Telephone Interviews – A Serious Business

Recruiters reveal an alarming level of complacency by job applicants during important telephone interviews

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Distractions detract from telephone performance

Going to the toilet, having a bath, eating a meal, walking a dog, breastfeeding a baby, arguing with a family member. These are all perfectly normal human activities; and they are all things that recruitment candidates have done during telephone interviews.

A recent survey of nearly 800 recruitment and HR professionals by Changeboard in association with the Post Office found that many candidates fail to take telephone interviews as seriously as face-to-face interviews, and risk losing out as a result.

Some 60% of organisations (74% of private sector firms) use telephone interviews as part of their recruitment process. They are most commonly used to save time and money by screening applicants before inviting them for face-to-face interviews.

This means that a telephone interview is an important opportunity for the candidate to make a good impression and secure a meeting with the recruiting organisation. But many candidates fluff that opportunity.

 Common candidate mistakes

According to the survey respondents, the biggest mistakes telephone interviewees make are:Father Holding Baby on Shoulder

  • Doing something else during the telephone interview
  • Not preparing properly for the telephone interview
  • Not listening to the interviewer’s questions
  • Having a poor telephone manner.

These errors can all ‘seriously harm the candidate’s chance of progression’ to the next stage of the interview process.

Respondents cited many real-life examples of telephone interview faux-pas. One recruiter revealed: “During the interview it became clear that the candidate was on the loo.”

Another said: “The candidate was pulled over by the police for taking a call in the car without hands-free.”

And a third recalled: “The candidate suddenly said: ‘Sorry, I’ve got to go – the snake has escaped,’ and hung up.”

 Telephone interview hints and tips

Telephone interviews can be especially tricky for candidates, as it is difficult to express yourself clearly on the phone. Nearly all survey respondents (95%) said that candidates can come across differently on the phone compared with face to face. And nearly half (49%) admitted that their mental image of candidates they have interviewed by telephone is often proved wrong when they meet them.

The top tips from recruiters for candidates facing a telephone interview are:
• Prepare yourself for the call as you would a face-to-face interview
• Choose a quiet place to take the call with a landline phone and no risk of interruption or background noise
• Pay as much attention to listening as to speaking

One recruiter advised: “Do not underestimate the seriousness of a telephone interview. It is often harder as you don’t have the ability to demonstrate body language.”

Another offered: “To get in the right mindset I always advise telephone interview candidates to sit at a desk and dress formally to help them think more professionally.”

And a third added: “Stand up when on the phone as your voice will project better. Change the tone of your voice and use it to show enthusiasm when appropriate.”

 Expert advice on telephone interview performance

Rob Willock, chief operating officer of Changeboard, said: “Faced with a huge pile of CVs from equally qualified candidates, recruiters need a way of weeding out the weaker applicants, and many use telephone screening interviews. Don’t give them a reason to reject you them by performing poorly on the telephone.

“Prepare yourself properly, research the organisation, rehearse answers to standard questions, have relevant examples of your achievements to hand and ask some smart questions of your own.

“It may also be worth practicing your telephone manner,” added Willock. “Recruiters reported being annoyed by candidates using colloquial or ‘street’ language during telephone interviews. Calling your interviewer ‘mate’ or ‘love’ or using phrases like ‘innit’ are not recommended, even if you do so with your friends and family.

“There’s even something to be said for cultivating a more business-like ‘telephone voice’ for occasions when you want to impress people on the phone.”

The Apprentice winner and recruitment expert Lee McQueen said: “It’s difficult to give anything your full attention if you’re doing something else at the same time yet it’s apparent that candidates aren’t taking their interviews seriously enough.  They wouldn’t turn up to an interview dressed in a bobble hat and trainers and the same kind of consideration needs to be given when speaking to potential employers over the phone.

“It’s all about selling yourself and making an impression in the first two minutes. One key tip is to take the phone call in a quiet room on a landline so you can be confident that it won’t cut out; the lack of distractions and quality line will ensure a more professional interview too.”

And Hugh Stacey, Head of Post Office HomePhone added: “Telephone interviews are often the first real opportunity that candidates get to shine in front of a prospective employer.  From our research it’s clear that if you fail to impress at this stage, then it is likely that your application is over before it’s even started.  It’s therefore vital to stay focused and get it right first time around.”

The survey of 790 senior recruitment and HR professionals was carried out from 14-24 September by Changeboard, in association with the Post Office.

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Interview Tips…

Interviewing can be daunting for some and to do it with confidence requires preparation otherwise you can fall flat on your face! For those keen on giving a spectacular interview, here are a few helpful hints to make sure you give the best you can and get the job you want.

