
the more you slip sliding away

When you are job searching, one of the easiest things to do is to slide into a very self destructive pattern for your days. You, in no particular order:

  • Get up when you feel like it.
  • Stay in your PJs.

  • Don’t eat breakfast.
  • Sit down at the computer.

First of all, there is the news to catch up on. If you are a guy, and you did not get to watch the games over the weekend, you have to catch up on all the scores and the play by plays. Then there is your email at five different addresses, and a game or two. Then you mosey on over to a job board or two and see if anyone is hiring for a job that matches your old title. And of course the black hole of Facebook is suddenly in front of you and after playing a few games and taking some quizzes and commenting on the postings from all of your old friends in high school, you look at the clock.

  • Eat something, since it’s noon.
  • Get dressed in your ratty old clothes since no one is going to see you anyway.
  • Make a few phone calls to see if anyone is hiring, except that no one answers.
  • Apply for a job online that you really don’t want.
  • Go outside for some physical activity just to break the monotony.
  • Go check emails again.
  • Surf the web since you are so bored. Watch old comedy shows. Track down useless information.
  • Knock off since it is four and you have spent seven straight hours on the computer.

This is your coach speaking here. As a career coach, I can tell you that you will spend your days like this and keep slip sliding away. I know how easy it is to go there. I have lived in parts of the country where it snows since I started college and moved from Phoenix. I know how easily it is to just slide down that slope.

Next: How to get going and moving.

July 15, 2009

Walk Out of Your Job Interview in a Blaze of Glory

Filed under: Interviewing — Anne Cloward @ 3:42 pm
Tags: , , ,

From an article by Scott Ginsberg

Interview questions that stump employers in any job interview.

Picture this: The job interview is (almost) over.

You’ve answered all their questions.
You’ve jumped through all their hoops.
You’ve taken all their tests, assessments and personality profiles.

Meanwhile, your brain hurts from over thinking. Your butt is numb from over sitting. And by now, you’ve managed to sweat right through that crisp, new white shirt you bought just for today.

“Just hire me already!” You think.

Not so fast. There’s still one thing left to do:

Walk out of that interview in a blaze of glory.

Today I’m going to teach you a job-hunting strategy that will instantly make you more approachable; hireable; employable; promotable; buyable; bookable; unforgettable; and, most importantly, call-back-able.

And all of it hinges on your ability to respond effectively to one of the most common (yet one of the most under leveraged) interview questions:

“So, do you have any questions for me?”

Prospective employers almost always ask this one – especially at the end of the interview. And most job-hunting books, interviewing resources and career coaches will advise you to respond with intelligent, creative questions such as:

  • Why is this position vacant?
  • Do you promote from within?
  • Do you have a formal training program?
  • What are the future goals of the company?
  • How will I know that I have met your goals?
  • Why did you choose to work for this company?
  • How would you describe your company’s culture?
  • How will my performance be evaluated, and how often?
  • What is the average work week of the person who will fill this job?
  • Will I be hearing from you or should I contact you?

Those are great questions. They’re smart, focused and goal-oriented.

There’s only one problem: Everybody else asks them, too.

And that instantly eliminates the probability of standing out.

Here’s the reality

The less boring and normal you are – and the more rules to which you are the exception – the more hireable you will become.

So, try this: Next time your interviewer asks, “So, do you have any questions for me?” I triple-dog-dare you to answer with one of the following responses :

  • Do you see any gaps in my qualifications that I need to fill?
  • Are there any reasons I’m not fully qualified for this position?
  • Is there anything I’ ve said today that might hurt my chances of being hired here?
  • Now that you’ve had a chance to meet and interview me, what reservations would you have in putting me in this position?
  • What have accidentally I said or done during today’s interview that’s inconsistent with your perfect candidate for this job?

Here’s why this strategy works:

You put the interviewer on the spot. After all, you’re not the only one being interviewed here. So, turning the tables in this manner helps you maintain power because – contrary to popular conditioning – the listener controls.

You prove counterintuitive thinking. I don’t care if you’re applying to work the night clean up shift at Reggie’s Roadkill Cafe – employers love people who think this way. Not just someone who “is” unexpected – but someone who actually thinks unexpectedly.

