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One of the most disconcerting things that can happen is a cold call about a job. Whether it’s a response to an application you forgot, or it comes when you absolutely cannot talk, cold calls have a tendency to end up with an embarrassing, “Where are you calling from?” or, “I really can’t talk right now.” So how are you supposed to respond? Here’s how to make the most out of a cold call.
1. Always be polite and friendly. This is something that should come easy to military veterans, and it’s a valuable way to buy time. “Hello! Thank you for calling me,” is a good way to start. An innocent, “What company did you say you were from?” will help jog your memory if you can’t remember the application that earned the call. Or, if they found your resume on a website like LinkedIn or something and you never applied at all, then it helps orient you to the conversation.
2. Do not discuss the job during the cold call. You never know what an offer will be, so you should always try to land the job. And as a piece of advice, that moment when you’re surprised by a call (perhaps with a coffee in one hand and the steering wheel in the other) is not when you’re best prepared to answer questions or evaluate options. Much better to say – truthfully – that you can’t talk at that moment but you’d love to call back. That allows you to collect your thoughts and make a good impression. Speaking of calling back…
3. Get call-back information! Always ask if you can call back at that number (assuming, of course, that you’re on a cell phone and can see the number of the caller). If you’re not on a cell phone where you can see the number, or the call-back number is different from the outgoing call number — something fairly common in large corporations, where outgoing calls emanate from a generic number but each office has its own incoming extension — then you can request an email. Say nicely (and maybe a little apologetically), “I’m not in a position to write anything down at the moment. Can you send me an email?” This assumes, of course, that you put your contact email on your application.
4. Be prepared to enter a hiring process. If a recruiter is cold-calling you, the company is interested in you. But the call does not mean you get the job, especially if it’s the case that the recruiter found your resume and you haven’t officially applied. Often that means filling out an application or questionnaire, talking to several different people in the company and scheduling an interview, sometimes both over the phone and in person. This is a good thing because it gives you time to make a good application with the knowledge that you’ve already caught the company’s interest.
5. Do your research! Before you call anyone back, do some research on the job (Read: How to Use A Job Description to Your Advantage) so that when you call back you sound both knowledgeable and impressive. Also, searching around sites like Glass Door can give you insider information and an idea of questions you might want to ask later on when you’re trying to decide about the job.
6. Be nice and be impressive to the recruiter when you call back. It shouldn’t have to be said, but many people interpret the cold call as a sign that they’re “in” and forget that at that stage in the hiring process, the recruiter has all the influence. He or she has a mission to find good candidates, which is why you got called, but he or she also is the one who forwards candidates to the actual hiring committee. If they want, they can mark you “not suitable” and just forward another candidate. So treat every call, every email and every minute with a representative of the company as an interview.
7. Don’t refuse the job or make it conditional. If you get a cold call when you have a job, or the call comes during a time when you’re very busy or stressed, it’s tempting to do the “honorable” thing and simply tell the recruiter that you’re not interested. Or worse, you start off the bat asking how much it pays. Remember that recruiters are paid to go after talent, and talent is often found already employed. So they probably chose you in spite of current employment (including the military), if not because of it. And if you seem desperate for something else, it implies you’re not succeeding where you are currently, which lessens your value to the recruiter. So keep an open mind, find some space where you can respond appropriately, and see where the cold call goes.
Free advice: When called about a job, always go for it as best you can and try to get hired. You never know what opportunities lie in a job, and up until the point where you have to say “yes” or “no,” all options are on the table. It’s your career, after all.