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My Medical Device Sales Career

11 Tips on Mastering the Phone Interview!

Medical Device and Pharmaceutical Sales companies often require phone interviews with someone from Human Resources and/or the direct report hiring manager before granted a “face to face” interview.  This is a make or break step in the process of getting a job and it can be very limiting to your ability to making a good first impression.

Unlike a face to face interview, that is a multi-sensory interaction allowing the candidate to make a great impression a number of ways, the phone interview becomes very limiting. The phone interview limits the first impression to primarily auditory (other than a resume and perhaps a LinkedIn profile visual). Most Job Candidates do not realize that this really changes the entire playing field!

In any game, you must understand how to prepare yourself and your environment to optimize your chances to win. For example, top tennis players know the skill differences needed to play on a slow clay court vs. a fast grass court. Clay courts take away most of the advantages of a big serve, much like a phone interview taking away the visual advantage of “The Dress for Success” impression of the interview!

So how do you play the phone interview? The two most important ways are optimizing your interviewing environment and doing in-depth research on the company, the job opening and the interviewer.  It all comes together with just 11 tips on mastering the phone interview and ultimately helping you get to the face to face interview.

 

PREPARATION OF YOUR ENVIRONMENT

 

You want to make your environment comfortable, yet will psychologically still feel like a “work environment" helping you get the adrenaline going to maximize your performance and get you into your “work mode." I highly suggest not sitting in your robe with your fuzzy slippers, slouched on the couch with a martini swirling in your hand while you are interviewing.  

 

I have conducted many phone interviews and I can always tell when a Candidate was in an “overly” relaxed environment, even if they were just slouched on a couch. If I felt this was going on I would casually ask where they were and how they were situated and bingo, I was right most of the time. Now obviously some of these candidates incorrectly considered the interview “a chat” vs. a critical step in the interview process. I am sure most if not all of the job candidates would be utterly surprised to know that I could tell how they were physically situated for the interview (even if they were merely slouched in a chair).

 

The job candidate that will always stand out to me went beyond the mistake of just slouching in a chair and took phone interviewing mistakes to the next level. I once had a candidate who had burped several times during the interview. I finally asked him if he needed a drink of water even though I strongly suspected a drink of water was not what he truly needed. I was more surprised by his reply, “Oh no problem, I am actually relaxing with a beer while I am talking to you, since it is almost the end of the day. I am sorry, I probably should have waited until after the call!" By the way, I was conducting this interview at 3:30 in the afternoon when I WAS THE HIRING MANAGER for a medical device company! I cut the conversation short so he could continue on with his happy hour without being granted another interview step. 

 

Now obviously it was not difficult for me to spot the people who have started their “happy hour” during the phone interview, but you would be amazed how subtle environment changes do make a difference. Professional hiring managers (and Human Resource Managers) conduct these interviews all the time, we can tell when your body is in a reclining position or when you are distracted (even the slightest). Remember, what an interviewer hears is magnified many times over since there is no visual to distract them, every tone or sigh is picked up and amplified in meaning (positively or negatively).

RESEARCH THE COMPANY


Do research the company and the job opening thoroughly. This sounds silly and elementary, doesn't it? As a recruiter I provide the resources needed for my candidates to do a thorough research on the company and the job opening often days before the scheduled interview only to get a last minute call with these type of dumb questions;

"What was the name of the company again?" or "What Division am I interviewing for?" or "How big is the territory again and what is the money for this job?" or "What was the hiring managers name again?"  


I want to ask them in disbelief, "Are you kidding me?" Immediately I know I have got a problem with this candidate and so will the hiring manager.  So make sure you take several days before the interview to study up on the company (dissect and every piece of their website):

  • Understand the company history including how they were founded
  • Know their mission statement
  • Review the company's overall business model if a large company, be certain to focus in on the division you are interviewing.  It helps to understand how your division fits into the total picture overall corporate umbrella.
  • Know the company"s competitors and if possible, their market share within the industry
  • Know their customers (end users) and if in sales, the call points of the open position
  • Do know who the big boys and girls are at the top of the corporate ladder to get a feel of who is managing the big picture of each division
  • Do thoroughly understand the open position (skill requirements and etc. from the job description)
  • Do know who you are interviewing with and their position in relation to the overall company and specific to the open job (IE: direct report hiring manager or human resource person?)
  • Do look up your interviewer on LinkedIn (DO NOT invite them to link to you!); review their background, tenure and any commonalities you may have in your background for your knowledge only.
  • Have the recruiter give you the interviewers email address before the interview for a quick follow-up thank you note.

11 TIPS TO MASTERING THE PHONE INTERVIEW

Now let's tie this all together, you are ready to master the phone interview!  You now understand how important your interviewing environment and knowledge of the company are to the process.  

It is game time and let's put all this knowledge into actionable tips that will earn you the next step in the interview process:

  1. Have a hard copy of your resume and be prepared to walk through it to answer the interviewers questions
  2. Have a hard copy of the companies information on hand (like their products, job description etc.)
  3. Make sure you are in an area with great cell reception and never interview while driving!
  4. Interview in a quiet environment, even if that means finding a safe, parking spot to interview from your car
  5. If interviewing from home get Fido and the kids out of the room and remove any distractions. I highly suggest placing a note on your front door and on the doorbell that say's "silence please, no knocking or ringing at this time."
  6. Sit up straight and poised for action during the interview, it will reflect in your voice.
  7. If possible, have another device, like an iPad available ONLY if the interviewer directs you during the interview to access a web location.  DO NOT use this device for anything else.  Do NOT TEXT, EMAIL or surf the web while interviewing!  
  8. Have your smart questions prepared and ready to go for the interviewer
  9. Have Kleenex, bottle of water ready if needed and understand how to work your mute button
  10. At the end of the interview ask for the next step in the interview process indicates your high interest and ask if you are moving forward to that next step! (for sales people, this is equivalent to asking for the order)
  11. LASTLY and immediately, send a Thank You note via email to the interviewer indicating your interest and you look forward to the next step in the process (be mindful of correct grammar, spellings and etc.)

 

The person who usually wins the next step after the phone interview is the person who has put the time and energy into preparing far before the scheduled event. As is often said, "You only have one chance to make a first impression," don't let the phone interview prevent you from making a great one!

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