You demonstrate openness to feedback. My great friend, Joe Rotskoff, HR manager at Crescent Plumbing Supply in St. Louis, was the person who first educated me on this interview approach. “The secret is twofold,” Rotskoff said. “First, you display openness to how others experience you. Second, you show a dedication to improving self-awareness. And that’s exactly the type of employee companies seek to hire in this tough economy.”

You exhibit dedication to personal improvement. Which makes you an employee who adds value to the net worth of her human capital – and, therefore, the net worth of the company’s assets – every day. Wow.

You close the sale. Job interviews are sales calls. Period. You’re selling the company on you, your skills and your long-term potential as a valued asset to the team. So, when you ask closer questions like these, you’re essentially “asking for the sale.” And you’re doing so in a professional, tactful, confident manner. How could they not say yes to you?

Now, here’s the worst thing that could happen

Let’s say you ask one of these questions. And let’s say the prospective employer (unfortunately) responds with an answer that indicates you’ve done something wrong. Or missed the mark. Or come up short in regards to the position.

Fantastic! You’ve just received specific feedback that you can leverage to add value to yourself and become more hireable in the future.

So, if this is the case for you, here’s my suggestion: Physically write down his response to your questions, right then and there. This demonstrates active listening and further reinforces your openness to feedback.

Then, when you write your thank-you note to the interviewer later that evening, be sure to:

1. Thank him again for the helpful feedback on your performance

2. Explain what your commitment plan is for remedying that inadequacy in the future. Hey, he might even change his mind after that!

But here’s the best thing that could happen

Picture this: The interviewer’s jaw hits the floor, his pen falls to the ground, and he stares at you like you just told him that his company was going to be featured on the front page of The
Wall Street Journal.

Then, once he mops up the puddle of drool on your job application, he racks his brain trying to come up with an answer to your powerful question.

But he can’t find one.

Because there isn’t one.

Because you, my unemployed friend, are pretty amazing.

And you deserve this job a hundred times more than every other candidate who walked in the door before you.

That’s what happens when you stick yourself out there. That’s what happens when you’re approachable.

You walk out of that job interview in a blaze of glory.

And then, come Monday morning, you walk back into that same building. But this time, you’re not there for an interview – you’re there to see how spectacular the view is from your new office.

Good luck.

June 30, 2009

Interviewing—More Wacky Interviewing Questions

Filed under: Interviewing — Anne Cloward @ 1:48 pm
Tags: , , ,

div>These questions are culled from an extensive list compiled by Monster. In no particular order:

  1. Why do you want this job?

    I need something to do to keep busy during the day.

  2. There’s no right or wrong answer, but if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

    Somewhere where someone isn’t asking me some wacky questions.

  3. What is your favorite memory from childhood?

    What has that got to do with my ability to analyze Crystal reports?

  4. What do you do in your spare time?

    Go on interviews to see how many silly questions people can ask me.

  5. What do you like to do for fun?

    Stay up late playing video games till three in the morning.

  6. Sell me this pencil.

    Why should I waste your time? Aren’t you looking for a DBA, (Project Manager, Systems Analyst)?

  7. Can you describe a time when your work was criticized?

    I am an editor, my work is always up for criticism, it comes with the territory.

  8. Tell me one thing about yourself you wouldn’t want me to know.

    I still don’t want you to know, so I won’t tell you.

  9. What is your biggest regret, and why?

    That I am sitting here interviewing when I really would rather be at the beach.

  10. What are three positive character traits you don’t have?

    Um. Pride, patience, and honesty.

  11. What irritates you about other people, and how do you deal with it?

    Asking silly questions that have no relevance to the job. I am trying to be patient and not walk out of here.

  12. How many times do a clock’s hands overlap in a day?

    Can I put this in my file of “Dumb and Irrelevant Questions that really don’t have anything to do with the position, but give someone a chance to see if they can make me squirm.”

  13. How would you weigh a plane without scales?

    See above.

  14. If you could choose one superhero power, what would it be and why?

    See above also.

  15. If you could get rid of any one of the US states, which one would you get rid of, and why?

    Another one.