 

When you prepare for an interview, looking smart and having your CV is important but a few added efforts and doing some homework before hand can help more than you may have realized.

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If an employer wants to speak to you first then do so with as much preparation as you would a face to face (more info) Don’t forget that in most roles a good telephone voice might just be one of the things that is important for the job.

Don’t be late for an interview as it tells the employer that you care very little about the job. If, however, you were late because of an unavoidable emergency, then . . . well, call forward and warn the client or go via the recruiter. Always aim to be at your interview 5 or 10 minutes early.  You will make a much better first impression this way.

First Impressions

  • Look your very best.
  • Smile and be polite
  • Don’t ask how much the job pays – not yet!

Pretty obvious but here are a few more..

Smile and offer a respectable handshake upon meeting the interviewee, then you are already on the right track. If you stare at the floor and wait for him to approach you, you are only showing that you feel uncomfortable and nervous and perhaps lacking the necessary confidence for the job. Nervousness is not always a bad thing, but when you let it control you during the interview, you may come away feeling embarrassed and let down.

After you greet the interviewer with self-assuredness, try making a little basic conversation. Small talk is quite common during the first few minutes of an interview as both parties try to assess each other and determine the mood the interview will adopt. You needn’t think of something profoundly witty to say, but you might want to try to make the interviewer feel that you are comfortable with the situation. Whether you compliment the decor of the office, talk about the weather or how glad you are to be there for the interview, it doesn’t matter. What matters is giving the impression that you are an easy person to get along with.

A great way to avoid being nervous is to make a list of some common questions asked by interviewers. If you already know how you want to reply, you’ll find that much of your anxiety disappears. Here are a few sample questions to practice answering before you go:

  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • What kind of career do you have planned?
  • What are your strengths? weaknesses?
  • What is your greatest achievement?

When you practice your replies to these questions, make sure you can answer with confidence. If your voice is sincere and your replies are intelligent, you will give the impression of someone who really knows what they want out of life.

It is not the interviewer’s job to make sure that he tells you everything there is to know about the company. You should have a few questions for him as well. In order to prove that you really prepared for your meeting, Always learn a little bit about the company itself so that you can discuss it intelligently. Here are some questions you might want to ask about the company:

  • What is your biggest product or service?
  • Who are your customers?
  • Who are your toughest competitors?

Or questions relating to the role..

  • To whom would I be reporting?
  • How is performance evaluated?
  • What is the company promotion policy?
  • Does the companies have developmental programs?
  • How many days per week? Office hours?

Make sure your questions are relevant to the topic at hand. Don’t just frantically spout them off before the interviewer even has a chance to sit down. You want to sound interested and receptive, not uptight and neurotic.

The Top Ten list of what NOT to do in an interview!

  • Try to be funny..humour has its place but not always at interview as it can come across as flippant.
  • Be a sloppy dresser
  • Be uninterested and know nothing about the role..
  • Not communicate effectively.
  • Do NOT interrupt…although you should do most of the talking.
  • Fidget
  • Overly polite /insincere..can be a bit creepy
  • Have no questions.
  • Bad-mouthing others especially your current company.
  • Only interested in money.

Although money will be a concern, it should be the interviewer who broaches the subject first. Never call before hand or begin an interview asking how much money you will be making. You must prove your worth it before they can finally decide. So, if you give a superb interview and suit their needs, who knows, they just might feel that you are entitled and offer you a little more than they had originally planned.

When the end is in sight….

It will be obvious when the interview is nearing its end. The interviewer will have no more questions for you, you will have asked all of your questions, been clever and alert, made just the right amount of chit-chat to leave a friendly impression and managed to smile genuinely all the way through. When you stand to leave, tell the interviewer that you hope he/she will consider you for the position and that you have thoroughly enjoyed meeting with him/her. Reiterate when you can be contacted if need be and thank him for his time. When you turn gracefully and saunter from the room, you should feel proud of yourself. You have just given a spectacular interview!

I’m often asked if its OK to follow up with a thank you…

If you feel you had a good interview, it is quite all right to send a “thank you” note to the interviewer, especially if they have given you there business card..email is fine and it will refresh the interviewer’s memory and help you to make a positive last impression.

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Market News Feb 2015

UK wide there has been stronger growth of staff appointments…

left laptopPermanent staff placements rose further in February. The rate of growth in appointments was marked and the fastest since last October….

