Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Topmost Tips for Terrific Telephony

Phone interviews are as important as in-person appointments; here’s how to be prepared.

By Rick Fromme

An early 20th century candlestick phone being ...
An early 20th century candlestick phone being used for a phone call.                   (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Just as in-person interviewing is a craft and skill that would-be applicants can hone, so too is the ability to conduct a compelling telephone interview. Unlike being in-person interview, a telephone interview – without video conferencing – doesn’t allow you to read an interviewer’s facial expression or body language, which it can help both candidates and interviewers better understand each other.  But a well-prepared candidate can make a positively indelible impression over the phone as well as face-to-face. Says American entrepreneur, author, and humanitarian activist, Dan Pallota, “… Open yourself up to the possibility a phone call offers. Discover this remarkable device called the telephone. It will give you a serious competitive edge.”  

It’s important to regard the telephone interview as crucially as an in-person meeting. Often, a medical sales company or major medical facility has numerous candidates across the nation or a region vying for the same position. Conducting phone interviews with the top tier of candidates allows decision makers to cull the field down to its final few, and then invite its top choices for an in-person interview, thus saving time and money on travel expenses. If a candidate passes muster during the phone interview, it also facilitates setting up meetings with multiple decision makers that may need to meet individually with a promising candidate – hopefully you -- while she or he is on site. 

What’s On First?

At the outset, ask the interviewer how much time the interview should take. This will help you pace the conversation, and ensure you’ve covered your talking points during the conversation.

Also at the beginning of the conversation, show you’ve done your homework, but also seek out more information about the position. You might say something like, “I’ve read the position description, but I’d like to hear in your words what you’re [or, what the company is] looking for in an ideal candidate.”  Though  most phone interviewers have a set roster questions they intend to ask, they won’t be looking askance at this question, if it’s worded correctly and expressed with sincerity. 

Google Calendar 2006-11-26
Google Calendar 2006-11-26 (Photo credit: Arthaey)
If the call arrives unexpectedly, politely request a time in the near future to reschedule. You never want to be caught unprepared for this all-important conversation. You won’t sound   disinterested, but concerned about being prepared and ready for the interview. While this brief conversation isn’t an interview per se, the caller is still evaluating your sense of professionalism and your communication skills

Ensure you have created a quiet environment for your interview. This means dealing with any possible distractions in advance such as family members, pets, neighbors or even other phone calls coming into your call waiting queue. Not only will it be distractive, making you more nervous and less able to focus, but it also sends and unintentional message to the interviewer you’re not serious about the interview process and the job itself. Unless you know it’s an absolute emergency, don’t answer your call waiting queue.

Suit Yourself

Unless you’re skilled at communicating professionally over the phone, some career search specialists advise you to dress for success, even if you’re interviewing in the privacy of your own home. Donning your best interviewing attire helps put you in a business mindset and increase your confidence. Your entire demeanor — including your intonation, the verbiage you choose, and attitude you exude — will be positively affected. Of course, if using any type of video conferencing, you want to dress in conservative business attire. 

Another good practice is to shoot a test video of yourself in advance of your appointment time. This will allow you to playback the video to ensure the lighting is sufficient and that any items that might appear on-camera in the background aren’t in any way distracting or be perceived as possibly offensive.

Desirous Papyrus

My Reference Files
My Reference Files (Photo credit: Tim Morgan)
At hand should be your résumé, your brag book with Condition/Action/Benefit vignettes. Los Angeles executive and career coach David Couper, author of  “Outsiders on the Inside: How to Create a Winning Career Even When You Don’t Fit In!” recommends having a written list of five to ten short vignettes about yourself that illustrate your accomplishments. “If you say you managed a department with five people, you need to have a story about that,” Couper, who used to work in human resources at now-defunct consulting giant, Arthur Andersen says.  Additionally, you should also have a list of professional and civic awards, the cover letter you may have previously sent, a list of professional testimonials that others have written about you if you’ve received them; the job description, questions you’ve prepared to ask, and any other pertinent information (the research you’ve done about the company, etc.). Let’s face it: interviewing can be somewhat disquieting if not extremely distressing.  Having the above mentioned documents at the ready helps you recall — and importantly to recount — critical information and helps you stay focused.

