Thursday, September 7, 2017

Ace your telephonic, video and lunch interviews!

          Hey everyone! Hope you enjoyed our segment on networking and ventured into the wild world to strike conversations and forge relationships on your way to building a successful network.

Before we wrap up what’s been a great 6-month learning journey with our blogs, I’d like to share a few best practices with you to ace telephonic, video and lunch interviews. Some of them may even seem obvious but many are seldom followed. Let’s jump straight in!

Telephonic Interviews: Often, unless it’s a direct campus interview, your initial interviews with recruiters or even, at times, the hiring manager, will be conducted over a call. Based on our collective experience, we compiled a list of things to take care of when giving interviews over the phone.

Prepare for the conversation: If you are expecting a call/are scheduled for a call, keep your vital docs (resume, prep notes, etc.) ready on either your desktop or your cell or even some folded prints (if you are on a call on your cell, may be best to have the note on a separate screen)! It will help you immensely during your call :) Of course, don’t waste time sifting through the docs when you are on the call, have them accessible and organized. Practice it to be natural and spot potential goof ups that need to be avoided.

Find a quiet spot: This may seem obvious but speaking from experience, my team and I have interviewed thousands and find the most common hindrance in telephonic interviewing is noise or disturbances in the background. People talking, traffic, what not! You may not be able to hear the person on the other end of the line, making for disconnected, and awkward conversations. It makes for an unpleasant experience. Show your respect and value the conversation by finding a quiet spot to take the call from. Usually, telephonic interviews are scheduled ahead of time, giving you time to locate a space. While there are times when the noise is unforeseen, if it continues to hinder your call - excuse yourself, offer to call back and relocate to another quiet place. If you can’t find one immediately, do apologize and request for it to be re-scheduled. Clear communication is key.

Be on time! Goes without saying, this is vital for interviews. Again, this is an obvious one but to ensure you are on time, give yourself a 10-minute breather ahead of the scheduled time to get to your spot and collect yourself so you don't seem flushed. If for whatever reason, you miss the call, have a professional voicemail that can save the day. A simple Google search would show you how to set it up for your service provider. If you can't make it, make sure you let the person interviewing know as soon as possible. Depending on the company or interviewer, re-scheduling may or may not lessen your chances if they are on tight recruitment timelines, but it would earn you some brownie points to inform them ahead of time if you can’t make it, as it shows your respect for their time. Again, clear and timely communication makes all the difference.

If you have been asked to call, start the call on time or even a few seconds before the given time. When you hit the dot, it will make a great first impression. If they don’t pick up, drop a quick text/voicemail (be clear, polite, brief and leave the right details) or leave them an email asking if it’s still a good time for the call. You may try once more in 10 minutes. If there’s still no answer, drop an email suggesting a re-schedule. It’s important to be courteous, as, with everything, they may have an emergency or an unpreventable situation at their end. Give them the benefit of the doubt. If you are in a situation where you need to make an international/long distance call that can be expensive, if you think the opportunity is worth it (most times the cost of the call is nothing compared to the opportunity), go ahead. Based on the people you are dealing with, they may either offer to call you (knowing the cost of the call to them is much more manageable) or if you cannot arrange for the call, it is absolutely ok to set the expectations earlier and request them for a call instead.  

Other minor things:
·       If possible, use earphones/headphones and speak into the mic, to be heard well and cut off background noise. Test them before use!
·       Be cognizant of the interview end-time. While it's good if the conversation organically goes on with equal interest on both sides and they are good with the call overflowing, you don't want to be the reason for the interviewer missing his/her next meeting if they have one :)
·       Confirm your ID on truecaller (or the likes) ahead of the call. Sometimes your truecaller name is not accurate or may show a weird or embarrassing name. It is worth checking and correcting it before the call. 
·       Make sure your phone has sufficient charge! Running out of battery is the last thing you'd want on a call, and you want to avoid charging the phone during the call.

Video Interviews: If you have a video interview scheduled, take note of the following for an awesome experience!

