Job seekers frequently suffer from telephone phobia. Understanding job search telephone etiquette and knowing how to use the telephone effectively during your job search will make help keep your search moving forward efficiently and productively, ultimately helping you to land a new job faster and more successfully.
Out of intimidation, shyness, or a fear of rejection many job seekers will try to conduct the majority of their search via the internet and email.
If you are looking for a job now, learning to use the telephone for the various stages of your search will give you a real competitive edge.
There are various reasons why you might want to use the telephone during your search:
- Respond to advertised job openings and set up interview appointments
- Follow up on a resume you sent to someone
- Network with people you know and people you’ve been referred to
- Set up informational interview meetings
- Cold call companies you are interested in to set up interview appointments
- Schedule meetings with people in your personal or professional network
Your ultimate target while job searching is to land a new job, but in order to achieve that target you must make yourself known to the people who are in positions to hire you.
The more people you contact, the more people you network with, the more interviews you go on, the faster your search will come to a successful conclusion.
Interviewing goes beyond simply meeting with someone to discuss your qualifications in regards to a known job opening. During your job search you should consider any meeting with someone who has the power to hire you, even if there is no current job opening, to be an interview.
Your goal in using the telephone will almost always be to set up these meetings.
Here are some job search telephone etiquette and other practical tips to help you use the telephone more effectively in your job search.
- Set goals for yourself to call a certain number of people each day. Even if each call took five minutes (and most won’t), and you took a three minutes break in between each call to take notes, to make 20 calls each day would take you less than three hours.
If you are currently unemployed, job searching should be your job, so three hours is not unreasonable. Schedule time in the calendar to make the calls.
- Always be courteous. You want to leave the impression of being professional, confident, and assertive—not aggressive.
When you reach the person you are calling, ask if this is a good time to speak with them or if there is a more convenient time for you to call.
- Avoid background noise. Before you make your calls, go to a quiet location where you can concentrate. Noises from children, pets, the television, or traffic in the background are distracting and make you sound unprofessional.
- Have your resume in front of you and have a list of topics that you want to cover during the call. Also have a pen and paper and be ready to take notes.
Keep notes on everything during your job search. You’ll be surprised how often you will refer back to them and they will be invaluable to you when conducting additional follow-up.
- When cold calling a company or calling in response to an ad, call the company’s main telephone line and ask the receptionist for the name and number of the person in charge of the department you are interested in. Hang up and then make a second call to this person.
- Try to avoid leaving a voice message. As soon as you leave a message it gives the other person control and leaves you sitting at home waiting for a return call. Leave a message if you must, but first, try at least several times to reach the person directly.
If you do leave a message and you do not get a return call within a reasonable amount of time, try again.
- Make sure you are pleasant and polite to everyone you speak with, even if it isn’t the person you are trying to reach. You never know where the next job lead may come from—perhaps even the receptionist.
- Be prepared to introduce yourself. Write out a script and then practice it until it becomes second nature. You might even wish to record yourself and then play it back to hear how you sound. This will help keep you from stumbling on the phone.
Keep your introduction short and to-the-point.
“Hello Mr. Employer, my name is Susan Jobseeker. I am a sales engineering and management executive with more than two decades of experience and I am currently exploring my options for the next step in my career.
I am interested in regional or national sales management roles for a company that sells engineered materials. Most recently I managed a team of 20 salespeople and led them in tripling sales in the New England region in just three years, an accomplishment that added $8 million to my employer’s top line.
At the same time, I reworked our sales processes to streamline them, and as a result I maintained our region as the #1 most profitable in the company.
I have exceptionally strong customer relationship building skills and believe that my background and education spanning both business and engineering disciplines adds a great deal of value to a leadership team, as I am able to understand and solve problems from multiple perspectives.
When would be a good time for me to come in for an interview?”
- Smile as you talk. While it may feel unusual to smile into a telephone receiver, the person on the other end will sense it and will receive the impression that you are a friendly and enthusiastic person.
Speak clearly and confidently. Try standing while you talk as it often helps your voice sound more energetic.
- Research companies you are interested in, develop an idea of how you could be of value to them, learn the name of the person in charge of the department that interests you, then call even if you are not aware of a job opening.
“I understand you have no openings right now. But, I’ve been doing a lot of research and have a real interest in Acme Corporation.
I was hoping you might be able to answer some questions I have and that we could also discuss possible future opportunities. When would be a good time for a meeting?”
- If asking for an interview or meeting doesn’t make sense (maybe you learn from your call that the company is laying off, for example), don’t just give up.
Ask the person you are speaking with for the names and phone numbers of other people who might be able to help you. When you call that next person, make sure to tell them who referred you.
- Follow up with a thank-you note to every person you speak with. Even if you are not able to set up a time to meet with the person you have called, send a thank you note.
A brief thank you note leaves a lasting impression that may turn out to be incredibly valuable.