The Phone Is Your Friend

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"I only use the phone to order take out and call my mom," the job seeking student responded to me when I asked her if she had called the potential employer to get answers to questions she had about the advertised position. Her response isn't surprising.

According to a report from the Pew Research Center, "Teens, Smartphones & Texting," (March 19, 2012), texting is the way most of you communicate. Voice calling using a cell phone is down too.  When I probed further to understand why my job seeking student didn't call, she said, "I can't believe I didn't even think about picking up the phone and calling. It just never occurred to me!"

She also admitted to feeling somewhat uneasy about using the phone to call her potential employer because she didn't know what to say. Many of you have told me "it feels weird" to call someone you don't know because you don't do it very often. You'll feel more confident if you prepare first.

In other words, research the company, so you don't ask questions that are easily obtained by reading its website. There are also many useful links to career and job search preparation. I'll tell you more about my favorite two sources of job preparation information next week! Before you call, make sure to be well informed about your audience.

Step two is to refresh your memory about what makes you unique and what you have to offer this employer. Think in terms of the company's specific job description. If the employer wants a candidate with strong analytical skills, consider how you've demonstrated these from both your experiences and education. In other words, know your elevator speech. I've written before about "Getting the Perfect Tone for Your 30 Second Pitch." Don't forget to rehearse it!

Now conquer that inertia and shyness and pick up the phone. You might say the following:

Hello. I'm <name>, a student at Penn State University in my <year> studying <major>. I recently saw the <name of position> you advertised on <where you found the position>, and I'm interested in applying. I do have a few questions, and I was wondering if you could tell me to whom I should direct these.

From here, the person may say, "Let me connect you to <name>. He/She is handling this vacancy." If this happens, you could be lucky and actually get to speak with one of the decision-makers. Always make sure to get the correct spelling and name of the people with whom you speak. You may need them for follow-up communications.  Once the call has been transferred, start with the first two sentences above again. This time add some of your 30-second pitch. Be concise and don't ramble.

If the person who answers the phone says he/she will try to answer your questions, this is fine too, although it's less likely you're speaking to one of the decision makers. It's always important to be respectful and polite to everyone you meet. It may be that the person with whom you're speaking will be the one tasked with weeding through the stack of résumés for the first pass.

Most importantly, remember the phone can be a cool tool. Use it to get a pizza and a job!


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