How to Make a Phone Call

Mar 9, 2011

I have a sense that a real yearning is emerging for information about how to communicate.

I mean about how to communicate face to face or over the phone and not about “communicating” on someone’s “Wall” on Facebook or sending an InMail through LinkedIn.

I’m talking about what you should say on the phone.

There’s a difference between calling an “active” candidate (one whose resume is out there or “in there” or a candidate who is obviously “out there,” meaning he is high-profile on the Internet or the trades) and the truly passive candidate: the guy we sourcers find closeted away behind a company’s closed doors, who is not listed anywhere on the Internet, who is way too busy working to even think about thinking about looking for another job.

When I’m calling through a list of folks, profiling, I don’t leave call back messages until I’ve called through the list 5-6 times.

When I’m sourcing, I’m in the habit of trying to remain in the power seat, in charge of the process.

When you leave a plaintive “please-call-me-back” message you’ve transferred “power” (and the chance of your success) into the hands of another person.

No, no, no, and double no, no, no. You never want to do that!

I call through a list, top to bottom, methodically, and talk to the ones that answer.

Let a number ring 2-3 times; usually they’ve answered if they’re there in that amount of time.

This can reduce calling time from 60-90 seconds per unanswered call to about 15 seconds, which includes the dial!

Definition of Profiling: The first contact with the candidate who has been identified through sourcing that includes an introduction to your opportunity and a gathering of facts about the potential candidate’s abilities.

That candidate may or (more probably) may not be thinking about another job.

Your task here is to knock on his door and introduce yourself and your mission and get his general information while taking his initial temperature regarding the opportunity you’re presenting.

This is quite different from contacting the “active” candidate who sent his resume in over the transom regarding a possible new job opportunity, which I talked briefly about above.

How’d you get my name?” the phone-sourced potential candidate usually asks.

When I answer this, I tell them the truth.

I tell them I was tasked with identifying them within their organization to see if they might be interested in a specific opportunity.

If they press further I tell them they may have been located in a variety of ways, one of which (and usually the most probable) is that I called their organization to find out who they were!

This usually both surprises and delights them.

Other reasons I’ve given are that my attention fell upon them because of some posting they may have put out on the Internet regarding their work, or their name may have been passed to someone at the company I’m calling on behalf of because they were good at what they do.

If I found them on LinkedIn, I tell them so.

They’re never surprised by this one.

I’ve never told them I found them in a job board database because I’ve never been on a job board.

Whatever explanation I give them I punch the fact across that they have been specifically chosen for contact.

This is usually enough to assuage their paranoia (some industries are afflicted more so with this than others) and flatters them to the point where they relax and begin to share their information with me.

I try not to draw any lines in the sand. I feel this “first contact” is precarious enough without asking scary questions that they feel pressured to answer yes or no to.

I rarely ask them their salaries at this first contact. Few want to answer this.

After all, most of them are not looking for another job and don’t see the relevance in revealing this particular piece of information.

The object is to get them to start talking. Once they do this they will spill most of their beans along the way. Sometimes, even what they’re earning.

My job at this point is to listen and take notes.

The person on the other end of the phone isn’t going to give me squat if he doesn’t like me, and that’s the first and most important object of cold calling — the object being to like and enjoy what you’re doing because it’s going to come across in your voice and delivery.

Believe me, it will.

So every day is probably not a good idea to be doing this. You must “feel like it” so choose a time when you “feel like it” and go hard at it until you don’t!

Learn to manage your time. There are of things you have to do besides get on the horn, so set your days up to allow for this.

There are “good” times and “bad” times to call people. Remember that!

You’ll reach far fewer people from 11 to 1, and right after lunch some are sleepy and might not want to be bothered.

I like the 8 to 11 slot in the morning. I catch them at their desks before the day has taken its toll.

Or for the very same reason, that 4 to 6 timeslot can be effective.

Use common sense when you’re calling. Keep in mind the different time zones.

