In this day and age, when technology has infiltrated nearly every aspect of our lives, the methods used by job seekers have changed dramatically. Email, social media, online job boards and the ability to conduct remote interviews have all had a major impact on the process of finding a job.
Despite these changes, however, some tried-and-true practices remain central to the job hunt – in particular the good old telephone.
Employment counselor Justin Choquette notes that many job seekers have forsaken the use of the telephone in today’s hyper-connected world; not only that, they’ve given up learning how to prepare in advance for an important phone call.
There’s a popular belief that it’s pointless to call a major corporation in order to submit one’s candidature for a position, and that there will be no one willing to take the time to respond to your cold-call.
But Justin has a client who, believe it or not, was able to arrange job interviews with both Québec’s minister of the environment and at Rio Tinto Alcan, the aluminum division of mining giant Rio Tinto.
When making a call to inquire about a job, it’s crucial that you be well-prepared for the call. Below, Justin and I will give our best advice on how to use the telephone effectively to find a job, based on our combined experience.
1- Prepare what you want to say
There’s nothing worse than not knowing what to say during a phone call.
– Yes, I can speak with you. What are you calling about?
– Uh.. Well, I… Um. Sorry to bother you, but…
This example represents the type of exchange I’ve had with some job seekers during my time as an employer.
It’s important to be able to describe who you are and what you want in just a few words.
Your message should be clear and provoke the curiosity of the person you’re speaking to. The tone of your voice and your choice of words will have a major influence on the kind of response you get.
Smile! The person will hear it.
Put yourself in the employer’s shoes (why should they listen to you?) and practice. It’s challenging to sell yourself over the phone because the employer can’t see you, and there’s just a thread of a relationship in the making!
2- Have all your details ready
The success of a phone call is determined well before you ever pick up the phone. Do all your research before dialing the number and keep it close at hand. Make sure to have paper, a pen and your agenda at the ready as well.
Do you have the name of the person responsible for the department you’re interested in joining, or an idea of who the person might be?
Information about people in certain positions is easy to find: Use social media, the company website, Québec’s list of businesses or chat with the customer service department of the company.
3- Dealing with the receptionist
First and foremost, be polite and present them with a clear and concise request. Receptionists are busy!
If you don’t have the name of the person you’re looking for, ask the receptionist and write it down. Then, ask to speak to them.
If the receptionist says the person isn’t available, ask them when would be the best moment to get in touch. If they ask if you’re looking for a job, you can say that that’s part of your plan, but that you have questions about openings and the hiring process.
If the receptionist offers to answer your questions, have some fairly technical questions ready to ask, but make sure they are relevant. These questions should make it clear to the receptionist that you need to speak to someone in Human Resources.
4- Deliver your message efficiently
There are several possible outcomes that could arise from a phone conversation, and some are more desirable than others. In order of priorities, here is what you should be aiming for:
Goal #1: Book an in-person interview – the big prize! Even if there isn’t a position currently on offer, or the meeting is informal in nature, it’s great to establish real contact with someone at the company.
Goal #2: If the person isn’t interested in booking a meeting with you, you can offer to bring your CV to them in person.
Goal #3: If that’s not possible, you can send your CV by email to the person responsible.
Goal #4: If they reject your offer to send your CV, you can still ask if there are other avenues you can follow to seek employment with the company.
Goal #5: If none of the above is working, it’s time to call another company!
5- Other tips and tricks
There are some important principles to keep in mind when you’re using the phone to look for a job.
If you reach someone’s voicemail, you can either call back later or leave them a message. If you decide to leave a message, don’t mention that you’re looking for a job – just leave your name and number and request a call back.
If you find out the person you’re trying to reach is on vacation, try to find out who is replacing them while they’re away.
The probability of reaching who you want to speak with is higher if you call early in the morning.
If the receptionist isn’t particularly receptive to your approach, you can try calling during the lunch hour; someone else may answer the phone.
When cold-calling potential employers, be prepared to deal with rejection. Your morale may be affected by the sense of being ignored. But if a person takes your call, it’s because they have the time.
Praise yourself for your efforts, and keep track of the number of calls you make rather than the tangible results obtained. Focus on your successes and try to forget about the tough experiences.
Let me finish this article with a bad pun: don’t worry, the line’s not dead! The telephone is still a useful tool for job seekers.
Thanks to Justin Choquette, employment counselor with Doc Formation, for his contribution to this article.