Landing a new job is a process that starts long before you meet a hiring manager. Before you get in front of those guys, you’ll likely need to talk to an external recruiter. And before you meet them face to face, you’re going to need to engage in a level of exchange on the phone and via email. Don't ruin your chances of being hired before you’ve even met them. Some tips here for a smooth transition to the interview hotseat:
1. Make no mistakes
Avoid errors in your grammar and spelling, whether it’s a full cover letter or a quick email reply. Mistakes will be perceived as sloppiness and are an instant black mark. Proofread everything multiple times before you hit send, and if possible get a friend or someone you trust, to look over it with a fresh pair of eyes.
“I've known people have callbacks rescinded because their thank-you emails have been so full of typos,” said Janet Raiffa, the career coach behind Resumemama and a former head of campus recruiting at Goldman Sachs. “The legendary case is the spell-check error, where a student meant to write they were excited about the possibility of working for Goldman Sachs but instead managed to send ‘Goldman sucks.’” They didn’t get the job, says Raiffa.
2. No bro talk
Goldman Sachs' CEO may be a DJ but this doesn't mean banks are like da-club. Some recruiters are more casual than others and for many building a rapport with their candidates will involve assuming a super-friendly manner and cracking a few jokes. While it’s OK to adjust to the signals you’re getting and loosen up a bit, remember what you are here for: to get a job. Good language is paramount, regardless of how well you seem to be getting on with the person who controls the hiring decision.
“As the recruitment process plays out, candidates tend to let their guard down”, says Christian Novissimo, the managing partner of the accounting and finance practice at Lucas Group.
“As they start to build a rapport you hear all formality going out the window,” he says. “Over the phone, be sure to use a proper greeting that’s not too informal, and pay close attention to the introduction and sign-off of your emails.” Novissimo suggests simple, familiar greetings such as Dear X and/or Good Morning Y are acceptable. Hey, What’s up? and Yo are not going to help your cause at this stage in the process because it shows a misreading of the situation.
“I’ve heard people call recruiters people dude or bro, which is inappropriate. You have plenty of time to be homies after you’ve got the job. Until then use proper language and grammar ”
3. Don’t get lost in translation
For international students whose spoken English is better than their written English, it’s a good idea to ask a native speaker to check your email before sending it along to the prospective employer.
“I have also seen students have callbacks rescinded or not gotten offers because interview follow-up has made employers nervous about their lack of fluency,” Raiffa says.
4. No stalking
Sending too many emails and even stalking employers are problems that are more common than you might think.
“Do not send an email to 50 bankers at the same firm asking for a job or an interview,” Raiffa says. “Colleagues talk and will soon realise that they’ve been spammed. Also the email may end up being forwarded by a partner to a recruiter, who will think it is an important referral, and then get upset when he or she discovers it was a mass-email that has also gone out to 49 other people.
“Give yourself a small, well-considered list of people and then work to get authentic referrals from them,” she adds. “And if you don’t hear back right away, don’t hassle your contacts too much or too often. Nobody likes a stalker."
5. Be present
Don’t reach out to a hiring manager or recruiter only to go AWOL after they respond, whatever the reason.
“If you get an email with a request to do something, like trace a document, and it may take you time to do it, acknowledge receipt of the email, and let them know that you’re working on it,” says Novissimo. “If they’ve reached out but they don’t hear back from you, they will likely think you are ignoring them and move on to their next candidate.”
6. Don’t be a hot mess
Your communication style can mean sink or swim for your candidacy, says Amy L. Adler, a career coach at Five Strengths. Projecting an image of chaos, no matter how charming, is a no-no.
“Don’t answer your phone to your recruiter if you are doing something else like eating or running to catch a cab,” Adler says. “Anyone who wants to talk to you will leave a voice mail. It’s better for you to collect yourself and find a quiet place to return a call, than to take a call in the middle of a busy restaurant.”
7.Use technology wisely and avoid gobbledegook
It can be tempting to respond to a recruiter or hiring manager using a mobile phone or tablet rather than a laptop or PC. Proceed with caution.
“You should always take the time to sit down in front of a computer and craft a well-thought-out email during the application process,” Novissimo says. “It’s not necessarily that you can’t send emails from a mobile device, but don’t think that just because you are on the move you can send an email with bad grammar, improper punctuation and typos.” You should also think about changing that signature so that it doesn’t say ‘Sent from my iPhone’, he adds.
Whenever you take a call, find a place where it’s quiet and speak clearly. This is essentially an interview so give it the reverence it requires.
“You always want to speak slowly and clearly, especially if you’re speaking to someone who isn’t in your field,” Novissimo said. “For example, if you’re talking to an HR person, don’t use finance terms that may be meaningless to them. Speaking clearly and not too quickly is a critical part of an initial phone interview."
8. Don’t lie by omission
As soon as you engage with a recruiter, be honest and open about your situation, including the status of your relationship with your current or most-recent employer, as well as salary information. Concealing red flags or the fact that you've already applied to the firm are big no-nos and will ultimately undermine your relationship with the recruiter. Be the person you would want to hire.
9. The truth and only the truth
If you’ve listed something on your resume that makes you sound good, be prepared to talk through the specifics to your recruiter. Good recruiters will always do background checks and dig deep to get the information they need. If you claim an important role in a transaction but can’t talk the talk then you will eventually be found out, either in the phone screening or an interview. In short, honesty is always the best policy.
10. Get a grown-up email address
“It should go without saying, but don’t use your current employer’s phone or email to call back or respond to a message,” says Adler. “It will look disrespectful and like you are slacking off.”
At the same time, don’t use the email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org email address that you’ve had since high school, either.
“Have an email address that is proper,” Novissimo says. “A lot of us in our personal lives are goofy clowns with weird email addresses, but when you’re applying to jobs or responding to a recruiter, use an email address that includes your first name and last name or your first initial and last name, making sure that it’s vanilla and generic.” They can get to know your crazy side later.
11. No holding the line
It’s important to never cut people off when they’re speaking. It’s equally important to not put a recruiter or hiring manager on hold if you have a scheduled call.
Novissimo says: “I don’t care if you’re crafting a million-dollar deal on the other line – if your call is scheduled, dedicate that time to the person you’re supposed to be talking to.”
Dan Butcher also contributed to this article
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