The Telephone Interview
Many companies use phone interviews as an initial employment screening technique for a variety of reasons. Because they're generally brief, phone interviews save companies time. They also serve as a more realistic screening alternative for cases in which companies are considering out-of-town (or out-of-state and foreign) candidates. You won't be meeting with your interviewer(s) face to face. Instead, you'll be taking part in a phone interview, the results of which will determine whether you're invited to meet with company representatives next by Skype or in person.
The chances are pretty good that, at some point in your job hunt, you'll be asked to participate in a 20 to 30 minute phone interview with either one person or several people on the other end of the line. In many ways, the way you prepare for a phone interview isn't all that different from the way you'd get ready for a Skype or face-to-face interview. Importantly, there are a few slight additions to and modifications of your list of preparation tasks.
Here's what to do:
- Have your resume, cover letter, references and intelligence regarding the organization and the position description in front of you.
- Treat the phone interview seriously, just as you would a face-to-face interview.
- Make a cheat sheet. Jot down a few notes about the most critical points you want to make with your interviewer(s). Are there certain skills and experiences you want to emphasize? Do you have certain interests or passions you want your interviewer(s) to know about and understand? Be sure these pieces of information appear on your crib sheet. Then touch on them during the interview, even if your only chance to do so is at the end of the session.
- Disable call waiting. If for some reason you are not able to disable call waiting, absolutely ignore it if someone calls.
- Don't get caught with your guard down. Be sure to research the company, study the job description, and practice your responses to anticipated questions, just as you would for any other interview.
- Prepare questions ahead of time. Just like an in person interview, have a few questions to ask your potential employer at the end of the interview. Some examples are:
- “What does a typical day look like for an employee with this job?”
- “What are some skills I would need to develop in order to excel in the position I’m applying for?”
- “What types of NDT methods, software and equipment would I be using?”
- Enforce a dress code. Believe it or not, properly dressing in at least business casual attire will make a big difference in your ability to focus on the interview. Wearing the right clothes and taking a serious approach to the call will help you maintain a professional attitude regardless of your surroundings.
- Use a high quality phone, and a landline if possible. Don’t risk having problems with cell phone service. It is irritating for employers to conduct interviews if the call breaks up frequently or is dropped completely. If you don’t have a landline at home, just make sure you are in an area with as much cell phone service as possible. Do what you can so the process runs as smooth as possible.
- Without the visual communication of an in person interview, it can be tough to know when to stop talking. If your nerves are high and your blood is flowing, you can easily make the mistake of saying too much. Make sure to speak slowly and articulate. When you have answered the question, allow for that possibly uncomfortable moment of silence. This will let the interviewer know that you are through, and then they will proceed. Listen and wait for them to finish with their next question, and then proceed. Take notes on the key aspects of each question.
- Stand up. Stretching out your torso will allow you to have the full strength of your lungs. You will be able to speak more clearly and powerfully.
- As with all interviews, practicing beforehand helps you prepare for common interview questions.
- If you wear earrings, remove them before the call. Many people tend to adjust the phone's headset during a call. Chances are that the earrings will rub up against the telephone’s mic creating an awkward, distracting noise for everyone on the call.
- Do not use or place the call on “speaker” during any part of the interview.
- Steer clear of distractions. Find a quiet place to interview and stay there. There shouldn’t be any noise in the background to distract you or your potential employer.
- Make sure to ask for your interviewer’s name. Follow up with a thank you note.
Phone interviews can be tricky, especially since you aren't able to read your interviewers' nonverbal cues like facial expressions and body language which is a big difference from the typical interview. But if you prepare well for your phone interview, you won't need to read anyone's non-verbals to gauge your performance. You'll know for sure how you've done because you'll be invited to a Skype or a face-to-face interview, where you'll have yet another opportunity to prove you're the best person for the job.
The Skype Interview
With webcam video interviews becoming more common during hiring, not being prepared can easily keep you out of the running. While meeting via webcam video is time saver, getting past the technological barriers of not speaking face-to-face can be difficult. Be sure you're prepared and use Skype to your advantage. For one, you can use your computer screen to refer hiring managers to your achievements or provide examples. Consider creating a digital portfolio that you can link to during the interview. After the interview, you can also send your relevant work samples to the interviewer.
