Phoning without fear

Award-winning writer Adeline Iziren teaches you how to woo a potential employer over the phone
So you’ve identified the job you want and your potential employer? Great. No doubt you’ll be trawling through the web to find out as much as you can about the company. That’s great too. But to get the edge over your rivals you’ll benefit enormously from ringing the employer to find out what they’re really looking for in a potential recruit.

Staff or recruitment specialists with limited knowledge of the vacancy tend to write many of the adverts we see in the press, and often have limited space in which to sell you the job – meaning you might not get a full idea of the skills they are seeking. Despite this, you can regularly find on the bottom of adverts the phrase ‘no calls please’ emblazoned in bold letters.

Your best bet is to ring anyway, suggests career coach Mike Duckett. Mike has first hand experience of the benefits of ringing up potential employers. He once applied for a job where the advert specified someone with experience in distribution. He rang the recruitment consultant and found out that the company ideally wanted someone with marketing skills to grow the business. On the strength of this call he was able to make his application letter stand out. His efforts led to an interview and later a job offer.

In contrast, another job hunter, who has asked not to be named, had all the relevant qualifications for a particular position, but because he didn’t ring up he missed out on some key skills descriptions. Instead of writing a covering letter tailor-made for the post, he submitted a generic letter that sought to show his wide range of abilities – many of which were not relevant to the post. Not surprisingly he didn’t get an interview.

Preparation is the key to a successful telephone interview. A freelance writer friend recently missed out on a golden opportunity to use her skills for a television project. When she phoned, the person who had approached her about the project was in a meeting, and said he would call back in thirty minutes. She says, ‘I should have used this time to prepare myself for the kind of questions he was going to ask. But sadly I didn’t and when he did call me back it was obvious that I didn’t make the desired impact.’ Fortunately though, the story didn’t quite end there. ‘He invited me in for a chat and I got some work, but not as much responsibility as I had anticipated,’ she explains.

To make an impact* Draw up a list of questions you want to ask and prepare bullet points covering what you’re going to say. Your list should include open questions – who, what where, why and when and how, to uncover what a company really needs.

* Practice what you are going to say with a tape recorder, in front of the mirror or to a friend. But be as natural as possible – you don’t want to sound rehearsed.

* When you’re ready to call, do so from a quiet place. If you’re calling from home make sure that the television and radio are switched off.

* Smile while you dial and continue smiling while you speak, as this will make your tone of voice sound relaxed.

* Be armed with a pen and paper, to take down their pearls of wisdom.

* Don’t speak too quickly and if it feels appropriate consider being friendly and informal by asking for first names.

* If you are feeling down, don’t make that call. You might project a negative image.

Toni Castle, HR director of international PR firm Lewis welcomes calls from graduates seeking more information about advertised positions. However, only five percent of potential recruits – most of whom are graduates – bother to ring up.

“If graduates are really keen on a position they should call to find out more because it shows initiative and it also gives us an indication of what they’re like over the phone. It’s important that we recruit staff with good telephone skills though we don’t mention this in our adverts,” says Toni, who makes a point of inviting impressive telephone candidates for a face-to-face interview.

So don’t rely on just a CV to get your personality across to that all-important recruiter. Give them a bell and let them hear it for themselves – after all, you can say more in two minutes on the phone than you can ever write on two sides of a4!

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