One of the activities a colleague of mine and I set out to complete with some job searchers yesterday was to have participants in our job seeking group make cold calls. The format was fairly straight forward in that we had a talk first about who they were calling, what they were attempting to achieve by making the call, and then we sat beside them and listened in while they phoned. After making a call, we’d debrief.
A teachable moment that I’d like to share happened with the first person to place such a call. The scenario was that our job hunter had compiled a list of companies that provided interior sprinkler installations and was attempting to see whom of the numerous companies was possibly hiring.
As I sat there listening in, I noticed first that the companies he was calling were small operations with some being no more than a single person, and all seemed to have less than 10 employees. The odds on getting through to people who actually do the hiring were pretty high therefore. Right off the bat I saw he’d been listening to advice given earlier and had his pen, paper, resume, calendar and references all at hand. This would allow him to refer to anything he’d need were he to say have a phone interview immediately; and that’s what happened.
First thing he asked for the name of the person he was speaking with and I observed him to write it down. That small thing is critical as more information would be shared back and forth and the name might get lost and forgotten as the call went on. As the conversation went back and forth, him asking if the company was hiring and explaining his credentials, I heard two things that you might also find interesting of note.
All of a sudden my job-seeker said, “41” which I took to be in answer to a question about his age. Now this is an illegal question here in Canada when considering someone for employment, but you can’t make someone not ask the question, and once asked, you have to be prepared to respond in some way. The callers reaction to, “41” was apparently to say he himself was 50 years old, so that wasn’t a problem. Whew! First hurdle passed.
But the real difficult thing came next. From the facial expression which all of a sudden became strained, and the body language which showed some discomfort, I could see from my end that this job-seeker was about to share something that he found uncomfortable. What could it be? Then I heard him say, “If it’s just the same I’d prefer to drive my own car for the first few months.” Pause noted while the person at the other end must have asked, “Why?” Then the bombshell hit as he replied, “Well I have a DUI (drinking under the influence) charge and I’ve got a breathing device hooked up to my car.”
For those of you not familiar with this device, what it does is force the driver to blow into it whenever entering the car. The car won’t start if the person’s breath has alcohol detected, and it digitally records all attempts. Each month, he has to at his own expense, pay for this service, have the machine examined, and in this way, he’s allowed behind the wheel. Don’t drink and you’ve got no problem and you’re still mobile.
Okay so he’s laid everything bare and exposed his darkest secret and is now at the mercy of the potential employer who up to this point has seemed interested enough in him to have this impromptu telephone interview. So what happened next? The guy at the other end replied, “That’s okay, I’ve had two DUI’s.” Then there was some commiserating and nervous laughter as this job-seeker realized his huge barrier to employment wasn’t a major issue for this employer.
As it turns out, he landed himself an in-person interview in the next few days. And when he goes to that interview, there are two things he doesn’t have to stress about: his age and his police record. In three months, the device will be no longer required assuming all goes well, and he’ll be able to drive the company vehicles like any other employee. Now he can concentrate on other aspects of the interview like his credentials and experience. For him, this is a major relief.
Now suppose it had gone badly and the employer had told him that this was a major problem and he couldn’t hire him. I really believe it’s better this information be determined now either way. After all, why get his hopes up, spend his time and gas money driving to an interview only to then find out the charge is a job killer? As things stand now, he’s got a fighting chance at a potential job, and it will come down to his experience, skills and attitude etc.
Not always therefore, but yes sometimes getting the one thing you most dread out early can play to your favour. He came across as honest, expressed regret at being in the situation and the pressure he was feeling about being judged and rejected for this mistake has been lifted.
If you have a major barrier to employment, consider this as an option to be used in your attempts to land employment. He could pack things in and not job search for three months, but he isn’t.