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Telephone interview gone wrong?

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Telephone interview gone wrong?

Postby Susan H. » Tue Jun 07, 2016 12:06 pm

Dear forum, I just had a telephone interview for a position I was really interested in. The contact by email was very cordial, but now after the interview I am completely frustrated. In the end it was the usual: don't expect to hear back from us any time soon, application process has just started, many applicants - so that is most probably a no. However, I was wondering what went actually wrong. There was no structure, I answered what I was asked, but there was no flow, and it ended with irrelevant repetitions from my side. He asked for a current reference, explicitly line manger of my current job - I found that extremely weird. I thought I needed to leave it to the hiring manager to take the lead. Any advice? How can I avoid such a situation in the future? Should I still write a thank you note, or just forget about the whole thing?
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Re: Telephone interview gone wrong?

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Jun 07, 2016 2:34 pm

Susan H. wrote:Dear forum, I just had a telephone interview for a position I was really interested in. The contact by email was very cordial, but now after the interview I am completely frustrated. In the end it was the usual: don't expect to hear back from us any time soon, application process has just started, many applicants - so that is most probably a no. However, I was wondering what went actually wrong. There was no structure, I answered what I was asked, but there was no flow, and it ended with irrelevant repetitions from my side. He asked for a current reference, explicitly line manger of my current job - I found that extremely weird. I thought I needed to leave it to the hiring manager to take the lead. Any advice? How can I avoid such a situation in the future? Should I still write a thank you note, or just forget about the whole thing?


Hi Susan, I've had interviews like this as well. They are just as frustrating for the person conducting the interview as they are for you. Sometimes, I'll have only a couple of questions that I want to ask, and the rest of the time I leave open for the person to talk about their interests and so on. It's sounding (to me) as if you might have just answered questions in "yes" or "no" and not gone into any explanation of any kind . . . In situations like this, it's up to you to take the reins, and say "Yes, I've had that experience with Mass Spec. Let me give you an example, the other day I had a sample request from the physical chemistry department, and blah blah blah. . ." In other words, it's YOU who keeps the conversation going when you've got someone who's a bit of a "dud" in the interview department. He or she is looking for someone who they'd LIKE TO WORK WITH. So, as a part of your interview in a situation like this, you ask questions about them as well. "John, tell me what kinds of expectations you have for new people in this area. Should they come in with the previous experience to hit the ground running, or would you consider a basic knowledge to be OK, and then they can learn the rest on the job?" In other words, have good questions and use them to keep the conversation going.

Is this worth salvaging? Of course it is. While you may not have done a sterling silver job on the interview, you can certainly keep yourself in the running by sending a thank-you note and staying visible to that hiring manager. Send him or her a Linked In invitation as well, and hopefully your LI profile is attractive and shows you off well.

Keep us informed of what happens from here!

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Re: Telephone interview gone wrong?

Postby Rich Lemert » Tue Jun 07, 2016 2:43 pm

I thought I needed to leave it to the hiring manager to take the lead.


That, in a nut-shell, is where you went wrong with this interview.

A job interview is a two-way discussion. The employer is getting a feel about how well you will fit in with their existing employees, but you're also getting a feel for how comfortable you will be in their environment. You are also trying to make sure the interviewer understands the strengths you're bringing to the table; if he doesn't address something you think is important, it's up to you to bring up the matter.

To get to your specific question, there's an interesting dichotomy at play regarding how to respond to the situation. One the one hand, you have to treat the interview as if it never happened; continue looking for jobs and treat any positive response from this call as a pleasant surprise. However, you also don't want to completely write-off the experience because your view of its success doesn't matter. You may feel like you bombed the opportunity, but the interviewer may have a completely different opinion. Don't give them any excuses to reject that you don't have to.
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Re: Telephone interview gone wrong?

Postby Ana » Tue Jun 07, 2016 4:31 pm

Rich Lemert wrote:
I thought I needed to leave it to the hiring manager to take the lead.


