I hope everyone had a great New Year and Christmas/holiday season…
The new year for me brings about some exciting changes. In addition to the career strategies speaking, consulting, and training I do, I have “re-hung” my shingle as a Independent Business Communication Professional in response to increasing requests from individuals over the past few months. I will be providing corporate, marketing, and technical communication collateral for companies in the earth/space sciences, environmental sciences, software development and microprocessor design fields. The day I launched the website promoting this business, I received my first contract.
For this post, I’m broadcasting a response to a question I received awhile back about knowing what questions to ask a hiring manager during a phone screen. I think the best strategy for asking questions involves the focus of the type of work you’ll be doing–especially if you’ll be brought in to work on a critical project or deliverable. You have to think like a consultant and NOT a potential employee for the strategy to work as a selling point to getting the hiring manager to hire you.
Here’s an actual recent example from a phone screen with a hiring manager for a contract technical editing position. The hiring manager began the conversation by providing an overview of the project and the documentation needs. I took a lot of notes, which helped me frame my own questions for later. Rather than bore you with the details of the exchange, my questioning was along the lines of determining how much of an editorial effort the project would require. I have worked on so many such projects for companies in the software development and microprocessor design fields, that the questions I needed answers to fell into a long queue in my head. This happens to everyone–whether you’ve built microprocessors or you’ve built barns–you just know which questions to ask and even in what order to ask them because your knowledge, experience, and skills all come together as expertise.
Such questioning also communicates to the hiring manager the level of your expertise. Your line of questioning gives the hiring manager insight into your thought process, your strategy for assessing the merits and potential issues of a project or problem, and your approach for enacting a solution. That conversation may turn into an invitation to come in for an interview or it may result in an outright job or contract (as it did for me). Because I was able to sell the hiring manager on my solutions to his problems over the phone, I got my hourly rate and I was able to work from my home office after spending the first few days at the local facility to familiarize myself with content providers and the work environment. This approach helped put a frame of reference around the scope of the work I would be doing.
Phone screen interviews are your opportunity to shine in the eyes of the hiring manager. You should be committed to one of two outcomes: either a request to come in for an interview with others on the team, or a direct job or contract offer.
Failure is not an option.