  16. With your eyes closed, tell me step-by-step how to tie my shoes.

    Again, please stop these!

  17. Tell me 10 ways to use a pencil other than writing.

    I use it to clamp on when I am having a seizure.

  18. What was the most difficult period in your life, and how did you deal with it?

    I don’t think this is the time to mention that when I found out my husband was having an affair, I was ready to kill him on the spot.

    Then there is the time the FBI wiretapped my phone for a year.

  19. What kind of car do you drive?

    Maybe, like many Portlanders, I don’t have a car and use public transportation. See Questions 12-17.

    Next: More questions that really don’t make sense, including my all-time favorite one.


June 27, 2009

Interviewing—Answering the Tough Questions–Part 1

Filed under: Contracting,Interviewing — Anne Cloward @ 3:39 pm
Tags: , , ,

For many people, an interview is faced with as much anticipation as a visit to the dentist. They view it as a necessary step to getting a job.

Depending on who does the interviewing, it can be a very painful experience, that’s for sure. Are you interviewing with an HR professional or a hiring manager?

Does it make a difference? Absolutely.

Most HR people are not familiar with the skills needed fill a position; after all, they have it right in front of them. They really don’t know what a lot of the acronyms mean, but they can talk their way through it. Hiring managers are the worker bees. They know what the job entails, because they work with the team and know how things work in the company.

Anyway, here are some typical questions that you will get almost all the time (with my editorial comments).

  1. Tell me about yourself.

    No, the interviewer doesn’t want to know your life story, just do you have the skills and background to program, design, write or whatever.

    Strategy:

    Use this question to discover the employer’s greatest need. Say something like, “I have a number of accomplishments, I’d like to tell you about, but in order to make the best use of our time together and talk directly to your needs. To help me do that, could you tell me more about the most important priorities of this position? All I know is what I (heard from the recruiter, read in the job description, etc.).

  2. What are your greatest strengths?

    Hokey at best. Try to keep your cool here.

    Strategy:

    Try to set a balance between arrogance and humility. Mentally you should have prepared a list of your 8 greatest strengths and you want to get them into the mix during the interview, according to Scott Olsen of The Olsen Group in Portland. But if you answered the previous question properly, you will know what they are looking for.

  3. What are your greatest weaknesses?

    This question is designed to shorten the candidate list. Either you get an A for honesty, but an F for interview.

    Strategy:

    Disguise a strength as a weakness. For example, “I sometimes push myself too hard,” or “I’m a nitpicky editor.” A problem with this strategy is that it is so widely used that it may come across as so canned to the interviewer.

    Another way to handle it is to go back to the needs identified by the interviewer as important and work them into the conversation. If you were applying for a sales position, you could say. “If given a choice, I’d like to spend as much time as possible in front of my prospects selling, as opposed to shuffling papers back at the office. Of course, long ago I learned the importance of filing paperwork properly, and I do it conscientiously. But what I really love to do is sell.”

  4. Tell me about something you did—or failed to do—that you now feel ashamed of.

    This is a trap! No interviewer should be asking a question like this. It’s none of their business. Some inexperienced interviewees get caught here, and use this as an opportunity to unburden themselves of a long ago incident that is way too personal. Don’t use the tactic by some members of a previous administration to declare they have no regrets.

    Strategy:

    Say that you practice some self reflection at the end of the day, and that if you recognize something is awry, you try to remedy it as soon as possible, and by doing that, you don’t let the garbage pile up.

    Next: More Tough interview Questions

June 17, 2009

Interviewing—More Homework

Filed under: Interviewing,Preparing,Professionalism — Anne Cloward @ 4:47 pm
Tags: , ,

Step 2- Looking for Connections

Now that you have the scoop on the company, go to LinkedIn. You do have a LinkedIn account, don’t you? (I will publish a quick start on Linkedin one day.)

No matter what page you are on, the search functions is always at the top of the page. Look at all the Search options you have. Look up the company and then look at people who work there who are on LinkedIn. Read as much as you can about the company and its people.

