Don’t crash & burn before you even apply for the job

Ange Connor

Everyone knows that you should always call and enquire about the job you are applying for right?  It would appear not.  When I look at the volume of applications we receive and the number of those people that call and enquire about the job before applying, it’s appalling!

And it gets worse.  Of those people that make the effort to call, many of those people then completely stuff up the call and leave a poor impression.  If you are a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know I frequently talk about making a winning first impression and how vital it is to do this if you want to keep your application in the mix.  Picking up the phone and enquiring about a job before you apply is your first opportunity to make a winning first impression.  To make a winning impression you definitely cannot wing this phone call.  Preparation is key.  You can tell the difference between the candidates who have prepared themselves for the call and those who haven’t.

The questions you ask during that phone call are a clear give away as to whether you have or haven’t really thought about the job and how you are going to execute the phone call to your advantage.

Are you asking questions that are causing you to crash and burn before you even hit the apply now button?  Here’s the questions we recommend you avoid or at least structure differently to get the information you want and leave a lasting impression for all the right reasons.

How do I apply?

My team can nearly hear me groan when I’m on the phone and get asked this question.  Seriously?  Is that the best question you can come up with?  My first thought when asked this question is that you are simply making the call to tick the box so you can say you made the call.  It shows me you have put no real thought in to making this call.  Secondly, I am wondering if you have read the job advert to the end because every job advert will have instructions on how to apply or if it’s an online job board you might simply hit the apply now button.  Can you not follow instructions?  Calling to see how to apply is simply wasting the recruiters time and it’s not going to win you any brownie points.

What does Company ABC do? Can you tell me about what Company ABC does?

I’m happy to tell you about what Company ABC does, that’s not the problem with the question.  It’s that I’m looking for some initiative and you are not demonstrating it by asking this question.  As I mentioned earlier, preparation is key and that includes researching the company…..yourself.  It’s pretty easy to jump on the internet and do some googling.  A much better question would be “I’ve done some research on Company ABC and had a look at their website.  Can you tell me about the Company’s plans for future growth / culture / organisational structure and where this position fits” (or anything else you want to know about the company that your research has uncovered).  If someone asks me a question like this they have got my full attention, I’m impressed at this stage.

If the job advert doesn’t disclose who the company is the approach is of course a little different.  Instead of asking the generic what does the company do question, be specific with your questions.  Try something like “I understand you are not disclosing the company at this stage, would you be able to tell me about the size of the company / their niche market / their culture”

Can you tell me about the job? Can I have some more information? What are they really looking for?

I hope the recruiter would be able to tell you about the job!  I understand what you are trying to achieve by asking these questions but this wording reflects a poorly thought through question.  A common response to this question from a recruiter is “sure what do you want to know” and believe me there are not many people that then know what to ask next; not a good look.  They say if you want a better answer ask a better question. Pick out some key points from the job advert and ask specific questions to find out more about the job.  For example if the advert states “hands on marketing role focused on growing trade and retail customers” a few questions you might ask are: Can you tell me about the split of trade and retail customers at present is it 50/50 or 70/30?  How have they traditionally grown their customer base to date?  The advert states the role is a hands on marketing role, can you tell me what hands on looks like in this workplace on a day to day basis?

I guarantee if you ask specific questions like these you will have the recruiters attention and you’ll leave the recruiter looking out for your application to come through.

Did you get my application?

I can understand people calling, after submitting an application, to confirm if their application has been received and they haven’t received an acknowledgement email.  I’d recommend calling in that instance.  If you have called after submitting your application you have missed the opportunity to gather the information and then tailor your application.  If someone calls me and asks if I have received their application the first thing I’ll ask them is did they receive our confirmation of application email.  If they say no then I have no issues with the phone call as somewhere the email communication chain has broken down.  However, it never ceases to amaze me how many people say yes they did receive the confirmation email; which leaves me a little perplexed and wondering why are you calling now and asking a waste of a question.  Not the best way to make a winning impression.

Who should I address my application to?

At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter if you address the application to the recruiter or the HR representative or the owner of the business.  Just make sure you update the details if you are copying over a previous application you have used.  If you are making the effort to call, and this is the only question you can come up with I’m going to be a little concerned.

Don’t ever underestimate how valuable making the phone call to enquire about a job can be.  Your aim with making the phone call should be to gather extra information so you can tailor your application and you want to leave the recruiter eagerly looking out for your application to come through.  If you can do that you have nailed the phone call.  Depending on the role, I know I have been impressed by candidates that have called and sold themselves really well during the phone enquiry and then when their application has come through even though it may be a bit light on in the skills and experience I’ll probably shortlist them anyway because of the winning first impression they have made.  On the other hand, it can work in reverse.  A poorly executed phone enquiry could rule you out of the job before you have even sent in your application.

Whatever you do, before you pick up the phone to enquire, make sure you are prepared.  Have the questions you want to ask written down in front of you.  Don’t wing it; if you are serious about the job, there is too much riding on making a winning impression to wing it.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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