It is a lot easier than you think to get an interview from calling potential employers. This will give you some advice and if you join our interview strategy course will give you even more details.


Setting interviews over the phone is a lot easier than most people think. One of the keys is to have a provocative 30 or 45 second voice mail message written in advance. Once you get through, you need a carefully prepared two-minute marketing statement ready to go. People who become "pros" on the phone are the ones who consistently generate the most activity.

Using the Phone is Another Way to Go After Unpublished Jobs

It's been said that 90% of those in a job search are reluctant to use the phone. Don't be! Getting interviews over the phone is a lot easier than most people think! If you fall into the "reluctant to use the phone" category, believe it or not, it's a mostly friendly and helpful world out there.

Start by recognizing that the difference between simply making phone calls and "telemarketing" is very basic. When you telemarket you have specific goals and use a standardized procedure for making large numbers of calls. Here are some approaches for opening your conversations.

(1) Open Your Conversation the Right Way: Here Are Some Approaches for Opening Your Conversations

The "Good News" Approach

Here you build a positive relationship based on specific "good news." Everyone likes to have good things happen and to hear from others who are enthusiastic about their good fortune. You can be sure that your message will immediately help to build a feeling of friendliness and warmth over the phone. This approach can play a major role in getting people to help you.

The "Third- Party" Approach

If you mention the name of a third party who knows the person you're calling, it helps to establish rapport, but it's also helpful even when they don't know each other. The approach is simple. It might go like this: "Bill Regan, a partner with Arthur Andersen, thought I should get in touch with you. He felt your growth not only suggests a good investment but might indicate a good employment possibility. His insights prompted me to follow up with you personally. Do you have a moment?"

The "Specific Reason" Approach

If you have experience in getting things done, you can use this "specific reason" approach. It's straightforward and can go like this: "Mr. Franklin, I have a 'specific reason' for calling you. I know the line of business you are in and something of the processes you use. During the past 15 months, I have been able to save a company like yours approximately 0,000. I would like to share the details with you. Does your calendar permit a meeting later this week?"

To identify firms to approach by phone, McKenzie Scott's website has everything you need. Typically, you can select organizations by industry and location, and get phone numbers and much more.

The "Perhaps You Can Help Me" Approach

If a specific opening has already been filled, someone can help you meet a hiring official in another part of the company. If the individual you contact does not have a precise fit in his department, perhaps he could help you meet a person in another division. If you are told that the person you want to speak to is out, the best response is, "Thanks. Perhaps you can help me. When is a good time to call back?"

Openers for After You Reach the Right Person

  • Considering what is happening to the technology of our business, I know I can be very useful to you because of my training and experience in _____.
  • From your annual report, I read that the company's expanding in the _____ area. That's an area where I could help, and I wanted to schedule an appointment.
  • My friend ___ suggested that I make a point of contacting you. You may recall from my letter that I have experience in ____ that might be of help to you.
  • With my background in __ and the recent news about _____, I thought I should try to get in touch with you. Could you suggest a convenient time? Do you have 20 minutes before you get started some morning next week?
  • Mr. __, your company has a tremendous reputation for market-leading products. I'd like very much to visit with you to explain how I could contribute to that reputation through my work in ___. Do you have a half hour free Tuesday?

(2) Use These Proven Phone Guidelines

  • Get used to making one call after another. Stand up and you'll give a power assist to your voice. To warm up, use some throw-away calls.
  • Make sure you know how you will be answering your phone. List questions you may be asked and write out the answers to the difficult ones.
  • You should also prepare a 30-second commercial of your most important selling points. Rehearse it. Tape it and critique it. Your effort will pay off.
  • One of the best times to reach executives is very early in the morning or after 5 p.m. At that time, the switchboard is often still open, but many support staff have departed; and the person you want may answer his or her own phone.
  • Smile while speaking over the phone and your voice will sound more pleasant. Be friendly, enthusiastic and positive. When you encounter objections stay friendly, cooperative, and sometimes answer a question with a question.
  • Project a natural, confident tone as you would when talking with a friend. Lower your voice. Speak slowly and don't give the impression you're rushed.
  • Be prepared for rejection. Effective use of the phone is a numbers game. You can easily make 15 calls an hour.
  • Be sure your phone is answered properly. No clever answering machine messages!
  • The screener doesn't really know who you are or your purpose. If you retain the thought that you only want advice and information, the decision-maker has no reason to shy away from you. When speaking with the support staff, get their name and use it. Be confident, positive and polite.
  • When following up, do not discuss your business other than to say the executive is expecting your call.
  • If you begin to generate interest, do not reveal too much of your story. Remember, you want to press only for an interview, and ideally not be interviewed on the phone. Phone interviews are more common now and often the starting point, but if you can secure a face to face interview, it will increase your chances to get hired. That said, a phone call can sometimes be a much better way for the employer to quickly assess if you are the right fit, without having to physically meet you.

