It Starts With the Phone Call

A hiring guy's pointers for frustrated job seekers

By Michael Sedano
Published on LatinoLA: November 14, 2004

It Starts With the Phone Call

In the past four years, the USA lost more jobs than we created. Voters either didn't pay attention, or they just don?t care about rising unemployment. But if you are one of the millions of people out of work and actively seeking a job, the only matter more important than your family is finding a job.

With so many out-of-work people competing for the same few jobs, you want to make sure your application gets noticed positively. After all, you are only one phone call away from that interview, and as all successful job seekers know, getting the interview is one secret to getting the job.

A great cover letter that asks for an interview, and a clean resume that shows you can grow into the work, are the most important parts of a job search. Make yours distinctive. If your paperwork looks like everyone else's paperwork, you will need a lot of luck to get an interview. Get help. California's Employment Development Department can provide help at no charge. Visit your local library, ask at the reference desk for books about preparing resumes and cover letters. Write a fresh cover letter for every resume you send. Think about customizing the resume to fit the advertisement.

Once you've emailed or FAXed your material, it's time to start your phone followup. Here are some pointers to help present yourself in the most favorable light. Think about this: offered two qualified applicants, the one who makes the better first impression is the one who gets the interview. Think further: a less qualified person with the better cover letter and resume gets interviewed. Conclusion: you need a better cover letter and resume than you?re using today.

Wait an hour after emailing or FAXing to give the employer's administrative system the time to process the document or read the email. In my office, for example, FAXes come to a central distribution clerk who will bring my FAXes within the hour of their arrival.

Wait! Before you make that follow up phone call, practice, practice, practice what you plan to say. Practice out loud 3 times, and make the first word anything but "uh..."

Have paper and pen. Write down everything the person says, starting with their name. As soon as you hear the person pronounce their name, echo it back to them, pronouncing their name just as they pronounce it. A person?s name is powerful medicine, so use the person's name at least three times during the call; when you hear it the first time, once during the conversation, then as you thank the person for the interview and hang up.

When you phone about the job, anticipate talking to a telephone operator who may or may not attempt to screen you out. Be prepared with names and specifics. The call will go something like this:

"Thank you for calling Company Name. How may I help you?"

"May I speak with Michael, please?"

"What is this regarding?"

"I?m responding to an ad Michael has in the Los Angeles Times."

"One moment, I'll connect you."

When you reach the person named in the help wanted ad, control your image by using names, dates, and specifics. Speak naturally, no high-falutin' vocabulary. Smile. The old saying "You can hear a smile across the miles" is true. The call may go like this:

"Good morning, this is Michael, how may I help you?"

"Good morning, Michael. This is YOUR NAME, calling from Southeast Los Angeles. I saw your ad in the Los Angeles Times for an Entry Level Clerical job. I would like to schedule an interview."

Here are terrible examples I hear all the time from people I don't invite for an interview:

"Uh, I'm calling about the job."

"Yeah, I'm calling about the clerical position I saw in the paper."

"Hi, this is Lisa. I?m calling about your job I saw on the internet."

"Hi, Michael, this is George. I'm responding to your ad in the newspaper."

Listen carefully and respond to what you've been asked. Typically, you?re invited to ask questions about the job or company. Avoid making salary the first question. Remember companies are selfish; they want to know what you can do for them. Ask "Michael, what are the main activities in the office I?m applying for?" When the interviewer asks, "tell me a little about yourself," detail your abilities doing those main activities you just wrote down. A few of the magic concepts an interviewer wants to hear: attendance? you are an every day on time type of person; getting along? you are the new kid on the block, you will make the adjustments to fit in; learn the job? you haven't done this company's work so have a lot to learn, but you have always been a fast learner and enjoy meeting standards.

The best time to call is early in the morning, like 7:30 or 8. Even then, a busy HR officer will be on the phone with folks who beat you to the phone. You will have to leave a Voicemail message. Here's a key opportunity to sell your abilities. Companies want effective communicators, so prove it. Speak slowly, clearly, and in your best formal voice, again, though, be yourself. As usual, the worst way to start a message is "uh..."

Try this technique:

"At the tone, leave your message. Beep."

"This is Jo Candu. I am calling to apply for your Entry Level Clerical position. My name is J - O, C - A - N - D - U, JO CANDU. Michael, I emailed my resume to you this morning. My phone number is three two three five eight eight one one three three, 3 2 3 5 8 8 1 1 3 3. I'll be waiting for your call. Thank you."

A word about email handles:

Employers draw conclusions about applicants who use cute or funny email names., for example, send the wrong message. If your handle is something that might be misunderstood, get a new account using your own name.

About Michael Sedano:
Michael Sedano is formerly Human Resources Director at C.R. Laurence Co. in Los Angeles.

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