Seek first to understand, then be understood – How to enquire about a job vacancy

Ange Connor

How you execute a phone call to enquire about a job you are interested in applying for could see the chances of landing your dream job soar or crash and burn, all in a matter of minutes. If you are making the effort to pick up the phone and find out more (and in my opinion you should call and enquire about every job you apply for) you want to make sure that you use that opportunity to gather as much information about the job and the company and create a first class impression. Sadly, so many people don’t realise that they are completely mucking up this step of the recruitment process.

It’s not hard to get this phone call right; it just takes some thought and preparation instead of spontaneously picking up the phone and blabbering your way through a sales pitch.

My top three tips to leave the recruiter or hiring manager eagerly waiting for your application to hit their inbox are:

Listen more than you talk

In most cases the job advert will say to contact a particular person for further information. If you are picking up the phone to make that call, the purpose is to find out more information, not rattle on about all the skills and experience you have for the job. At this stage you’ve probably only read the job advert, maybe some of you will have researched the company but if you launch into this phone call with dialogue that is all about you, how do you even know if what you are sharing is of interest or relevance to the positon? As the famous saying goes; we have two ears and one mouth, so we can listen twice as much as we speak.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood

So you don’t meet all of the criteria for the job. Depending on the importance of the criteria it will either be a deal breaker or not. Making a phone enquiry and reviewing the position description will allow you to determine if it’s worth your time and energy to submit an application. The job enquiry phone call is not the time nor the place to start arguing the point. The Key Selection Criteria (KSC) is what is and it’s been developed for a particular reason; to address a particular need. Until you understand the position and the company and the context of the KSC, you may not appreciate the need for that KSC. Seek first to understand, then be understood; from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly effective People, should be applied in this situation. Seek to understand why the KSC exists then let the recruiter/hiring manager understand where you meet and don’t meet the criteria. There is no benefit to gain from arguing or challenging the point. Look at it from a different perspective; what would you have to do or how could you develop yourself to meet the particular KSC and is that even feasible?

Follow the process

In the majority of cases, a recruitment process will have been determined for how the position will be filled. They might be requesting application letters and resumes and in some instances KSC responses. By calling to enquire about the position and trying to short cut the recruitment process sends the wrong message. The recruiter/hiring manager is left wondering: Why can’t you follow instruction? Why are you trying to cut corners? Why are you trying to take over control of the process? How can you possibly think it’s fair to treat your interest in the position differently to everyone else who has followed the instructions on how to apply? One of my biggest frustrations is when people call to enquire about a vacancy; they say “I’ll send you my resume, have a look at it and if you think I should apply let me know” or “I’ll send you my resume, have a look at it and then we can discuss the job further.” Umm sorry no, that’s not how it works. I’ll happily give you all the feedback you want when we are speaking on the telephone however if you want to apply then you need to follow the same process as everybody else.

Before you pick up the phone think through exactly what information you want to gather from the conversation and exactly what information you want to share to leave the recruiter wanting to know more. A little preparation before execution goes a long way.

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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