How To Dial for Dollars


Okay, so maybe you’re not one to network, research or even market yourself online. Maybe you are one to let your fingers do the walking and your charm do the talking. (Hey, that rhymed! I’m a poet and didn’t even know it.) Maybe you figure all you have to do is pick up the phone, call into a perspective employer and badda-boom, badda-bing, you sir (or madam) are sitting fresh and pretty on a Monday morning at your new cubicle. Or, maybe not… Maybe playing telemarketer with your resume is not working so great for you. Maybe, you need a little help? Am I talking to you? If so, then you will find this blog post especially interesting. If not, well, you’ve read this much so keep on going. (smile) I call this technique, “Dialing For Dollars!” (Insert dramatic music here) Umm… just as the title suggests… yeah.

In the age of the internet, I am surprised that people still try to call their way into an interview. Well, I take that back, I expect this from sales professionals. I mean, why not? What better way to get a job as an Account Executive than buy calling and talking your way into a job? However, for all the other candidates who are not as polished as those who work phones for a living, cold-calling can be a very intimidating experience. This is why so many jobseekers are bad at it. Before they even pick up the phone they form a negative opinion about what is about to happen.

Is this you?

“I hate this, but I got bills to pay, so here I go.” (Hang up) “What am I going to say? How will I get past the receptionist? How many other people are calling in? I’ll probably be the 100th person to call in and ask about a job today. Ah, forget it, I’ll call anyway.” (Dial phone and it rings) “Don’t give up before you try.” (Receptionist answers) “Umm… sorry, wrong number.” (Hang up)

Or maybe you actually have the nerve to ask for a manager (or HR) and by a stroke of luck, you get them on the phone. What do you say? Let me guess, you are so excited about getting a decision-maker on the phone that you go into selling yourself with rapid-fire pitching.

“Hi, my name is (insert your name here) and I want to be your next (insert job here). I am a really hard-worker and if you just give me the opportunity, I promise you won’t regret it. (Okay, now would be a good time to stop, but you keep going.) In my X years of (whatever) I have accomplished yadda, yadda, yadda…

So, are you one of these people? Both? (I was both, but moreso the second person.) Hey, I know how hard calling in cold can be. It takes tough skin to deal with all those “not interested, send me your resume and I’ll call you never” responses. However there is a way to counteract all of that and get the results you are looking for. All it takes is a little thing I like to call “practice.” Ask yourself this, how many times have you practiced calling a company for work before you really call them for work? Let me guess, you figured you would “wing it,” dazzle them with your wit and charm? Am I right? If I was right, then you were most definitely wrong in calling without an initial strategy. When you dive in blind, more often than not you are perceived as unprofessional. (Think of it this way, if you can not represent yourself well, why would I want you to represent my company?) If you are determined to go dialing-for-dollars without a referral to get you in the front door, I suggest that you do your homework on whomever you are calling first.

Do I hear whining? Do I hear, “That’s too much work or, that takes too much time?” If I do, then remember what a wise person once said. “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you got.” (I think that was Mike Murdock, come to think of it.) Over the phone, like anything else for that matter, its all about perception. Do you sound confident, as if you are indeed worth someone taking time out of their schedule to chat with you? Here is an even more important question: “How do you think you sounded to the receptionist?” Believe me, it mostly comes down to whomever picks up the phone first. If they think you rank the attention of a decisionmaker, then you have a chance. If not, more than likely you will be dismissed and probably blown off when/if you call again.

Are you despairing? If so, stop it now. The gatekeeper (Receptionist, or whomever it is that catches the phone – an Administrative Assistant usually) may turn you down kindly or with a resounding slam of the receiver. No matter how their reply is communicated, their direct response to you is RARELY personal. Three seconds after you they have gone on to something else and as such, you should to. Losing your composure after the fact will not do anyone any good, especially not you, so roll with the punches.

Now let’s suppose that you impress the gatekeeper and manage to get someone on the phone that can actually do something for you. Let me give you some quick do’s and do-nots.

