Body posture and body language is ever so much more important than you probably think - Google, and then listen to, the TED talk by Amy Cuddy (if necessary, include "body language" in the query). An important point is that adjusting your body language affects the way you perceive yourself, and the way you project yourself, and all of that is partly a habit that you want to work on ahead of time. As someone who was rejected from a job because of "low energy", I can emphasize that this is very important.
One of the things that the interviewers will be looking for is someone who is engaged and really interested in what the company is doing. Be active in the conversation (although don't overwhelm the conversation). If it is practical, at the beginning of the conversation, ask something like "Before we get started, would you mind sharing some of the goals (or challenges) that your team is working on and how someone like me could contribute", and/or "I've read the job description, but I'd appreciate your perspective - what are you hoping a new hire will contribute to the team". You need to ask these early if possible, so that your answers in the rest of the interview can address their hot buttons. As the conversation proceeds, ask questions about what they are asking. (E.g. if they ask about your experience with Agile, ask "If I may, what approach do you currently take to agile? Is that changing over time?")
At the end, they will usually ask if you have questions, be sure to have some ready. In general the following themes are good ones:
- Biggest Challenges
- Measures of success
- Goals, hopes and expectations. This could be for the group, or for the company. So an example question would be to figure out ahead of time who a key competitor is (good for a small brownie point!) and ask how they compete.
- What others have done to be successful
- What could you accomplish that would have a positive impact (perhaps put this in terms of a 90 day goal.)
Notes from a seminar
If you have to do a phone screen, do it standing up and if possible near a window - it improves your energy level, which comes through on the interview. Feel free to pace if it helps.
- Have 3 core messages you want the interviewer to come away with
- Have 3 core values you want the interviewer to come away with
- Have an elevator pitch to use when they start the interview with "so, tell me about yourself" (50% of my interviews have started that way)
- Have 15-20 stories that illustrate your skills that you can use to respond to questions
- Thoroughly know your product (you) before the interview
- Have a set of questions you need to ask (and by the way, when the end the interview with "do you have any questions?", ask at least one or two).
Some interviewers will ask challenging questions to try to knock you off balance. Deal with this by:
- Anticipating many of these questions and have answers ready
- Separate the external process (the answers you give to the interviewer) from the internal process ("How am I going to answer that question" or "That was a horrible answer")
- Avoid getting knocked off balance by preparation - know your stories cold so that you can pull them up even when you're internally panicing.
- When you get knocked off balance get back on balance my (internally) focusing on your core message, and remembering that you don't need to have a perfect answer to every question.
Other notes on phone interviews:
The key to having a successful phone interview might be to remember - it's
an interview. Treat it as you would any important business call, wherever
you happen to be.
Be on time: Phone interviews are scheduled by appointment, so don't
treat it any differently than an in-person interview.
Select a quiet place: No barking dogs, no kids in the background. You
want silence and privacy. Close the door to the room, answer the phone
yourself and wear a headset if possible so your hands are free to take
notes. Shut down your e-mail or anything else that will distract you.
Prepare some crib sheets: One advantage to phone interviews is you can
have information in front of you. If you don't know the names of the
interviewers in advance, write them down as they are given to you and make a
note to help you recognize their voice. For example, Mr. Jones has a high
pitched voice, or sounds like your Uncle Bill. Have a print-out of your
resume and your experienced-based vignettes in front of you in large type,
so you can refer to them.
Do your homework: Study the job description and the company's Web
site. By doing so, you can anticipate some of the questions you'll be asked,
and you'll be able to customize your examples and vignettes.
Smile: Okay, it's corny, but there's a reason everyone suggests it: It
works. Stand-up if it will help you transfer more energy into your voice,
and try putting a mirror on the wall in front of you. To prepare, role play
with a friend or your spouse and try recording your voice to see how you
Speak clearly and not too quickly: Remember that on most conference
lines, one person cuts out if two people speak at once. So always wait a
second before you start speaking to make certain the other person has
Listen: Connections can be challenging and the interviewer who's the
furthest away from the speaker phone can be hard to hear. Focus on what
you're being asked and request clarification if you're uncertain. It's
always good to start your response by addressing the questioning interviewer
by first name. If you're not sure who asked the question, identify them
first before responding.
Prepare some questions: Don't focus on compensation and benefits. Ask
about the company, its performance expectations, and the culture. In other
words, show interest! Also be sure to close by saying you're interested in
taking the next step and asking if there's anything else you can provide.
