5 Basic Tips for Phone Interviews

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Author: Dice Staff.

Not all job interviews take place in person; especially during the early stages of the hiring process, a tech pro will likely have to speak to recruiters, HR staff, hiring managers, and even potential colleagues on the phone.

While phone interviews offer several advantages—you don’t need to dress up, for example, or commute to an office somewhere—they also pose a unique mix of challenges, especially for those who are relatively inexperienced in interviewing for jobs. With that in mind, here are some quick, top-level tips for preparing yourself:

Schedule Carefully

Make sure you arrange your schedule so you can take your call in a calm environment; build in some “flex time” at the end, in case the interview runs longer than you expect. You should avoid doing your interviews while driving or walking; the interviewer could hear ambient noise and conclude that, because you chose to squeeze the interview into a commute, that you’re not fully serious about the position.

Limit Distractions

It’s tempting to take a phone interview while sitting in front of your PC or tablet. How else will you look up things the interviewer asks you about? But interviewing in front of a screen can distract you from the questions, which could prove disastrous—you don’t want to sound inattentive.

Take Notes Beforehand

You can’t be completely sure which questions the interviewer will ask, but you can write down a couple of handy talking points for reference during the talk. For example, list two or three projects where your skill set and experience made a positive difference; now you don’t need to frantically rack your brain for a good example of your work if the interviewer asks. You may also want to jot down your previous roles—sometimes it’s easy to confuse your personal timeline when you’re feeling nervous.

Know Your Interviewer (and Company)

In any kind of interview, due diligence pays off: Make sure you spend some time researching both your prospective employer and the interviewer before you pick up the phone. Knowing how your potential future company works is imperative; knowing personal details about your interviewer is less so, although picking up a few details about his or her background and personality is liable to make you less anxious during the interview.

Follow Through

Remember to follow the post-interview formalities: Send your interviewer a quick note thanking them for the time and opportunity, and be sure to ask whether they need any additional information from you. If you haven’t done so already, make sure you’ve sent the interviewer all your relevant materials, including your resume and any links to projects you’ve recently worked on.

Add Emotional Intelligence to Job Interviews

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Author: Dice Staff.

Most people spend so much time preparing for the technical aspect of interviews—i.e., answering questions about their skill sets and job history—that they forget to bring a very important element: a little bit of emotional intelligence.

You’ve probably heard of emotional intelligence. Some people believe your “E.Q.”(sometimes referred to as “E.I.”) is as important as your I.Q. According to current thinking, those with high emotional intelligence are empathetic, keenly aware of both their emotions and those of others. That’s helpful in everything from collaboration to negotiation, as well as avoiding conflict.

It’s also helpful in job interviews. If your interviewer mentions anything personal—that they saw a particular movie, for example, or just returned from a vacation to a certain state—that’s your opportunity to (briefly) respond in a way that demonstrates a commonality between the two of you (for example: “I saw that movie, too!” or “Sure, I went there once!”).

You can also use items in the interviewer’s office to create a connection. Is there a book on their shelf you’ve read? Mention it briefly. Do they have a tchotchke on their desk? That might be worth a quick discussion.

That being said, there are two important points to keep in mind:

  • Keep Responses Short: While a brief personal interaction can help humanize you to the interviewer, be cautious about over-sharing. You can mention that you also like a particular activity, or commiserate over a rough commute, but abstain from engaging in a lengthy monologue. You’re both there for professional reasons.
  • Don’t Exhibit Too Much Emotion: Emotional intelligence is about empathy and connection, not immediately displaying your emotions to their fullest extent. Keep things calm; anger and sadness have a way of making interviewers uncomfortable.
  • Don’t Force It: While paying attention to the interviewer’s asides and emotional cues is a good thing, don’t try to force a personal moment in a situation if a natural opening hasn’t presented itself.

With a little bit of practice, you can quickly and easily establish a human connection with your interviewer, and leave a positive, lasting impression.

Tweaking Your Résumé for a Successful 2019

Author: Nick Kolakowski.

It’s a brand new year, and even if you have zero urge to jump to a new job, it’s still worth updating your résumé: You never know when you might need it on short notice. (For example, if you’re a federal employee furloughed by the recent shutdown, you might have made a quick decision to pursue a new career in the private sector rather than wait for the government to re-open.)

And yes, the tech industry’s unemployment rate remains low—but that doesn’t mean you can walk into any company and expect a job. Indeed, employers are increasingly interested in tech pros with sophisticated sets of skills; those with machine learning and artificial intelligence (A.I.) knowledge, for example, are in higher demand than ever.

With all that in mind, it’s worth readjusting your résumé to highlight your most cutting-edge skills and your best experience. Here’s how to proceed:

Skill Selection

Many tech pros throw every skill they’ve ever learned onto their résumé. That’s not a great idea, even if it isn’t wholly their fault; many job postings list pretty much every kind of technology ever invented as either a “requirement” or a “nice to have,” which makes candidates paranoid that they’re not putting down enough stuff.

Instead, candidates should choose only those most relevant to the position. For example, if the potential employer is looking for an iOS developer, you should detail your knowledge of Objective-C and Swift, as well as the iOS SDK and any other developer platforms vital to the company’s specialization. Leave off anything that isn’t indispensible; the hiring manager won’t care about that random language you learned ten years ago.

And yes, sometimes employers will list weird things under “nice to have” skills; in a bid to cast as wide a net as possible, a job description might list twenty different programming languages and thirty types of “relevant” software. When in doubt, list what you know (and only what you know—your knowledge might be tested) that’s actually important to the job, and trust that your experience and background will help soothe any fears on the employer’s part that they’re not landing someone with the right abilities.

Focus on Wordsmithing

As you work your way through your résumé, follow these tips:

Avoid self-praise and exaggeration: It gains you nothing, and hiring managers can generally see right through it.

Use a conservative font: Helvetica is a good one; so is Garamond, Didot, or Proxima Nova. Heck, if you want to really play it safe, go with Times New Roman, but don’t you dare use Comic Sans. (Also see the section below: “Don’t Get Funky with Formatting.”)

Don’t use overused buzzwords: Describing yourself as a “self-starter” or “passionate” (among other terms) is clichéd.

Focus on results: Instead of “just” listing what you did at each job, list the most notable accomplishments; even better, include numbers that indicate the degree of success (i.e., “My team’s app increased bottom-line revenues by 25 percent.”). That will give the recruiter or HR staffer the best possible idea of your capabilities.

Don’t Get Funky with Formatting

Some tech pros are gripped by the urge to make their résumé “stand out” with funky formatting and images. This is a really bad idea, since many companies use automated software to scan incoming résumés for keywords; weird formatting could screw up those platforms’ ability to recognize what’s in your document.

Sure, you can find all sorts of stories online about job candidates redesigning their résumés to resemble Amazon product pages, Instagram profiles, and even Airbnb pages, but you should regard all those cases as outliers; for the most part, recruiters and hiring managers just want basic information on your skills and experience. (The exception, of course, is designers, who may need to demonstrate a little more visual flair in their applications.)

Yes, You Need Outside Readers

Here’s a good reason to revamp your résumé well in advance: If you do it the night before a job posting expires (which happens more often than tech pros would like to admit—hey, you’re busy, okay?), nobody else will have a chance to scan it for errors. And even the most eagle-eyed writer occasionally messes up. Find two or three people who are willing to give your writing a scan, and provide tips for the next draft—it will only improve your résumé.