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Making Contact with Employers

Business man sitting at tableThe 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 bothersome - a fine line to tread - will likely yield success faster than answering online ads.

Richard Bolles, the celebrated author of "What Color is Your Parachute?" says that using his creative approach to finding a job is most effective. The difference from a traditional approach, in which you post your resume online, look for vacancies and approach companies via your resume, lies in how you go about identifying which organizations to approach. Using his creative approach, you do a careful inventory of yourself to decide what organizations match you. Then you approach them, this time through a person, specifically a bridge person - someone who knows them and also knows you.

Bolles cites research that looked at the different methods of finding an opening, such as answering ads or using private employment agencies. Bolles reports that:

  • His creative approach works 86 percent of the time. You have a 12 times better chance of finding work using this method than if you just sent out your resume.
  • Using the Yellow Pages works 65 percent of the time. It involves going through the Yellow Pages of your local phone book or the Index to those Yellow Pages, so you can identify subjects or fields of interest to you. Then you go from the Index to the actual Yellow Pages and look up names of organizations and companies in those fields, in that town or city where you want to work. You call them, set up an appointment, go visit them, and explore whether or not they are hiring for the kind of work you do, or the position you are looking for. It's a lot harder to get employers (at large companies anyway) to consent to see you these days. But you have a nine times better chance of finding a job with this method, than if you just depended on your resume.
  • Knocking on the door of any employer, office, or manufacturing plant works 47 percent of the time.
  • Job-search support groups have a job-hunting success rate that is usually around 10 percent (if that.) However, there are some rare exceptions, with a much higher success rate of 50 percent.

Basic Principles of Direct Employer Contact

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.

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 submitting a resume and more interested in learning about the company. Should you receive a brush off and request to submit online or mail 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 responsibility - not 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 receptionist 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.

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 letter - unless an advertised job has been posted - because 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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