Phone Skills For Your Job Search

Using the phone is the most efficient way to keep the momentum going in your job search. Much of your communication with prospective employers will be conducted over the telephone.

You probably would not send out the first draft of your resume, yet you might use the phone without a second thought. Preparing for phone conversations keeps you from omitting important information and reduces stress that can make your mind go blank while talking. There are two typical phone scripts included here for you to use as models for your own script. Underline and memorize key words in your script so you don’t need to read from it directly while you are on the phone. Using key words as prompts will keep you from sounding rehearsed.

Think things out before you call so you can speak clearly and enthusiastically. Weave a conversation with the person on the phone and leave room for his or her comments. Don’t talk for more than sixty seconds without involving the listener. Ask questions early to get a positive response and to maintain the flow of the conversation. Establish rapport and mutual interest. Start with low-priority companies before calling your most desired prospective employer so you can iron out any kinks in your delivery.

When making appointments over the phone, keep a calendar handy. Don’t tentatively say, “Oh, anytime.” Determine options ahead of time. Choose the time and respond without hesitation. You might say, “Tuesday afternoon or Friday morning would fit my schedule. How does that work for you?” Barring a genuine emergency, don’t change appointments. You don’t want your name recognized as the one who messed up the schedule. As you may have noticed by now, success in your job search hinges on projecting self-confidence.

If you are uncertain of yourself, it might be helpful to keep notes and positive affirmations in front of you to keep you upbeat. Or, envision having played racquetball with this person every Thursday morning for the last five years. Because your voice can quickly betray your insecurities, sufficient mental preparation is crucial to effective telephone communication.

Useful Telephone Techniques

  • Practice, practice, practice with dry runs
  • Get organized. Write down any information you will need while speaking on the phone, including:
    • Company information
    • Names and titles
    • A list of company needs
    • A list of your qualifications
    • Copies of past correspondence with the company
  • Recognize the importance of the gatekeeper (the person who stands between you and the person to whom you wish to speak)
    • Listen for and write down his or her name
    • Use the gatekeeper’s name in your conversation
    • Enlist his or her support (“What would be the best time for me to call Mr./Ms.______?”)
    • Thank the gatekeeper for his or her help
  • Have a reference sheet on:
    • Past employment (resume)
    • Strengths/accomplishments
    • Length of employment in jobs
    • Primary responsibilities in past positions
  • Write a script for each situation
  • Believe that you can be of value to the listener and the organization
  • Smile while you’re talking – it will help you sound more comfortable and confident

Voice Mail

When leaving a message on voice mail, enunciation is important. Remember to speak slowly and precisely so it’s easy for those receiving the message to hear your name and number clearly.

The following is a possible voice mail script:

“Hello, my name is Piper Jones. I was referred to you by (__________). I’m interested in speaking with you about employment opportunities in (name of industry). My phone number is (__________).”

Phone Tag

When playing phone tag, leave a message and state the time you will be by the phone so they’ll know when they can reach you. Or, to maintain control, say that you’ll call back rather than waiting for them to contact you. Be persistent.

Practice Phone Scripts

Practice Phone Script #1

You are setting up a networking interview with a manager who was given to you as a referral. Remember:

  • State who referred you
  • Organize your thoughts and stay calm
  • You are NOT asking for a job
  • Your intent is to gather information
  • People are generally open to talking about themselves and sharing their opinions
  • State how a personal meeting will benefit you both
  • You are seeking the advice of an expert
  • Get the names of additional contacts
  • Confirm time and exact address of any appointment

Practice Script #2

You sent a resume to this company more than seven days ago. You want to know the status of your application and set up an interview. Remember:

  • Be upbeat and positive
  • Be clear and concise with your request
  • Inquire about the process for filling the position
  • Do not talk too much – listen for cues and clues
  • Be courteous

Daily Phone Assignment When Conducting a Job Search

  • Make a list of ten to twenty people to call, beginning at 8am. Sales representatives find it most effective to make phone calls in batches of ten at a time.
  • Write out a brief outline of your “opening lines.”
  • Keep five to ten accomplishment statements in front of you to strengthen your case.
  • Keep your calendar nearby along with pens, pencils, and paper.
  • Get something from every call. If you’re unable to get an appointment, request the name of someone else to talk with.
  • Offer a choice of two appointment dates (e.g., “Would Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning work best for you?”).
  • Don’t stop calling until you’ve set up at least two appointments.
  • Applaud your success! Review what you did well in addition to what you can improve on.


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