So your telephone is ringing. Is it a recruiter calling? Or an employer about to offer you an interview?
Are you ready to take this call? Are you going to answer the phone or let it go through to the keeper? 1 You know you have to perform because this phone call is really a test of your English language skills and professionalism. Do you sound like a confident professional?
To pick up, or not to pick up – that is the question.
You might think there is only one right option in this scenario – pick up the phone. It may be your only chance. You’ve got to grab the bull by the horns2, take control of your career, face your fears and answer the call. Well, maybe not.
If you are less than confident with your communication skills, particularly over the phone, it may be better to leave it for the voicemail.
Firstly, there are some dangers in choosing not to answer your phone:
- The caller may not leave a message and you’re not able to identify the number, so you can’t call back. Oh well, there goes that chance.
- The caller may get to hear that terribly unprofessional voicemail message you’ve recorded – the one that sounds like you’re speaking with your head in a bucket of water while two children are screaming and climbing on your back.
However, if speaking on the phone is such an ordeal for you and your performance is miserable, answering the call may be just as damaging.
For those of you who struggle with communication, try this:
- Record a clear, brief, professional voicemail message. Get advice from others about how it sounds.
- Let the calls go through to your voicemail
- Listen to them immediately
- Ascertain who called (if you can)
- Prepare for your response – check your records of employers & recruiters and have all relevant supporting documents (applications, resumes, emails, etc.) with you, and know what you’re going to say. You need to know as much as you can about the caller and job in question.
- Call back from a quiet, suitable location within 10 minutes of receiving the call. This is the start of your job interview whether you like it or not.
Too often, phone calls advantage the recruiter or employer. As a recipient, you may be unprepared and consequently have no power in the communication. You need to be assertive and professional to garner respect.
OBP Australia empowers you by:
- teaching you how to conduct yourself over the phone
- giving you techniques to overcome weaknesses in your communication skills
- offering you practice in a supportive environment – make all your mistakes with us, saving the star performance for the real world
How to take an unexpected call if you don’t want to rely on voicemail
- Answer the phone by saying your first name clearly – Hello, Javed speaking.
- Listen for the name of the caller and where they are from. If you don’t hear the first time, ask. – I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name. <Jeff>. ‘Hi Jeff. And where are you from?’
- If you are not in a quiet environment or there are distractions, ask if you can call back. ‘Sorry, Jeff. I’m on the tram at the moment. Can I call you back in 5 minutes?’ Make sure you have the number.
- If you are in an environment conducive to good communication, carry on with the conversation. Again, make sure you get the person’s name and where they are from. Take it slowly; spend time on the initial greeting. ‘Hi Jeff. How’re you going?’ You need to have some control over the tempo of the conversation. If the caller is speaking too quickly for you to understand, one way of addressing this naturalistically is to slow down your own speech. Generally, the other person will moderate their speech to match your tempo. If your English speaking skills are superior to your listening skills, the other person may think you are understanding given your rapid speech and rich vocabulary.
- This may sound obvious, but listen to what the caller is saying. Many jobseekers simply start reeling off their experience, or their elevator pitch, once they realise it’s a recruiter or employer on the other end. The phone call is a test of your communication skills. Speak slowly, clearly and deliberately. Have pauses between your utterances so the caller can interject comfortably. People will respect you if you sound like you are used to being listened to. Listen to world leaders or captains of industry speak; they are never rushed. It’s OK to ask, ‘So, could you just explain what the job involves, so I can tell you about my relevant experience?’ The caller will appreciate you getting to the point. It will also give you an idea if the job really exists, or whether the recruiter is just putting their feelers out. If the person doesn’t volunteer the information, ask, ‘Is it a contract or ongoing position?’ Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t ask questions, you don’t have a conversation; instead, you have a Q&A assessment. That is not what you want. You want to leave the other person thinking, ‘That was a useful chat. He/She seems like a good candidate.
- Ultimately though, you want to improve your communication skills to the point where you feel comfortable speaking on the phone. This may take time and can only be done through practice.
1 Cricket metaphor: If you let it go through to the keeper, you choose not to deal with it at that particular time. When a batsman chooses not to hit the ball, it passes through to the wicket keeper. The batsman will wait for a better ball to hit – one that he can approach on his terms, scoring safely.
2 grab the bull by the horns: be strong, take charge and don’t be afraid