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How to Answer When Success is Calling!

There’s nothing easy about the job search, but if asked to pinpoint the most unnerving part of the process, many would say it’s interviewing. Yet, even more harrowing than a face-to-face meeting is the initial phone interview. Today these preliminary interviews are so prevalent that 92% of HR managers surveyed say they screen applicants via telephone before ever requesting an in-person meeting and 95% rely on these conversations to gauge a candidate’s qualifications.

Over the years, we’ve seen many talented and intelligent women come through our doors who are more than capable of getting the job, but were simply unprepared to handle a phone interview.  It was these women who inspired us to partner with TracFone to create Success is Calling.  As part of the program, TracFone created a series of training videos that offer career tips from multi-talented performer Vanessa Williams. Check out the videos below to find out Vanessa’s advice for nailing a phone interview, as well as fashion tips and practice questions to prepare for your next big opportunity.

How Do I Make A Better First Impression During Phone Interviews?

Dear DFS,

I’ve been job searching for two months now, and every interview I’ve had has been via telephone. I always prepare before the interview, but somehow, I still end up drawing a blank when I’m asked certain questions. I would consider myself a very social person, but I don’t think I come off well on the phone. Do you have any tips for how to make a better first impression during a phone interview?

Thanks for your help, 

Charlotte, Leeds, UK

Dear Charlotte,

First let me say congratulations on obtaining a telephone interview. To reach this point is an accomplishment! You must have a great CV to have made it this far.

A telephone interview brings a CV to life – giving the pages blood, bones and a personality. And believe it or not, the interviewer can tell a lot about a person just from their voice and energy levels.

However, phone screening is also a time saver for the scrutinizer, especially if there are many applicants. So you do need to be ultra-prepared.

Amazingly, only seven percent of the entire communications model comprises words. That leaves 38 percent for “how you say things” – tone, pitch, emphasis, voice quality etc., and 55 percent for body language – which of course you cannot use. Therefore you need to magnify your verbal skills to make an impact!

Think of the phone interview as good practice – perhaps recording the next one so you can self-listen – maybe with a friend or colleague – and assess the parts you think need improving. I am wondering what the questions are where you say you draw a blank – these are precisely the ones you need to address so that next time you will have a ready answer.

Your primary mission in any interview is to identify the employer’s needs and to positively address them, relating your experience and interest to the specific job. Research both the company, its customers and its competitors.

Here are a few tips which may help:

  • Harness your nervous tension by taking a few deep breaths through your nose and out through your mouth before you begin. We all talk too quickly when nervous.
  • Present yourself in an appropriate way – making the best use of your social skills rather than trying to be right, clever or funny
  • Don’t rush into an answer before thinking about it. Silence can be misconstrued, but do give yourself time to think. You can always add “mmmm” or “ah hah” to break the silence
  • Don’t speak too quickly and try to pause for emphasis
  • Visualise yourself in the interview room, exuding your own social personality
  • Anticipate the employer’s questions about your experience, training, history, expectations and formulate short, positive responses beforehand
  • Develop a list of promotional statements to highlight your strengths. Write them down and rehearse them. In other words, sell yourself.
  • Don’t pretend to know everything, but hopefully you will have researched the company, and can show your knowledge and enthusiasm by asking relevant questions
  • Remember the name of the interviewer and use it
  • The more you can get the interviewer to share their needs, expectations or problems, the better THEY will feel about the interview. People like talking about themselves
  • Be assertive yet courteous, don’t let yourself be intimidated and above all, be honest.

Most hiring decisions are based on intangibles – intuition, like-mindedness, feelings, rather than on qualifications, experience and training. And remember – the hiring manager has much more at stake than you!

I hope these tips help you in your next job interview Charlotte, and that you will indeed acquire the job of your dreams.

Our very best wishes,

Sue Scott-Gould

Board member

Wellington affiliate

New Zealand


Ted Gibson’s Guide to Job-Landing Locks!

