Using the phone to look for a job

The phone as an information handler

Your phone is your most effective tool for handling the information load created by job hunting.

There's a lot of information provided online, and in advertisements. Not all of it is useful, and some of it needs checking.

It's quite possible to apply for a job with no clear idea of the work, the requirements in the ad, or whether you're suited for the job.

Meaning you can waste a lot of time and effort. Some ads are misleading. 'Customer service' turns out to mean telemarketing, or a call center. Under the babble about 'join our enthusiastic team' is a job which is commission only. 'Are you an introvert who wants to work at home' somehow becomes a form of pyramid selling, on-selling the same ad you answered to others, and getting a percentage. That's actually illegal, in most countries.

The phone is a quality control. If you're not sure what's involved in a job, or whether you have the skills, you can always ask.

(Email isn't the best way of doing this, because some people still don't know to answer emails, and often don't answer them promptly, when they do.)

Another important part of phone inquiries is you can find out how your contacts behave, and how useful, or useless, they are.

Some people are very helpful, and do tell you what you need to know, which is encouraging, and always useful.

Others are particularly unhelpful, uninformative, and basically useless as sources of information.

How they deal with your questions is really a case of you interviewing them. That can be extremely useful in making a decision about a job.

You need to think about your questions, and what you want to know.

Before you even pick up the phone

Have a look at the ad, and the amount of information you need to ask about. Is there a lot? Are some things you'd expect to see, like salary and directly job-related information, missing? Is the ad all talk and not much real info?

If so, be careful.

There are a lot of non-jobs around. They're time wasters. They don't pay too well, if at all. They can have you spending days at 'work' while you could be going for a much better job.

They're not really even worth a phone call, let alone hours of your life.

These jobs are everywhere, and hard to avoid, but avoid them.

Calling about a job

  1. Decide what information you need. What does 'customer service' mean, in terms of this job? What duties are involved?
  2. Ask about qualifications, licenses, any criteria mentioned in the ad that isn't 100% clear.
  3. Ask about shift times, locations, public transport, any of the basic issues of getting there, and your commuting needs.
  4. If you're not sure about any information you're supposed to provide with your application, make sure you get a good, clear explanation.
  5. Anything which isn't clear about salary must be checked out. If you're worried if it's a commission-only job, ask.

Thinking about the information from a phone call.

How much information were you actually able to get a clear answer about?

You can do some more quality control here:

  1. Was the person answering your questions efficient? Did they sound like they knew what they were talking about?
  2. Did you get the impression you were being fobbed off with minimal answers?
  3. Were any of the answers vague?
  4. Did any of the answers sound evasive about important points like salary?
  5. When asking about the job, did you really find out anything extra, or just get a quote from the ad?
  6. Was the person friendly, or just 'official' when answering?

If you can't get straight answers from the person supposed to give them, it's not a good sign. The most effective job ads don't have you guessing. The most efficient employers always handle inquiries effectively. They're in business, after all.

If you got a lot of information, and your questions really returned a good supply of things you needed to know, it's a real positive.

Nobody looking for a job needs an ignoramus on the other end of a phone, or someone who can't be bothered doing their own job.

Efficient employers care about who they hire. All good employers put a lot of effort into hiring, they're looking for the people they need. It's only the second raters who don't.

You get a first hand look at a prospective employer with your phone call. If you like what you hear, good.

If not, look out.

Don't waste your time on losers.

Phone interviews.

The phone interview has become a standard screening method. It's stage one of a process. Applicants get an opportunity to add something to their applications, and the employer reduces the workload by screening out unsuitable applicants.

Remember this is a real opportunity.

That's not a sort of 'motivation statement'.

You can do yourself some good here.

The questions are all job related. In some cases they're very like normal interviews.

It's actually a pretty civilized, convenient, process. You don't have to dress up, you don't have to commute, and you can deal with the questions without the pressures of sitting in a silent room full of total strangers.

How the phone interview works:

  1. You're given a time for the interview.
  2. You get a series of questions, usually very much of the 'give an instance when you had to solve a problem' level of difficulty. It's pretty standard stuff, nothing dramatically new.
  3. You'll be told they'll notify you of the result of the interview, and whether you move on to a formal interview.
  4. You get a time, place and date for the next stage.

Remember to get and keep any contact information.

Repeat all details of stages 1 and 4, and get those details confirmed by the employer or employer's agent, while you've got them on the phone.

When doing a phone interview, you have a bit more control of the situation than you might think. You can make it a lot easier by some basic preparation.

Preparing for a phone interview

  1. Get rid of all possible distractions. Turn off anything that could possibly interrupt, get any noisy elements away from you and the phone.
  2. Make yourself comfortable. Have a cup of tea ready, and a good chair.
  3. Don't get jumpy about something you have to do anyway. It's just a basic interview.
  4. Do some thinking before the interview, like the sort of mental preparation you'd do for a normal interview.
  5. Remember you're not under the sort of pressures of a formal interview.
  6. You can have materials around as assistance during the interview. Reference books, online materials, whatever will help. Make sure they're handy. A copy of your CV can be useful.
  7. Remember to be yourself.

The crucial thing in a phone interview is to focus on the questions.

If necessary, ask for a question to be repeated. The risk is not understanding the questions.

Don't go off topic, answer clearly, and cover the whole question in your answer.

Generally speaking the answers are graded on a series of points being addressed. Stick to the question.

Be as thorough as you can, when answering.

It's better to make sure you don't leave out things. If you're not sure if you should add something, ask the interviewer, 'Do you want to know about…?'

The phone can be your most useful tool.

It will save you a lot of effort.

Job hunting is tough enough without having to guess what's happening.