Saturday, August 7, 2010

How to Get a Job: "No Phone Calls, Please."

“No Phone Calls, Please.”

If you are looking for a job, it’s guaranteed that you have seen this sentence in printed or online want ads several times. It’s an incredibly frustrating phrase, especially these days when it seems most people do nothing BUT make phone calls on their mobiles, Blackberrys, and wireless laptops.

The reason these four words are so ubiquitous is simple – too few Human Resources people with too much to do. The average HR and recruiting department is not a revenue generator for most companies, so they tend to keep their staffs small. This means at a given company there will be one person doing the work of one and a half or even two people. This includes organizing the hundreds of resumes submitted, reading the documents, picking out the ones that might be promising, coordinating resumé reviews with the people who actually make the hiring decisions (no small feat, I can tell you), arranging interview times, writing the ads and getting them posted, researching what positions they should be hiring for and what qualities are needed in those positions.

Imagine if, on top of doing all this, you had to stop literally every five minutes to answer a call from someone who just wanted to make sure you got their resumé or to find out if you needed anything else from them or if the position was still open. You would soon find yourself working nights and weekends just to make up the time.

This may sound like the perfect time to break out the world’s tinniest violin, especially to unemployed people trying to stave off real disaster. But it doesn’t change two cold, hard facts about getting your foot in the door: 1. To the hiring people you are trying to get a hold of, you are simply not as high a priority as you would ever like you to be. 2. Most receptionists and Administrative Assistants have standing orders to NEVER put calls from job seekers directly through to recruiters or hiring managers. Keep calling and you’ll keep getting shuffled into the same voice mailbox where your message will be quickly deleted.

The unfortunate fact is that people often treat job hunting like they’re trying to resolve a problem with their electric bill - “If only I could talk to a person!” This is reinforced by job-hunting books that encourage you to pound on the front door until you get face time with a human being. Think this through for a moment, though: What exactly would you say to an employer if you did have the opportunity for a one-on-one conversation? Suppose by some incredible stroke of luck you got the CEO of the company you want to work for on the phone and you had one minute to “sell yourself” before s/he politely hung up and got back to their job?

What would you say to convince that person to hire you? A robotic recitation of the introduction section of your resumé? A declaration that you are The Perfect Person for the Job, even though there a hundred people waiting outside the CEO’s door waiting to say the exact same thing about themselves?

You can seriously hurt your chances by reacting to this situation in the wrong way. It’s never a good idea to speak to anyone at a company with anything other than total professionalism. If you feel there’s a chance you are going to come off as angry, frustrated, sarcastic, sad, or desperate on the phone, do yourself a favor and don’t call. The receptionist you bark at because they won’t immediately put you through to the Hiring Director may also be helping to sort the applications, and it doesn’t take much to put yours at the bottom of the pile or deposit it into the “circular file.”

There are ways to communicate that don’t involve cold calling, the most effective of which is to know someone at the company who can get you in the front door. Outside of this, most companies have a hiring process in place which does not involve having an extended conversation with everyone who sends in their CV. Most of the time they will review the hundreds of applications they get, pick out the ones they like using a completely subjective methodology that’s unknown to you but works for them. Phone conversations and sit-down meetings take place after looking at documents, not before.

The best you can do is create a clean, error-free resumé that does the talking for you, and then follow the process. If the ad says fill out an online “virtual resumé,” even though you've already spent 10 hours writing and editing your own, do it, and fill it out completely. If the ad says do not call, don’t. Doing so will only make you look like you can’t follow directions, or you haven’t read the advertisement. Don’t make the common job-hunting mistake of confusing activity with progress. And always keep in mind that this is a buyers’ market and the odds aren’t in any job-seeker’s favor, so mind your manners.

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