Some pundits recommend standing up and walking around in the workplace you’ve created for conducting the interview. Doing so, they say, gives off a confident and energetic vibe. The one caveat is if you’re using a cell phone, moving around, even a couple of feet away from your desk, may cause a very embarrassing loss of signal or drop out. It's been known to happen. Just don't let it occur during your interview. 
English: Charger connectors of different mobil...
English: Charger connectors of different mobile phones (from the left: Samsung E900, Motorola V3, Nokia 6101, Sony Ericsson K750)Motorola V3, Nokia 6101及 Sony Ericsson K750 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One way to prevent this is if you still have a land line, use that for your interview. Many also recommend telling the interviewer at the outset you’re on a cell phone in case the signal drops out or if the connection is altogether lost, it’s not totally unexpected. No matter what type of phone you’re using, ensure it’s fully charged or the battery has plenty of juice.

#E.T., Phone Home (Extra Tips for Your Phone @ Home)

Make certain you have the correct date and time for your appointment. Especially if the company or recruiter is located in another time zone, adjust your calendar accordingly so you’ll be punctual. This may mean having to get up early or work late to accommodate for East and West coast time differences, but do what you have to be on point at the allotted time.

English: "E.T Phonehome" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ensure your phone’s outgoing greeting is professional sounding. Sure, having funny messages is great for your personal network — and there are some hilarious ones out there — but if you’re at all in the job hunt mode, re-record a more professional sounding one until you land a new position.

If another person is answering your phone, remind them to take a detailed message that includes the caller’s name, company, date, and why they’re calling. If you have little children at home, especially during business hours, it’s probably best not to have them answer incoming calls. 
Smile. It will improve your attitude and your enthusiasm will enhance the tone of your voice. Remember, the interviewer can’t see you, so like a great narrator of an audiobook or radio announcer, you’ll have to solely use your voice to portray your confidence and acumen. Some professional phone sales representatives have been known to hang mirrors at their workstations to periodically check to see they’re maintaining a facial expression that’s positive and upbeat when they’re on the phone.

Use the same etiquette as an in-person interview. Be certain to thank the interviewer for his or her time and express that you’re looking forward to that next round, in-person meeting.  You may also want to inquire what will be the next step in the interview/evaluation process.

A well-prepared candidate can make a positively indelible 
impression over the phone as well as face-to-face.

Listen attentively. Remember interviews are conversations, not interrogations. Take note of the questions the interviewer asks. These will become helpful when writing a compelling thank-you note after concluding the interview.  

Have a glass of water handy, but not too near important documents where normal interview jitters may cause
you to inadvertently spill it. Closed containers are best.

If you’re interviewing with several different people simultaneously, try to find out their names, titles and brief job functions in advance.

Don’t talk too much. “We have two ears and one mouth. Many people act as if it was the opposite,” Dr. Stephen Covey sagaciously quips. Watch the clock and don’t talk for more than one minute or 90 seconds at one stretch. Then pause at ask if more details would be useful.

Practical Practice

Consider practicing phone interviews in advance with friends or family members. If you have the ability to record the conversation, do so. There’s nothing more telling than listening to a playback of your mock interview.

Big Mouth
Big Mouth (Photo credit: UpChuck_Norris)
Ensure you’re enunciating well and using good diction. For many Americans, it’s the consonants, now called plosives, which prove problematic, such as /d/, /t/, /b/, and /p/.  How to improve? One way is to try to emulate professional narrators and broadcasters. Be careful, however; you want to sound natural and not overly stiff. Another way is to recite tongue twisters such as, “Billy blows big blue bubbles that billow brightly in breeze.” Or, “Twelve twins twirled twelve twigs.” For sibilants (/s/ and /f/) try: “Susan Simpson strolled sedately in solitary since, stifling sobs, suppressing sighs,” and “Fresh fried fish, fish fresh fried, fried fish fresh, fish fried fresh.” Here’s a great website of tongue twisters: Before the interview, to warm up your voice, mouth and throat muscles, and tongue before the all-important phone call, say a few of these aloud. Even better, memorize or invent your own to recite regularly. After all, preeminent pundits posit proper practice promotes professional proficiency.
Rick Fromme combines entrepreneurial enthusiasm with an insider's knowledge of the medical industry to co-found Both his drive and perspective helps provide health care professionals with a superior mechanism with which to communicate, network and market their strengths. Prior to founding, Rick operated a highly successful medical device distributorship. Other milestones in his 12-year career in the medical industry include a key position at a medical device start-up company that was later sold to the Ethicon Endo division of Johnson & Johnson. You may also reach Rick by connecting with him on FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedIn and YouTube

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Here’s Looking at You, Kid

Key Qualities Employers Seek in Job Applicants

By Rick Fromme

“There are as many opinions as there are experts,” former president Franklin D. Roosevelt astutely espoused. That’s certainly true when it comes to ascertaining important attributes employers seek in job candidates. As in many elements pertaining to one’s career search — creating an effective résumé, crafting a compelling cover letter, honing one’s interview skills, developing key questions to ask during a job interview, knowing how to negotiate your salary — there’s a plethora of sound advice from sagacious experts, all of whom are eager to share their wisdom.