Guest post by celebrity hair stylist, Ted Gibson

We all know that you need to “Dress for Success” for your interview to land the perfect job. Your appearance is super important, however, many women forget about one of the most important aspects of your look: HAIR!! One of my mantras is “Hair Changes Everything.” It really does! How your hair is styled for your interview can affect the interviewer’s perception of you. Here are my favorite hairstyles sure to make an excellent impression on any future boss!

Sleek Bun

Whether parted to the side, in the middle or with no part at all this classic style is perfect for your next job interview. It’s neat, clean and screams sophistication!

The Bob

First impressions are super important. You want your potential new boss to take you seriously and know that you are capable of taking on the job you are interviewing for. The bob is so versatile and there is a version for everyone! Whether cut just below the chin or a “lob” (long bob) grazing the shoulders, a bob says “I’m stylish, I care about my appearance and I mean business!”

Fresh Blowout

There’s nothing like a fresh blow-out! It’s such a clean and refreshing look – you absolutely cannot go wrong! I think it’s a great idea to get a fresh blowout before any job interview. Whether your hair is short or long, super curly or straight, a blowout can do wonders for your look! Here’s how to do a Gibson girl blowout at home!

  1.  First, you will need a good blow drying hair spray. You want to look  for sprays that say they will  add volume and shine and have a heat and UV protection. Spray this throughout your hair while wet.
  2. Next, the secret to the perfect blowout is to start with your fingers. Pull your fingers through your hair starting at the roots and shoot the heat at the roots while holding the hair taut. Get your hair about 75% drying using this method. Then, part your hair in your desired part.
  3. One of the biggest mistakes women make with their at-home blow dries is that their sections are too large, resulting in flat hair. When blow drying, you want to take 1 – 1 ½ inch sections.
  4. In the salon, most stylists blow dry hair using a  boar bristle and nylon round brush, however this requires practice and skill. If you are not comfortable using round brush, use a boar bristle and nylon paddle brush. The boar bristle in the brush gives hair great body and shine.  You never want to use a metal brush when blow drying your hair  – the metal heats up too fast and can burn and break your hair off. Take one section of hair, hold your dryer by the handle about 3 inches away from your head and blow dry while brushing with the paddle brush.
  5. Once your section is dry, curl the hair up in a Velcro roller. Do this to your entire head. Once you’re finished and the hair is cool, take out the rollers and lightly rake through your hair with your fingers. Turn your head upside down, shake it out a bit, and spray with a light, flexible holding spray. Flip your head up and you’ll find you’ve given yourself a salon quality blowout at home!

Ted Gibson is one of the most sought-after editorial, runway, and celebrity hair stylists in the business.  His work has appeared in publications such as VogueHarper’s BazaarElleMarie ClaireVanity FairPeople StyleWatchW, and Allure and backstage at runway shows such as Chanel, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana.  He is also a huge influence and presence at both Fall and Spring New York Fashion Week styling some of the top American fashion designer labels including Pamella Roland, Carmen Marc Valvo and Lela Rose.  Ted is perhaps most known for toiling over the tresses of top celebrities including Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Debra Messing, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Greene, Lupita Nyong’o, Gabrielle Union and many more.

Tips on Hand Writing Your Thank You Notes!

Guest Post from Pilot Pen

You’ve created your resume, customized your cover letter, and had a successful interview. Now what? You write a personalized thank you note. Thank you notes are necessary to write because it is just one more way for you to stand out among all the other potential candidates your company of interest is considering; especially in a world dominated by follow up emails!

Legible, clear handwriting shows you pay attention to detail and it gives you the opportunity to thank your potential employer in your own words. Think about it this way, would you consider a handwritten holiday card more valuable than a holiday e-card? This serves as a tangible reminder that you go the extra mile. Here are several key elements to consider when writing a thank you note.

