Recruiters: Pick Up the Phone

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post covering some of my findings during an independent research project regarding recruitment shortcomings. Mainly, my discoveries covered a multitude of faux pas regarding initial resume screening and outreach. Some situations were commonly found within the industry, while others were inexcusable. Mostly, though, it seemed to boil down to the fact that these issues could be attributed to poor training and/or unrealistic and irrelevant goals and metrics. Unfortunately, these issues continue on to other areas of the recruitment process, creating new opportunities for poor candidate experience. Let me tell you about the latest blunder I’ve come across…

They tell you that you should always be passively looking for new career opportunities, no matter how loyal and happy you are at your job. You never know what could happen, such as: layoffs; a new manager who is a bad fit; lack of job growth and/or salary growth; relocation; unethical situations from leadership; and so on. There are plenty of reasons why a person should always be building relationships with potential employers. With the recruitment process being somewhat longer than in years past, it’s best to get a head start in case you suddenly find yourself in a less-than-desirable situation with your current employer.

With that being said, I decided to investigate my new stomping ground of Boston and passively see what was out there. Moving from South Carolina up to this city, I was sure that there’d be plenty of opportunities for HR and talent acquisition at desirable companies. Plus, I already had my resume out there for the resume research project and had received plenty of calls and emails from recruiters. Why not actually speak to a few… or should I say TRY to speak to?

Here’s a recent situation that had me shaking my head and really question companies’ approach to talent acquisition. Recently, I was sought out for an HR coordinator role at a Fortune 100 global company. I was intrigued to see what it was all about, being that the company had a well-known consumer brand and is huge. After getting an email from the recruiter requesting some more information about my background, I decided to take a peek at their Glassdoor page. It had no branding and had some fairly low ratings. Normally, that would be a red flag for me but I decided to feel it out instead to really see if it was that bad or if it was just because a specific business unit or location drove down the ratings.

I emailed the recruiter back with the details they were asking for. It was pretty standard and I assumed that I would either never hear from them again, would get a phone call to set up a phone screen or would receive a generic rejection email. I was surprised to get an email back from the recruiter in less than 12 hours requesting more information again, however, this time it was 10 specific questions. As I reviewed the questions, I realized they would have been typical questions you would ask a candidate in a phone screen. I thought it was odd but I complied anyway just to see where it was going. After submitting my answers, I then received a new email asking to meet with him and the HR Director for a 3 hour interview on-site by the end of the week.

It is a candidate’s dream to have such quick turnaround and responsiveness from a recruiter. But, for that quick turn around and for a request for such a formal interview without even being screened seemed sketchy. I did research on the recruiter to double-check that it wasn’t a scam or that it wasn’t a third-party agency. I found that the recruiter was in fact an in-house senior talent acquisition manager for the company. I also verified that the name of the director was correct. My mind was reeling at the fact that the talent acquisition department of a well-known company would be that archaic. Not once did I receive a single phone call from anyone at this company, even if it was to simply schedule the on-site interview. There was no personal interaction whatsoever and I was unappreciative that they didn’t take the time to at least phone screen me. The reason being is that the phone screen isn’t just for a company to feel out a candidate, but it’s also an opportunity for a candidate to feel out the company. Maybe the position wasn’t a right fit, maybe the salary was too low or maybe the culture was not aligned with what I was looking for.

The next thing that bugged me was the fact that I didn’t have an opportunity to ask them anything about the role or company, but they knew plenty about me, especially the fact that I’m working full-time. Why would I waste 3 hours (not including travel time) to meet with a company that I knew nothing about? For all I know, I could have gone to an interview to find out this position was not at all what I was looking for. Do companies actually think passive candidates (especially employed ones) have time to waste by blindly walking into a time-consuming interview? Needless to say, I passed on the opportunity. For someone who is involved in HR and talent acquisition, I could easily tell that these processes seemed to be stuck in the past and there would be no way I could work at a company that wasn’t progressive, especially with things like candidate experience and recruitment in general. I understand that technology is changing the way people communicate, but I just found the lack of personal communication to be unacceptable.

Maybe the position was a great one and would have offered a competitive salary for the new increased cost of living I’m experiencing. Maybe the company actually was progressive and the HR and TA departments would have offered me the best career development experience I’ve ever had. I’ll never know, though, because the recruiter never took the time to pick up the phone to establish that relationship with me and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who’s experienced this before. Unfortunately, companies who don’t train their recruiters to provide a better candidate experience will be missing out on amazing talent, both active and passive. It’s sad to know that during my research I have only experienced a couple positive and impressive interactions. It really makes me wonder what happened to the recruiting profession.