(3) Be Able to Handle People Who Screen Your Call

  • As previously mentioned, start by using the name of the person who is the "screener." Once a person knows he or she has been identified, their manner will become more personal.
  • When asked your name, identify yourself with an organization if possible.
  • Remember, the more expert the screener is, the more valuable that person is likely to be, especially as an ally in your future relationships with the firm.
  • If you don't get through on your first attempt, and you can't get a suitable time to call back, suggest a time when you will call the screener back. In all cases, until you have established direct contact, don't leave messages.
  • When you call back, use the screener's name with the receptionist. After establishing that the person is difficult to reach, try this procedure: "Since he (or she) is so hard to reach, would you do me a small favor? May I call back at ____ to see if he would be interested in speaking with me for a few minutes?" If you must leave a message, leave one of potential benefit to the person you are calling.
  • Consider reversing your attempt to speak with the decision-maker by asking for an internal referral to another line manager in the area in which you might want to work for the company
  • If the screener refers you to personnel, get the name of the person to whom you will be speaking. Call back later for that person or request an immediate transfer.
  • After a few minutes of discussion, ask two or three penetrating questions about the company's needs. When asked difficult questions, those who don't know the answer are more inclined to refer you to an appropriate line manager.
  • After a few days, you can also call back the screener and explain that while the personnel people were helpful, they were not really able to answer the questions you had in mind.
  • You may encounter the question: "Are you looking for a job?" The answer might be: "Yes, I am; do you think you could help me? Though I'm employed, a friend suggested your firm to me."

(4) Be Able to Follow Up Effectively

Less than 1% of all job hunters ever follow up a rejection letter. This gives you a big opportunity. Follow-up requires a special tenacity, a certain "thickness of skin," and an ability to accept rejection as a challenge. The person who has arrived at the perfect company should be prepared to do the following.

Find out all about the firm from every source available; call, write, visit, speak to as many people as necessary; go through third-party channels; and depart from conventional approaches.

Here Are Some Approaches that Might Fit Your Personality or Circumstance

A. Acting "Puzzled and Helpless"

This does not call for much acting ability for many of us, because it is the way we feel when we receive those politely worded notes that give us the bad news that our services are not required.

One way to follow up is to call and thank the sender of the letter for their reply. Then try to engage them in a frank discussion as to your failure to understand what is going on. The usual explanation is that there are no vacancies available at the present time.

However, you must not let this reply end the conversation. You must try to keep it going. What almost everyone in a job search needs is a preliminary, nonobligatory talk with a person who is qualified to explain what the company does and how it goes about meeting its employment needs. This is what you should ask for, because as a puzzled and helpless person, you do not know what to do next!

Here is how this might work.

"Mr. Jones, I got your letter this morning and it tells me that you are going to keep my resume on file against further openings. I'm puzzled at that because I only sent a short note to the company suggesting a meeting to talk about what I might be able to do for you."

This must be delivered without a trace of sarcasm because that could kill your relationship. Then, keep quiet and see what the answer may be. Silence is powerful. Carrying on from here, find out how the organization goes about recruiting. People enjoy giving advice, especially when sincerely asked by someone who really needs it.

For example, you might ask, "Does the company ever employ people with my disciplines and experience? Do they advertise jobs, or do they place people in the company from other sources? If so, which recruiters do they use?"

These questions are asked because you do not know the answers, not because you are trying to be "smart." There is still enough warm feeling in even the most harassed executive hearts for you to get some very useful information from them.

What you are seeking is specific information, such as the names of heads of departments; plans for expansion; ideas for approaching personalities; the real "stuff" that the company is made of. With that information you can then approach someone else or keep it on file for follow-up next month.

B. "I Need Your Understanding"

This approach involves asking some simple direct questions.

"Was it correct to send my letter to the president in the first place? Does the Personnel Department really handle recruitment at my level and in my discipline? It is important for me to know this, because I may well have approached the company incorrectly. How should I go about reaching the right decision-maker?"