Step 3—Logistics Planning

This is just common sense, but bears repeating. You know the address of the place you are going to visit since you asked the Admin who made the appointment for it. If you are the slightest bit unsure of where you are going, either plan a route using, MapQuest, Google Maps, or the local public transportation planner. If you have a GPs, and plan on using it, program in the address.

Even better, (and I have done this before) make a dry run the day or night before your interview. By doing this, you will be sure you know where you are going. If there is any local construction, you will be aware of that too.

Step 4—Your Folder

Compose a folder for your interview. I like to do this the night before, so I don’t forget things. It should contain:

  • Two copies of your résumé (someone may not have read it, so be prepared)
  • Any notes you have on the company, or questions you might want to ask at the end of the interview
  • All your job history information. (If you need to complete an application, you will have dates, company names and addresses)
  • The names, addresses and contact information for your references
  • Any confirmation information that you have from the company, including the phone number of the person who you need to report to.
  • Your directions to getting to the interview site.

Next: What to wear to an interview.

June 11, 2009

Interviewing—The Phone Screen

Filed under: Interviewing — Anne Cloward @ 8:42 pm
Tags: , ,

Once upon a time, there was a TV show called Laugh-in. It was edgy and irreverent and terribly funny. Ernestine, played brilliantly by Lily Tomlin was a star in her own right.  Ernestine had her own agenda and stuck to it, no matter who was on the line. And her laugh was pure snarkiness.  Today’s topic deals with the phenomenon of the Phone Screen.

 

I do have a phone screen story to tell from my tech writing days. I applied to a Very Well Known Company in Salt Lake. They were famous all over the world for their seminars, books and planners. I won’t name names, but they did have a stadium named after them at one time.

I received a call from someone. She had one question for me.

“How low will you go?”

“What?”

“How low will you go for a salary? If you answer with too high a number, we won’t call you in for an interview.”

I could not believe that was their main requirement for selecting a technical writer! So the Well Known Company in Salt Lake City missed out on having my talents define their seminars and other products. Their loss, I am sure.

Dollar%20Sign

For those of you who think that the phone screen is a preliminary call made to weed out people and once you ace it you are on to the “real interview,” don’t dismiss it lightly. The Phone Screen is becoming a tool of choice for hiring managers these days.

Sarah Needleman of the Wall Street Journal has a great article on the subject this week.

Job seekers, beware the telephone.

For years, the phone interview was a preliminary step that allowed an employer to give a candidate the once-over and schedule an in-person interview. But these days, many recruiters are using the phone interview to pose the kinds of in-depth questions previously reserved for finalists. What’s more, job hunters say the bar for getting to the next level has been raised much higher, catching many of them off-guard.

In a recent first interview for a senior marketing job, Robyn Cobb was grilled by a hiring manager for an hour and a half on topics ranging from her work history and marketing philosophy to her knowledge of the company and its industry.

“I thought it was never going to end,” says the 45-year-old Ms. Cobb, who lives in Alpharetta, Ga., and was laid off in December from a midsize communications firm.

Until recently, candidates could often breeze through most phone interviews in 10 minutes or less by answering a few softball questions. Little preparation was necessary, and most people could expect to be invited for a “real” interview before hanging up.

These days, job hunters are finding that they need to reserve an hour or more for a phone interview. They may be asked to discuss their full work history, including the exact dates of their experience in various business areas. They may also be expected to cite examples and exact stats that illustrate their strengths and offer details on how they would handle the position.

During a call earlier this year about a director-of-Internet-marketing job, Jaclyn Agy of Wheat Ridge, Colo., says she was asked to describe about 10 different marketing initiatives she’s worked on, plus provide metrics resulting from each. “I didn’t have those stats off the top of my head,” she recalls of the hour-long conversation. “I expected to be asked that in a face-to-face.”

Ms. Agy, 30, says she assumed she’d need only to describe two or three past accomplishments in general terms. “I was taken back by how specific [the interviewer] was getting,” she says. Ms. Agy was better prepared for a follow-up phone interview. She was later invited to meet with eight members of the hiring company in its Denver office, though she didn’t land the position.

Employers say they’ve raised the phone-interview stakes in part because they’re attracting more candidates who meet their basic qualifications. They’re digging deep to identify the best ones, and in some cases adding second-round rigor to phone screens as one way to accomplish that.

