Finding ways to get through to an employer

Working Life

July 07, 1996|By Chronicle Features

As if job-hunting weren't hard enough, often you have to contend with telephone gatekeepers. Their job is to protect the boss from bothersome callers. Your goal is to get through to the person in charge of hiring.

Gatekeepers come in all types, from secretaries who know just what appeals to their bosses to receptionists under flat orders to divert all job-hunters.

Before you even lift the receiver, get some background about the company and the person you're calling (including how to pronounce both names). Talk to any mutual contacts who might pave the way, and ask if you can mention them when you call.

Since the whole process can be extremely frustrating, it's best to make these calls when you're feeling confident and upbeat. Have a 30-second sales pitch ready (use notes if it makes you more comfortable). As you smile and dial, these are your primary options: Bypass the gatekeeper. To up the odds of reaching someone directly, call before 9 a.m., after 5 p.m. or during lunch. If you get a gatekeeper on the first try, offer to call back and fish around for a good time to catch the boss. ("How late will Ms. Bigwig be there this evening?" and "What time does she usually get in?")

Or, when a secretary answers, "Betty Bigwig's office," try saying pleasantly, "Hello. It's Sally Sincero. Is she around?" By not giving a company name or identifying yourself further, you imply that she should know who you are. If the gatekeeper presses for more information ("Will Ms. Bigwig know what it's about?"), have a ready answer like, "I work with Nick Network, and he suggested I get in touch with her."

Get the gatekeeper's name, find out what his or her role is ("Are you Ms. Bigwig's assistant?), and cheerfully answer any questions. You can give a few details about the purpose of the VTC call and enlist the gatekeeper's help: "Nick Network, a friend and colleague of mine who used to work with Ms. Bigwig, suggested I talk with her about some work I'm doing, and I'd like to find a good time to connect. How does her schedule look for the next few days?"

Try to avoid leaving a message. One response to the offer, "Why don't you leave a message," is to say: "I'm going to be hard to reach this week, so it might be best for me to call back."

With people who hide behind their voice mail, you may have no choice but to leave word. First, though, check to see whether the person you're calling is away on business or vacation (some people neglect to change their voice mail messages); pressing 0 (zero) on many systems will get you to a live person.

If voice mail is the only option, and you're not prepared to deliver a succinct message off the cuff, hang up and call back once you've written a script. Clearly state your name (including the spelling if it's unusual) and phone number at the beginning and end of the message and briefly say why you're calling, just as you would if you reached the person directly.

Pub Date: 7/07/96

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