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VoiceScreener: A New Option For Telephone Interviews

VoiceScreener: A New Option For Telephone Interviews

    I’ve been on both ends of the phone — both looking for jobs and for employees. No matter which side of the conversation you’re on, though, the telephone interview leaves something to be desired. It takes time to do multiple interviews, it’s impossible to set a time that works well for both parties and — if you’re the interviewer — you’re mind rapidly goes numb from asking the same questions over and over again.

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    There’s a new website that’s looking to simplify the telephone interview process: VoiceScreener. The concept is surprisingly simple: hiring managers can record their interview questions, and potentials employees record their answers at their leisure. While there are few more steps in practice, the simplicity of the idea appeals to me. As a potential employee, I like it because I won’t have to try to figure out a time for an interview that requires me to leave the office — even if I’m only going out to my car to talk on my phone.

    But I like it from the hiring point of view, as well. As anyone who has ever conducted interviews — even for a babysitter — knows, there’s always a candidate or two that you realize isn’t right almost immediately. But once you’ve started an interview, whether over the phone or in person, it’s impossible to stop the interview part way through without seeming a bit rude. With a tool like VoiceScreener, it takes just one click to move on to better candidates. Overall, the VoiceScreener team estimates that their application can reduce the amount of time necessary for telephone screening by up to 70 percent.

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    The Features

    With VoiceScreener, a hiring manager can invite any job candidate to respond to a set of interview questions through email. Candidates then enter their telephone numbers at the VoiceScreener website, which calls them immediately with the interview questions. Once the interview is complete, VoiceScreener sends a notification to the hiring manager. The hiring manager can listen to the responses at any time, ranking candidates and inviting other team members to review interviews as necessary. VoiceScreener can then generate an automatic report listing candidates in order of preference. VoiceScreener has a few other useful tools, as well: for instance, a hiring manager can have candidates answer a set of pre-qualifying questions before and interview, screening out candidates before they even record answers. It’s possible to use questions from past interviews when creating a new interview and a hiring manager can even create a customized rejection message and automatically email any candidate who didn’t quite make the cut.

    The VoiceScreener team has made use of a lot of social networking ideas to reduce the amount of time and money it takes for a company to hire new personnel, allowing for a very fast first round of interviews. In addition to streamlining the process of comparing notes about a particular interview, the application has a simple dashboard that allows users to easily complete tasks associated with the hiring process. The dashboard offers several tools, some of which are customized to recruiters using VoiceScreener for their clients or for small businesses hiring on their own. The application can be customized for an individual business: interviewers can create a landing page for an interview, deciding whether to include a company logo, a URL or other information on the page that candidates will see. VoiceScreener can even be integrated into online job boards, making it a useful tool no matter how large a net a hiring manager wants to cast.

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    The Future

    I see a lot of potential with VoiceScreener for handling other interview-heavy processes in the future. Collecting interviews for a research project, whether commercial or academic, could be done through this tool as well, allowing researchers to quickly conduct hundreds of interviews. As it stands, I think that VoiceScreener is an ideal tool for small businesses looking to hire new staff but not up to taking time away from their day-to-day concerns. It doesn’t even take a particularly technical person to set up interview questions with VoiceScreener — instead, it’s a matter of a few clicks. I wouldn’t necessarily expect someone who’s been running a human resources department for decades to embrace VoiceScreener, but I’m willing to bet that it could be a reliable tool for a hiring manager. The fact that VoiceScreener is especially simple for interview subjects — as long as an interview subject can type in his or her phone number and knows how to leave a voice mail, using VoiceScreener shouldn’t be a problem — is an impressive benefit for hiring managers used to struggling through a stack of resumes for individual interviews.

    VoiceScreener was created by harQen, a web-telephony company that creates business applications. The private beta launched yesterday morning and VoiceScreener is expected to launch publicly in January. VoiceScreener will, after its public launch, charge a monthly platform fee along with a per interview charge. There will also be a fee for archiving interviews.

