Interview Survival and Other Career Building Ideas

Interview handshake

Brisk job growth in early 2015 enabled the economy to record 12 straight months with hiring in excess of 200,000 jobs; the best streak since 1995. These are very encouraging numbers but companies are still under intense pressure to control costs. Accordingly, many employers are using phone interviews to winnow the pool of job applicants and identify the most promising candidates for further evaluation.

As you prepare for your phone interview, remember to be warm, be concise, be sincere and listen intensely. These additional points of emphasis may be helpful:

  • Posture affects voice clarity and quality. It may be best to stand at your desk during a phone interview. And remember to smile – it's very effective at transmitting warmth and friendliness during a phone conversation. 
  • Be careful not to testify against yourself through disclaimers and qualified responses. For example, if a question concerns management experience and you haven't exactly led an organization of similar size or scope, focus on strengths rather than weaknesses. Consider something like: "My senior leaders were always pleased with my ability to organize, focus, and motivate a team -- I'm sure I could apply those same skills here," rather than pointing out that you haven't exactly led an organization of comparable size. 
  • Prepare for problematic questions, such as why you left your last position or to explain a missed promotion. However, remember that for uncomfortable questions, the shortest answer is usually the best answer. 
  • Ensure caller ID systems are unblocked as interviewers frequently conduct phone interviews after normal business hours and on their personal cell phones. If the interviewer catches you at a bad time, say so – and request a call-back under more convenient circumstances. 
  • Have copies of your resume, employment application, the new job description and the contact information for your professional references immediately available during your phone interview. 
  • Prepare several questions to ask the interviewer that are not readily answerable in the public domain and that can help you better understand the employer's needs. Also, remember to review the caller's profile on LinkedIn. 
  • Signal flexibility with regard to location. You can always decline an offer at some future point in the discussion if the location is a deal-breaker. 

The challenge during every interview is to exude confidence and enthusiasm without it spilling over into arrogance or effusiveness. Planning ahead will ensure you make the cut for a formal interview. And, always send a thank-you note and follow-up with the interviewer in one to two weeks. 

And speaking of interviews, MOAA will host an Interview Survival webinar on March 26 at 2:00 EDST. We'll discuss interview dos and don'ts and provide techniques to help minimize your stress and anxiety. Attendance is limited; write to moaawebinar@moaa.org for more details. 

Finally, does it feel as though you've been treading water in the job search? You've taken the ETAP but are still wondering how to distinguish yourself from the competition in the eyes of a prospective employer. If your job search needs a jumpstart, think about tapping the five hours of one-on-one career transition counseling included in MOAA's executive level, one-day workshop. Five hours of this kind of personalized career transition guidance from experienced career management consultants can cost more than double the nominal fee charged for the MET workshop. And, you'll make personal connections with recently transitioned senior officers from a range of sectors and an experienced executive recruiter. Visit www.moaa.org/met for more details.

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