By Mike Spinale, PHR, Human Resources Manager
Everyone knows the importance of making a good first impression. It’s why most people work hard to prepare for the first face-to-face meeting with a potential employer. They pull out their suit, iron their clothes, get the hair done, clip their nails, etc…all with the hope of leaving the hiring company with a positive feeling about your candidacy.
But the real first impression a candidate makes is over the phone. Most employers initially reach out to applicants through the phone. This may include a quick call to schedule an interview or an impromptu phone interview. A job seeker must survive this stage of the interview process to succeed in obtaining a position.
Here are some tips and tricks on how to handle the initial contact from a company:
• Speak with enthusiasm – Don’t speak like you just got out of bed…even if you did! From the moment you answer the call to a cheerful goodbye, showing your enthusiasm about the position and the company will energize the company representative about your candidacy.
• Know who’s calling – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called someone for an interview and they’ve said “Who is this again? I’m sorry I don’t recognize the name of your company…I’ve applied for so many jobs”. This tells me the job seeker has no real interest in my company and is just looking for a job.
• Find a quiet space – It’s completely appropriate to ask the caller if you can call them back from a private area, especially if you are at work. One time, I was speaking to someone who was at work in their cube. They kept getting interrupted and whispered in response to my questions. They left an impression alright. Also, be careful of TVs blaring, dogs barking, and children crying in the background.
• Get rid of ring back tones – While music is better to listen to than a ringing phone line, I would prefer not to listen to “My Humps” as I’m waiting to speak to a candidate for an accounting position.
• Professionalize your voicemail greeting – Sound pleasant and confident in the greeting that awaits your unanswered callers. Don’t sound meek, sluggish or stern. And please please please don’t record music from the radio.
Remember that your first, first impression will likely occur over the phone. While a phone interview alone won’t win you the job, it is absolutely the first step to getting the coveted interview.