“You can be pickier,” says Joyce A. Foster, vice president of human resources at Hilex Poly Co. LLC in Hartsville, S.C. Salaried job openings at the company’s 10 U.S. locations have been attracting up to three times as many qualified applicants — including more candidates with experience in Hilex’s niche, plastic film and bag manufacturing and recycling — than during more robust economic times, she says.

“Before, if a person had only recycling experience in paper, we might have said OK,” Ms. Foster says. “Today we can be more specific. I’m going to find someone who’s an even better fit.”

Recruiters are also seeking to weed out those who seem likely to change jobs as soon as the economy turns around. “We’re trying to determine whether what we’re offering truly meets their long-term objectives,” says Paul Newman, assistant vice president of human resources at OppenheimerFunds. And when it comes to candidates who were laid off, recruiters for the New York-based asset-management firm want to know the circumstances behind what happened. “Was this person a high-performance, talented individual who was let go because of the economics of the business,” he says, “or an average employee let go in the first round” of layoffs?

For many firms, evaluating candidates over the phone also serves as a way to save on recruiting costs. “In this economy, you can’t afford to fly every person out for an interview,” says Jeff Cousens, vice president of organizational development at Patrick Energy Services Inc. in Lisle, Ill. After joining the energy concern in January, he instructed recruiters to complete up to four comprehensive phone interviews with candidates before inviting finalists in. Previously, they made just one brief call, mainly to schedule in-person interviews. “When a candidate comes in to meet the hiring manager, recruiters have already gone through every detail to make sure they’re a fit,” says Mr. Cousens.

 


Job seekers should prepare for a phone interview as seriously as they do for an in-person one. When asked about your qualifications, for example, you can craft a better answer by asking what the company wants and why, says J.T. O’Donnell, a career strategist in North Hampton, N.H.

If you’re asked how many years of experience you have with a program you have used extensively, but not for years, you could reply by asking how much is required and at what level, says Ms. O’Donnell. Maybe the company chose a number based on how much experience the last person in the position had, and you might have just as much, but in a condensed time frame. You can then provide a convincing reason as to why you should be considered for the job even if your answer doesn’t match exactly what the recruiter is looking for.

You should also prepare to answer more complex and detailed questions in phone interviews by creating a list of key statistics and abbreviated answers to commonly asked questions, says Bill McGowan, founder of communications-coaching firm Clarity Media Group Inc. Some examples: What do you know about the company? Why do you want the job? What are your greatest strengths? What are your career goals? How do you see yourself fitting in?

“What traps a lot of people is they think and talk at the same time. They make up answers on the fly,” says Mr. McGowan. “It’s better if you know your conversational path.”

Don’t expect to defer answering questions to your first meeting with a hiring manager, says Maureen Crawford Hentz, a talent-acquisition manager at Danvers, Mass.-based lighting manufacturer Osram Sylvania Inc. That may have been the case in the past, but not now. “People think if you’re talking to someone in HR, this isn’t a real interview,” she says. But these days, it might be your only shot.

Be sure to brush up on your phone etiquette, too. Ms. Crawford Hentz says candidates have put her on hold while they answered another call or tended to their children. Once she could tell a candidate was visiting a drive-through restaurant during a call because she heard a loudspeaker requesting the person’s lunch order.

Finally, be mindful of common faux pas, such as giving long-winded answers that go off topic. “Sometimes the longer you talk, the more it sounds like you’re trying to explain your way through something,” says Mr. McGowan. “The most confident people don’t need to drone on.” Another common flub: answering recruiters’ questions before they’ve finished speaking. Not only does that show disrespect, but it “makes it seem like you have stocked, canned answers,” he says.

Write to Sarah E. Needleman at sarah.needleman@wsj.com

June 5, 2009

Informational Interviews– Part III: The Bad and the Ugly

 

HMr_EL_VanTech_web

These get pushy, in my opinion.

