Why would you want to call a potential employer?
Maybe you’ve excited about an opportunity you’ve discovered, but you have some questions about the job that you want to clarify before applying.
Maybe you’re ready to apply, but you have questions about the company itself.
Maybe you don’t have any questions, but you want to make a phone call to establish a connection with the person responsible for hiring.
Whatever your reason for calling a prospective employer, here are some tips to help you do so with confidence…
1. Decide when is best to call.
Depending on the situation, you might want to call before sending your resumé, to gather more information or to give the recipient a heads up that your resumé is on its way. Another option is to call soon after sending your resumé, to introduce yourself and to make sure the resumé was received. In this case, leave at least an hour, if not a day, for the recipient to have a chance to open your e-mail.
2. Choose your setting.
Shut the door in a quiet room.
Make sure other people nearby know that you need them to be quiet for a few minutes. Close off traffic noise. Make sure dogs won’t be barking nearby. (My cat has a tendency to start meowing in my office when I’m working from home and I start talking on the phone.) If you’re calling from your home phone, turn off your mobile phone, or if you’re calling from your cell phone turn off the ringer on your home phone, so there will be no untimely phone distractions. On that note, use a landline if possible, to prevent the risk of poor reception or call dropping. Turn off the speakers on your computer so notifications won’t noisily pop-up mid-call, and if the radio’s playing, turn it off.
Do everything you can to prevent anything that will distract you from your call, or that will create a background noise distraction for the person on the other end. You want to be able to have a professional conversation for the duration of the call.
Don’t chew gum, eat or drink, but do have a glass of water on-hand in case your mouth gets dry either because the conversation runs long or your nerves get the best of you.
3. Practice basic phone etiquette.
Smile as someone on the other ends picks up the phone. Your smile will have a positive impact on your tone, creating a sense of warmth and friendliness. Greet that person, and then ask to speak with the person responsible for hiring for the job for which you’re applying. Remember that the first person to answer may have a close relationship with the hiring manager, so if you’re not friendly to them, you’ll only hurt your chances at landing a job.
If you know the name of the person you need to speak to, ask for them specifically, using ‘Mr’ or ‘Ms’. If you don’t know who it is, ask, and jot the name down. Once you get that person on the phone, address them using ‘Mr’ or ‘Ms’, introducing yourself and the reason for your call. Find out whether it’s a good time for them to have a quick chat. If not, find out when would be better to call them back.
Be a good listener. Don’t make the call all about you. Have a notepad handy to write down information. When the call comes to an end, thank the person for taking time to talk to you.
4. Be prepared for voicemail.
If you have to leave a voicemail message, include your first and last name, briefly describe the reason for your call and leave your phone number. Speak clearly and slowly, but don’t ramble on. Repeat the phone number just to be sure.
5. Know what you’re talking about.
Even if you’re calling to ask questions, find out what you can before picking up the phone. Read through the job ad carefully to make sure you’re not asking questions that have already been asked. Check out the company website and Google for other information that you might be able to answer without a call. Try to get a feel for the culture of the company, who’s who in the management structure and any other relevant information about the organization and industry.
6. Take some notes.
Calling a prospective employer can be nerve-wracking. You don’t want to stutter through trying to remember things and you don’t want to forget to ask a key question. Jot down questions you want to ask and any key points you want to get across. You don’t need a script, because a phone call should flow naturally, but short written cues will help keep the conversation on track. Taking the time to prepare good questions that demonstrate interest and that you’ve done your research will reflect well on you.
You should also write down who you called and when. This will be especially important if you’re applying for multiple jobs and want to make follow-up calls later. Even take note of times you had to leave a voicemail or a message with a receptionist.
7. Have your resumé on-hand.
If the conversation goes well, you may find yourself suddenly in the middle of a mini interview. Be prepared by having your resumé ready, so you can reference it to answer specific questions about your education and experience.
8. Do a trial run.
Before you actually make the call, practice the conversation, out loud. Consider different ways the call might go and try out words and sentences you might use. A practice will help you avoid filler words like ‘um’, ‘ah’, ‘so’ and ‘like’. You could even have a friend help you, by running through role play scenarios of questions that might be asked, and of the things you want to say.
If you want to really improve your phone conversation skills, record the calls you make. Listen to them and see if you’re using filler words or if you sounds unfriendly, overexcited or dull.