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The Phone Interview and What to Expect
“Hello… are you looking for me?” – Song from HELLO by Lionel Richie
You’re working on a spreadsheet in your cube or you’re ordering a non-fat latte when suddenly your phone rings, sings, vibrates or does a happy dance. You answer to find out that it’s a recruiter from a reputable organization calling you about a resume they saw posted on the Internet. You think to yourself, recruiters actually look at your resume and they actually make phone calls! Now it’s time to calm down, gather your composure with your prepared interview cheat sheet and seize the day! If you are caught off guard by a recruiter’s phone call, remember to be pleasant and professional during the conversation. If conditions are less than ideal, ask to set up an appointment to continue the conversation. If you are able to conduct a phone interview on the spot, go ahead and talk to the recruiter, this will speed along the hiring process.
The phone screen is a decisive point in the recruitment process. At this point the recruiter can gauge the candidate’s depth of experience as well as get a feel for your personality and overall character. Phone screens are less formal so you should feel a little more comfortable and hopefully use the time to develop a relationship with the recruiter. The recruiter is gathering high-level information from applicants and who should or should not be considered further in the interview process.
In general, phone screens should not be much longer than twenty minutes. One question a recruiter should ask you upfront is how much you currently earn. If you are asked how much you are making please go ahead and provide the information to the recruiter. I have conducted well over a thousand phone screens and not once will a candidate hesitate to disclose this information. I have come to know that there are a few reasons why candidates hesitate to reveal their salary:
One reason candidates don’t want to reveal their income is that they believe the information is too personal. Another reason is that they fear that their income is too high to be considered for the current position. They don’t want their high income to deter recruiters from considering them for the position. The third reason is that they want to control the conversation. They are dominating the discussion by withholding information sought by the recruiter and refusing to go along with the requested conversation. If you don’t want to provide your salary information, be aware that it can be very offensive to someone who doesn’t answer the question. The reason the recruiter asks for the information is so they can tell if you fit the criteria for what the position pays. After you provide your salary information, the recruiter must disclose what the salary range is for the position. If the recruiter won’t volunteer this information, go ahead and ask them if they’ll share salary information with you.
Recently I got a very telling response from a candidate regarding income. The conversation went like this:
Kelly “What is your current income?”
the candidate “$55,000”
Kelly “What is the income you are looking for in your next employment position?”
the candidate “$85,000”
Kelly “What is the logic in seeking such a sharp increase in your salary?”
the candidate “If I were to move out of state and take this job, to make up for the fact that my wife would no longer be working.”
Conversations like this make my job interesting. This candidate lacked sound judgment and logic, to say the least.
Questions you can expect answers to
Typically, a recruiter will tailor their phone screen to the position they are looking to fill. A phone screen for a medical coder will differ from the phone screen questions required for a marketing director. However there are some basic questions that a recruiter can ask all candidates. The following are some common questions that can be asked, followed by the reason why the recruiter is asking these questions.
Question: What were some of your funnest job duties?
Reason for asking: This question provides insight into what you have a passion for.
Question: What have been some of your least favorite job duties?
Reason for asking: This question will provide insight into what some of your weaknesses may be. Don’t be afraid to answer this question because recruiters know that everyone has areas they can improve.
Question: Why did you apply for this position?
Reason for asking: This question reveals the motivation, if any, for applying for the job. Here the recruiter is looking to know if you are really interested or if someone recommended you to apply or if you think you already have the job ‘in the bag’.
Question: How many months/years of experience do you have…
Reason for asking: These types of questions provide a depth of experience (in general) that the candidate brings to the table. Similar questions include, do you have any degrees or certifications and name the computer skills you have mastered.
Question: What aspect of your skill set do you consider most important in a work environment?
Reason for asking: Recruiters like this question because it allows candidates to verbalize what they think they are best at. This is not the time to say you are ‘trustworthy and hard working’. You are expected to be reliable and hardworking. This is where you need to be proud. Tell the recruiter something they may not know about you that will benefit the company. Are you a whiz with a certain software? Did you excel in a certain class or subject in college? Are you in the process of getting certified for a certain skill?
Sample phone screens
The following are phone screens that I have used to quickly and successfully screen for quality candidates. I have included candidate responses to the first two phone screens.
RN phone screen
Name: Chonda A.
Have you spoken to a CompanyX representative before? no
do you work now Yes, at San Jose Medical Center
What is your title? RN
What is your main duty? TCU, Express Unit (ER Holding)
What is your current income? $44.30 an hour
What do you like about your current employment situation? He finds many interesting cases. He learned a lot at SJMC, it is a challenging environment. He really likes his colleagues
Why are you interested in working at CompanyX? When she worked at CompanyX in 1996, she really liked it. Her husband is working for CompanyX in Med/Surg as an LVN at their Santa Teresa facility and her sister has been with CompanyX for over 20 years at the Santa Clara facility; Both are very happy with their work environment and benefits.
Do you have a current California RN license? yes
How long is your California RN license good for? As of September, 2005
How many years of RN hands-on experience do you have? 10 years
How many hours do you want to work each week? 24
Which shift do you prefer? the night
Which department do you prefer to work in? Telephone or step-down
What is your availability for interviews? She works the night shift, so she is available at any time of the day.
How can we best contact you? via his cell phone at 555-408-3337
With Chonda this phone screen went smoothly. The questions were simple, he answered clearly and concisely. I understand that Chonda has the necessary skills and experience for the role. His status was elevated in a face-to-face interview.
The following is another example of a successful phone screen:
Phone screen for customer relationship executive
Name: Lexi B.
Position and Current Company: National Sales Director at a data company
What was the current salary package and total salary for 2008: His base in data company is 78K + commission, total compensation for 2008 is 145K. When he left Company HC in 2001 his base was 78K + commission, his total compensation averaged 178K.
This position requires up to 80% travel, are you able to meet this requirement? yes
Do you have any certificates, awards or degrees? BA in Sociology
How many years of sales experience do you have and what % inside end and what % outside sales? 20 years – sold out
What percentage of your sales experience involves hunting and what percentage involves farming? 50/50
Do you have experience interacting at the C-Suite level? Which C-level do you interact with the most, i.e. CIO, CTO, CMO, CEO, COO…? Over ten years of C-level sales. Mostly CFO, CIO, some CEO
Tell me about a typical week where you meet with executives? He will first find out where the customer’s pain points are and what products and services they have that can address these problems. She will prepare PowerPoint presentations at 3-5 department level. She would then meet with the C-level personally one-on-one.
Have you completed sales training courses; Which one? Miller Hayman Courses (Not Certified)
How many years of experience do you have with enterprise and/or consulting sales? More than 15 years
What attributes would you bring to the table that would be the greatest benefit to this company? Ability to understand the market. She takes a global view of the value of the service that PressGany provides.
Why are you interested in this position? She is looking for a company where she can stay and grow within the organization. She is looking to work for a company that can improve the quality of healthcare.
Note:* Excellent verbal communication skills
For sales positions I’m not only looking for answers to questions but how they can express themselves verbally. I am also gauging their demeanor during the conversation, are they professional, very informal, verbose, detailed, etc… Lexi was elevated to the next level in the interview process.
Let’s hope the phone rings soon for your own phone interview and you can effectively convey that you are the one looking to fill that job position.
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