Poor training doesn’t stop at initial outreach. Companies need to focus on a well-rounded training program that teaches their teams to provide a seamless and positive candidate experience from initial resume screening all the way to onboarding. That’s the ticket to building a strong pipeline of engaged talent that will eventually convert into engaged new hires.

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Prepare for the Interview Battlefield

 

Over the weekend, a friend of mine reached out to me because she was seeking some advice on how to properly prepare for the interview process. She had been out of the job seeking world for a few years now so the current concept of interview loops seemed foreign to her. Even though I studied human resources, talent acquisition, and have been in the field for a few years, I also struggled with this when I was searching for work a year ago. I thought I would have had the knowledge to beat the odds but I soon realized that whatever plan I had initially used during interviews was severely flawed. I began to feel like being a job seeker was like walking into a battlefield with the awareness that everyone is betting against you. It’s tough and winging it these days isn’t going to cut it.

You may never really be able to fully prepare for your job interviews, but it would be unwise to think that you can’t prepare yourself at all. The best thing I did for myself when I was getting ready for a phone interview was prepare organized notes that I could review while speaking to the recruiter. This helped me greatly so I suggested that my friend should get ready the same way I did:

  • Compare your skills/experience to the job description: the recruiter is trying to find out how much of a fit you are for the job role. Look at the job description requirements and duties and briefly write down your own experiences in a way that flows nicely against the description. Many people get caught up in unnecessary details or verbiage when the recruiter asks them about their experience. This can help you get straight to the point and make it easy for them to see that your skills will transfer well to this role.
  • Write down examples: a lot of the time, recruiters will ask you behavioral questions relevant to the job. This is a way to see how you would potentially handle realistic situations that may happen in the day-to-day. Having solid examples, details about the actions you took, and the result will be a great way to show the recruiter that you can handle any curveballs thrown at you.
  • Be ready for the tough questions: of course, you may not have been able to handle every curveball gracefully throughout your career. If a recruiter asks you about a time that you failed or about a weakness, make sure you have an example. More importantly, make sure you show them what you learned from this experience.
  • Don’t forget your accomplishments: there are times where you may have gone above and beyond in your company or you may have even accomplished things outside of your job scope. Sometimes, candidates mix this in when they’re explaining their work experience and this can throw off the recruiter. Having these examples separate can make sure the recruiter will see that you have relevant experience but also that you have the initiative and drive to do more when you have the bandwidth.
  • Have 2-5 great questions: recruiters love it when candidates ask solid questions. However, make sure you have thoughtful questions. Nothing is more irritating than getting asked a question that could have been easily answered if you read the job description. To really wow the recruiter, do some digging and take the time to research. Go beyond their company website and even look into news about them, their blog, or press releases.
  • Keep it organized: having notes is great but make sure you keep it organized. This can allow you to refer to them quickly so you don’t miss a beat in your response.

I loved having notes. Honestly, I’m not all that great thinking on my toes. If I’m taken off-guard, I’ll end up talking in circles. If I take the time to think it through, my nerves of taking too long to answer will force me to respond before I can even think of a good reply. I’ve heard this happening to plenty of people, which is why I strongly suggest taking the time to have these notes prepared. Having this ready may even help reduce some of your stress and interviewing jitters which can allow you to display confidence.

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Job Seeker: Don’t Rule Out a Phone Interview

The interview process has evolved over the last few years. I recall interview processes only being an interview or two before the company made a decision on whether or not they wanted to hire you. With the changes in the economy and workforce, recruiters are now overwhelmed with a large amount of candidates applying to their job openings and do not have enough time to interview them in that capacity anymore. Therefore, the interview processes have changed into a series of steps, with phone interviews typically being the first one.

Being in talent acquisition myself, I spend most of my week setting up initial phone interviews to determine if the candidates are: interested in the job; interested in the company; and meet the basic requirements. I’ve been a job seeker before and, trust me, it’s a full time job in itself. Surprisingly, I’ve come across plenty of candidates that have decided against doing a phone interview because they were either in the interview process with another company or holding out for a company to reach out to them about their application. In those situations, I can’t help but shake my head. As a job seeker, you should be exploring as many relevant opportunities as you possibly can, especially if it doesn’t require too much time out of your day. You never know what can happen during your job search (or what WON’T happen), so it’s best to have your feelers out as much as possible.

I’ve seen plenty of candidates who’ve waited on a company to contact them about their application just to find out a month later that they were never going to receive that call. I’ve also had candidates hold off on interviewing with other companies because they were interviewing elsewhere, only to be rejected by the company at the final interview stage. Putting off other interviewing opportunities not only wasted time, but they also ended up losing out on opportunities because other available candidates jumped all over it. As a job seeker, you not only have to be aggressive in your search, but you also need to ensure that you don’t make rash assumptions about things. For example, a phone interview isn’t going to land you a job within 20 minutes, so you still can buy time in case the other opportunity you’re waiting for comes through. Or just because the opportunity or company isn’t ideal for you doesn’t mean other opportunities that are more of a fit won’t be presented.

