Julea: Welcome to “The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Animal Health executive recruiter and Veterinary recruiter Stacy Pursell of The VET Recruiter provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health and Veterinary industries. The VET Recruiter’s focus is to solve talent-centric problems for the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. In fact, The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary companies hire top talent, while helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.
Today, we will be continuing a new series on “The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider,” one which focuses on the interview stage of the hiring process for Animal Health and Veterinary professionals in the employment marketplace.
Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.
Stacy: Hello, Julea. As always, I’m glad to be here with you.
Julea: Stacy, last week was the first episode in our series, and we discussed the resume, which is an important first step in the interview stage of the hiring process. This week, we’ll be addressing the phone screen or the phone interview, is that right?
Stacy: Yes, that’s right. And there is a reason that we’re going in this order. This series that we’ve put together is comprehensive in nature. I want our listeners to understand that there is a lot that goes into a job search, both on the part of the candidate and also on the part of the employer. It’s a good idea to get this big-picture perspective before you start “drilling down” into the specifics of the interview stage.
Now, it’s true that the interview is one of the most important parts of the hiring process, but it’s also one of the most misunderstood parts of it. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to create this series of podcast episodes. There is one thing that everyone must understand at the beginning of their job search or it they’re exploring a new employment opportunity. That one thing is that the number-one, overriding objective of the interview is to get an offer of employment. That is the goal of the interview.
Julea: So, what you’re saying is that Animal Health and Veterinary professionals must keep that goal in mind at all times during the interview stage?
Stacy: Yes, that is exactly what I’m saying. Getting an offer of employment opens up your options. It puts you in the “driver’s seat,” so to speak, because you have three options:
Julea: Just because someone receives an offer of employment doesn’t mean they have to accept it.
Stacy: Yes! That’s right. Just because an offer is extended to you doesn’t mean you have to accept it—or accept it in its current form. You have time after the interview is over to decide whether this company, this position, or this offer is right for you.
With that in mind, you don’t have to make any decision about a possible offer during the interview stage. After all, you can’t accept nor decline an offer that you haven’t even received yet. Unfortunately, some people are tempted to make this mental leap, and I would caution against doing that. The offer could be better than you expected so for example why turn down something until you know what it is you are turning down?
Julea: So, Stacy you said the number-one goal of the interview is to get an offer of employment. Then that means the number-one goal of the resume is to get a job interview. Is that correct?
Stacy: That is correct, yes. There is a certain ebb and flow to the hiring process. One stage of the process leads to another stage, which leads to the next stage. The process can be summed up like this:
As you can see, it all starts with the resume, which we discussed last week. In fact, your resume can be considered the launching pad for both your job search and the growth of your career. But there is a step between the resume and the face-to-face interview, and that step is the phone screen or phone interview.
Julea: Which is what we’re going to discuss today . . .
Stacy: Yes. Unfortunately, many times, professionals put more stock in a face-to-face interview than they do a phone interview. This is a mistake, since you won’t make it to the face-to-face interview without making a favorable impression during the phone interview.
A phone interview is also referred to as a “phone screen.” There’s a reason for this: because hiring authorities use it as a way to “screen” out candidates before deciding which ones will move forward in the process. The phone screen is often done by someone in HR and sometimes they are looking for reasons to screen you out from moving forward. You have to get through this step, pass the phone screen in order to move forward to the next step. So, the phone screen is an important part of the interview process.
And before we move forward, I want to say a word about the phrase “face-to-face interview.” Even though we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, we’re going to continue using that phrase on our podcast, because even if an interview is conducted online through Zoom or some other way over the Internet, it’s still technical a “face-to-face interview.” In other words, the people involved are still able to see each other’s faces, even though they’re not in the same room.
When a candidate goes on-site for an interview, I call that an “in-person interview,” which of course is also a “face-to-face” interview. It’s important to make these distinctions, and it’s an example of just another way that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the employment marketplace and the job market.
Julea: That makes sense. So it sounds as though it’s a mistake to overlook the phone screen, since it’s between the resume and the face-to-face interview.
Stacy: Yes, it is a mistake. It’s a good idea to prepare at least as much for a phone interview as you do for a face-to-face interview. Remember that the ultimate goal of any job search is to receive an offer of employment, and you won’t receive that unless you make it past the phone screen.
Julea: Stacy, do you have tips about the phone screen?
Stacy: I do. The first top is the most important one, that’s to use a quiet location quiet atmosphere will allow the interviewer to better hear you, and the conversation will be less stressful for you, since you’ll be able to focus on that instead of any surrounding noise.