About preparing for this career:

  1. Does your work relate to any experiences or studies you had in college?
  2. How well did your college experience prepare you for this job?
  3. What courses have proved to be the most valuable to you in your work?
  4. What courses do you wish you had taken that would have prepared you?
  5. If you were a college student again, what would you do differently to prepare you for this job?
  6. How important are grades/GPA for obtaining a job in this field?
  7. What do you feel is the best educational preparation for this career?
  8. How do you think [name of your college]’s reputation is viewed when it comes to hiring?
  9. How did you prepare for this work?
  10. If you were entering this career today, would you change your preparation in any way to facilitate entry?

About your interviewee’s career path:

  1. In what way did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
  2. What was your major in college?
  3. How did you get your job?
  4. Did you enter this position through a formal training program?
  5. What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position?
  6. What kinds of things did you do before you entered this occupation?
  7. Which aspects of your background have been most helpful?
  8. What other jobs can you get with the same background?
  9. What were the keys to your career advancement?
  10. How did you get where you are and what are your long-range goals?
  11. What is the job above your current job?
  12. If your job progresses as you like, what would be the next step in your career?
  13. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  14. If your work were suddenly eliminated, what kinds of work do you feel prepared to do?
  15. If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why? What would you change?

About the culture of your interviewee’s company or organization:

  1. Why did you decide to work for this company?
  2. What do you like most about this company?
  3. How does your company differ from its competitors?
  4. Why do customers choose this company?
  5. What is the company’s relationship with its customers?
  6. How optimistic are you about the company’s future and your future with the company?
  7. Has the company made any recent changes to improve its business practices and profitability?
  8. What does the company do to contribute to its employees’ professional development?
  9. What systems are in place to enable employees to give management feedback and suggestions?
  10. How does the company make use of technology for internal communication and outside marketing? (Use of e-mail, Internet, intranets, World Wide Web, videoconferencing, etc.)?
  11. What other technologies are integral to the company’s operation?
  12. How would you describe the atmosphere at the company? Is it fairly formal or more laid-back and informal?
  13. Do people in your department function fairly autonomously, or do they require a lot of supervision and direction?
  14. What are the people like with whom you work?
  15. How would you describe the morale level of people who work here?
  16. Do you participate in many social activities with your coworkers?
  17. Is there a basic philosophy of the company or organization and, if so, what is it? (Is it a people-, service- or product-oriented business?)
  18. What is the company’s mission statement?
  19. What can you tell me about the corporate culture?
  20. Is the company’s management style top-down, or do front-line employees share in decision-making?
  21. Is there flexibility in work hours, vacation schedule, place of residence, etc.?
  22. What’s the dress code here? Is it conservative or casual? Does the company have dress-down of casual days?
  23. Can men wear beards or long hair here?
  24. What work-related values are most highly esteemed in this company (security, high income, variety, independence)?
  25. What kind of training program does the company offer? Is it highly structured or more informal?
  26. Does the company encourage and/or pay for employees to pursue graduate degrees? Is there a tuition reimbursement program?
  27. Does the company offer an employee discount on the products it sells?
  28. What’s the best thing about the company?
  29. How does the company evaluate your job performance?
  30. How does the company recognize outstanding accomplishments of its employees?
  31. What does the company reward?
  32. Are there people within or outside the organization that the company holds up as heroes?
  33. Does the company observe any rituals, traditions, or ceremonies?
  34. What is the typical job-interview process at the company? How many interviews do candidates generally go through before being offered a position?
  35. What does the company do to foster innovation and creativity?

About the company’s needs:

  1. In what areas do you perceive there to be gaps in personnel in this company? If the company had unlimited resources for creating new positions, in what areas should those positions be created?
  2. In what areas do you see the company expanding? Do you foresee the opening of new markets or greater globalization? Do you predict development of new products and/or services? Building of new facilities?
  3. How can employees prepare for any planned changes at the company?
  4. What obstacles do you see getting in the way of the company’s profitability or growth?
  5. If you needed someone to assist you in your job, what tasks would you assign to your assistant?

About opportunities for advancement within this company and/or field:

  1. How does a person progress in your field?
  2. What is the highest-level job one can hold in this career?
  3. What is a typical career path in this field or organization?
  4. What are the advancement opportunities?
  5. What is the average length of time for an employee to stay in the job you hold?
  6. How rapidly do people move to the next level in this career?
  7. What incentives or disincentives are there for staying in the same job?
  8. Would someone in this field need to relocate to advance in his/her career?
  9. If I performed well at this company, where could I expect to be in five years?

