Your Interview Begins On The Phone

The Insider's Guide To Job Search

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Your Interview Begins On The Phone

By Kevin T. Buckley, CPC          Bookmark and Share

The minute you start to speak to a hiring manager consider that your interview has begun.

How you express yourself on the telephone will largely influence the decision that the person on the other end makes about whether or not to interview you. So, it is a very good idea to practice what you are going to say when you introduce yourself, follow up a resume that you sent, ask about openings in the industry or are seeking contact information to direct your resume to the right hiring authority.

Your telephone voice is being assessed by the listener because that is the primary method of communication with customers in any company. Know what you want to say, jot down key words or phrases that you want to use as a memory aid if that is helpful for you. When a hiring manager or his agent talks to you on the phone he/she will be listening to see how you would sound to customers. If you are hesitant or rambling in what you say you may miss the opportunity to meet the listener. Many hiring managers are simply too busy to confirm interviews unless they are actively hiring for a specific position. You want the listener to remember you and for your call to stand out and impress the listener favorably. This is your first opportunity to act and sound professional. It is worth the effort to practice with friends and older family members through role-play. In this way you get used to introducing yourself and finding the most natural speaking style for you.

Remember these basic points:

-          Introduce yourself by first and last name

-          Explain the purpose of your call

-          Don’t rush your words or speak too slowly, either

-          Think of how newscasters speak when relaying news items and make a conscious effort to speak
      at a moderate speed so that your words flow

-          Put a ‘smile’ in your voice – try and visualize the person on the other end as someone that you would like

-          Pleasant and courteous manners are never old-fashioned and will leave a very positive impression
      with the listener

-          People want to help people that they like so if your telephone personality is likeable you will find
      yourself getting more direction and guidance

-          Acknowledge the time that the listener is giving to you and thank them for it

-          As a follow up to your phone call, reinforce the positive impression by sending a thank-you email,
      it will be remembered

-          If you are transferred to an assistant to give your information, treat that person the same way you
      would the hiring manager, with respect and courtesy

-          Very often an assistant manager or supervisor may be the person you actually end up reporting
       to - make sure you get off on the right foot!

Some things you can say:

-    Hi/Hello, My name is ________ and I’m a Seneca graduate of the Customs and Transportation program. I have a knowledge of Import/Export/Customs procedures and am familiar with the documents involved. I’m looking for an entry-level position and would like to send my resume to you. What email address may I send it to?

-    Hi/Hello, I’m _______ a recent Seneca grad. I sent a resume to you a few days ago and I’m wondering what your opinion is of it. I’m looking for an entry-level position in freight forwarding/customs brokerage/private industry. I think I have the skills that will make me successful in the industry and I’d appreciate and guidance or direction that you could provide.

These are just two examples. The key to making a conversation like this a smooth one is to avoid whenever possible questions that can be answered with a “yes” or a “no” – unless you are simply asking a question like “Are you hiring at the moment?“ Questions that can’t be answered with yes/no are called open-ended questions. They begin with “what/where/when/how/why/who”. Instead of asking “Are you hiring?” say instead “When are you planning to hire new people?” Instead of “Do you have any job openings?” try What sort of jobs could I apply for?”. Open-ended questions encourage the flow of information and while the listener is responding, you can prepare your next follow up question. Whenever you make a statement about yourself, your skills or experience, try and follow up with an open-ended question:

“…I think I could be a real asset in the imports area because I’m organized, hardworking and I have a positive attitude. When would be a good time to follow up with you?”

“…I’m really interested in making my career in the industry, who do you think is hiring at the moment?”

“…I’m excited about joining a good company where I can apply what I have learned and gain some experience. Who do you think I should send my resume to?”

It is always a good idea to ask how convenient it is for the listener to speak with you:

“ How convenient is it to speak at the moment? “  Your listener may be juggling 10 different priorities at once. Offer to call back: “ When would be the best time to get back to you? “, or “ I can call you back whenever it suits you, what’s a good time to call? “ Notice the difference between those questions and “ Are you busy now? “ “Can you talk at the moment? “ Most people will appreciate that you are respecting their time and that’s a great way to establish a positive rapport.

In summary:

-          Refine your presentation and practice in role-play with fellow students, family members, friends

-          Determine how convenient it is to speak, offer to call back if it isn’t when you call

-          Introduce yourself and explain the purpose of your call

-          Deliver your presentation at a moderate pace and with a smile in your voice

-          Use open-ended questions to encourage the flow of the conversation

-          Thank the listener for whatever guidance or direction you get

-          Follow up with a thank-you by email (proof it for errors)

-          Make a list of your contacts as you develop them for future reference

The positive impression you make in your telephone introduction is a solid foundation that you can build from when you meet for an interview.
That first call is the first step.