That, in a nut-shell, is where you went wrong with this interview.



This could be part of the story, or she might have had a very awkward person at the other side of the line. That might happen too.

I would write a thank you note, of course. And also continue looking for jobs just as you should do after an apparently good interview. I think the advice you got from Dave and Rich is excellent. I just wanted to add the comment that maybe it was weird because the other person was weird.
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Re: Telephone interview gone wrong?

Postby D.X. » Wed Jun 08, 2016 3:02 am

Good advice from all.

The only Point to add is that a phone interview by itself is a near un-natural from of communication. Absent is the ability to assess facial Expression, Body language and to carry a conversation especially with someone you are just Meeting over a phone can well be ackward.

In this case would defer to Rich's advise as a risk mitigator - you take the lead and try if possible to guide the conversation if you see the questions being asked are "strained" or you feel the questions are not not helping you sell yourself.

Start practicing by asking clarfiying questions - if the question is to broad you can ask "can you help me understand what specifically are you look for?" or "can you clarify, i'm not sure I understand are you....?

Then, when you giving answers, try to finish with a question. Don't just conclude. You can use a question that askes the interviewer where specifically in your answer would the interviewer like to take a deeper dive or to expand. You can also finish with a reflection that leads to a question i.e. "so reflecting on my answer this brings me to a question...how do you forsee...?"

So with phone interviews you really have to make an effort to ensure the conversation is bi-directional by nature of the communcation medium. You can take the lead if the see the Situation is not one where the interviewer is leading well.

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Re: Telephone interview gone wrong?

Postby Susan H. » Sat Jun 11, 2016 6:22 am

Dear all, thank you very much for your answers. I wrote a thank you note the same night, and now I just move on. Somehow my career doesn't feel right, it is so tedious to move up, and because of that I feel that I am doing s.th. wrong, there is currently no passion. Maybe I should go back to school and study maths or computer science in addition.
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Re: Telephone interview gone wrong?

Postby Parker » Sun Jun 12, 2016 11:20 pm

You may be reading too much into it. I find the bar for phone interviews to be rather low. I have had cases when I thought I did really poorly in the phone interview only to be told that I'm their top candidate during the in person interview.

That being said, like the others have pointed out, some people (even managers) are just less talkative and that's your cue to lead the conversation and fill in those awkward gaps. Some managers are just socially awkward. Maybe he is hoping to hire someone who can fill in those awkward silences during meetings and other work situations. Those personality types are especially common amongst scientists. I've been asked to accompany colleagues in business meetings unrelated to my own department or projects just so they can have someone who can keep the conversation going and fill in those awkward silent moments. At first I thought it was weird to be asked to just tag along but now I know that some people need that and for me it was a great opportunity to get involved in other things. Maybe the manager is one of those and needs someone who can fill that gap and that could have been part of the interview.

But my point is not to reiterate what others have said but to point out that it's possible this person is like this in every situation and not jus the phone interview. If you are really uncomfortable with this type of boss, then this role may not be for you to begin with. At the same time, this could be a great opportunity for you to practice dealing with those personality types and improving your soft skills.
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Re: Telephone interview gone wrong?

Postby Dave Walker » Wed Jun 15, 2016 2:23 pm

Parker wrote:You may be reading too much into it. I find the bar for phone interviews to be rather low. I have had cases when I thought I did really poorly in the phone interview only to be told that I'm their top candidate during the in person interview.


Indeed, I thought I bombed two phone interviews AND an in-person interview, but I was offered the job anyway! And now that I spend time on the phone every day as my job, that's just how it goes. It's awkward for everyone, a little. (Especially teleconferences.)

There's no sense worrying about how a phone call went once it's in the past. However, what you should always do is go into the call with your own marks of success. Having a pre-call mindset also gives confidence, I think. For example, I may want to get information and to ask about budget on this call. If I got what I wanted, it's a successful call no matter what else happens.
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