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Top 10 telephone tips for calling about a job

Man on the phone
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Making calls can be one of the hardest things for any job seeker to do. For those who aren’t natural ‘phone people’, the mere thought of it can be enough to induce heart palpitations.

The telephone is often your first point of personal contact with a potential employer, so it’s important to make the interaction a good one. They will get an immediate impression from your telephone manner and tone of voice, and this could make the difference between getting a call back or not.

As easy as it is to send your resume by email without bothering to make a call, picking up the phone is always a good idea because it gives you a chance to establish a personal connection and shows an extra degree of initiative and confidence. It just gives that extra personal touch and will differentiate you from the other impersonal resumes they’ll be receiving. It will also give you a chance to get more information about the role and company. If you’re lucky, you might be able to establish a rapport with the hiring manager or interviewer over the phone – and that could land you a face-to-face interview.

1. Call as lead-in or follow-up

Job calls can be made either before you send your resume, to get more information and alert the person receiving the resumes that you’ll be sending yours through; or they can be made soon after sending your resume as a follow-up, to introduce yourself and confirm that they’ve received it.

2. Do your research before you call

Before you call, read the job ad carefully, do an Internet search on the company and visit their website to find out about its products and services, the company structure and culture, the industry and other pertinent information.

3. Write down what you want to say

It’s always a good idea to write down your key points and questions before you make the call. You don’t want to read them verbatim and sound stilted, but it will help if you have them on hand to ensure that you don’t miss anything important. Base your questions on the job description or on the information you have gleaned from your research. Having specific, well thought-out questions will impress them and show that you have read and researched with care.

Also have a copy of your resume on hand in case they ask specific questions about your background and experiences.

4. Set yourself up

Use a quiet, private room – you don’t want your call interrupted by screeching kids, mobile phones, music or passing traffic. Find somewhere quiet where you can focus and conduct a professional conversation.

If you can, use a landline because mobile phones can sometimes drop out or have poor reception.

It’s also important not to chew gum, eat or drink while talking, but have a glass of water on hand in case your mouth gets dry.

5. Practise your spiel

It’s always a good idea to practise what you’re going to say aloud before you make the call. You can play with different wording and practise until you feel comfortable and relaxed.

You want to convey confidence, enthusiasm and energy in your voice. It helps to actually smile while you’re talking, as it will make your voice sound brighter and warmer. Also breathe deeply to help you relax.

6. Don’t forget the niceties

Say hello, ask for the contact specified in the job ad, address him or her using Ms or Mr, politely state your name and explain that you are calling about the job opening. Always ask if it is a convenient time to talk first, because they may be in the middle of something. If they don’t have time to talk at the moment, ask when would be a more convenient time to call.

It’s important to not only tell them about yourself, but to listen attentively to everything they say. Jot down notes and ask questions using the information they give you. That will show that you’re on-the-ball and are a good listener.

At the end of your call, always thank the person for taking the time to talk to you.

Remember to be courteous and professional with everyone you have contact with, including the receptionist. If you've been rude, the boss is sure to hear about it.

If you have to leave a voice mail, clearly state your name and number, and the purpose of your call. It can help to repeat your phone number just in case.

7. Don’t waffle

When making a call, it’s important to be concise and not waste the other person’s time. Avoid waffling and using slang or fillers like ‘um’ and ‘ah’.

8. Keep a record

Keep a record of all the calls you make – note the date, who you spoke to and what you discussed.

9. Follow up

Always follow up calls with an email thanking the person you spoke to for taking the time to talk to you, and attach your resume and cover letter if you haven't already.

10. Tape yourself

As painful as it can be to listen to the sound of your own voice, taping yourself can be enlightening – you may not realise just how much you really do say ‘um’ and ‘like’. You may also be surprised to observe that you speak in an unfriendly-sounding monotone, and if that's the case you could work on brightening up your tone. The energy and warmth you convey in your voice will go a long way towards making a good impression. 

Next: Five tips for cold calling about a job

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Over a thousand accredited online courses from leading Australian universities, TAFEs and colleges