Seeking advice if you are a career changer:

  1. My current career is ________________________. How easy or difficult do you think it might be to make a transition from that career to your career?
  2. The skills I use the most in my current career are ________________. To what extent and in what ways do you think those skills are transferable to your career?
  3. What aspects of my background do you feel would be the most helpful in making the transition to your career field?
  4. What aspects of my background do you feel would be the biggest obstacles to someone making the transition to your career field?
  5. What skills needed in your career field do you think someone in my current career might be lacking and might need to develop?
  6. What would be the best kind of training to get to make the transition from my current career to your career?
  7. What’s the best way for me to get more experience in your field without taking major steps backward from the level to which I’ve progressed in my current career?
  8. How do you think someone in my current career would be viewed by those with hiring power in your career? Would you personally hire someone coming from my current career field?
  9. The things I like the best about my current career are: _____________________. Will I find some of those same things if I switch to your career?
  10. The things I dislike the most about my current career are: _____________________. Will I encounter any of those same challenges in your career?
  11. Do you know of any other people in your career that have made the transition to your field from my current career or a career similar to my current career? How did the transition work out?
  12. I’ve heard that people in your field have characteristics such as _______________________, which I have not had the opportunity to develop in my current career. How important is/are that/those characteristic(s).
  13. What sacrifices do you think I might have to make to make the switch into your career field?
  14. Knowing what you know about your career field, and knowing what I would have to do to get into this field, do you think you would make the change if you were me? If not, can you suggest any other fields that might be more appropriate for me?
  15. Could you take a brief look at my résumé and suggest ways I could tailor it to make myself more marketable in changing from my current career field to your career field?

Seeking general advice and referrals from your interviewee:

  1. Can you suggest some ways a person could obtain the experience necessary to enter this field?
  2. What is the best way to obtain a position that will get me started in this occupation?
  3. What do you wish you’d known before you entered this field?
  4. What are the major qualifications for success in this occupation?
  5. What are the skills that are most important for a position in this field?
  6. What courses should I be taking?
  7. How can I assess whether or not I have the skills needed for a position such as yours?
  8. With the information you have about my education, skills, and experience, what other fields or jobs would you suggest I research further before I make a final decision?
  9. Do you know of other people whom I might talk to who have similar jobs?
  10. Do you have any advice for someone interested in this field/job?
  11. Which professional journals and publications should I be reading to learn about this career?
  12. Are there any other written materials (such as company brochures) that you suggest I read?
  13. Which professional organizations associated with this career should I join?
  14. What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field?
  15. Who else do you know who is doing similar kinds of work or uses similar skills?
  16. What other kinds of organizations hire people to perform the functions you do here?
  17. If I am unable to obtain a position in this field, what other fields would you recommend I consider?
  18. What special advice do you have for a student seeking to qualify for this position?
  19. Do you have any special world of warning or encouragement as a result of your experience?
  20. These are my strongest assets (skills, areas of knowledge, personality traits and values):___________________________________. Where would they fit in this field? Where would they be helpful in this organization? Where might they fit in other fields? Where might they be helpful in other organizations?
  21. What should I do to prepare myself for emerging trends and changes in this field?
  22. How would you assess the experience I’ve had so far in terms of entering this field?
  23. What qualifications would you be looking for if you were hiring for a position such as yours?
  24. What qualifications would you be looking for if you were hiring for a position subordinate to yours in the office?
  25. Do you have any written job descriptions of positions in this field/company?
  26. What areas of the company would be most interested in hiring people with my background?
  27. If I wanted to obtain a job here, who would the best person to contact?
  28. If I wanted to obtain a job here, what would be the best way to learn of job vacancies?
  29. If you were conducting a job search today, how would you go about it?
  30. Would you be willing to answer more questions, by phone or in person, if I need additional advice in the future?
  31. [If you feel comfortable and it seems appropriate:] Would you mind taking a look at my resume to see if you have any suggestions?
  32. How would you react if you received a resume like mine for a position with this company?
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