Obtain the contact information and titles for the interviewers and
send each a follow-up note or e-mail as soon as the interview concludes.
"Because most phone interviews focus on screening a candidate for their
knowledge, it's important to be ready to articulate your expertise clearly
and succinctly, but not curtly," says Kerr. "Avoid 'ums' and 'ahs' because
those bad speech habits have a tendency to magnify when you're speaking over
the telephone." And, she adds, "Although many candidates don't like phone
interviews, in some respects they're fairer than in-person meetings because
the candidates aren't judged on their appearance, just their competency. So
in that sense phone interviews are truly equal."
Some potentially useful links:
Some questions I've gotten that I wish I'd been better prepared for:
- What are your major strengths and weakenesses?
- What is your most important accomplishment? Failure?
- What was it about your last job that bugged you the most? Why?
- Tell me about a time you resolved a conflict.
- Tell me about something you regret.
- How do you motivate people?
- How do you establish consensus?
- Tell me about your solution to a really challenging or daunting problem, or
- What's the most difficult challenge you faced in your life, and how did you handle it?
- Ever have a disagreement with a boss? How did you handle it?
- Give me two reasons why I should NOT hire you.
- Give me one reason why I should hire you.
- What are you going to do for this company that no other job applicant could do
- What do you want in a manager?
- What kind of company culture are you looking for? (Give me an example of a company that was a good fit for you)
- Which supervisors have you found easiest to work with and which have been most difficult?
This is to judge your adaptability.
- What did you like best and least about your previous job?
Checking your administration and management skills.
- Have you ever had to get a point across to different types of people? Give me an example and tell me what approach did you take?
Finding out about your communication skills.
- Describe a work-related problem you had to face recently. What did you do to deal with it?
Decision making skills tested.
- Give me an example of a time you did more than what was required in your job.
- Give me an example of a time you found it necessary to make an exception to the rules in order to get something done.
How is your integrity?
- What was the best decision you ever made? What were the alternatives? How did you go about making it?
Checking your judgment.
- Tell me about a time you had to gain the cooperation of a group over which you had little or no authority. What did you do? How effective were you?
- Have you ever had trouble learning a new method or procedure? How did you deal with that situation?
Investigating your learning ability.
- Tell me about a problem you have had that would affect more than one department. How did you try to solve it?
For organizational cooperation.
The underlying themes of the interview are:
- Can you do the job?
- Will you do the job?
- Will you fit in?
Questions you might want to ask:
About the company:
- Why is the company so successful?
- Who are your primary competitors?
- What does the company do that none of its competitors do?
- What do you do for your customers?
- What are the company's weak points?
- How do you sell (e.g. direct, partners, retail, on-line)? Is that changing? Why?
- How much turnover has the company had in the last year?
- How does the company contribute to its employees' professional development?
- Financial: How well, and how, have you fared in the recession? How have revenues been changing? (Have they grown?) How have expenses changed? And what is the profitability? If not profitable, what are the plans to become profitable?
- What are the plans for future growth?
- What are the threats or risks to the company (e.g. competitors, industry trends, etc.)?
- How do people communicate? (Email, by phone, in person, ...)
- What tools are used for:
- Internal communication (push, pull, published, historical)?
- How would you describe the company culture?
About the Department:
- What are the goals of the team/group?
- On what basis is the team/group evaluated?
- How often are releases? Is that too often or too infrequent?
- What is the general development methodology / life cycle model?
- Who is responsible for requirements, and who participates in the process?
- What are the tradeoffs and relative priorities among Time (to market), Features, Cost, and Quality? Are those priorities well understood at the beginning of each project? How are the priorities established and conflicts among priorities resolved?
- What groups are responsible for what roles?
- What are the current planning and development tools?
- What are the other groups (QA, Documentation, Prof.Services, Support, Product Management), and what are the relationships (both formal and informal, i.e. do the teams really work well together)?
- What is upper management's opinion of the development team?
- What resources are available to make the team successful?
- How do you define quality?
About the position:
- Why is the position open? Is it newly created? If not, why did the last person leave?
- What are the primary challenges I will face?
- What are the short-term goals for the position? What do I need to accomplish in the first year to be successful?
- What are the long-term goals?
- How will I be evaluated? How will you know I've been successful?
- Are there formal evaluations? Are they yearly?
- How do I communicate most effectively with you? (Email, phone, drop in, ...) How many unread messages are in your inbox?
- How would you describe your management style?
- What degree of supervision do you expect to exercise vs how much independence?
- Do you have any concerns about me doing this job?
- What is the next step?
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