·       Have your laptop at hand and shut down unrelated computer applications to ensure there is no lag or draw over in the video.
·       Ensure there’s enough light falling on your face and keep a clean, mess-free surrounding in the frame seen over video.
·       Apart from testing your mic/headphones, test your camera settings. You do not want to spend the first few minutes of the interview with "Can you see me", "I can't hear you!". Overall, just be familiar with your video conferencing application (skype, hangouts, etc.)
·       Asked to download a completely new application for the video call? If you are not familiar with the application, download it ahead of time, set it up and explore it to gain familiarity. Many of these apps have short tutorial videos online showing you how to use it. If you still have a burning question on one of its main functions, it is okay to write and ask, but do your research to see if you can get the answer before reaching out.
·       Mute your phone and keep it aside to avoid distractions. That’ll save you from your phone blaring out Arijit Singh ringtones when you are discussing your qualifications 😊
·       Clean your desktop in case you need to share your screen.
·       Wear full interview attire! It will get you mentally set for the environment.

Lunch Interviews: Were you invited to be a part of an informal lunch/coffee chat? This is a great way to have a comfortable conversation beyond the four walls of the conference room to truly get to know one another.

Research: Do a quick search to know more about the restaurant/coffee shop location, menu, crowd/noise level, suitable attire among other things, to gauge and prepare for the chat. Knowing the location beforehand will ensure you do not stress trying to find the place and get there on time. Having an idea of the menu will help you pick a few things in advance so you can focus on the interview. Order something appropriate, that will not be too messy or klutzy. Having an understanding of the crowd and noise levels will help you prep for the overall environment along with your attire to ensure you are not out of place :)

Arrival: Come 10-15 minutes ahead of the scheduled interview. If a table is not reserved, proactively ask for one to save you the awkward wait at the entrance. Message the interviewer and keep her/him posted on where you are but be mindful not to rush them if you get there first/early.

Recognition: To avoid any surprises, look up the interviewer on Google/LinkedIn so you can recognize her/him when you see them.

The Food: Knowing what’s on the menu comes in handy, and you probably know what you want. But not so fast! Start by engaging in polite conversation - maybe about the place, the weather, or even how you got there. Keep it positive and casual. Be gracious, let the interviewer take the lead in ordering the food unless he/she insists you go first. If you are in a café, a coffee/tea or any other simple drink should do. If you are out to lunch, order a dish and a non-alcoholic drink if needed, be mindful to keep the order price reasonable and opt for food that is easy to eat. Think of easy to fork items like Penne Pasta or salad, rather than a messy spaghetti or a larger than life sandwich. If you have any dietary restrictions, there is absolutely no harm in letting them know. 

Conversations: While the setting and small talk may be casual, you can open up a bit as they are looking to get to know the real you but it is still an interview so keep the conversations professional and be aware of what you say.

Etiquette: Be aware of your posture on the table. Body language, even while sitting, marks a big portion of your communication. Here are a few suggestions: Keep your elbows off the table, don’t slouch - you can even lean in a bit to show interest in the conversation, be mindful of personal space, have the napkin ready at all times, don't eat with your mouth open, keep it polite and friendly with the wait staff, ensure your phone is switched to silent and visit the restroom before you get into the interview to avoid disruptions.

Bill: As you were invited by the interviewer, you would not generally be expected to pay. But be prepared for any situation though, and be courteous and offer if there is an opportunity. If you do pay the bill, it's a pretty good indicator of a less than stellar company culture ;) An exception here is if you asked for the meetup, in which case you should pay the bill. Wrap the conversation when the bill is being paid and ensure you are clear about the next steps. Needless to say, show that you are truly thankful for the meal and the conversation.

Interviewing over lunch/coffee is a great sign, as it shows they are genuinely interested in knowing you. Cherish the opportunity and have a great time (and a great meal!)

Hope you enjoyed and learnt a bit from this write-up! Always, feel free to write to us for anything 😊 Till then!

"Excellent individuals don't believe in excellence - only in constant improvement and constant change."

Manish N Gaba
(Pic Courtesy – Unsplash)

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