Julea: What if the interviewer catches you off-guard or calls at an inconvenient time?
Stacy: If necessary or possible, ask if you can call the interviewer back at a more convenient time. But if you can, avoid background noise like TVs, stereos, and other conversations, and also avoid mobile phones due to potentially poor reception.
The second tip is to rehearse prior to the phone screen. You might be resistant to such an idea, but remember: “practice prevents poor performance.” Ask a friend or family members to listen to your rehearsal, to make sure that you don’t talk too quickly or too slowly or stammer too often. Then make the necessary adjustments.
Julea: Stacy, are there any physical items that people should have with them during the phone screen? I know they often do for a face-to-face interview.
Stacy: Yes, there are. It’s a good idea to have a pad, a pen, a copy of your resume, and a copy of the job description handy. You never know what you might have to reference or write down.
Julea: What about questions? Shouldn’t a person be ready to ask questions during the interview?
Stacy: Yes, that’s a great point. In addition to the items I just mentioned, also have a list of the questions you plan to ask nearby. Those are the tips for before the interview starts. The rest of my tips deal with the moment that you answer that phone.
Julea: Okay. What are those tips?
Stacy: First, be sure to get the caller’s name and their position with the organization. Then repeat it to them and write it down. While you’re doing this, hold the receiver one-hand inch from your lips and speak directly into it. Don’t shout, but speak clearly.
Basically, you want to speak in a conversational manner and be sure to speak loudly enough to be heard—with some variance in tone and inflection. Once again, this where practice can benefit you. Record yourself responding to some typical phone interview questions. Hear how you sound to others and practice improving that impression. Although practice doesn’t make perfect, because perfection doesn’t exist, practice does translate into progress, and you want to be as prepared as possible for the phone screen.
The next tip is to let the interviewer do most of the talking.
Let the interviewer do most of the talking, but use questions to stimulate the conversation as needed. When they ask you a question, don’t just answer “Yes” or “No.” And when you do answer the question, remember that this is a good opportunity to mention how your skills and experience could help their organization. Give some examples of things you have done.
Julea: Stacy, I’ve heard that a phone screen is more difficult than a face-to-face interview because the person on the other end of the line can’t see you. Is that true?
Stacy: To a certain extent, yes, that’s true. That’s why it is important to be energetic on the call, as energetic as you can possibly be, although you certainly don’t want to be over the top. This is sometimes more difficult for introverted people to do, because it’s not their nature. However, it’s important to come across as someone who has energy and enthusiasm. Organizations ant to hire people who have those things, and they’re less likely to hire those people who they perceive to not have them.
Julea: Stacy, I’ve heard before that it’s a good idea to actually smile during a phone screen. Is that the case? And if so, why? Because the person can’t see you smiling.
Stacy: You’re right, they can’t see you smiling. But when you smile when you’re on the phone, the person on the other end can pick up on your enthusiasm. They can sense that you’re friendly, and you even brand yourself more effectively as someone who has confidence. And being confidence is a huge factor when it comes to employers deciding which candidate to hire. Employers want to hire people with confidence!
Julea: That sounds like it’s easier said than done. People are typically a bit nervous during interviews, including the phone screen, is that right?
Stacy: Yes, that’s right. Being nervous is normal. However, there is a difference between being nervous and being uptight. You don’t want to be uptight. To prevent this from happening, take a deep breath or count to 10 or do whatever works for you in this situation. You want to be as relaxed as you can be. If you’re not, then your unease will seep through the phone and it will be apparent during the conversation.
And for our final tip, I’d like to point out something that would NOT be a good idea to do during the phone screen.
Julea: What is that?
Stacy: Do not discuss money, benefits, or vacation time during the phone call. This conversation is all about the value that you can provide for the organization, not what they can do for you. The organization is hiring because they have a problem they need to solve, and they believe that you might be able to help them with that problem. So focus on being the solution to their problem, specifically the things that you can do for them.
Julea: That makes sense. Is there any other advice that you have for the phone screen?
Stacy: Yes, when the interview is drawing to a close, look for an opportunity to ask for a face-to-face interview or an in-person interview. At the very least, ask what the next step in the process is going to be and as if the next step might involve a face-to-face interview. You want to give the impression that you’re excited about the process and the possibility of working for the organization.
Julea: Stacy, this is all great information. Thank you for sharing this with today.
Stacy: It’s been my pleasure, and I look forward to our next episode, which will be the next episode in our series about the interview stage of the hiring process! We look forward to our next episode of the Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider!