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Phone Interviewing

Phone interviewing

Are you nailing it? In this undated publicity photo released by NBC, actor Steve Carell appears in this scene from the television series "The Office." Carell was nominated for lead actor in a comedy series, Thursday, July 6, 2006, when the nominations for the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were announced in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/NBC, Justin Lubin)

In the national consulting market, phone interviewing is a commonplace; hiring managers make decisions based on your resume and your ability to interview over the phone. How do your interview skills measure up?

Over the course of my career, I have sat in on hundreds of phone interviews; some ok, some awful, and some just amazing. After years of seeing the best interviewer land job after job (many times when they were NOT the most qualified) I started to figure out what sells.

Here are a few of my observations:

  1. Know your audience. Who are you speaking with, what is their role in the organization?  By knowing where they fit in the puzzle you can gear your answers to what is important to them.
    1. For example, if you are speaking to the executive management, you know they are interested in the bottom line. How can you solve their problem and save them money?  In this scenario, talk about your projects and the ROI the client saved by hiring you.
    2. If you are interviewing with a team member, put them at ease by discussing how well you worked with your past clients internal team and supported them on the project. Show them you will not be coming in to take their job but to be their partner in the project.
  1. Do your research. You know who you are speaking with, what do you know about them personally? Use Linkedin, Facebook and other social media outlets to find out who the person is you are speaking with. Find out who they are as a human and pepper in a few similarities during the interview. If you discover they are passionate about the Cowboys, find a way to mention them in the conversion. For example, if they just lost a game, when they ask how you are, come back with: “I’m great, but still trying to recover from the Cowboy loss last night.”
  1. Speak to the document they have. Have the consulting company (If you are going through one) send you a copy of the resume they sent to the client. You want to have the exact same copy in front of you the interviewer does. Many consulting firms change resumes, re-format them or remove what they deem irrelevant from your resume. It is important to have the exact copy in front of you when interviewing.
  1. Listen Carefully.  Listen to the actual question that is being asked. Before going into detail of how you have certain experience or related experience, actually answer the question.   Many times this is what makes or breaks the interview.  It is very easy to go into a long detailed explanation and forget to actually answer the question.  For example:  “Where have you had experience with managing remote resources?”   Once the questions is answered, then go into detail about the number of resources managed, where they were located, the overcome challenges, the established communication plan you put in place and any other relevant supporting examples and successes. 
  1. Be Honest. Clients often try to fill multiple resource needs with one resource if possible.  Often I hear questions get asked around skills that are outside of the original requirement.  If you do not have experience with that skill, let them know and follow up by asking for clarification on why it was not in the original scope of work. Is the experience critical for this role? Do you have related experience that could be a trade off? If so, answer the question honestly, and let them know you do have related experience.  Briefly explain what it is and how it is related.  Briefly is the KEY word here.
  1. Be Flexible. When the client is asking HOW you would do something OR how you did something, you want to answer the question, but also make it clear (If applicable) you have also gotten the results doing it XYZ way. Explain after you answer why you (Or your prior client) decided to go that direction. You want to show you are flexible and have multiple ways of coming to a result depending on what is best for your client and their business needs.
  1. Be likeable. People hire qualified people they like. As a consultant, you are coming into their existing work family. They may have a great working relationship OR they may be experiencing “challenges” internally. Either way, they want someone who will be able to work with their people. It is important you investigate the team dynamics and so interest in their “Work Family” dynamics. At the Q&A portion of the interview is a good time to showcase this. A few sample questions would be:
    1. “What advice do you have for me on the best approach in building rapport with your team?”
    2. “Does your internal client (or team) have a particular type of consultant they work best with?”
    3. “What is the best communication approach with both your internal clients and project team?” 
  2. Provide detailed answers briefly. When asked about your experience, provide the experience that is related to what they are looking for.  Nobody wants to listen to a long-winded answer that is NOT applicable to what his or her needs are. For example:  If you are asked “Tell us about your background?” It is not necessary to talk about outdated experience or go through your live story. Discuss what is relevant to them only.
  3. Thank you and next steps. Always thank everyone for their time and let them know you are interested, excited and have the experience to accomplish the tasks. Let them know you are available for any additional calls or questions they may have. Ask them where they are in the process, their timeline for a decisions and what to expect regarding next steps.  

