Interviewing usually starts with a phone call. Once your resume is circulated, every time you answer the phone, you need to be upbeat, friendly and enthusiastic. You never know if a recruiter or hiring manager is going to be on the other line.
As a recruiter, there are times that I call a candidate who has responded to an ad I posted online. When receiving my call, the candidate doesn’t know what the heck I’m talking about because he’s responded to so many different ads and has not figured out a way to organize his job search. To avoid this problem, keep a log of every job you’ve applied for, along with a printout of any advertisements (online or off) that you responded to, in a well-organized notebook. If a friend has given your resume out, make sure that you have all the pertinent information logged in your book as well (company name, division name, contact, job title, salary, etc.) Keep this logbook by the phone so that, when it rings, the information is right at your fingertips.
Handling cold calls
Now that your resume is circulating, you need to get rid of that “f— off ” tone of voice you give to telemarketers who bug the crap out of you. Every time you answer the phone, you could be talking to a potential employer. It’s O.K. to say, “I’m sorry, but could you repeat where you are calling from and the position this refers to?” Once you know where the caller is from, assure that person that you are very interested in discussing the position in question. I can’t tell you how many times an interview has gotten off on the wrong foot because someone answered the phone thinking I was trying to sell them a set of knives or a slab of beef.
Be flexible with your schedule
At the end of the phone screening, if the recruiter or hiring manager says they would like to meet in person, work your schedule around theirs to find a time to meet.
If you tell a recruiter that you are too busy to meet, the recruiter will assume you are too busy to meet their clients as well and they will not consider you a priority candidate. Set up a time to meet a recruiter during normal business hours. If it is difficult for you to get out of work, set up a lunch meeting, or meet just before or after work (8:30am or 5:30pm).
Don’t assume that recruiters can meet you at all hours of the night. One of my former co-workers once had a candidate who told her that she “couldn’t” meet until 7pm. She was “too busy during the day” and, in the morning and evening, she had to walk her friend’s dog. Recruiters have lives too. Furthermore, many recruiters organize their weeks so that they have interviewing days. On a typical interviewing day, a recruiter could meet anywhere from 6-10 people. I found that 99% of the time, candidates could find a way to sneak out for a half-hour to meet me during reasonable hours. If you can’t find a way then the recruiter will be hesitant to set you up on interviews in fear that you won’t be able to break free to keep your appointments.
If possible, try to meet with a recruiter early in his or her day. If you are the 10th interview for the day, it will be difficult for you to make an impression. The recruiter will be looking cross-eyed by that point! Try and reach him when he is fresh and raring to go.
If a hiring manager has called you directly to set up a meeting, recognize that she has a hard time finding room in her days to conduct interviews. Try your hardest to make an appointment that fits in with the hiring manager’s schedule and stick with it. Don’t a reschedule with a hiring manager unless it is really imperative (i.e., you have the flu) and if you do have to reschedule, make sure to do so as far in advance as possible. A hiring manager wants to know that you recognize her time is valuable and that you are very eager to work with her company.