…buoyed by improved demand for staff

Vacancies available for people seeking employment continued to rise in February. Overall demand for staff rose at the strongest rate in four months, with both permanent and temporary workers seeing faster increases.

Further marked rise in salaries

Permanent staff starting salaries continued to increase in February. The rate of growth was unchanged from the marked pace seen in January.

Candidate availability continues to fall

The availability of staff to fill job vacancies decreased further in February. Both permanent and temporary candidate supply deteriorated to a greater extent than in the previous.

Whilst in London and the SE…..

Permanent staff placements growth strengthens

Permanent placements increased further in February, continuing the trend shown since August 2012. Moreover, the

rate of growth accelerated since January, and was stronger than the average over the current sequence of expansion.

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Key Points from the January Employment Survey

Key points from the January survey:

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  • Permanent and temporary appointments rise, but rate of growth slows.
  • Vacancies increase at stronger pace.
  • Rate of decline in candidate availability moderates.
  • Slower growth of staff appointments…

 

Permanent staff placements continued to rise in January, but the rate of expansion eased to a 20-month low. Temp billings growth moderated slightly to the least marked since October 2014.

…despite accelerated rise in demand for staff

January data pointed to a faster increase in demand for staff, with the overall level of job vacancies rising at the strongest rate in three months. Sharper growth of both permanent and temporary vacancies was recorded.

Strong pay growth maintained

Average starting salaries for people placed in permanent jobs continued to rise at a marked pace in January, with the rate of growth quickening to a four-month high. Temp pay also increased further, but the latest rise was the weakest in nine months.

Slower fall in candidate availability

The availability of staff to fill permanent job roles fell further during January. The rate of deterioration was marked, despite easing to the slowest for a year. Temporary/contract staff availability meanwhile fell at the weakest rate in 11 months.

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Job Market Report For Dec 14

Key Points in Summary

  • Growth of permanent placements eases to 18-month lowopen notebook
  • Strong Salary Growth
  • Further marked drop in staff availability
  • Average earnings and Inflation, any improvement?

In the world of staff appointments for November, the rate at which permanent roles are placed, rose at its slowest rate in 18 months. Several sources found they experienced a shortage of skilled candidates and slower client decision-making with this appearing worst in London. Although in the Midlands a stronger growth was experienced.

The demand for staff from employers is rising at its lowest rate in 13 months. The latest official data from the Office for National Statistics shows that vacancies rose by 24.7% on an annual basis in the three months to October. Furthermore, internet-based recruitment spending continued to increase at a strong annual pace. Latest data showed an 8.8% rise in Q2 2014 from the corresponding period one year earlier.

Good news in terms of salaries with the average starting salaries for permanent jobs continuing to rise in November although this is after October’s 8 month low. This has largely been attributed to stronger competition between employers for quality candidates. This increase was sharpest in the Midlands and slowest in London.

Adding on to this, averaging earnings growth has caught up with inflation for the first time in five years. Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that average earnings, excluding bonuses, rose 1.3% on an annual basis in September. Consumer price inflation in September was 1.2%, rising to 1.3% in October. However, earnings including bonuses were up just 1.0%. Pay growth has remained sluggish in spite of the recent recovery in employment. In a recent speech (“Twin Peaks”, 17 October), Bank of England Chief Economist Andrew Haldane drew attention to ongoing structural changes in the labour market which he argues have led to “polarising patterns” at the upper and lower ends, in turn resulting in a marked rise in wage dispersion.

 

On the one hand, high-skilled professions such as IT, engineering and construction continue to see skill shortages, leading to increased rates of pay for new hires, as signalled by the Report on Jobs in recent months. On the other hand, lesser-skilled jobs have seen a rise in the supply of labour which has more than offset rising demand, thus depressing wages.

Haldane identifies three key drivers of this. First, the ‘hollowing out’ of mid-skill jobs, a longer-term trend reinforced by the financial crisis, has led to displaced workers seeking jobs for which they are overqualified. Second, labour force participation has risen significantly, particularly among women and older age cohorts, reflecting changes to the default retirement age and benefits regime, plus concerns over the adequacy of pensions and savings. Third, immigration over the last 20 years has boosted the supply of labour.

As Haldane puts it: “This paints a picture of a widening distribution of fortunes across the labour market – a tale of two workers” … “This has been a jobs-rich, but pay-poor, recovery.”

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Key points from the October UK Labour market

Key points from the October UK labour market:

 

  • Permanent appointments growth still strong in October.
  • Pay growth moderates
  • Staff availability continues to decline markedly.