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    The Giveaway

    The folks at VoiceScreener have given us 50 beta invites to give away to LifeHack readers. If you visit the VoiceScreener sign up page and fill out the form, you’ll notice a field for a ‘Promo Code.’ The first 50 people to use the code LIFEHACK will get in on the beta. The beta includes 50 call credits and six weeks of platform usage. If you get in to the beta, let us know what you think!

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    Last Updated on June 12, 2019

    Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

    Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

    Humor and laughter provide so many rewards. Studies have shown 20 seconds of laughter yield the same benefits as 3 minutes of hard rowing. A Robert Half International study reported 84% of executives believe a worker with a good sense of humor does a better job. Incorporating humor more effectively in the workplace allows you to defuse difficult situations, reduce stress, create attention for new ideas, build rapport, and be a more approachable and memorable leader.

    With those benefits, it behooves you to hone your workplace comedic skills. So in the tradition of David Letterman, here are the top 10 ways to more effectively lead with humor!

    #10. Look for Joy in Life

    An important step is continually looking for joy throughout your life. This happens in a variety of ways:

    • Focus less on yourself and more on helping others. Need help? Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” the classic by Dale Carnegie.
    • Laugh more – kids reportedly laugh 400 times per day vs. 15 times for adults. Aim for laughing 40 times daily to be at least 10% of your former self!
    • Regularly read humorous comic strips and look for quips and funny comments in your reading.
    • Even in challenging situations, hunt for something funny or humorous you can take away.

    #9. Learn What Makes You Laugh

    If you’re trying to laugh 40 times daily, it’s important to know what makes you laugh and have ready access to laugh-provokers. Figure out 107 things which make you laugh. Unrealistic? Hardly! Why 107? Because 107 is funnier than 100! Here’s a recipe for listing what makes you laugh by simply identifying:

    • 13 Movies
    • 11 TV Shows
    • 5 Words or Phrases
    • 19 Personal Stories
    • 5 Cartoons
    • 7 Audio or Video Pieces
    • 11 Comedians
    • 7 TV Personalities
    • 7 Funny Photos
    • 7 People You Know
    • 15 of Anything Else
    • TOTAL = 107 Funny Things

    Collect & save these humor starters in a “Smile File” when you quickly need a laugh or comedic inspiration.

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    #8. Use Your Own Comedic Material

    Personal experiences are the most genuine humor sources for effective leadership. Look for humor in situations from your own life:

    • Funny things you have said or others have said to you
    • Pratfalls, be they mental, interpersonal, & physical
    • Embarrassing moments or unexpected happenings
    • Times of change or learning
    • Difficult life events (yes, even these can be humor sources)

    When turning personal situations into comedic material, remember lessons learned from a childhood humor staple: Knock-Knock Jokes. These simple jokes work because the knock-knock structure highlights familiar situations, uses only essential words and phrases, and clearly signals a laughing opportunity. They also demonstrate how humor springs from surprise. The laughs come from not knowing who or what exactly is behind the door based on the initial response to “Who’s there?”

    #7. Adapt Somebody Else’s Material

    Beyond your own experiences, there’s a tradition of “borrowing & adapting” (I didn’t say stealing) funny stuff from others. That’s why old-time comedian Milton Berle was called the “Thief of Bad Gags.”

    Part of borrowing successfully is using easily accessible humor sources in ways many don’t consider. Beyond simply Googling “funny” in front of quotes, one-liners, definitions, pictures, or videos, here are two other common sources you can adapt:

    • Cartoons – You can use cartoons in various ways by showing one in a presentation, telling the cartoon’s story (potentially making yourself a character) without any images, or using its punch line as a starting point for new humor.
    • Comedians – Mainstream comedians’ jokes or catch phrases are another source to modify and adapt to your personality or work situation. Watch lots of comedians and learn how professionals do it so well.

    #6. Understand Your Audience

    Using humor in a leadership position requires understanding boundaries on its proper use. It all starts with really understanding your audience by:

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    • Paying attention to top management’s attitudes toward humor.
    • Knowing the audience’s composition – this directly affects which humor types are appropriate.
    • Loving your audience as much or more than you poke fun at them.
    • Inviting others into humor since you can’t assume they share your same humor sensibilities.

    In case you’re contemplating using ad lib humor, completely knowing your audience is even more vital. Ad-libs have the potential for going horribly wrong because audience sensibilities have been misjudged. It’s very beneficial to actually plan and rehearse ad libs. It may sound odd, but identify common work situations you encounter and think through what usually goes wrong or provides a source for potential humor. Work out some “safe” funny comebacks to use as “planned” ad libs.

    #5. Know the Rules and Boundaries

    There are blatant humor no-no’s in the workplace which are quite acceptable for an onstage comedian. At work, avoid harmful practical jokes or pranks, heavily sarcastic comments, and humor rooted in religious, sexual, ethnic, or racial themes. Think you know your work setting well enough to tread on this dangerous ground? Here’s some advice: DON’T. The way questionable humor will be perceived by a workplace audience is too much of an unknown to take big risks when your career is at stake.

    Use this checkpoint to actually see if your intended workplace humor is SAFE. To pass the SAFE test, all of these statements need to be true regarding your joke, comment, or image:

    • I can Say/Show this to my mother.
    • It wouldn’t Anger me if I were the butt of the joke.
    • This wouldn’t trigger an FCC violation
    • Everyone in the audience will be able to get it.

    With even a hint of one false answer, dramatically modify your idea or better yet, abandon it and start over.

    #4. Get over Yourself

    Effective leaders don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re comfortable laughing at themselves and letting others be funny as well. Leaders should become adept at appropriately using self-deprecating humor, i.e., self-directed humor downplaying your own talents, stature, or accomplishments

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    You don’t want to use self-deprecating humor on simply any topic, however. It’s most effectively & appropriately used in:

    • Situations where you’re comfortable & self-confident
    • Areas where your credibility & competence are clearly established
    • Ways that fit your known personality & sensibilities

    Remember – when trying to borrow someone else’s self-deprecating humor, you need to share that person’s perspective & situation. If not, it’s simply deprecating! I once heard a decidedly non-technical Marketing VP call out “data geeks” in the audience. While that’s what they called themselves, she wasn’t a part of their group, and her comment, intended to build affiliation, fell completely flat.

    #3. Need Humor Ideas? Just Look Around

    The workplace is filled with situations lending themselves to comedy. Humor springs from exaggeration, wordplay, misunderstandings, ambiguity, contradictions, paradoxes, pain, and inconsistencies. If you work in any type of business or organizational setting, there are plenty of these situations to go around!

    As a leader, it’s your role to use the proper opptunities to encourage and employ humor successfully by ensuring that:

    • Your humor makes others feel good about themselves.
    • Hurtful fun isn’t made of those less tenured than you in the organization.
    • You don’t use humor when agitated since it can lead to apparent meanness.

    #2. Surround Yourself with Joy

    If you’re looking for more joy and levity in leadership, surround yourself with joyful people. These are people who are funny, easily spur laughter, and routinely cheer people up through their presence.

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    Cultivate relationships with these types of people. Spend time with them, learn from their successful uses of humor, and emulate elements of their approaches that work for you.

    Beyond basking in the joy these people create, select 3 or 4 of them to be an informal comedy team. As your comedy team, solicit their opinions to help you generate and refine humor ideas. They can also provide perspectives on potentially questionable humor material that makes it through the SAFE test, but still feels like it might not be right for a workplace audience.

    #1. Dive into the Fun

    Ultimately, the most important part of successfully using humor as a leader is actually sharing it in the workplace. Here are a few final tips to keep in mind:

    • Practice your humor in appropriate, low-risk settings to find out what works before trying it out with a bigger audience.
    • Signal a laughing opportunity through your words, actions, and tone. It’s also a good practice to give people “permission” to laugh in the workplace.
    • Finally, be earnest in using humor; don’t focus on laughs so much as lightening and adding fun into work settings.

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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