Phone interviews don’t require too much time or effort and can benefit you:

  • It’s quick: phone interviews typically last anywhere from 15-30 minutes and will allow you to get started with the interview process without having to dedicate a ton of time to it. This is a way for you to determine if it’s something you would want to dedicate time to.
  • It gets your name out there: this is an easy way for recruiters and companies to get to know: you; what you’re looking for; and what you’re abilities are. Even if the job opportunity isn’t right for you, you’ll at least be on their radar for something else down the line.
  • You can learn about a company or opportunities: sometimes a job description or an “about me” section on a company website doesn’t do an opportunity justice. I’ve almost ruled out companies in the past based off of these two things but was pleasantly surprised to learn that my assumptions were wrong once I spoke to the recruiter. The additional details allowed me to determine if it was a right fit or not.
  • It can help you pipeline: Like I said earlier, sometimes the timing or the opportunity isn’t right for you at the moment. However, it can help you determine if it is a company you want to look into down the line. This can be a great way to build a relationship with the company so once you do feel like the timing is right, you can easily reach out to the recruiter and get the ball rolling.
  • Recruiters like to help: Let’s say you didn’t like the opportunity that the recruiter initially reached out to you about- that doesn’t mean it’s over. Recruiters often network with each other to see what each other are working on (internally and externally). If the recruiter you spoke to knew someone who is looking for a candidate with your talent, it is very likely that they’ll pass on your resume to the other recruiter.

Before you turn down a phone interview, think about all the benefits above. A thirty minute phone call can help you be even more strategic in your job search.

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Do’s and Don’ts for your Phone Screen Interview

The phone screen has become a common trend in the recruiting industry. Recruiters are constantly bombarded with an obscene amount of resumes on a daily basis. Therefore, in the search to find quality talent, they have resorted to initial phone screens to weed out those not qualified and cut down time. This initial option has become a crucial part of the interviewing process. Candidates must recognize that in order to get to the next step and land a job, they must take the phone screen seriously.

I’ve been a job seeker and I’ve also recruited before. Having experience on both sides has allowed me to compile some great tips and advice when it comes to phone interviews. Candidates- please take note of these do’s and don’ts. All phone screens and phone interviews should be handled with a high level of professionalism. If not, you could be struggling to find a company who will give you the right of passage to the second interview.

DO:

  • Treat this as a face-to-face interview.
  • Handle it professionally.
  • Be ready and available to take the phone call and ensure you have enough time available in case the call runs longer than expected.
  • Your homework: Research the company so you can show the recruiter that you truly are interested in them.
  • Be prepared and be sure to have relevant examples to display that you are capable of doing the job successfully.
  • Ask questions! Recruiters like this and it can help them clearly see if this would be a good candidate/job fit.
  • Get straight to the point. Phone interviews are typically quick screens, so be sure to state the facts quickly and highlight the things that can really show that you would be an asset.
  • Ensure you are in a good service area. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to decipher what the other person is saying if they are cutting out or dealing with dropped calls.

DON’T:

  • Miss the phone call, especially if it was scheduled.
  • Have unnecessary background noise (i.e. dog barking, children screaming, tv blaring, etc.)
  • Ramble about things that are irrelevant. The screen was meant to cut down interviewing time so don’t make it longer than it has to be.
  • Take a call while driving or outside. Find a quiet room or even sit in a parked car. You must stay focused!
  • Ask what the company is or what the job is when answering the call. This will make the recruiter assume that you have application-blasted a bunch of companies and aren’t completely interested in this one.
  • Have unprofessional ringtones or voicemails. That is a huge turn off and could cause the recruiter to question your level of professionalism.
  • Come off as passive. Be enthusiastic about this job. Make sure the recruiter remembers you and your optimism.
  • Chew gum or food while on the phone. All the recruiter will hear is you chomping and will be distracted from what you’re actually saying.
  • Take the call in a restroom. Toilet flushing is extremely unprofessional (and creates some awkward visuals).

Remember, the phone screen/phone interview is your way to get on the gatekeepers’ good side. It is an extremely important step in the interview process. This can either make or break your chances of getting the golden ticket to enter into the next round of interviews. As a candidate, it is in your best interest to not take this lightly. Just because it is not face-to-face does not mean it’s any less important. In fact, this step could be even more so because this is your first impression and could define you as a hirable or non-hireable candidate for the company. Make sure you do your best!

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