As the only direct contact I generally have with candidates is when I do profiling, I’m sure there are others who have better skill sets at eliciting information, but here’s what I say when I’m profiling:

Me: “Hi, this is Maureen Sharib. You’ve been identified by XYZ Corporation as someone they’re very interested in for an open position they have. Do you have a few minutes to share a little information with me?”

Them: “Huh? Who, me? How’d you get my name?”

Me: “Your name was identified by XYZ as someone they’re very interested in talking with regarding a design position they have open. Is now a good time to talk?”

Them: “Yeah, I guess so. But I’m not looking to make a move. Whatd’ya need?”

Me: “Well, let’s start with you. You’re an RF Design Engineer there?”

Them: “Yep. Level III.”

Me: “How long have you been with ABC?”

Them: “Three years, before this I was with LMN for two years and before that I was with DEF for seven.”

Me: “So you have 12 years experience — have you ever managed others?”

Them: “I don’t like to manage — I can’t stand people — ooops — did I say that?”

We laugh.

Me: “So you have 12 years experience?”

Them: “Yeah.”

Me: “You’re part of a design group now?”

Them: “Yeah, there are six of us. Jerry Speaks is our Manager. I gladly leave the management stuff to him.” (He’s stuck on the prior question, it seems. Management might be a sore spot for him.)

We laugh some more. (I’m making a written note who his manager is.)

Me: “Where did you go to school?”

Them: “Cal State Fullerton. I have a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MS in the same from there. I’m thinking about going for my PhD. Thinking about it.” (Emphasis on “thinking”.)

Me: “What do you like most about your job?”

Them: “Being left alone. They pretty much leave us alone to do what we want — probably because we’re working on some pretty high-level security stuff and they don’t understand much of it. My buddy Chad’s the Team Lead and I leave the facey-face stuff to him. I like working in the lab. What did you say your name was?”

Me: “Maureen Sharib. Would you be interested in learning more about this open position at XYZ?” I make another written note that “Chad” is his co-worker and the Team Lead. Chad who? You bet I’ll find out!

Then: “Well, yeah, I guess, it never hurts to listen.”

Me: “Would tonight be a good time for someone from XYZ to call you — maybe at home?”

Them: “Yeah, that would be good — tell them to call my cell, it’s 408 xxx xxxx.”

Me: “About 7:30 Pacific time then?”

Them: “That’s good.”

Me: “Before I say good-bye, I was wondering if you had any friends who might be interested in a test engineering position XYZ has open…”

Them: “Yeah! I do! My buddy Fred’s lookin’ to make a move — I’ll pass your name along to him.”

Me: “I wonder if I might email him the position?”

“Them: “Yeah, that’d be okay -– his email is”

Me: “Okay, thanks very much, I’ll get this right out to him and it’s been great talking to you, I wish you the best of luck — good bye!”   

Them: “I’ll let him know it’s coming — thanks and you’re welcome!  So long, bye.”

It’s amazing what an abudanza* of information can come tumbling out of one phone call.

I did not have to ask him for last names -– he volunteered two of them and the other one, Chad, would be easy enough to find.

Can you please transfer me to Chad, I don’t know his last name — he works in Jerry Speaks’ group,” would do it just about every time. Like this:

Oh, you must mean Chad Hanger — he’s at x4239 — here ya’ go!”

I find it’s a conversational thing and you have to like, or at least, not mind, talking to people for this to work.

I know most of you don’t mind talking to people but some people really don’t like it and I think that’s what gets in the way of a lot of people being able to elicit useful information.

The other thing I think is important is to control the conversation — don’t let the other person take that away from you — is when he said, “I’ll pass your name along.” It wasn’t good enough for me — I press for more information and I attempt to control things by actively offering to do something that requires (elicits) a little more information.

*Abudanza: (Italian for abundance) An emotional waterfall effect that produces a feeling of reveling or joy. As in, “I can’t believe it! She gave me an abudanza number of names!”

From “The Magic In The Method” Sourcing Glossary

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