Career Services Center - St. Cloud State University

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Making Job/Internship Inquiries by Phone

Making calls: etiquette and effectiveness
Calling to Inquire About Possible Openings
When Employers Don't Return Your Calls
Getting Ready to Receive Calls From Employers
Telephone Interviews
Cell Phone Use
Sample Phone Call Follow-up Letter

Making Calls

Your job or internship search will involve telephone calls for various reasons:

  • Follow-ups to written (including e-mail) correspondence.
  • Confirming names, spelling, title, address and other information for prospective contacts prior to writing a letter.
  • Following-up a letter to arrange a visit, ask for further information, explore future employment possibilities, follow-ups to interviews, etc.
  • You may be interviewed, or at least screened for interviews, through telephone calls.

Etiquette

  • Be courteous to everyone with whom you speak. Never treat support personnel in a disrespectful manner; the person you are trying to impress will hear about it, and no one wants to hire people who behave rudely to anyone.
  • Identify yourself, stating your first and last name clearly. Be clear about the purpose of your call. Make reference to any previous contact, conversation, meeting, etc., to remind the person why you are calling. Don't assume the person remembers you right away. Even if he or she does remember you, a brief reintroduction of yourself is a business and social courtesy.
  • Ask if this is a convenient time to talk. If you want to talk to someone at length — e.g. to conduct an informational interview, etc. — you should ask to schedule a mutually convenient time for a phone appointment. Then you make the call at the agreed-upon time and stay within the limits of the time set.
  • When leaving messages, SLOW DOWN when you state your phone number. DON'T make your listener have to replay the message three times in order to write down your number; very annoying; and s/he may give up and therefore not return your call.

Effectiveness

  • In asking for information, wherever possible, use open ended questions rather than questions which are likely to be answered with "yes" or "no." For example, instead of, "Will you have any openings in June?" say, "I’m interested in learning about your hiring plans for management trainees this summer." Your goal in asking open-ended questions is to start a conversation in which you gain information which will help in your job search.
  • But don't ask questions that you could easily find answered on the employer's web site. You'll risk looking lazy (or that you don't know how to use Internet resources).
  • Your voice: Remember that tone of voice carries a lot of weight in a telephone conversation.
  • You don't have facial expressions, body language, and other non-verbal elements coming through in a phone conversation. However, silly as it may seem, smiling while you speak on the phone can make you sound more pleasant.
  • Ask friends (who will tell you the truth) how you sound on the phone. They know you, but an employer doesn't. Do you sound cordial or aloof, articulate or fumbling, interested or gloomy?
  • Practice how you speak on the phone.
  • Seek advising through the Career Services Center if you want coaching or assistance or have questions on this topic.

When Employers Don't Return Your calls

  • If you are initiating a contact with an employer, don't assume or expect that the employer will return your call.
  • You may need to leave a message, and call again a week later.
  • When leaving messages, TALK SLOWLY and enunciate clearly. State your full name and give your phone number slowly. (Your contact won't be thrilled about needing to replay your message three times in order to understand your phone number.)
  • If someone you have had contact with does not return your call, try again in a week.
  • Keep in mind that most working people are not constantly available to take calls and do have other work to take care of. Don't always expect an instant return of your call.
  • You can leave an e-mail address where you can be reached; enunciate it carefully.
  • Indicate best times to reach you if it is important that you speak directly with someone. However, don't assume that the best times for you are the best times for the employer. Even people who put in long work hours have lives away from work.
  • If your calls are never returned, try another means of contact (letter, etc.) or try someone else in the company. If no one responds to you over an extended time, this is telling you something about the company.

Getting Ready to Receive Calls from Employers

Once your job or internship search begins, your telephone becomes a business tool. Be prepared to receive calls:

  • Clean up your voice mail or answering machine message. Make it clear, brief and to the point so the employer knows she is reaching the correct number. Employers are usually calling long distance and don't need to listen to a lengthy message. No cleverness with messages.
  • Clean out your messages if you have an answering machine that beeps once for each message that has been left. Employers don't need to listen to 14 beeps before they can leave their messages.
  • Roommate / housemate issues:  If you receive calls on a land line, remind your roommates that you may get calls from employers. Some employers call students prior to 8:00 a.m. to increase the likelihood of reaching you at home and before class. If you are unavailable to take calls, your roommates should not say anything about you that you would not want repeated in an interview. If your roommates aren't prepared to speak in cordial manner or take an accurate message at particular times, ask them not to answer the phone. A message from "someone from some company" won't help you much.
  • Timing: If an employer catches you at a bad time and you can't speak, don't hesitate to politely explain this and offer to call back at a time convenient to the employer.

