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7 Ways Candidates Blow A Phone Interview

7 Ways Candidates Blow A Phone Interview

I’m consistently amazed by how unaware the average job seeker is of how to establish a positive first impression on a phone interview. I hear the same frustrated complaints from employers of all industries and sizes – that candidates who voluntarily submitted their resumes in hopes of discussing a position they’re supposedly interested in just can’t seem to get it together. Remember when all you needed was a solid resume to be guaranteed a face-to-face interview? For the sake of saving time, resources, and money, recruiters have become much more selective on who they decide to meet in person. In an effort to weed out time-wasters and soft-skill-deficient candidates, recruiters are conducting phone screens to find out who’s off their game.

1. They’re unprepared to take the call.

If you’re 4 beers deep at a Yankees game or trying to wrestle a dirty diaper off a screaming baby, you probably shouldn’t answer a call you don’t recognize. Yet, most of the candidates my recruiting team speaks with are under the impression that it’s better to answer a call you’re not completely prepared for than to miss the call altogether. It’s not. If you find yourself in a situation that isn’t suitable for a professional conversation, don’t pick up. Instead, call back within 24 hours, after you’ve collected your thoughts, can speak confidently, and have locked down a quiet location.

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Not to mention, they start timing you from the second they leave a voicemail, which brings me to my next point. If you’re actively looking, you should have a professional voicemail with specific instructions to avoid an unwanted game of phone tag. For example, “Hi, you’ve reached Mark Smith. If you’re calling in regards to my resume, please leave your name and number as well as the best times for me to reach you.”

2. They expect the recruiter to fill in the blanks.

“Hi, what job did I apply for again? What company are you calling on behalf of?” It pains me to admit this, but these responses are the norm when an employer reaches out to a candidate, even for high-level positions. You’re a job seeker, which means you probably apply to several jobs each week. We understand that it’s tough to keep track, but it’s essential – if only for the sake of a recruiter’s sanity – that you start taking notes. Just by picking up the phone and saying, “Hi Wendy, you must be calling in regards to the Customer Service position I applied for last week.” Mind blown.

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3. They conduct an unorganized job search.

This goes hand in hand with my last point. Today, it’s not enough to print out a handful of resumes and call it a day. We always recommend that our candidates keep a spreadsheet of every job application they submitted with corresponding dates, company names, and relevant contacts. Or, if you’re a tech wiz, try these awesome job search apps. That way, when the phone rings, you’ll have a handy guide that’ll save you from playing guessing games. Also, it’s important to keep your background information and portfolios within arms reach to provide some quick material for preliminary questions. It says a great deal about your personal brand if you’re prepared to answer a challenging question, and even have some on-hand stats to back up your argument. And for bonus points, don’t forget to browse company websites and connect with HR personnel on LinkedIn. Taking that extra step makes a huge impression.

4. They don’t understand why recruiters really call.

More often than not, recruiters aren’t calling to simply schedule a personal interview; they’re calling to conduct a prescreen. In other words, to decide whether they want to move you forward. Remember all that research you were supposed to do when you applied for the gig? Use it to show recruiters you know something about how their company culture works and that you’re serious about the job.

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5. They have a bad “radio personality.”

Phones are tough – all you have to make an impression is your voice. Candidates, especially introverts, often fail to heighten their energy over the phone. Nobody’s expecting you to sound like Ron Burgundy, but you should at the very least sound excited, confident, and prepared. Excessive “umms,” stammering, or sounding like you’re dead inside are huge turnoffs to recruiters. The only way to overcome this obstacle is through practice. Record yourself on any device you have handy, and ask yourself this difficult question: “Would you hire you?” Getting your career narrative down in a way that engages and connects with an employer is essential to winning that face-to-face meeting.

6. They have a weak or unprofessional online presence.

Chances are, if recruiters are interested in what you have to say, they’ll be googling you before then end of your conversation. A half-complete LinkedIn profile or a racy Facebook picture is all it takes to eliminate you from the game. Just last week, one of my recruiters found a candidate with a stellar background and scheduled her for an interview right away. But just minutes before their call, she discovered an R-rated photo online that involved a stripper pole. Needless to say, the recruiter’s mind was made up before the conversation started.

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7. They fail to treat a phone interview with the same decorum as they would a personal one.

Just because you didn’t put on a suit or block out time in your day doesn’t mean it counts any less towards your chances of securing the job. Request follow up procedures, send personalized thank you notes, and be sure to highlight any takeaways to reinforce your sincerity. Take it from me, the small things really do matter.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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