Bohan and Bradstreet

Interview Miscues

3/11/2013 by Ed Bradstreet

There is a distinct advantage to networking into a company. The best reason is not the most obvious. Being known increases the probability of an offer and shortcuts a lot of pitfalls that swallow the unknown candidate. Identifying a better company and/or role is both a science and an art form. It requires time, strategy, research, and practice. Too often the best candidate that is available and aware of a specific vacancy does not get hired or even personally interviewed. Here are two of the more common miscues that job applicants make:

Under-Performing Resume

Here is the logic: A company is looking externally because the solution is not available internally. The opening occurs because there are needs, pain, and/or changes impacting the company. It could be leadership, external customers, productivity, acquisitions, profitability, or a host of other challenges that need to be conquered. So what happens 85+% of the time is the unknown candidate submits a traditional chronological resume that explains their employment history, lists some skills and possibly some results, describes education and training, and often throws in addendums like interests, activities, and stale events. Boring!

There are two types of readers: decision makers and, as the book Selling to VITO suggests, “Seymours” – because they always want to “see more.” When decision makers are looking at a candidate’s paperwork, they want to find the “aspirin” for their pain. They want headlines, solutions, and successes. Decision makers do not want boring. Most resumes are written for the writer rather than the reader. Think marketing proposal rather than resume.

If you want to impress the reader and you have the appropriate expertise and know-how, then...

  • Lead the reader's eye and provide clear-cut illustrations that demonstrate your ability to lead, implement change, improve productivity, and so on.
  • Your presentation should be electronically scanable and include strengths and contributions that are appropriate to your audience. Decision makers don't like resume templates, tables or graphs.
  • 95+% of all resumes lack personality, so start with a professional summary that can include adjectives that describe your personality and major strengths that a reader can preview.
  • Use action verbs in your resume and describe accomplishments in a STAR format (Situation-Task-Action-Result).

Bad Phone Techniques

Increasingly, clients are phone-interviewing a candidate as the first step in the process. This is usually accomplished by a human resources professional and, on occasions, by the hiring authority. If asked to participate in a phone interview, then assume you are on target and have met north of 80% of the hard skills and core requirements. Practice makes perfect and there are a lot of books written that provide examples of questions and illustrations of good and bad answers. Choose a private setting and a hard line for the phone interview. Often the company caller is on a cell phone and cell to cell is not reliable enough. Make sure that you will not be interrupted and there isn't external noise that can override the conversation.

The emphasis will be more on soft skills. This is an opportunity for the company representative to assess the "personality fit." Every search and company is unique; however, the soft skills that all concentrate on are energy and enthusiasm, reasoning, listening abilities, initiative and drive, temperament, and willingness to invest in your future. In addition, research and knowledge of the company history, products/services, organizations, operating results, customers, culture, and so on are all of value.

Here are the common phone interview mistakes:

  1. Cell phone disconnects.
  2. Candidate is driving and does not fully concentrate on the interview.
  3. Applicant turns interview into a confessional and admits flaws in personality.
  4. Candidate openly offers negative comments about current or former employer.
  5. Applicant has not anticipated questions and therefore answers in abbreviated fashion or under sells abilities and knowledge.
  6. Candidate under-values the phone interview and is not considered a serious contender.
  7. Applicant goes off on a tangent.

Companies do not have the luxury to interview all applicants. A well-run search will limit the "in-person" interview to seven or less candidates (in the last year, there was only one candidate presented for 14% of Bohan & Bradstreet's placements). Typical searches may generate 30 to 400+ candidates and although many applicants lack the proper requirements, the vast majority of those that are on target are screened out for under-performing resumes and bad phone techniques.