  • Its doubtful that you would forget your work history, but nervousness gets the best of us. Just in case, have your resume at hand. Also, have a cheat sheet ready on the company you are calling into. It should break down the company history, key players and recent company developments.
  • Everybody likes the sound of their own name. I don’t know why, we just do. So when you get someone on the phone use their name. It will make you more “real” to them (as opposed to say, a telemarketer) and helps you remember who they are as well.
  • If the person you are speaking to sounds as hyper as Spongebob Squarepants, then sound just as hyper when you speak with them. Are they coming off as Lerch from The Addams Family? Return the dryness in their voice with a similar tone in yours. The key is not to make fun of the person, but to get them to identify with you and over the phone, this is a quick way to accomplish that.
  • Be strong! Nothing communicates “unqualified” better than such phrases as “maybe,” “I believe,” or “Not sure, I think so.” Instead of saying “maybe,” it would be better to say,” “I don’t have an answer for you now, may I get back to you on (and give a time or date) with an answer?”
  • Always allow the other person to hang up first. You might over hear something that could be useful to your cause. (wink)

Now let’s suppose that the Receptionist did not even listen to all of what you have to say and on reflex says, “Would you like his voicemail?” If this happens, always say, “Yes, thank you” because voicemail is your friend. When used properly, your phone message can peek someone’s interest and prompt them to call you for more of what you have to say. Or, it could be used (as it all too often is) as a means of screening people out. When you get the voicemail of someone you would very much like to talk to, understand that you have 30 seconds or less to accomplish your mission. What is your mission? Of course, it is to get them to call you back. How is that done Jim Stroud? Glad you asked…

Example #1 – I’m doing you a favor by calling.

“Hi John, this is Jim Stroud. (1) I decided (2) to give you a quick buzz after seeing something on the internet. (3) When you get a minute dial up my office (4) 404-123-4567 and I’ll go over the details with you. (5) I appreciate your time.” (6)

  1. I called them by their first name to suggest that we are peers and someone they can identify with. I use my full name because they do not know who I am.
  2. Subtle psychology; I am busy just like you, but I made time to clue you in on something that might matter to you.
  3. The internet is so vast and constantly changing, the possibilities of what you may have seen are endless. Hopefully that alone is enough to hook their interest.
  4. Could your “office” be your cellphone? Or your kitchen? You’re not calling for a job because you have an office. You are however, open to new opportunities similar to the one they are advertising.
  5. Details? What could it be that there are details involved? Oh, the suspense!
  6. The fact that you appreciate their time, conveys that you are not wasting theirs with your call.

Notice that the message is short and sweet! This next example is risky, but has high potential of working for you if executed right.

Example #2 – The Clicker

“John, Jim Stroud here (1) at 404-123-4567. (2) I spoke with Charmaine earlier (3) and she said that you are the right person to speak to (4) regarding… (Click)”

  1. I called them by their first name to suggest that we are peers and someone they can identify with. I use my full name because they do not know who I am.
  2. Phone number brought up early in the call.
  3. Charmaine is the receptionist who takes dozens of calls per hour. Are you someone important that she could not recall? Are you a million-dollar client? Can they take that chance?
  4. Whatever the reason for the call, they know at least that they are whom you need to speak with. But what do you want? Oh, the aggravation of not knowing!
  5. (Click) You hang up the phone in the middle of a sentence. What happened they wonder? Did the machine cut you off? Who are you? Now they have to call you back because it may drive them crazy until they discover the reason for your call.

Example #3 – Working the nightshift

To perform this trick, you must call well after office hours. The only person working should be the automated answering service; you know the one that says, “Press 3 for a company directory?” Listen to every name mentioned on the recording (assuming that the company you are calling on lists everyone) and write them down. Read through the website and research who and what each person does. Which person is most likely the one who will make the decision to hire you? Once you have that figured out, go into the “I’m doing you a favor by calling” script. If the person does not return your call in a day or so, call back to follow-up with them. If you still can not get them on the phone, ask to speak to another person from the company directory and ask them for help.

“Hello Susan? Jim Stroud here, thank you for taking my call. I’m trying to touch base with John, but perhaps you can help me? I read recently that you guys were looking for X and I was calling to refer someone. In John’s absence, can I send my recommendation to you?”

(Now recommend yourself for the position and why you are the best candidate for the gig.)

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