Contacting Employers

contactemployers.jpgThe goal of any job search campaign is to meet face-to-face with employers in an interview.

The more interviews you have, the greater your chances for success. Most job seekers, however, prefer a passive job search strategy in which they submit an application or resume and wait.

When they don't hear anything they start all over again by answering another ad or contacting a company only through email or regular mail.

Instead of those passive attempts at getting a job, try a more active approach by taking initiative and making direct contact with potential employers.

Direct employer contact requires preparation, confidence and persistence. Many people are uncomfortable with this tactic, afraid of offending the employers with too much aggressiveness. Yet going straight to an employer works, even if you already answered an advertised job.

Showing a strong desire to work for a company without becoming too bothersomea fine line to treadwill likely yield success faster than answering online ads.

Networking is Key 

Richard Bolles, the celebrated author of "What Color is Your Parachute?", says networking is by far the most effective way to get a job. He cites research that looked at the different methods of finding an opening, such as answering ads or using private employment agencies.

The research revealed that job hunters who make direct contact with potential employers were astonishingly successful.

  • 86 percent of people found jobs after conducting a skills inventory and identifying new environments and careers. That is 12 times more effective than sending out resumes
  • 84 percent of individuals found jobs when, as part of a job club, they leafed through the Yellow Pages to find subjects and fields of interest. Then, these individuals called companies and asked if they had any openings.
  • 69 percent found jobs using this same method, only doing it solo and not as part of a job club. Being part of a job club seems to help, but even doing it alone works. "For perspective, however, note that by doing targeted phone calls by yourself, you have an almost 10 times better chance of finding a job, than if you sent out your resume," Bolles wrote.
  • 47 percent who found jobs personally went to companies in their communities and inquired about employment without any prior knowledge of job openings.
  • 33 percent used job leads from their networks to land employment.

Networking and research will land you plenty of names of companies and individuals within them as contacts while pursuing a job.

Are you ready to contact employers directly? Good, because it works. Now, let's look at effective ways to do it.

Where to Start 

Start with contacting employers by phone. When you make direct contact, don't begin by asking if they're hiring or by saying you're unemployed.

Avoid being transferred to the human resources department unless you have been told it is the hiring authority. If you hear you should submit an application or resume, ask if you can have an informational interview either by phone or in person.

Tell the individuals with whom you speak that you're less interested in simply sending in a resume and more interested in learning about the company. Should you receive a brush off and request to send the resume, kindly say you will abide by the company's process and that you will stay in touch following your submission of job-related materials.

Whenever possible, make the next step your responsibilitynot the employer's. For example, if an employer says, "We will call you in a couple of weeks," you could respond with, "Would it be all right if I call you two weeks from today?" If they say, "Yes," then you've agreed on your follow-up, and the responsibility is yours.

When you contact an employer, you might reach a receptionist before speaking with a manager or executive. Think of receptionists and other "gatekeepers" as the eyes and ears of decision makers. Receptionists tend to put in a good word for people who treat them with courtesy and respect.

Should you get an informational interview, conduct research on the company prior to your appointment. We have plenty of details on researching companies elsewhere in this book, and we suggest you take a look at it. And expect rejection. It goes with the territory. Don't take it personally. Maintain a good attitude and a healthy sense of humor.

Telephoning Tips 

Although the Internet is quickly becoming the most popular mode of communication, the telephone remains a critical tool in a successful job search campaign. The Internet may be a great way to research jobs and companies, but the telephone is the best way to make direct employer contact and to open the doors of opportunity.

Effective telephone techniques are critical skills all job seekers need, and they can be learned. You need to learn how to script a call, the basics of sounding competent on a phone and the importance of having a follow-up strategy that appeals to employers.

Some people have a hard time with the idea of selling their qualifications over the phone. Nobody wants to sound pushy or unprepared, but learning how to sell yourself is critical to a successful job search.

Just like a sales call, you will get about 20 seconds to capture the employer s attention. Therefore, communication has to be to the point and concise. Even the best communicators use scripting to make sure they get their point across. It helps to relieve jitters and keep the conversation focused.

Have an objective for the call. You may be seeking information, trying to schedule a meeting or presenting your qualifications to a potential employer. Have a secondary objective. Often you won't achieve your primary objective, but every telephone call is an opportunity to seek information.

Make a call to get the name of the person you want to speak to and then either have the operator transfer you or redial and make a direct call to that individual.

Outline in writing what you want to say. This is important in the early stages of cold-calling or when the call is important. Later on, you'll script most of your calls in your head. Don't read your script. Your presentation should be natural.

The script will depend on the goal of the call and whether you know the person you are calling. A good script should include an introduction that describes who you are and whether you were referred. State the purpose of your call and then ask for information or to schedule the meeting.

Case Studies
Learn how Karla Bonine, a veteran human resources professional, approached contacting employers when she found herself unemployed. Read Karla's story.

Learn how Lisa Stallman found a new job by canvassing businesses in her neighborhood. Read Lisa's story.

Learn how Corrine Casanova used telephone cold-calling to find employment leads. Read Corrine's story.

Phone Skills 101 

Practice your skills on a spouse or friend. Record yourself to hear how you sound.

Deal with voice mail. Leave your name and phone number (twice, and slowly) and the reason for the call. Be upbeat, simple, clear and concise. Avoid the monotone. If you are offered the option to review your message, do so just to check it.

If you have an answering machine, make sure your message is polite and professional. It's not cute or clever, by the way, to have your children do the message on a phone line that will be used by potential employers.

Organize all your job search materials nearby and take notes.

Listen carefully. If you sense you've called at a bad time, politely ask if there's a better time. Listen for "buy" signals, among them questions about qualifications or about other topics. They're showing an interest in you.

Handle objections such as "We're looking for someone with more experience or education" or "Sorry, we're not hiring right now" with a response that continues to sell your qualifications.

Follow up: The persistent 20 percent make 80 percent of the sales. While you have the contact on the telephone, agree on when you'll call back. Keep a follow-up calendar and maintain a record of your contacts. If someone agrees to call you, give a time you can be reachedor your mobile phone number.

Stand up during cold calls. Being erect will improve your posture and expand your lungs, making you sound more alert.

If you can't get past the receptionist, try before 8 a.m., during lunch, after 5 p.m. or Saturday morning. If you still can't get through, solicit the receptionist's assistance

Look for ways to compliment the person or the company. Sell your strengths, skills and accomplishments.

Emailing Tips 

Email is the easiest way to apply for a job opening and the easiest inquiry for employers to avoid. If you catch a manager on the phone you can try to make a quick pitch. You may hear a grunt and a "Sorry, we're not hiring" or a "Hey, why don't you come in. Let's set up a time." Managers are usually overwhelmed with internal and external emails daily, so trying to capture their attention can be difficult.

A more creative strategy combines email, calling and mailing managers your information. Call it the one-two, digital-verbal punch.

The approach is to email the prospect a short letter of just a paragraph saying you're interested in an advertised job or you're wondering if any positions are currently open. Stress that you will call within a day or two. Skip writing a long cover letterunless an advertised job has been postedbecause effective emails tend to be brief. In a case of an available opening, many employers recommend making the email message the cover letter.

Attach your resume, written in Word or as an Adobe PDF document, to email correspondence related to finding a job. Managers can open either format with little problem. Then call within a day or two and, if leaving a message, remind the individual of the day and time you sent the email and attachment and spell your name. Email programs can segment messages by day, time, subject line and sender. The person can locate it faster with the information you just provided.

Then print out and send via U.S. mail what you emailed. This illustrates your high level of interest in the position and the company, and your commitment to making certain the manager and others at the firm see your resume.

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