 

word picGrowth of staff appointments eases…

Permanent staff placements continued to rise in October, extending the current period of expansion to 25 months. However, the rate of expansion was the slowest since November 2013. Similarly, temporary/contract staff billings increased for an eighteenth successive month, but the latest rise was the least marked since June 2013.

…reflecting slower rise in demand for staff

Although the number of vacancies available to candidates seeking work also increased further in October, the rate of growth eased to a 10-month low.

Pay growth moderates

October data pointed to slower growth of staff pay. Permanent staff salaries increased at the weakest rate since February, while temporary/contract staff pay growth eased to a five-month low.

Candidate availability continues to fall sharply

Recruitment consultants reported that candidate availability remained tight in October. The rate of decline in permanent staff availability was marked, despite easing slightly to the slowest since May, while temp availability decreased at the fastest pace in three months.

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Slower growth of both placements and salaries in September

  • Permanent placements rise at slowest rate in ten months.
  • Growth in starting salaries moderates to four-month low.

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Commenting on the latest survey results, Bernard Brown, Partner and Head of Business Services at KPMG, said:

“Buoyancy is back in British businesses, with low and falling unemployment evident today and the promise of lower corporation tax rates, tomorrow. Combine the two and it would be easy to assume that the only curve we will see is an upward one, yet there are still areas of the UK where the signs suggest we are not quite ready to turn the corner. Youth unemployment is, for example, still too high and the next few months will be a critical test of how businesses can help get the new generation of workers onto the employment ladder.

 

“It won’t be easy as the latest figures suggest that as many organisations come to the end of their financial year, purse strings have been tightened and recruitment decisions are put off until new budgets are agreed. With permanent placements slowing to a ten month low, perhaps the uncertainty caused by political crises across the globe are beginning to affect decision-makers’ confidence.

 

“At the same time wages continue to dominate debate around the strength of the labour market. Starting salaries might look healthy, and are undoubtedly tempting some people to move, but the reality is that employers will soon reach a ceiling beyond which they won’t be able to throw more cash around to land the right candidate. It also seems that the incentive for taking on temporary roles is strengthening as pay packets improve, and if the cost of living continues to rise as expected, we may yet see candidates forced to choose between securing financial rewards in short bursts or long-term security. As we enter the tail end of the year, the hope must be that this is a short-term blip, rather than heralding a winter of discontent.”

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Employment law changes taking effect in October 2014

Employment law changes taking effect in October 2014office seating

The following changes to employment law come into effect on 1 October 2014:

1.    The National Minimum Wage (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2014 will increase the various national minimum wage (NMW) rates as follows:

  • The adult rate for workers who are aged 21 and over will increase from £6.31 to £6.50 per hour.
  • The youth development rate for 18 to 20 year olds will increase from £5.03 to £5.13 per hour.
  • The young workers rate for 16 and 17 year olds who are above compulsory school age will increase from £3.72 to £3.79 per hour.
  • The apprentice rate will increase from £2.68 to £2.73 per hour.
  • The accommodation offset will increase from £4.91 to £5.08 per day.
  1. Under provisions in the Children and Families Act 2014, an employee who has a qualifying relationship with a pregnant woman or her expected child will be entitled to take unpaid time off during working hours in order that they may accompany the woman when she attends an ante-natal care appointment which is made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered nurse. This will be limited to no more than two appointments, with the maximum time off during working hours for each appointment being no more than 6.5 hours. A ‘qualifying relationship’ includes being the husband or civil partner of the pregnant woman, a person of a different or the same sex living with the woman in an enduring family relationship (but not a relative), the father or parent of the expected child, or a potential applicant for a parental order under section 54 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. This latter category means that an intended parent in a surrogacy arrangement will be able to legally take time off to support the surrogate mother prior to childbirth. Employers can ask employees to sign a declaration stating: (a) they have a qualifying relationship with the pregnant woman or her expected child, (b) they are taking the time off to accompany the pregnant woman to an ante-natal appointment, (c) the appointment is made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, midwife or nurse, and (d) the date and time of the appointment. However, no evidence of the pregnancy or the ante-natal appointment needs to be provided. There will also be new protections in place for employees who suffer a detriment or who are unfairly dismissed in relation to exercising their statutory right to time off to accompany to ante-natal appointments. If an employee is dismissed as a result of exercising or seeking to exercise this right, then the dismissal will be automatically unfair.
  2. The Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 2014 will revoke the current list of prescribed persons under the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 1999 and will replace it with a new consolidated list. The broad effect of the Order is that a worker will be protected by the whistleblowing provisions in the Employment Rights Act 1996 if they make a qualifying disclosure to a person prescribed in the Order, reasonably believing that the failure disclosed is in the public interest and falls within the matters in respect of which that person is prescribed and that the information disclosed, and any allegation contained in it, are substantially true. Significant changes to the list include: the addition of HM Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), the National Crime Agency, the NSPCC, and the Office for Nuclear Regulation, and changes to the remit of the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority
  3. The Defence Reform Act 2014 (Commencement No. 2 Order) 2014 will bring into force some of the provisions of the Defence Reform Act 2014. From an employment law perspective, section 108 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 will be amended to disapply the statutory two-year qualifying period for the purposes of claiming for unfair dismissal from a reservist’s civilian employment where the reason for dismissal is connected with the employee’s membership of the reserve forces. This means such employees will be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal from the first day of their employment.
  4. The Reserve Forces (Payments to Employers and Partners) Regulations 2014 set out a new scheme for making payments to the employers of, and those carrying on business in partnership with, members of the reserve forces who are called out for service in the armed forces. At present, when called up, reservists are paid directly by the MOD – and employers can claim expenses in respect of additional costs incurred whilst replacing the reservist. From 1 October 2014, small and medium-sized employers can additionally receive up to £500 per month for each whole calendar month a full-time reservist is absent from work (reduced proportionately in relation to part calendar months or where the reservist is contracted to work less than 35 hours a week).
  5. The Equality Act 2010 (Equal Pay Audits) Regulations 2014 will require an employment tribunal to order a respondent employer who is found to have committed an equal pay breach to conduct an equal pay audit unless one of the exceptions in regulation 3 or 4 applies. The audit will have to identify the differences in pay between men and women doing equal work and explain why there are such differences. The audit must also contain an action plan for eroding the pay differences. Regulation 3 sets out four exceptions to the requirement to order the respondent to carry out an audit:
  • An audit was carried out in the last three years.
  • It is clear without an audit whether any action is required to avoid equal pay breaches occurring or continuing.
  • The breach gives no reason to think there may be other breaches.
  • The disadvantages of an audit outweigh the benefits.

Regulation 4 exempts new businesses and micro-businesses from the requirement to carry out an audit during the exemption period. The schedule to the regulations defines those kinds of businesses and the exemption period (a period of ten years from the commencement date of the regulations). The regulations also:

  • Set out the essential information which an audit must include.
  • Give power to the tribunal to determine whether an audit carried out is compliant with that part of its order relating to the content of the audit.
  • Require a respondent to publish an audit in a format accessible to all affected staff and provide the tribunal with evidence that it has done so.
  • Give power to the tribunal to impose a financial penalty of up to £5,000 on a respondent who fails to comply with an order to undertake an equal pay audit.
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Vacancies Rise at Strongest Rate in Over 16 Years

Key points from the August survey: 

  • Demand for staff increases at fastest pace since April 1998
  • Growth of staff appointments remains marked, despite easing
  • Candidate shortages fuel strong pay growth.

Growth of staff appointments eases but still marked…

Permanent placements growth remained strong in August, although eased from the five-month high recorded in July.

…supported by fastest rise in vacancies for over 16 years

The number of available job vacancies rose further in August, with the rate of expansion the sharpest since April 1998. Both the private and public sectors saw increased demand, with the former recording the sharper growth.

Strong pay growth…

Permanent staff salaries continued to rise at an elevated rate in August, with the latest increase only slightly slower than June’s survey-record.

…underpinned by tight candidate availability

The availability of staff to fill job vacancies fell further in August. Permanent candidates were in particularly short supply, with the latest decline in availability again steep albeit easing from July.

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Recruitment in the UK rises at fastest rate in five months

Key points:

  • Stronger growth of appointments
  • Record decline in availability of candidates
  • Starting salary growth close to June’s high

The main market indicators for July are:

Acceleration in growth of staff appointments…

Greater numbers of people move into permanent and temporary roles during July, with rates of expansion accelerating to five- and seven-month highs respectively.

…buoyed by strengthened demand from employers

Latest data signaled that available job vacancies continued to rise apace in July, with growth quickening to the fastest since January. The private sector remained the principal engine of job creation, although the public sector recorded a solid increase in vacancies.

Record drop in availability of permanent candidates…

Permanent staff availability fell further in July, with the rate of decline accelerating to the sharpest in the survey history.

…fuels sharp increase in salaries

Average starting salaries for people placed in permanent jobs continued to rise strongly in July. The rate of increase was only fractionally below June’s survey-record high.

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