What do phone interviews and digestive regularity have in common? The answer should always be “absolutely nothing”

Oftentimes when you submit a resume, you will receive a return call that is essentially asking a few basic questions to assess two things:

1) Is what you are looking for in terms of salary, schedule, location even remotely a fit? Interviews can be grueling and tedious. Hiring managers don’t want to waste the candidate’s time and they certainly don’t want to waste their own.

2) Do you have any interpersonal skills? If the impression that you leave a recruiter with after a 5 minute phone screen can best be summarized by the words “defensive, evasive, and confrontational”, you are giving off the wrong vibe and may want to reassess your strategy.

I know you are dying to hear about two of the most memorable phone screen fails I have ever encountered, and I am dying to have someone to share them with.

Welcome to the Talent Acquisition Hall of Shame. If there are any recruiters out there reading, expect to be solicited for your own HoS-worthy wtf experiences from time to time  constantly. I love this stuff.

#1 – I called someone with a very impressive application. Industry experience, several years of tenure at each employer, grammatically flawless resume, and a strong cover letter. When I asked the candidate why she was looking for a new opportunity, she proceeded to tell me that she had just been fired from her most recent employer but that it was an “illegal termination and I am in the process of suing them”.

After I picked my jaw up off the floor of my office, I politely ended the call. There is a time and a place to discuss a pending lawsuit. A phone screen from an interested hiring manager is not one of them. While some people are unfortunately terminated for truly unfair or even discriminatory reasons, and employers should absolutely be held accountable for this, that is between you and your legal counsel. When being considered for employment, you really should avoid coming across as litigious. Litigious plus abrasive and confrontational? Avoid at all costs.

#2 – More often than not when I call a candidate for a phone screen, they don’t answer right away and I leave a voicemail. At their convenience (and this is key) they are invited to call me back to discuss the opportunity for which they applied. A very nice candidate returned my message and expressed that she was so glad to have a response to her resume. A pleasant and gracious personality – off to a great start! As we are discussing the opportunity, she is describing her most recent job responsibilities. She does not pause; she does not miss a beat. While she is in the middle of speaking I hear a loud, unmistakeable flush.

The part that I could not wrap my mind around – I left a message and she called me back when it was convenient for her. She picked that moment to call. While I value solid multi-tasking abilities, this is truly a matter of professionalism, boundaries, and taste. I cannot put a face with a name from a phone call, and I don’t want to put a satisfying bowel movement with a name from a phone call either.

This is my second post (here is the first) within this series. If there is an unemployed loved one in your life whom you suspect needs some frank, unsolicited, and statistically-unvalidated career advice, please feel free to share.

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