  1. Thank the interviewer for their time. This is a great way to start your note. It also serves as a great place to transition into the main points of what you want to say.
  2. Consider including details discussed during your interview. Take the opportunity to remind your potential employer about a skill you relayed or a project you are interested in.
  3. Keep it simple and sincere. Be clear and concise with your words. Wordier does not always mean better.
  4. Draft your message before writing the final version to ensure the card looks exactly the way you want it to.
  5. Finish the card with a special touch, a message stating that you would love to be a part of the team.
  6. Be selective with your writing instruments and stationary. Pilot recommends selecting a pen known for a smooth, skip-free writing experience like the Precise. Or use a modern take on the classic fountain pen, which delivers smooth, expressive writing, like the striking MR Animal Collection or pre-filled Varsity.

Inside Track: Tips for a Successful Job Interview

By Reesa Staten, Robert Half International

For most people, job interviews rank near the top of the list of life events that cause anxiety, and with good reason. The stakes are high in these situations, particularly if you really want — or need — the job you’re going for. 

As with most things, preparation will increase your odds of making a good first impression. I’m sure we all can remember at least one occasion when an interview did not go well, and if we’re honest, it was probably because we walked into the meeting unprepared.  

What follow are eight tips for acing the job interview. Some of these lessons I (and others) learned the hard way. I share them with you now so you have the inside track on a successful first meeting with a prospective employer.

1. Research the company and the opportunity. You should go into the interview with a beyond-the-basics knowledge of the firm. Read the company’s website, marketing materials and relevant news stories to learn its mission, history, reputation and corporate culture. A simple Google search can uncover a wide range of information. The more you know, the better able you will be to convince the hiring manager that you are an excellent match for the company and the job.

2. Practice. Enlist the help of a friend or family member and practice responses to common questions such as “Tell me about yourself,” “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “Why do you want to work here?” And be ready for the curveballs like “Who is your favorite fictional character and why?” There are no right or wrong answers to these types of questions. The employer is looking for clues as to how you think and some insight into your personality.

3. Arrive on time. Being late is a deal breaker for most employers. One way to ensure you’re not late is to plan to arrive half an hour early. You’ll give yourself some leeway in case traffic is worse than expected or you get lost. If you find you have time to spare, use it to review your resume or check your appearance in the restroom. Arrive at reception five to 10 minutes before the interview is scheduled to start, but no earlier. 

4. Be honest. Interviewers often ask you to describe your weaknesses. While you don’t want to launch into a list of reasons they should not hire you, try to provide a little color on your work style. Saying that your greatest weakness is that you “work too hard” or “can’t help but be a perfectionist” are clichés and will make you seem insincere. Instead mention an area where you could improve and describe the steps you’ve taken to do so. Just don’t tell them you have no weaknesses. Nobody is perfect, and the employer knows this (see tip #5).

5. Be humble. Never underestimate the power of humility. Employers like to see that you are self-assured and assertive, but being overly confident or cocky will leave a bad impression. Show employers that you can take direction and that you understand the company’s business objectives. Demonstrate a willingness to learn and an openness to new ways of doing things. These are all signs you will contribute to the company in a positive way.

6. Don’t disparage past bosses. You may be asked by an interviewer why you left a particular job. Regardless of how unhappy you were in that position, avoid sounding bitter or resentful or badmouthing a former supervisor. This will prompt the hiring manager to wonder if you will be equally critical in your new job. Companies want to hire people with a history of loyalty, successful collaboration and a good attitude.  

7. Dress to impress. If you are reading this blog, you know how important it is to “Dress for Success.” First impressions count, and professional attire tells the hiring manager you take the job opportunity seriously. Make the best impression by wearing a clean, well-fitted suit, dress or similar outfit. Go easy on the accessories and the fragrance, and when in doubt, err on the side of dressing a little more conservatively.

8. Save the demands. The interview is like a first date. You are getting to know the employer, and he or she is getting to know you. Avoid giving a list of demands like salary requirements, benefits and vacation days. This tells a prospective employer you’re more concerned about the perks than the job itself. Focus your efforts instead on what you can offer the company by asking what expectations the employer has of someone in the role.       