Here's how to handle a Skype or video interview:
- Look at the camera, not the screen. It can be confusing, but when you're looking at your monitor it actually makes the interviewer feel as if you're looking away. Instead, look directly at the video camera you're using for your interview. And although you're not making eye contact in the traditional sense, this is the way that the interviewer perceives that you're looking straight ahead.
- Be aware of possible interruptions.
- If you’re doing the interview from home, it can be easy to forget to turn off a phone or not warn family members to give you some privacy. Have a plan for whatever distractions you have in your house, including children and dogs.
- Practice in front of a mirror. During the interview, you can see yourself in the video camera, which can be startling if you've never seen yourself speak. It's important to get familiar with your own facial expressions when you talk. This will also help handle some of the camera shyness.
- Pay attention to the background. Your surroundings can say a lot about how you've prepared for the interview, so it's important to put your best foot forward. Shoot your video against a warm one color background; use your desk area if it’s been cleared, or have awards and certificates in the background.
- Wear either dark color traditional business attire or a shirt/blouse that's business casual and complimentary to your skin tone. Avoid patterns that come across as too loud on screen. Clothing can distract the interviewer from the information conveyed during the conversation, so it's important to plan your outfit carefully.
- Conduct a mock interview. Being comfortable with the technology prevents the added stress from a tech malfunction. Find a person you trust and use Skype or other video conferencing software to conduct a mock interview. You're bound to make mistakes, so it's best to practice with someone who can provide honest feedback.
- Just because your laptop has a built-in video camera and microphone doesn't mean the quality is up to par. Instead, test out the video and audio capabilities on your computer and decide whether you need to buy a headset with a microphone or an attachable video camera. Before the interview, some companies may send their own video devices to applicants.
- Any television announcer will tell that your reactions translate differently when onscreen, so it's important to compensate with extra enthusiasm and concise answers. Additionally, speak succinctly and remember that speed is important.
- Again, it’s always important to ask your interviewer questions. Ask follow ups from something they may have asked you or inquire for more detail about the position responsibilities, company goals, work environment, or the particular department’s role.
- Send a thank you note to the interviewer(s).
In Person Interview
- Be on time. There is no excuse for it, none! You don't want an angry person interviewing you. Leave extra early, do whatever it takes. Blaming it on traffic or anything else doesn't matter (even if it's true).
- Turn your cell phone off. Obvious but easily forgotten. Double and triple check to make sure your cell phone ringer is turned off.
- Know the company, and why you want to work there. Google the company you're interviewing for. Learn as much as you can about the company's mission, objectives, goals, and future plans. If you're asked why you want to work for the company, you best answer something better then, "I like the company's location."
- Bring resumes. Your interviewer(s) will likely have a copy of your resume but bring spares. It shows you're prepared and serious about getting the job.
- Bring a notepad and take notes when appropriate.
- Today hiring managers Google you or look you up on Facebook or MySpace. They do this to weed out people who wouldn't be a good fit in the company's culture. So, don’t give them a reason not like you, set your profiles to private.
- Don't make jokes. Too many people think they are funny when in reality they're not. A job interview isn't the place to test your material. Be friendly and outgoing, save the jokes.
- Don't babble. When answering a question, answer the question. Don't start out answering a question and then veer off to talk about something else. Make sure your answer directly reflects the question being asked.
- Don't badmouth a boss. Bad mouthing a previous boss in a job interview is a huge negative. They may have been the worst boss in the world but expressing that in a job interview is a huge mistake.
- Don't flirt with the interviewer Common sense but needs to be stated.
- Don't play with your face/hair. Interviews can be a nervous experience but rubbing your chin, twirling your hair, or anything else along those lines makes you look like you're lying or lacking confidence, both not good.
- Less is more. Sometimes certain details of your life are better left unsaid.
- Have good eye contact. Staring at the floor, ceiling, or wall when speaking or listening makes you appear disinterested. Again, simple and obvious but happens way more then you'd think.
- Have goals. Maybe you don't have any idea where you want to be in a few years professionally but figure out something to say. If you don't and you're asked, you appear unambitious, which leads an interviewer to think you'd be a lazy employee.
- Have accomplishments. Be prepared to talk about something that you're proud of accomplishing, whether professionally or personally (or a failure and what you learned from it).
