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By Lyn Burks - In previous career development articles we left off with the importance of the resume, along with several tips for “spooling up” your resume to a higher level of professionalism. Assuming you did everything right and your resume has convinced the hiring authority that you may be the person for the job; you may now be facing a new hurdle. The phone interview.
 
As discussed in previous career development articles, given the fact the helicopter industry is a National market, phone interviews are a must for most positions. Geographically, we are spread all over the place and this makes it difficult, if not impossible, to do face to face interviews with initial applicants. Remember, each step of the hiring process is a chance for you to fall on your face. The phone interview is the second chance for you to stumble, so getting it right is important. Phone interviews are to be considered equally important as the face to face interview, if not more important.
 
Hiring authorities have several goals in mind when conducting a phone interview:
 
Determine your likeability. Yes, you read that correctly. “Likeable”. As in polite, good natured, positive attitude. It is a fact that people who have these “likeable” characteristics make better employees. Given the choice, an employer would take a person with less experience and a great attitude over the opposite.
 
Ask questions specifically about your experience for which your resume may not have answered. Typical areas which might receive extra attention could be gaps in work experience, the appearance of job hopping, or flight hours that do not add up.
 
Assess your basic job knowledge and ability to be articulate through questioning. This questioning can be as specific as, “How would you handle a low oil pressure light in flight in an XYZ helicopter?” or as generic as “Tell me where you plan on being 5 years from now?”
 
Introduce you to the Company and the details of the available position. Then gage your real interest in working for the Company. This is very important. If you are truly interested in the position and everything seems to be going well, let them know how interested you are. The phone interview is no place to play hard to get. Save that for the face to face interview. The last thing the Company wants to do is pay $600 to fly in someone who does not sound genuinely interested in the position.
 
Phone Interview Tips (Cliff Notes Version)
 
Tip 1 – When the Company emails you to coordinate an interview time, they may ask you something like, “When would be a good time for you take a phone call to discuss this opportunity?” Here is what you do not say, “Any time will be fine.” Now you may be thinking to yourself that this answer indicates a flexible candidate. But what I have learned is that “anytime” is most often not a good time at all. I have been in the middle of a phone interview, only to hear the helicopter landing in the background and asked by the candidate if I mind holding while they go out and refuel the helicopter. Give a specific date and time that you are free to participate without distractions or interruptions.
 
Tip 2 – Make sure you are available and answer the call at the agreed upon time. If you want a sure fire way to reduce your “likeability” before you even do the phone interview, just try and not answer the phone when the interviewer calls. Interviewers understand that things do happen, but you should have a very good reason for not making the interview time. If you think that there might be issues that would cause you to be late or miss the appointment, make it known when setting up the interview. For example, I have had people who were traveling prior to the interview and through no fault of their own they were not able to use their phone. If they let me know they will be travelling in advance, I will be prepared to understand why they are not answering their phone.
 
Tip 3 – Take the interview call at a good time and a good place. Set yourself up so that you can take the call with few distractions. I have interviewed folks who have interrupted the interview to yell at their children while at the shopping mall or a kid’s baseball game.
 
Tip 4 – When answering questions, whether technical or personal, follow these guidelines:
·        Answer the question directly and resist the temptation to ramble and venture into other areas. In other words, only answer the question asked.
·        Be articulate and positive in sticky areas. The interviewer may ask you tough questions like whether or not you have been fired or have had any accidents.
·        Be totally honest in your answers, but do not spill your guts. I once interviewed a gent who indicated he was fired from a job about 20 years ago. He indicated he was going through a tough divorce at the time which in turn caused him to have problems at work. I felt it was an honest and acceptable answer, but before I could move along, he launched into a tirade about how he caught that lying, cheating, (place expletive here) with his neighbor, which prompted the divorce. Too much info can be a bad thing.
·        Do not swear during the interview. Once you feel comfortable with the interviewer, it can be tempting to let down your professional guard and throw in a swear word or two. Avoid that temptation as you never now how it will be received on the other end.
·        Lastly, but most importantly, DO NOT bash your previous or current employer. This comes up often when the interviewer asks, “Why did you leave your last job?” Keep all answers regarding previous employers’ positive. Most often people leave for better opportunities or more responsibility. However, if it was for more ominous reasons, and it does come up, candidates would do just fine to indicate that there were simply differences that could not be resolved.
 
In the end, just like anything else in our business, your success mainly hinges on proper preparation. There is a list of 100 commonly asked interview questions in a downloadable EBook available from www.thehelicopterstore.com. The EBook is titled “Your Resume vs. the Helicopter Industry, a Guide to Resume Writing for Helicopter Pilots and Mechanics”. The guide includes resume templates, keyword lists, interview questions, and personal advice from the hiring authorities of several large helicopter operators.
 
About the Author:
Lyn Burks is the owner/developer of Justhelicopters.com and Verticalreference.com. Additionally, he is the producer of the Heli-Success Seminar and author of several helicopter career development E-books, as well as a recruiter in the industry. He is an ATP/CFII with nearly 6000 hours helicopter experience.

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