Here's another example: "Mary, I really need your help and I can sense that you would like to help me if you could. But what I must find out is this: how do I get to talk to Harry Smith for a few minutes at a time when he can listen to me or arrange to meet me?"

Charm is the watchword - patience in building relationships, listening and projecting a positive attitude which will create a warm response.

Here's a Sample Script for Trying to Reach the Right Person

Okay, so now you have called and been put through to the secretary. Off we go:

"Hello Ms. Jones, is Bill in? I'm _____. He should be expecting my call." "May I ask what this is in reference to?"

"I wrote to him last week, and in my letter I promised to call him today. It concerns an urgent matter for me." If you are looking for a job, it would have been sent to the Human Resources Department.

"Mary, if I need to talk to H.R., who can really put me in the picture there? I need the Director, I guess." She tells you what you want to know and puts you through. "It's Jim __."

"Jim, I'm ___. I've just been talking to Bill Smith's office, and Mary told me I should be talking to you. I'd written Bill and suggested a meeting, but he's apparently sent my note to you." "What can I do for you?"

"I wanted to meet with Bill because I believed that he would be the right person to talk to. There are several reasons for this; they have to do with what I can do for __ Co." Be prepared to tell Jim enough to put him in the picture.

"Of course, I could be wrong in seeking to talk with Mr. ____ himself. You know more about the company than I do. Jim, I need your help. How does the company go about bringing in new people at my level? In my current job, I am responsible for ."

Consider this response from Jim:

"I'm sorry. We don't need anyone at the levels you've mentioned. In any case, all promotion here is from within the company. We don't have anything here right now sorry."

Now you can keep a discussion going as follows:

"Jim, I was afraid you'd tell me that, but you know, there are plenty of cases where companies do bring in outside people at senior levels. How do I find out what to do to take this further? Isn't there some way to get an exploratory talk at an appropriate level? I need your help." (Or if you can't get anywhere "...if you can't help me somehow, could you give me Bill Smith's office again. I need to speak to him again.")

Then, "Hi Mary! I'm afraid Jim can't help me. Basically, what I'm looking for is one piece of information one person to address, someone who will take a few moments to talk to me, someone who will explain your system there. Is there someone else I should approach first before addressing Bill?"

She May Transfer You to Someone Else

"He asked me to tell you that he would like to see your resume." "My resume? Well, that was not what I had in mind, Mary. However, is there a chance I could have a brief word with him now? It's really important."

If This Doesn't Work, Send a Note and Confirm You Will Call

She may say "...oh yes, he asked me to tell you that he is unable to meet you but he appreciates your interest."

"I see. Mary, I really have a problem. It could be that Bill is not the person I should have addressed in the first place. Is there anyone else I should be speaking to? For example, who is the head of the Department?" (What you are looking for is another source of information. Of course, Mary might say, "He asked me to tell you that he's having Personnel circulate your resume." This is plausible, but watch out.)

"Mary, I have some misgivings about that. I'm concerned about confidentiality. Frankly, I expected to speak with him before we went further. Is he there right now?" (You are pressing, but politely. If you are an executive, you could adopt the attitude of concern about loss of privacy.)

"Mary If you circulated my letter that means others in the firm are going to know that I'm contacting you. I'd better speak to Mr. ___ right now!"

Of course, if you are put through, you will drop your concerned attitude and simply explain why you needed to keep the entire matter confidential.

In your calls you need to mean business. Always be very pleasant and polite but quite prepared to take further action. These are not casual calls. Never be deterred by lower staffers or "standard practices." Be willing to ask for assistance, but ask for it in specific terms, expecting answers and cooperation. Stay with these principles. They work!

Summarizing Our Approach for Getting Interviews by Telemarketing and Follow-up

  • Recognize that setting interviews is a lot easier than you think.
  • The telemarketing process is based on making a large number of calls with a standardized procedure.
  • Follow our proven telemarketing guidelines that work.
  • Use our approaches for opening your conversations the "good news" approach, the "third party" approach," the "perhaps you can help me" approach, and the "specific reason" approach.
  • Follow our tips for people who screen your call.
  • Follow up your rejection letters from companies who are high on your priority list. Three strategies are: the "acting puzzled and helpless" approach, the "I need your understanding" approach, and the "acting very assertive" approach.