Women in Tech

Works+Women+Leaders+Technology+Hosted+SELF+L6ixBGgz1-zlI recently read an article, “The Myth Women in Tech Need to Stop Believing,” on Even though we think we’ve gotten rid of the glass ceiling, it is still very much there. Only 1 in 4 women hold STEM jobs, despite making up half of the population. If we want to have determined, hard-working employees in the future, we must empower women and make them believe they can do anything men can do.

Gender inequality is still in the workforce, no matter what field you’re in, even though it has improved over the years. Research from the Clinton Foundation: No Ceilings, shows that women earn the majority of all undergraduate degrees in America, but earn only 18% of computer science degrees. Women in Tech face multiple barriers, including a limit in women’s leadership opportunities. Too many people focus on socio-economic factors, such as sex, race, etc. instead of the talent.


SELF Magazine partnered up with the Clinton Foundation for an event called “What Works for Women Leaders in Technology”. Some of the key themes included:

  • Closing the Imagination Gap
    • Women are vastly underrepresented in STEM education and careers.
    • “We know that for so many, the image that comes to mind when we think of technology is someone who looks more like Mark Zuckerberg than looks like most of you sitting in the audience today.” -Chelsea Clinton
  • Defining what is means to be in “Tech”
    • “Five of our best-performing portfolio companies, our investments as venture capitalists, were founded or run by women…and none of those women are what you would consider ‘technical.’ -Andrew Siegel
  • Identifying & Embracing Multiple Identities
    • “I am not just a woman. I am not just a person of color. I have all of these identities. That gets messy for people who are used to looking at a person who looks different from me who’s running a different type of company.”  -Kiah Williams
  • Forging Partnerships with Men
    • “Some of the mentors I have in life are men. And my two cofounders are men. And I think bringing allies into the space, making them feel comfortable being uncomfortable, is important.” -Kiah Williams
  • Creating a Culture of Equality (which I enjoyed the most)
    • Women leaders can change societal perceptions at large by making their own corporate cultures family-friendly. It not only fosters greater happiness in the workplace; it closes the divide of family responsibilities and “the second shift” so often shouldered by women.

It is up to all of us to build a future where men and women can be equally seen in the tech world.


Megan Butz

Keeping Promises & Sustaining Trust

As a leader, you make many promises. Are you known for keeping your word or making empty promises? As a seller you may promise high-quality products or experiences to customers. As a manager you may offer opportunities to your employees and results to executives. Yes, the pressure of deadlines can get to you and derail your goals, but don’t experience thecommitment drift where crucial promises are forgotten, or broken. This drift demolishes trust from those around you, and undermines those important relationships. As priorities change, or timelines get moved forward, leaders must balance the promises previously made, adjusting them to accommodate one another.

To avoid being known as the leader who can’t keep promises follow these 7 steps:

  • Make fewer, better commitments.
    • Many times leaders make promises that miss the mark for stakeholders, losing credibility.  When you take the time to understand your stakeholders’ needs, you make more meaningful commitments.
  • Track your primary commitment.
    • The volume of commitments leaders are asked to make can result in promises they can’t keep, or forgetting promises they’ve made, as newer ones grab their attention. Tracking your promises doesn’t have to be time consuming; many software tools are available to make and update your lists.
  • Ask for others to commit.
    • Leaders are often shocked by the lack of execution after major initiatives have been launched. Yet these same leaders have not articulated exactly what commitments they’re asking others to make. Clearly state what you’re asking of others, with your end goal in mind.
  • Connect the dots between departments.
    • When leaders are solely focused on what they need to do, they focus less on connecting the dots between other groups. These important connections could have the greatest overall impact on company results. Companies can improve immensely by ensuring that teams understand how they can help each other, by motivating them to focus on the firm’s goals.
  • Focus on the process.
    • Leaders frequently rely on the heroic efforts of committed employees as a substitute for effective processes, ultimately wearing out their employees’ good will. When companies invest in developing repeatable processes, they make it easy for employees to deliver on promises and free up their creativity for the next big idea.
  • Know what was promised in your role in the past.
    • If new leaders jump into action without knowing what was promised in the past, they can violate prior commitments, undermine trust, and increase resistance. Ask, “What promises have been made?” when you start a new role to ensure the important ones are kept—or are adjusted with respect and consideration.
  • Continually check for contradictions.
    • Your consistency—or lack thereof—lets people know whether you can be trusted. When employees find leaders speaking out of both sides of their mouth, they assume the worst. Yet this kind of contradiction happens all too easily. Make sure you are acting with integrity to avoid contradictions that ruin trust.

