Telephone tips for getting past square one in job search

There’s one job-seeking skill that is often overlooked, and yet it sets the stage for whether you will be able to demonstrate your other skills.

The first personal contact in your job search may come through a phone call to schedule an interview with someone in HR or line up an informational meeting. How you handle yourself on the phone can make or break your chances to get to the next step. Here are five tips to get you started on the right foot.

When to call. Just what is the best time of day to call? Certainly you don’t want to interrupt someone in the middle of their workday. Likewise hitting them up first thing in the morning may catch them before they are ready to consider your request. The best time to call is between 11:30 and noon. Meetings have drawn to a close, and lunch hasn’t started, but your contact is starting to mentally prepare for a break. An alternative time to call is after 4 p.m. as the day winds down.


Have the right attitude. People notice your tone and they will form a mental picture of you from your voice. To project a good attitude, employ this trick: Smile before you start talking and then keep a friendly upbeat tone while speaking. Even if the person you wish to speak to has been difficult to reach and scarcely acknowledges you when you get through, stay positive and engaged. Remember: You’re taking somebody’s time, so be direct, brief, and courteous.

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Voice mail is your friend. Getting by a gatekeeper can be difficult. If that’s the case, consider calling your contact early in the morning, before work hours, so you can leave a message on voice mail.

The call-screener. If you do encounter gatekeepers, be careful about being overly friendly trying to sweet-talk your way past them. Likewise, being too aggressive can boomerang. Let them know you are aware the person you’re trying to contact is busy and ask when would be a convenient time to call back.

The person in charge of hiring. Now that you’ve gotten through to your contact, be efficient: introduce yourself, say who suggested you call, offer a brief description of your relevant experience and current job (if applicable), and explain you are interested in learning about openings. Offer to send a resume and cover letter. And finally, be sure to say “Thank you.”

E-mail questions about business etiquette to