Written by Melissa Anzman
You finally get the call (or email), for a position that you are super excited about, requesting your availability to chat with the recruiter and your foot is officially in the door. You are so excited to make a lasting impression now that you finally have the chance… everything is ready to go.
But following the phone interview, you aren’t asked back – and you have no idea why.
The Biggest Mistakes You Are Making During Phone Interviews
Your excitement about landing an interview tends to lead to overshare during your first interview. The most important thing to remember when you are speaking to a recruiter is this: they are not the subject matter experts for the position you are applying for, the hiring manager is.
Stop getting in the weeds with details, acronyms, and your awesomeness when speaking to a recruiter. They typically are going to glaze over – they don’t have to know those types of details, and they aren’t usually looking for that type of information either.
Instead, approach your interview as you would speaking to a friend or relative about your experience. You want to impress them with your knowledge, but you want to make it “kid-friendly.” When we are attuned to expectations of our role, it’s easy to forget that not everyone knows what the heck we are talking about. The same can be said about most recruiters.
They will have anywhere from 20 – 50 (or more!) positions they are recruiting for at any given time. So their complete comprehension of everything that you do at the granular level, isn’t critical.
Instead, focus on the big accomplishments that you have delivered – think 30,000 foot view of your experience and performance, not the nitty-gritty details. Recruiters are looking to see if you meet the qualifications posted and if you would be a great culture fit – not the exact ways in which you’ve done your job in the past.
Think big picture about your skills and how to become their friend. The rest of the details should be saved until you’re speaking with the hiring manager.
I doubt many people intend to come across as condescending, but it happens – especially over the phone. When you are speaking to a recruiter, they aren’t the subject matter experts for your role (see above), so they aren’t going to always grasp what you are saying.
Keep that in mind when they ask what seems to you, ridiculous or annoying questions about your experience. If the question comes across as odd to you, most likely you went too deep into specifics when trying to answer a question, and you lost them.
Remember that the recruiter is the gate keeper for the position you are excited to land. So if you have to “fake nice” a little bit, then do it (although you should be respectful in general!). Answer each question with forethought and grace.
And above all else, do not use these phrases:
- As mentioned earlier…
- As you will see in my resume…
- My previous title clearly defines…
- I already answered that…
No, I haven’t forgotten that this is an interview and conversation is necessary. But for the love of Nancy, please stop talking so darn much! I know it’s the nerves taking over, but if you continue to ramble on forever when answering each question, you will quickly lose the attention of the recruiter.
Listening is part of a conversation as well, and sometimes taking a step back to fully understand what the recruiter is trying to learn about you, will help you present yourself in the best light. Like any great discussion, if the recruiter isn’t engaged with what’s going on, then you have lost them as your ally to be presented in the next round.
Take a deep breath before you answer each question and try to formulate each answer in a STAR format? (Don’t worry – I didn’t just go all woo-woo universe on you). STAR stands for Situation/Task, Action, and Result.
When you are asked an interview question, you should phrase your response in this three-sentence, at most, formula.
- Sentence 1 (S/T): Describe the situation or task that you want to use as your example in response to the question.
- Sentence 2 (A): Talk about the actions that you took in that situation.
- Sentence 3 (R): Deliver the results that you delivered or the outcome (good, bad, ugly).
This will help you get out of the weeds of the describing everything in minute detail, and also help you be concise when asked a question.
Recruiters are people too.
I received hate mail the other day for sticking up for recruiters. Essentially the three-page email said that recruiters are idiots, take pleasure in preventing people who are desperate for a job a chance, and have no real value. Funny enough, I’ve never held the solo-title of recruiter, but I digress.
Recruiters have a job to do, just like the one hope to do for the position you are applying to. And it’s a tough job – they have to say no a lot more than they get to say yes, it’s thankless most of the time, and they spend hours on the phone (that alone should earn some sympathy).
A successful interview with recruiter’s starts and ends with treating them as you would anyone else that is important to you – as a human being. Respect their time, their judgment (even if it’s not in your favor), and their effort for doing the best job they can… just like anyone else.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What have you found helpful when interacting with a recruiter?
Melissa Anzman is the creator of Launch Your Job where she equips ambitious leaders with practical ways to grow their career. She is the author of two books: How to Land a Job and Stop Hating Your Job, and the host of the Launch Yourself Podcast. Follow her @MelissaAnzman.