“Nothing but the Facts” Approach

Paul Glen, author of Guide to Working With Non-Geeks, published a column entitled “‘Nothing but the Facts’ Approach just won’t work with business people”. IT and business people think very differently, yes, but they can also work extremely well together. Paul has been observing the interactions of geeks and non geeks for years, gaining insight on how to understand the differences and each other’s motives, during presentations, in the workforce, and in everyday life. 

Paul challenged his IT readers to try an experiment. The next time you give a presentation to business people, do a follow-up a day or two later. You will find that nearly everyone completely missed your point. Paul said, “The reason we [IT] often bomb when it comes to presenting to business people is that we misunderstand how to process information and presentations. We make the mistake of believing they think like we do. They don’t.”


Business people look for 4 things:

FACTS. Most IT people who give presentations focus on the facts and numbers. Business people want to know the ‘why’. Don’t get too caught up in the cold, hard facts when presenting, make it engaging and appealing specifically to them. 

INSIGHTS. For business people, insights are more influential than facts. Try to guide your business audience to your important insights – make them see what you see.

STORIES. Most insights need a story to illustrate them. As Paul says, “for non geeks, stories are the dominant structure for understanding facts and insights”. Stories are compelling to business people, they may not provide proof, but it will grab their attention and make them see the important points. 

EMOTIONS. Business people want to feel something, connect with someone’s story, and make an emotional impact. Your challenge as an IT speaker is to leave an impact on your audience. 


For more articles by Paul Glen, go to: 


President’s Trip To Nashville

Fidelis Companies President’s Trip is awarded to employees and managers who exceed annual sales and performance goals.  Previous President’s trip destinations include New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Steamboat Springs, CO. This year’s excursion was a 4-day visit to Nashville with five employees and their significant others…and, Alan and Karen, of course.  Setting foot on Nashville turf on Thursday morning, and having arrived at the hotel too early for check-in, eight of the twelve Fidelis crew headed over to The Pharmacy for lunch, and what turned out to be one of the best burgers any of us had ever eaten. The craft beers were pretty tasty, too.  Dinner With All




After check-in, the same eight headed out for a two-hour walking tour, experiencing some of the downtown Nashville highlights.  It was led by Bill DeMain, a Grammy nominated country music journalist, songwriter and musician (  Bill was quite knowledgeable and entertaining; the tour was laced with history and stories about Chet Atkins, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and many others. Some of the most memorable sites of the tour were Skull Shulman’s and Bourbon Street, both located in Printer’s Alley, Tootsie’s (originally knows as The Orchid Lounge where many famous songs were written on napkins, and where many musicians got their start), the Ryman Auditorium (originally, The Union Gospel Tabernacle and the original home of the Grand Ole Opry) and Hatch Print Shop, which has been in business for over 100 years and still uses the same printing method it did in it’s original day.

On Friday, some of the crew hit the town on the Sprocket Rocket, pedaling and suds-ing their way around town.  On Friday night, all of us were treated to second row, center stage seats at The Grand Ole Opry, where we experienced a live radio show! With almost a dozen different acts, the music, humor and entertainment made it a great evening, highlighted by Little Big Town, Mo Pitney, Chip Esten, Whispering Bill Anderson and Exile (yes, we all belted out, “I Wanna Kiss You All Over” as loud as we could).  