- Have passion. Be able to express why you want to work in nondestructive testing and what you do to further your knowledge (books, journals, blogs you read). The more intelligent or informed you are the more impressive you'll look.
- Ask Questions. At the end of the job interview, like a telephone or Skype interview, make sure you have some questions to ask. If the interviewer doesn't offer you a chance, ask to ask. Again, it reinforces your strong interest in the job. Here are a few of the types of questions you may want to ask:
- What are the career prospects within your company?
- What staff training and development opportunities are available?
- Who would I be reporting to?
- Where would I be located?
- Send a thank you note. It's easy to send an email but take the extra effort to mail your interviewer a hand written thank you note. It reinforces your interest in the job. It doesn't need to be long, just make it sincere.
Interview Question Samples
Whether telephone, Skype or in person, anticipating possible questions and practicing your answers will help you be more comfortable and confident in the interviewing situation. There are a variety of types of interviewers and interviewing styles. So, how can you prepare? The best thing to do is anticipate by practicing a variety of question types which there are a sampling of below here. The other thing is if you know someone who works or has worked for the company, ask them about what they recall from their interviews with the organization. Typical interview questions include:
What parts of your education do you see as relevant to this position?
What prompted you to study NDT?
- Tell me about a time when you had to communicate information to a group of people.
Tell me about a significant achievement in your life.
Tell me about a time where you had to work towards a deadline. Did you meet it? If not, what would you do differently next time?
- Do you want the job? Why?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- Are you willing to learn?
- Are you ambitious to succeed in an NDT career? Why?
- What do you know about our company?
- What are your short term/long term goals?
- Where do you see yourself in five years time?
- Describe a time where you set yourself a challenging goal? What happened? What would you do differently?
The interviewer may want to determine if you will be a good team player, someone who will be absorbed into the organization without disruption to the existing team dynamics. To do so, you may be asked the following types of questions:
- Describe a time where you had to work with a group of people to achieve a common goal?
- Can you give me an example of working as part of a team? What was your contribution to the team and what was the outcome of this exercise?
- What makes you the best applicant for this position?
- Why should we take you over other applicants?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Can you give me five words that best describe you?
- What specific NDT skills and qualifications can you bring to this position?
Employers will sometimes give you hypothetical questions putting you in a work situation to test your problem solving skills. You must be able to think on your feet and analyze the situation while keeping in mind the company's culture and values. Don’t concentrate so much on what your final answer is but that you show a logical thought process in developing your answer. There is sometimes no one right answer but there are definitely wrong ones. Types of questions may be:
- What would you do if 2 out of 3 people did not show up for their shift?
- How would you handle it if a co-worker confided in you that they have seen another employee stealing from the company?
- What would you do if your supervisor asked you to do something that you felt was unethical?
- Do you feel it is unethical to charge two different prices for the same service?
Salary questions are always important but sometimes difficult to know what to say, what to ask about and when. Here are a few tips you may want to use.
- Respond to the question positively without stating specific amounts. Examples: “I’m earning in the low 30s.” “As a student, my jobs to this point have been geared toward gaining experience and making money to cover my educational costs.”
- Research salaries in nondestructive testing: look at recent salary surveys like the one published by PQNDT http://www.pqndt.com/resources.html ; and talk to others working in NDT.
- Mention your desired salary, either saying that salary is negotiable depending upon the position or giving a $3-5,000 range (if you know the market value for the position and for someone with your skills and background). You may also use terms like “competitive” or “open” if you are responding to this question on an application form.
- Know your salary requirements as well as what you hope to make. You shouldn’t mention these in your response to the salary history question, but you need to give this some thought for when you get to the negotiating stage.
- Be prepared to respond to a request for previous salaries in an interview.
- Prepare a list of your positions (in reverse chronological order) for your own reference and just in case an employer in which you are very interested is absolutely adamant. (This does not happen often.) The list should include name of each company or organization, your position title, your compensation, and a brief synopsis of your position.
- Be Flexible: When going through a salary negotiation you aren't likely to get the exact amount of money you want. You will probably have to compromise. The trick is to figure out how much you are willing to compromise and what you will do if your boss doesn't offer you a salary you find acceptable.