The best advice for a successful interview? Just be yourself, show the employer you are qualified for the job, and make a persuasive case for why he or she should hire you over everyone else who interviews. And don’t be bashful about asking for the job — you just might surprise the hiring manager into saying yes!

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half International, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at


Discovering Your Unique Professional Strengths

By Reesa Staten, Robert Half

Like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two people are exactly alike. We all have individual strengths that define who we are and distinguish us from every other person on the planet.

Do you know what makes you unique? If you can describe to a potential employer what you bring to the job that no one else will, it may be all you need to convince that person to hire you. Knowing your strengths also will help you choose a career that will give you the greatest job satisfaction.

Whether or not you know it, you are a specialist at something. Maybe you are great at solving problems, or perhaps you’re known for your ability to create order out of chaos. These are life skills, but they also are highly transferrable to the job market. For example, problem-solving abilities are essential in any customer service or technical support role. If you can help someone troubleshoot an issue he or she is having with a product or service, and keep that person happy in the process, this is a highly marketable job skill. Likewise, if organizational skills are your strength, you may excel at leading projects and people. If you have worked in a particular industry for many years, you likely have a level of knowledge that makes you a specialist in that field.

If you’re not sure what your strengths are, ask people you know. You will be surprised at how quickly they can name them. Take this information and build on it. Consider jobs in which you have excelled in the past or courses in school that engaged you the most. These are clues into the type of work that will give you the most enjoyment and be the best match for your personality.

Remember that you are unique, and your dream job may not resemble those of your friends or family. I have a friend who is a top salesperson for a Fortune 100 corporation. She travels constantly, juggles half a dozen major accounts worth millions of dollars to her company, spends a fair amount of her day solving problems for her customers and knows she is only as successful as her last commission. Her job is like climbing Mount Everest every day. Her unique strength? She loves tackling big challenges, which means she loves (and excels at) her job.

You may also love a challenge, or your ideal career could be just the opposite. You may be looking for something more predictable, and you may choose routine over volatility. Jobs that appeal to you probably involve close attention to detail and adherence to specific, repeatable processes. There is an employer out there looking for someone just like you, so don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself about what most makes you happy.

Some professionals have specialized skills but fall short when it comes to marketing themselves.  Robert Half recently released a research paper that describes the importance of specialized job skills in the workforce.

Following are six tips to help you showcase your unique strengths:

1. Create a specialist resume. Your resume should highlight your individual specialty areas and interests. For example, if you’re an accountant who has worked in the healthcare industry, emphasize not only your accounting skills but also your healthcare expertise. Add a “Summary” section that briefly describes your most relevant attributes and experience. Remember to customize your resume for each job opening.

2. Be seen online as a specialist. Add keywords to your profile on sites like LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter that reflect your areas of specialization and participate in online groups in your areas of interest.

3. Know yourself. Remember that you have transferrable skills that will benefit you in almost any field or industry, such as being great with people, highly organized, creative, detail-oriented or something else. If you’re just beginning your career, choose a specialty area that strongly interests you and acquire additional skills and training in that area. A career focus that you are passionate about is more likely to lead to long-term success.

4. Acquire more education. The unemployment rate for professionals 25 years or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher is roughly half that of the general employment rate. Depending on where you are in your career trajectory, consider completing a degree or certification in your field that you never finished — or never pursued.

5. Fish where the fish are. For example, one of the fastest-growing fields right now is healthcare. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that one-third of the projected fastest-growing U.S. occupations are in the field of healthcare. Job demand is expected to remain high across the healthcare spectrum, including for doctors and nurses, pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists, medical lab technicians, and more. Professionals who provide support to healthcare organizations, such as dental hygienists, medical records clerks and medical assistants, are also seeing rising demand for their services. If your strength is helping people, the healthcare field offers tremendous opportunities to do just that.