Many of us toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, featuring “Dylan, Cash & The Nashville Cats,” with very cool and historical displays of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, of course; but, also of Elvis, Kenny Rogers, George Strait, Patsy Cline…you name the CM star, there was something there about them…as far back as you can remember, Roy Acuff, Roy Rogers, Loretta Lynn…up to today – Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Luke Bryan…

Most, if not everyone, made it to “Hattie B’s,” across the street from the hotel, for “hot chicken,” which was pretty tasty.  And, if you turned up the heat and ordered the “Shut the Cluck Up” level of spice, it lived up to it’s name.  I sweated and teared-up through a couple of pieces, but was unable to finish, and my stomach was warm for several hours after!

The other music and entertainment that we all experienced was The Bluebird Café, where Garth Brooks got his start in 1987, filling in for someone.  It’s a small and quaint, 90-seat restaurant tucked away in a strip center that features all types of musical talent and is always sold out.  We were serenaded by four singer/song-writers performing acoustic versions of songs they had written and published.  Each of the artist took turns explaining how, when and why they wrote the songs before performing them, making it a cool evening full of fun, laughter and even a few tears as they mixed in a few emotional ballads.  

On Saturday night, Alan and Karen treated all of us to an incredible dinner at Kayne Prime Steakhouse. The menu included Lobster Buttered Popcorn and Black Peppercorn Bacon wrapped with Maple Cotton Candy for appetizers, Black Kale salad with almonds and currants, and Filet Mignon, Salmon and Porterhouse steaks for dinner – all with fine wine, of course; and, closed out with several incredible desserts. 


Tell Recruiters The Truth

Individuals looking for employment need to be honest with the recruiters they are going to for help. All recruiters will ask why you left past employers.  Just be honest and talk about it. Most recruiters, HR people, and hiring managers understand layoffs. Describe the situation in a way that’s most beneficial to you. 30-50% of your group being laid off is significantly different from 5%. If you were the sole person laid off in your group, that is not a layoff.  Surviving multiple layoffs and getting caught in a third or forth is something to point out to the interviewer.  

Lying on your resume or during the interview process is a major mistake, especially in the age of information, where most information is verifiable. Don’t exaggerate your resume with information that has no truth behind it.  Seasoned recruiters and hiring managers will find out and they will follow up with questions.  Even if you don’t like what the recruiter has to say, be patient, because they are just trying to help you. Do not burn these important bridges by lying or purposely misleading recruiters. You will be most successful in your job search if you listen to what your recruiter has to say. They normally know more about the client at hand than you.  

Biggest mistake: telling lies in an interview. All of the below have been used for years. You aren’t the first.


The Education Lies

  • “I had all the credits, I just didn’t graduate.” If you have the credits, you have the degree.
  • “I did all the classes, I just need to pay the fees to graduate.” Who would take the time and spend the money to attend and complete a college degree and then not graduate because of fees. It’s an unbelievable story.
  • “I graduated from X but it was a long time ago, I don’t know why they can’t verify my degree.” Degrees are verifiable.

The No-Show Interview Lies

  • “My car broke down.” If your car does break down, make a call and reschedule. There is no excuse for not showing up.
  • “I couldn’t find your location.” Researching the location is one of many things you need to accomplish during your interview preparation. Everyone with a smart phone has a map.

The Termination Lies

  • “It was a mutual decision that I left.” It is assumed that you resigned because you were going to be terminated. Break-ups are always initiated by one side. If the job wasn’t a fit for you, state that and explain the specifics. An A-player at one company can be a C-player at another. Success is a by-product of many things.
  • “I was in a bad accident and they fired me for not showing up to work.” Bad accidents are written up. This can always be corroborated. Make sure it happened and you notified your employer if you make this claim.
  • “I didn’t like the people I worked with.” This might be true, but it is never appropriate to bad mouth a former employer or co-worker. The person sitting in the interviewer chair doesn’t want someone to bad mouth them. You don’t want to give the impression that that is your character.