September 14, 2010
If the job listing says 'no calls, please,' should I call anyway?
Many candidates in my career search optimization seminar ask me, "Can I call a recruiter about an opening even when the job listing specifically says 'no phone calls please'?"
The answer is "Yes," and several of my clients have gotten interviews and landed opportunities by ignoring these messages. It's all about using the correct strategy and phone techniques that anyone can learn and master.
"Do not contact us" messages are gatekeepers to reduce the number of unqualified submissions. Most job seekers simply find the message intimidating. And strong qualified candidates don't contact the employer because they think their resume is good enough. They make poor assumptions that recruiters actually have the time to read several hundred submissions.
In my talks with HR, recruiters and hiring managers, they all say if the candidate isn't lucky enough to get their resume noticed through the employer's Applicant Tracking System (ATS), they are out of luck. The dilemma many face is that they want to follow the HR rules, yet they fear they might not hear back (which happens many times).
With the correct phone techniques, you can increase your probability of getting noticed positively by the corporate recruiter. Remember, at the end of the day, they want to fill the role and move on to other duties. While part of their job is screening candidates out, it also includes looking for top talent. If you're top talent, you have to make sure you're noticed, or you might miss out to someone who has better optimized their resume.
Before submitting your resume to a company, I suggest you look at your network and see who currently works there or might know someone who can get you introduced. In the perfect world, you would send an e-mail to your contact, they would do the employee referral and the next day you would have an interview at the company. Realistically speaking, introductions can take time, and if HR is serious about filling the role, you could miss out on a great opportunity.
Using the following technique as a blueprint, here is what I suggest you do:
- Call the main corporate number and ask who is working on the particular role for which you're interested in applying.
- If the receptionist doesn't know, go on LinkedIn and find a name of someone in recruiting. Call that person and see if he or she is the one in charge of the position.
- If not, ask who the correct contact is, write down the name and hang up the phone.
- Call the main receptionist back and ask to speak to the correct contact. The receptionist should be able to transfer you.
Note: If you sound like a nervous jobseeker, you will be caught by the gatekeeper and will have to try this technique another day. To make sure you succeed the first time, simply ask to speak to the contact name as if the person is a colleague or as if you have an appointment with him or her.
- Once you have the contact on the phone, say "I noticed this particular job description" (state the title or number), "and I have a couple of quick questions for you."
Note: The words "quick" and "couple" are the key to the recruiter remaining on the phone. If you don't sound urgent or take too much time trying to build rapport, you can lose their interest and they might reply with, "All qualified candidates must apply online. You'll be contacted if your background is a good match."
- Follow with, "Have you started interviewing for this role yet?" and "If so, what has been the hiring manager's feedback about the ideal candidate?"
You'd be surprised how much information these two questions will reveal. The first one will give you a sense of the recruiter's urgency and a glimpse into their hiring process, while the second question will give you a final opportunity to customize your resume to the exact needs of the hiring manager not found on the job description.
- End with, "I would love to apply for this opening, but if I'm not the perfect fit, I'll try to help you fill this role by sending referrals."
There are a couple powerful statements hidden in this sentence. First, you have offered your generosity in helping them fill the role, which compels them to look at your resume. This could be all you need to get the interview.
Second, by saying, "...if I'm not the perfect fit," you are employing what is called an "embedded suggestion." In psychology, we learn that our subconscious brain does not hear negatives. (Example: You tell your child, "don't go into my bedroom," and he hears "go into my bedroom.") In this case, the recruiter hears, "I'm the perfect fit."
While I've given you a high-level technique and encouragement to reach out to recruiters when pursuing a job opening, I'm hoping I've also given you enough details to get started right away. If you have questions on this technique, or have thoughts to share, put your comments below.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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