It’s 12:30 on a spring afternoon, and you’re breaking for lunch. You love your teammates, and the office snacks are great, but you’ve been working in the same code base for a couple of years now and you feel like your growth is hitting a wall. The industry is moving fast, and new technologies are coming out every day; you can't afford to be in a position where you're no longer learning and developing new skills.
You open up Glassdoor on your phone and start scrolling through. You come across a company that has everything you’ve ever wanted and has a high rating. You submit your application and hope that you hear back from them soon, but who knows what wacky process your application is going through? Impostor syndrome may even start to creep in.
When you get home from work, you notice a response to your application in your inbox. They are interested in scheduling a phone call with you to discuss your experience!
You decide that you’re ready to talk tomorrow at noon.
Like most companies, Stride’s interview process starts with a phone interview with someone from our Talent Acquisition team to assess values fit and baseline skill requirements. Culture is non-negotiable at Stride, and it is one of the main reasons why I love my job and the people I work with so much. I feel a deep responsibility to our Striders to find the best people they can learn and grow from and vice versa.
I have conducted many phone interviews - some have been amazing, and some have been completely exhausting. There was that one time when I was cursed out by a candidate when I told them we weren’t a fit. Yeah, that happened and it was a learning moment for both of us.
There are also times I’ve left a call feeling incredible. Recently, I had a call that left me feeling super excited. So excited that I began to ask myself what makes some interviews stand out and stay top of mind, and what derails the others?
Y’all... I remember the details of every single one of my phone interviews from folks that we’ve hired, from their career goals down to the team size and projects they were working on.
After some introspection and insights from my colleagues, both technical and non-technical, here are the four common attributes that will make your interview stand out above the other thousand in the hiring manager's inbox.
1. Come prepared
It speaks volumes when a candidate can reference specifics about our job description and our values. Here are some tips on preparing for your phone interview:
👉 Tip: The most successful calls happen when candidates do their research to find out who we are, what we do, and what we value. Also, they research salaries for the role they are looking for (taking into account years of experience and skillset).
👉 Tip: When referencing sites like Glassdoor for salary, keep in mind that they are displaying an average for what they believe the range is, not actual figures. Glassdoor is an awesome resource for insights into the company culture and interview process, but not for salary information.
🔥 Hot Take: I’ve been amazed by the number of candidates who have told me that they have been applying to dozens of places and don’t remember who we are. This tells me that a candidate is not serious, they are blindly applying to jobs, and they are not organized. The Muse has a great interview cheat sheet you can use to keep your interviews organized.
👉 Tip: Being prepared is respectful of everyone’s time and shows you care. We have only 30 minutes together, and I want to make sure I learn as much as I can about who you are and what you want to do next, and still leave time for all of your important questions.
2. Be thoughtful
As a consulting firm, we place high value on the ability to articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and succinctly.
👉 Tip: The best answers to situational questions (“Tell me about a time when…”) have specific examples and details (be careful not to ramble or talk in circles). We have lots of thoughts and opinions, and we want to hear yours! Seriously, there is no right or wrong answer; answer honestly.
👉 Tip: If you don’t understand the question, ask clarifying questions! Don’t be shy. If you don’t know the answer to a question, that’s OK, too! This is an extremely valuable skill as a consultant and shows maturity and curiosity (one of Stride’s core values!).
3. Be respectful
This should go without saying, but…
👉 Tip: It’s a candidate’s market right now (especially for software engineers), and you have a lot of options. We want to be one of those options! However, manners shouldn’t fall by the wayside because you’re in high demand. This is still an interview, regardless of who reaches out to whom.
👉 Tip: Give your undivided attention during a phone interview by not multitasking and doing other things in the background. My best calls are with people who are engaged and excited! When a candidate shows serious interest and respect, it makes it easier for me to make a case for them if they fall short in one or two areas.
👉 Tip: Find a quiet place to talk, and eliminate as much background noise as possible. If a side street is your only option (NYC is tough!), mute your line while loud noises occur in the background. Or, if you are the person talking, pause until the Mount Sinai ambulance moves past, for example.
At Stride, we weigh core values just as much as, if not more than, technical skills. In fact, the phone screen is vetting for culture fit, which determines whether you even move forward to the technical portions of our interview.
4. Be punctual
Things come up! Reschedule if you need to.
👉 Tip: When a candidate emails me ahead of time to ask if they can reschedule, it shows that they value other people’s time, and I am more than happy to oblige.
👉 Tip: If a candidate simply doesn’t show up, this indicates a low level of respect for time, and poor communication—both of which are problematic in a consulting career.
👉 Tip: We know you have a busy schedule and a life outside of work, and so do we. I’ve never turned down a reasonable time to talk to a candidate outside of normal business hours. Heck, I’ve taken calls with candidates on the weekend! But if you are going to commit to a Sunday evening during a coveted Panthers football game and something comes up, please be courteous to your interviewer and let them know ASAP, so they don’t change their plans only to have to reschedule.
Making a career move is a huge deal, and I consider myself lucky to be a part of your journey!
Thank you for inviting me along for the ride.