Job hunters! Do yourself a favour

I’ve been moved to write on this subject after a particularly disastrous phone call I received recently from a prospective employee. In summary, the caller was a student reading Business, he had sent an email to our corporate recruitment page and was attempting to ‘take the initiative’ and call the London HR Department directly to find out why he hadn’t received a reply.

Fair enough, you might say, and good on him for being proactive. But the actual conversation descended into a car crash. He had no idea about the company I work for, did not identify who he was or why he was calling until I repeatedly asked him, asked no questions, but instead kept repeating the same line about showing initiative in contacting us directly. In short, he just picked up the phone and was asking for a job. I did respond by giving him some advice on his job hunting approach, but I suspect that’s more than most HR departments would do.

Taking the proactive approach and contacting employers directly needs to be tackled carefully if it’s not going to turn out to be a waste of your time. Just being proactive in itself is NOT enough: consider how you’re coming across, do your research, and plan what you want to gain from the conversation. When you do make contact make sure you do it in a polite, professional manner, as you would if you were approaching someone at a networking event.

Calling a prospective employer:

  1. Before you even pick up the phone, think about this question: what do you want to get out of this phone call? More information on recruitment opportunities and methods? More information on the company and their hiring criteria? A meeting with someone to find out more about the company?
  2. When you do get through, be polite and professional.
  3. Identify who you are and why you are calling. Don’t just pick up the phone and ask for a job. If you are going to ring up and demand to speak to the HR Department, make sure to be clear about what you can offer the company, what you are looking for and why you are talking to them.
  4. Ask questions about the company. If the person on the other end is prepared to give you a minute or 2 of their time rather than hanging up immediately, use this as an information-gathering exercise. Bear in mind that the person you are talking to may not be able to give you the exact information you are looking for, but they could offer some more insight or other information that could be useful to you.
  5. Whatever you do, don’t ring up and complain about not getting replies to your persistent emails. Levelling criticism at them is not going to endear you to them. And chances are the person you are speaking to on the phone has no idea about your email in any case (or your CV that comes through on the fax machine once a month… but that’s a topic for another post!).

Above all, remember that it takes time to find any job, but it especially takes time to find the one that’s right for you – be patient with yourself, find strategies to keep your spirits up, and always have more than one channel open at once. Calling an employer may not land you with a job offer, but it could put you in the right direction towards one if you handle it in the right way. At the very least, you don’t want one phone call made in haste to consign your carefully-constructed CV to the ‘NO’ pile!

In this age of email communication and online job applications perhaps a phone call could make you stand out from the crowd, particularly with smaller employers. But I’d be interested to hear if anyone has ever tried this approach and found it was successful for them?