6. Work with a specialized staffing firm. A staffing company that specializes in your field can help you accurately highlight your strengths and specialty areas in job search materials.

Once you to identify what you like doing and are good at, direct your job search accordingly. You will be much more successful in a career that inspires you, and employers will value your enthusiasm and motivation.

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half International, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at

Ask DFS: How Do I Make My Interview Follow-up Stand Out?

Dear DFS:

I’ve been on a few really great interviews lately, but I’m never quite sure how to follow up afterwards.  I’ve read countless online articles and received numerous tips from friends about following up with potential employers, but each piece of advice seems to contradict the last. Do I shoot them an email, send them a thank you card, keep it formal, or be more conversational? How many follow up gestures are appropriate, and how soon after the interview should I reach out to the employer? I’ve heard that following up can make or break an interview. How do I make my follow-up stand out from the rest?

Confused in Cleveland,


Dear Jessica,

Your questions regarding after-the-interview protocol are excellent.  I can see how the information you gathered from a various sources may be confusing.

First of all, you can occasionally get a clue as to your follow-up approach at the close of the interview. Simply ask, “what is the next step?” or “when will a decision be made?” You may also ask, “May I contact you in x amount of days?” (Five days is usually appropriate.) This may give you the timeframe from which you can operate. Be sure you get the interviewer’s business card, so you have the correct address, email and spelling of his/her name.

If by chance you learn at the interview that you will not be a candidate for the job, it is still important to follow-up with a thank you. You never know what the future may hold in store. As the old adage goes, “never burn your bridges.”

Regardless of your post-interview approach, immediately follow-up with a thank you note.  It can be an email, but a hand-written note may set you apart from the other applicants. Emails certainly are the means of communication used by most professionals today, but nonetheless, follow-up with the written note. A rule of thumb is to send an email within 24 hours of the interview and the written thank you by the end of the day after the interview.  Be sure to use professional-looking stationary and note cards for your follow-up correspondence.  This type of writing material is inexpensive and can be purchased at many convenient locations or online at places like Walmart or Thirtyone Gifts.

In all written correspondence, whether electronic or on paper, use a formal greeting, such as Mrs., Mr., or Ms. as a prefix to their last name. For women, it’s good to use Ms., as you may not know their marital status.  Your note should begin by expressing your appreciation for the opportunity and name the position for which you interviewed to help them remember you. This should be followed by 2-3 sentences that express why you believe you would be a great employee. Include the strengths you discussed in the interview. Close the note by thanking them again and that you look forward to hearing from them. This sets an expectation. Use a closing such as Sincerely, Respectfully, etc.  It’s also a good idea to list your contact information under your signature to make it convenient for them to reach you.  Before you press send or drop that letter in your mailbox, always check for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors.

As to additional follow-up, this is where it might be a bit tricky.  Remember, at the close of your interview you learned when a decision would be made. Therefore, don’t call in a couple of days when you were told it would be a week or two weeks.  You must remain patient.

The thank-you can be considered your first follow-up.  Contact the interviewer again when you were told a decision would be made.  If you don’t hear about the job, reach out one more time a week or so later. This could be by telephone call, email or written note.   Any more than three follow-ups and you may be considered a “pest.”

Some common considerations when making a follow-up telephone call are in order.  Try to get through to the individual who interviewed you.  Leaving a message with a receptionist will not allow your follow-up objectives to be accomplished. But, never be pushy with a receptionist.  Always be on your best behavior. Once you reach your interviewer, begin by politely reminding them of whom you are and the position that you applied for. Ask if the position has been filled.  If it hasn’t, ask whether or not you are still in consideration. Should you be told you are still in the running, avoid launching into a long conversation about why you are perfect for the job. Instead, express your continued interest in the position and your enthusiasm for working with them. Do so in a straight forward, polite and brief manner. You may ask when a decision will be made. Regardless of the outcome of this conversation, always conclude with a thank you.

Good luck in your job search!

Judy Chambers

Executive Director

Dress for Success Austin