The Power of Character
Eleanor Roosevelt with Fala
Eleanor Roosevelt with Fala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems our former POTUS (President of the United States) and his spouse, FLOTUS       (First Lady of the United States), were both wizened individuals; that’s undoubtedly one reason why they were a dynamic chief executive duo. For, like her husband, the indefatigable Eleanor Roosevelt was also skilled at making  pithy observations, as evinced by her statement, “Only a man’s character is the real criterion of worth.” Indeed, many contemporary business experts and pundits, including Dr. Stephen Covey and Zig Ziglar, have reiterated similar sentiments. Regardless of one’s qualifications or “hard skills,” says Vivian Giang of “Business Insider,” there are four key character traits that are important for any particular job.

Ambition: Employees should demonstrate drive and desire for success. Otherwise, it’s impossible to build the successful company that the founder(s) envision.

Initiative: Managers prefer having employees who can organize their workloads and execute their business without constant supervision. Employees who can identify challenges and create solutions are even more valuable.

Commitment: Employees who are willing to go the distance for a company, even during lean times, are always assets for any firm.

Personality: Employers prefer having employees who are pleasant to work with. They promote a sense of well-being in the workplace. Contributing to a positive workplace ambience is important.

Serial entrepreneur James Caan stated in his post on LinkedIn, “There have actually been times when I have brought people into my business purely because they had these qualities. They weren't necessarily the most qualified on paper, but they ticked the right boxes in terms of character. Many candidates go into interviews and are keen to emphasize their skills ... if you can also show potential employers you have most of the qualities listed above — preferably with examples — you will almost certainly become a more attractive candidate.”

NACE Makes its Case

Recently, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) was asked to determine what its staff deemed important attributes of would-be employees. According to NACE’s Outlook 2014 surveyemployers are looking for team players who are adept at problem solving, who can organize their work, and who can communicate effectively. Ranked from most to least important in its survey, the responses are as follows:

  • Ability to Work in a Team Structure

  • Ability to Make Decisions and Solve Problems

  • Ability to Plan, Organize and Prioritize Work

  • Ability to Verbally Communicate with Persons Inside and Outside the Organization

  • Ability to Obtain and Process Information

  • Ability to Analyze Quantative Data

While writers/editors and sales personnel may fervently debate its findings, the least two important attributes, at least according to NACE’s survey, were the “ability to create and/or edit written reports” and the “ability to sell or influence others.”

Soft skills,” similar to one’s character, 

are interpersonal skills
and attributes one must have 

to succeed in the workplace."

Soft Skills: Wear Them Comfortably

As mentioned earlier, there are tangible skills and qualifications applicants need. These are the “hard skills” that are job-specific, the requisite, skills an aspiring candidate must have when applying for a specific job. Then there are “soft skills,” which, similar to one’s character, are interpersonal skills and attributes one must possess to succeed in the workplace. It’s important to demonstrate to employers you have command of both hard and soft skill sets when interviewing for jobs. Even more importantly, it’s important you demonstrate them regularly once you’ve landed that coveted position.

English: Stephen Covey at the FMI Show, Palest...
English: Stephen Covey at the FMI Show, Palestrante on June 22, 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Employees need to be able to puzzle things out, having analytical skills are important in the workplace (and in life in general). The level of this mostly left-brain attribute will vary depending on the job and the industry. In conjunction with being able to analyze and solve things, employees are expected to be able to organize, plan and prioritize tasks effectively. As Dr. Stephen Covey was noted for saying, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Regardless of what NACE says, most other experts agree that the e ability to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing is paramount, no matter what job you have or industry you work in. You’ll need to be able to communicate with fellow employees and managers, perhaps with clients or other businesses with whom your firm interacts. You’ll need to be able to do so online, in writing, face-to-face, on the phone, and perhaps using video conferencing.

Interpersonal skills, often times called “people skills,” are what you use when you engage and interact with others. The ability to connect with other people is important. Your interpersonal skills will be evaluated during job interviews and during your tenure in the workplace, so it’s important your "people prowess" is up to par. Nobody likes working with employees who are surly, have a prima donna attitude, are prejudicial, or who are unpleasant. Sure, we all have bad moments and days, but always strive to put your best self forward.

