There’s one job-seeking skill that is often overlooked, and yet it sets the stage for whether you even have the chance to demonstrate all your other skills.
The first personal contact in your job search may come through a phone call on your part to schedule an interview with someone in HR or to line up an informational meeting. How you handle yourself on the phone can make or break your chances to get to the next step.
Here are five tips to get you started on the right foot:
- When to call. Just what is the best time of day to call? Certainly you don’t want to interrupt someone when they are in the middle of their workday. Likewise hitting them up first thing in the morning may catch them before they are ready to consider your request. No, the best time to call is between 11:30 and noon. Meetings have drawn to a close, and lunch hasn’t yet started, but your contact is starting to get mentally prepared for a break. An alternative time to call is after 4:00 PM as the day winds down.
- Have the right attitude. People notice your tone and they will form a mental picture of you from the quality of your voice. To project a good attitude, employ this trick: Smile before you start talking and then keep a friendly upbeat tone while you are speaking. Even if the person you wish to speak to has been difficult to reach and scarcely acknowledged you when you got through, make sure you stay positive and engaged. Remember to be cognizant of the person’s time, so be direct, brief, and courteous.
- Think of voice mail as your friend. Getting by a gatekeeper can be difficult. If that seems to be the case, consider calling your contact early in the morning, before work hours, so you can go directly to voice mail and leave a message.
- The call-screener. If you do encounter the gatekeeper, be careful about being overly friendly in an attempt to sweet-talk your way past him or her. Likewise, being too aggressive can boomerang on your attempts to get through. Let them know you are aware the person you want to talk to is busy and then ask when would be a convenient time for you to call back.
- The person in charge of hiring. Now that you’ve gotten through to your contact, be efficient: introduce yourself, say who suggested you call, offer a brief description of your relevant experience and your current job (if applicable) and explain you are interested in learning about openings. Offer to send a resume and cover letter. And finally be sure to say “Thank you”.
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Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.