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How to Schedule Interviews

Successful job seekers plan and take the time to make direct contact with potential employers.

Plan Your Call

After sending your cover letter and resume, you may contact the employer. Setting up an interview is a type of sales call. You are trying to sell yourself as a possible employee. You will have about 20 seconds to capture your contact's interest. Therefore, what you say has to be brief, to the point, and persuasive.

Identify Objectives

Once you're certain that the employer has received your cover letter and resume, your main objective is to set up an interview. It helps to set secondary objectives in case an interview is not possible. For example, you might want to:

  • Request an informational interview.
  • Present your qualifications in case an interview is possible in the future.
  • Find out the name of another staff member you might talk with about an interview.

Write a Script

Write down what you are going to say. This helps to ensure that you communicate effectively in a short amount of time. Here is an outline for your script:

  • Introduction. Tell the person who you are and how you got their name.

  • Lead statement. Make this a quick statement designed to explain why you are calling and to get the person's attention. Do not begin by asking if they are hiring or by saying that you are unemployed.

  • Body. State your purpose for the call and describe your qualifications. Sell yourself from a position of strength. Stress those skills, attributes, and accomplishments that are attractive to the employer.

  • Close. Schedule the interview or indicate what you will do to follow up (call again at a specified time, send a resume, etc.).

Practice in advance so that you sound natural. Avoid reading your script.

A "voicemail" script can help you leave polished voicemail messages. Plan on leaving a short (30 seconds or less) message that is upbeat, simple, and clear.

If you have voicemail or an answering machine, be sure your outgoing message is polite and professional. You don't want to turn off any potential employers. Also be sure to answer your messages. You don't want to miss any potential employers either!

Contact the Right People

If you have already submitted an application or resume to a potential employer, follow up by contacting the employer to set up an interview. Depending on the company's hiring process, you might have to first contact someone in the human resources department. You can also contact employers directly. For example, you can contact:

  • Employers who have advertised jobs. Even if an advertised job discourages direct contact, it is to your advantage to take the initiative. If the ad requests a resume, send it in before following up with a phone call.

  • Potential employers that you have learned about from your networking contacts. You can use the name of your networking contact to introduce yourself to the potential employer. Make sure they know that your goal is to set up an interview.

  • People you have not been referred to. This type of contact is called cold calling. It's difficult for many people, but can be an effective strategy for getting an interview.

Use Good Communication Techniques

Remember that your call to set up an interview is the first contact a potential employer has with you. This is an opportunity for you to make a good first impression. Here are some tips for communicating effectively:

  • Be organized. Have all of your job search materials with you and take notes.

  • Listen carefully. Pay attention to what your contact is saying and how it is being said, so you can assess how you are being received. You want to know if they are interested or if you called at a bad time. An interested contact will often respond with questions. If you sense that you called at a bad time, ask if there is a better time.

  • Overcome objections. Objections come in many forms. "We are looking for someone with more experience or education", or "Sorry, we're not hiring right now." Press on to your goal and continue to sell your qualifications. Look for ways to eliminate the objection without contradicting the interviewer. You want them to know that you've heard them.

  • Smile. Even if you are setting up the interview over the phone, smile. It will come across in your voice.

  • Dress as you would for an interview. Even if you are calling on the phone, your professionalism and preparation will be evident in your voice.

  • Be persistent. Can't get past the receptionist? Try before 8 a.m., during lunch, after 5 p.m., or on Saturday morning. If you still can't get through, ask for the receptionist's help. Remember, it is the persistent 10 percent of salespeople who make 80 percent of the sales.

Not Getting An Interview?

Find out what you might be doing wrong.

Source: Creative Job Search, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

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