Many who are looking for jobs these days are doing their very best to make a good first impression when they meet employers or employees of companies they wish to work for. They take great care in their appearance, the clothes they wear, the smiles they form, the handshakes they offer. But this really isn’t the first impression the job applicant has made on those in the organization.
Prior to walking into the lobby of a company for your job interview, you have likely submitted an application, with or without a cover letter. You may have therefore made an impression at that point. You also may have prompted someone in the organization to check out your social media presence – whether you planned on them doing so or not.
However, before you walked into the company lobby, you may have also had a conversation on the telephone with someone from the company. Brief, moderate or extensive in length, if you made or received a call from an employee of the company, that person started making an assessment of you. Now it’s true that this phone call for some follows the submission of your resume and cover letter, but for others, this phone conversation occurs as a first step in contacting the company. It may not be the first impression you make on the person interviewing for a job, but it may be the first impression you make on someone who works for the company such as the Receptionist, or the person designated to set up the interview appointments.
So let’s look shall at some of the things that you can improve upon in order to make a consistently positive first impression.
First of all, answer your phone. Nothing is more frustrating for someone in an organization than to phone someone who is interested in working for them, only to have the phone ring and ring without ever being picked up or switching to some answering service or device. If you are the kind of person who sits by their phone and lets it ring and go to your answering service so you can first screen the unfamiliar number and find out who is calling you, stop this practice. You’ll likely phone back immediately not wishing to miss an important call, and then it becomes a first assumption that you are screening your incoming calls when you could have picked it up and that’s bad form. They’ll wonder what you’re hiding, and whether you would continue this practice on the job if they hired you.
If you do have a recorded answering machine or service, record your message sounding upbeat and professional. Smile as you record your message, ask callers to leave their name and number, a brief message, and inform them you’ll get back to them quickly. Avoid background music, don’t use your infants or children to record messages, and don’t record anything offensive, racy or rude.
Now when you do answer your telephone, don’t sound suspicious of callers, refusing to identify yourself until the caller identifies themselves first. They called you after all. If you do opt to not confirm who you are before knowing the identity of the caller, at least sound polite and positive until you know who the caller is. You are building this first impression, and it’s a good idea therefore to assume EVERY call is a potential employer calling you when you are actively job searching. If you find out it’s someone you don’t want to speak with, you can still terminate the call with some measure of civility and good manners.
Where possible, it is also a good idea to eliminate distractions before you pick up the phone. If you are watching television or listening to music, pause or mute the sound before you pick up.
Have a pen and paper by the phone at all times. When you’re job searching, you’ll get calls requiring you to take down phone numbers, addresses, instructions on how to find buildings, or things to take with you to interviews. You may also be relying on other people in the house to take phone numbers and names for you. Don’t rely on their memories to recall important phone numbers or names. If you make a call, don’t make the huge mistake of then having nothing to write a message with or one. That says volumes about your lack of preparedness and organization skills.
Okay so far? Now when you do answer your phone, resist your urge to answer with an impatient, “Yeah?” followed by a quickly worded apology when you realize suddenly it’s the employer and not your BFF. The ‘real you’ is the person who first answered in their mind, and the phony you is the polite, courteous person you suddenly switched to. So now they don’t see you as genuine.
Finally use your manners. The words, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ never go out of style. Good manners are something an employer hopes they don’t have to teach you, and if you demonstrate good manners to them, they will feel better about having you interact with their customers or clients and protecting their good reputations in the process.
Your phone is one tool in the job search process that can either help or hinder you. Ensure you pay your phone bills and can afford a lengthy phone interview if you use a subscription service too.