Telephone Interviews

  • Some employers use phone calls to pre-screen candidates before offering in-person interviews.
  • Some employers also conduct interviews by telephone — they usually tell you this and formally schedule the telephone interview in advance, but some may informally do this without warning.
  • If the employer catches you at a bad time and you can't speak, don't hesitate to politely explain this and offer to call back at a time convenient to the employer.
  • Bottom line is that you are always being evaluated on your telephone conduct. So...

Sound hireable on the telephone:

  • Remember that tone of voice carries a lot of weight in a telephone conversation.
  • You don't have facial expressions, body language, and other non-verbal elements coming through in a phone conversation. However, silly as it may seem, smiling while you speak on the phone can make you sound more pleasant.
  • Ask friends (who will tell you the truth) how you sound on the phone. They know you, but an employer doesn't. Do you sound cordial or aloof, articulate or fumbling, interested or gloomy?
  • Practice how you speak on the phone.
  • Seek advising through the Career Services Center if you want coaching or assistance or have questions on this topic.
  • Review our handout on Phone Interviewing Etiquette (pdf).

Cell Phone Use in Your Job and Internship Search

A telephone conversation is a private conversation between the parties to the phone call. Unfortunately, cell phone use has led many people to conduct phone conversations as a form of public performance. This is annoying and discourteous to others and to the person to whom you are ostensibly speaking by phone.

Some cell phone issues related to your job search:

  • Should you list a cell phone number for employers?
    Yes, if it's a reliable place to receive your calls and messages.
    But DON'T answer it if you are not in an environment appropriate to receive business calls (noisy surroundings, competing conversations from others, etc.).
  • Answering cell phone calls:
    Under no circumstances should you interrupt a conversation with an employer — interview or other — to receive a cell phone call.
    This is one of the worst etiquette breaches you can commit.

Calls to Inquire on Possible Openings

Many professional positions are never advertised. A majority of these openings are filled by individuals already working for the company, but the savvy job-hunter who can "cold call" an employer has a definite advantage.

Cold-calling is similar to resume follow-up calling, but it requires more planning to secure interviews. A preliminary call to a company's personnel office can yield the name of the person in charge of hiring. A name is important in getting past the department secretary and speaking directly with the employer.

Use these tips when planning your cold-calling strategy:

  1. Plan Ahead - Know who to ask for and how to pronounce his or her name.
  2. Be Courteous - Give your name and reason for calling.
  3. Be Honest - Acknowledge that you realize there is no advertised position, but that you are interested in working for the company.
  4. Be Concise - Briefly list your skills, education, and degree.
  5. Be Optimistic - Ask to send your resume.
  6. Be Persistent - Ask for an interview (even if there isn't an opening).
  7. Be Polite - Offer several dates when you could interview.
  8. Smile - Smiling as you talk makes you sound friendly and approachable.
  9. Network - If the employer won't commit to an interview, ask for referrals to employers who may be looking for someone with your skills.
  10. Be Professional - No matter what the outcome of the call, thank the employer.

With organization and professionally honed skills, the telephone can become your most valuable resource in the job search.

Sample Phone Call Follow-up Letter

July 30, 20xx

Mr. Geoffrey Gordons
Creative Director
DDD Advertising Services
1810 Van Circle St.
Dallas, TX 76004

Dear Mr. Gordons:

Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. I enjoyed our telephone conversation.

As we discussed, my background as a copywriter could prove a significant asset should I join your staff. I believe I would bring a fresh perspective to your company and could help in your quest to bring even more outstanding quality to your operations.

The enclosed resume provides important details about my background. After you have reviewed it, please let me know if you would like to discuss present or future needs of your company and how I might meet those needs.

Also, please let me know if you would like to see my portfolio or selected samples of my work.

Yours truly,


Darby Larson

1250 Lake Street
Dallas, TX 76004
(678)555-6666
dlarson@hotmail.com

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