Portrait of Lao Zi (Lao Tzu)
Portrait of Lao Zi (Lao Tzu) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The old business model of leaders carrying a big stick doesn't hold true anymore. Today, the best leaders empower their fellow coworkers to strive for excellence. Lao-Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher who penned the “Tao Te Ching,” said it best, “When the best leader's work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”

Positive Attitude
Attitude might not be everything, but it’s very important. Employers want positive thinking employees, even in stressful and challenging circumstances. They want team players that demonstrate a “can do” attitude, and that are willing to go the extra mile(s) to get the job done.

Regardless of the job, employers want to hire cooperative team players who work well with others. They don’t want employees who are difficult to work with. When you are interviewing, be sure to share examples of how you worked in a cooperative environment. Here, extracurricular examples may be used such as sports, playing in a band or singing in a choir, group volunteer work, etc.

Depending upon the job, the necessary technical skill will vary. These days, many jobs require nominal computer and peripheral equipment skills.

Showcase Your Skills
To be certain you’re showing your top skills when you're job searching, make a list of the skills and qualities you’ve demonstrated in the past. Also, think of examples of how you’ve applied these skills to achieve success in previous jobs, school and/or volunteer and civic work. Think of ways to include them in your résumé and/or cover letters. Whenever appropriate, share these examples during your interviews as well.

Amble Soup
To warm up your memory during these colder winter months, here’s a veritable alphabet soup of important soft skills to peruse at your leisure:

          A - D
    Able to Listen
    Accept Feedback
Alphabet Soup
Alphabet Soup (Photo credit: Thriving Vegetarian)
    Artistic Sense
    Business Trend Awareness
    Conflict Resolution
    Creative Thinker
    Critical Thinker
    Crisis Management
    Critical Observer
    Critical Thinker
    Customer Service Experience
    Deal Making
    Deal with Difficult Situations
    Deal with Office Politics
    Deals with Difficult People
    Decision Making
    Design Sense
    Desire to Learn
    Disability Awareness
    Dispute Resolution
Ergonomic Blogger
Ergonomic Blogger (Photo credit: Mike Licht,
    Diversity Awareness

            E - G
    Editing Experience
    Effective Communicator
    Emotion Management
    Emotional Intelligence
    Entrepreneurial Thinking
    Ergonomic Sensitivity
    Establish Interpersonal Relationships
    Experience Dealing with Difficult Personalities
    Follow Instructions
    Follow Regulations
    Follow Rules
    Functions Well Under Pressure
    Giving Feedback
    Good at Networking
    Good at Storytelling
    Good Attitude

            H - O
    High Energy
    Highly Organized
    Highly Recommended
Deadline (UK TV series)
Deadline (UK TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    Intercultural Competence
    Knowledge Management
    Leadership Skills
    Listening Skills
    Make Deadlines
    Management Skills
    Managing Difficult Conversations
    Managing Remote Teams
    Managing Virtual Teams
    Meeting Management
    Negotiation Skills

            P - R
    Perform Effectively in a Deadline Environment
    Performance Management
Public speaking
Public speaking (Photo credit: brainpop_uk)
    Physical Communication
    Positive Work Ethic
    Possess Business Ethics
    Process Improvement
    Proper Business Etiquette
    Public Speaking
    Read Body Language
    Resolving Issues

            S - U
    Safety Conscious
Franklin D. Roosevelt (seated third from left,...
Franklin D. Roosevelt (seated third from left, in white shirt) in a school photo of football teams in Groton, Massachusetts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    Selling Skills
    Sense of Humor
    Stay on Task
    Strategic Planning
    Stress Management
    Successful Coach
    Take Criticism
    Talent Management
    Team Building
    Team Player
    Technology Savvy
    Technology Trend Awareness
    Thinks Outside the Box
    Time Management
    Tolerant of Change and Uncertainty
    Train the Trainer
Vermeer A Lady Writing
Vermeer A Lady Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

            V - Z
    Value Education
    Verbal Communication
    Visual Communication
    Willing to Accept Feedback
    Willingness to Learn
    Work Well Under Pressure
    Work-Life Balance
    Writing Experience
    Writing Reports and Proposals
    Writing Skills
   Xenophiliac (I’ll wager you didn’t think we’d have an ‘X’; see Diversity Awareness)

Rick Fromme combines entrepreneurial enthusiasm with an insider's knowledge of the medical industry to co-found Both his drive and perspective provide health care professionals with a superior mechanism with which to communicate, network and market their strengths. Prior to founding, Rick operated a highly successful medical device distributorship. Other milestones in his 12-year career in the medical industry include a key position at a medical device start-up company that was later sold to the Ethicon Endo division of Johnson & Johnson. You can reach Rick by connecting with him on FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedIn and YouTube
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