What to say when making a follow up call?

From Diary of a Layoff by Greg Quirk

As I’ve previously stated, there is a lot of value in placing follow up calls.  But what do you say when calling a company to see if they received your resume and if there is anything you can do to increase your chance of getting an interview?

The first thing you should do is prepare for the call.  If you customized your resume and cover letter for the role this is a short process as you have already done the leg work.  In this step you want to make bullet points about the requirements and responsibilities for the position.

Typically, I copy and paste them from the posting.  Then make one or two bullet points using actual examples from previous roles.  Since you know the details of what you accomplished these bullet points could be as simple as the company that you were working for when you performed the task and the name of the project.  With that information you can likely talk for a good 30 seconds about how you fulfill the item.  You should also pick one of the bullet points that you think is either critical for the position, or one that you have extensive experience in.  You will use this latter when preparing to leave a voice mail (which I will discuss tomorrow).

Second, write out a script for how you will introduce yourself.  This should be relatively short.  My script is as follows:

Hello.  My name is Greg Quirk and I applied for the <position> last week.  In my e-mail application I mentioned that I would be calling you at this time to discuss the position.  Is this a good time to talk?

There are typically three responses that you will get from that simple introduction.  The person will say no, in which case you ask if there is a better time for you to contact them to discuss your qualifications for the role.

The person will say that they are reviewing the applications and someone will get back to you.  I find a great response to this is to ask if they have a timeline for when they expect to be making those calls and if there is anyone that you can contact to increase your chances of being selected for an interview.  Chances are the person will say that there is no one for you to contact, but it shows interest in taking things to the next step.

In an ideal scenario, the person is willing to talk to you and will ask you what you want to know.  This is where the bullet points come into play.  Here is where I start:

I saw from the position that there are a lot of aspects that you are looking for in a candidate and I believe that I am very well suited for this role.  Are there any of the items that are of particular interest?

Since you have bullet points on all of the requirements and responsibilities you are prepared to talk about your experience and how you have accomplished that item at a previous company.  If they say that everything is important then pick one or two that you think are important and tell the person about your experience in those areas.

When you finish the call ask the same questions that you were prepared to ask if they said they were still reviewing the applications (timeline and if there is anyone else you can talk with).  Thank the person for their time and start preparing for the next call.

As many positions you are applying for likely have similar requirements and responsibilities creating the bullet points once will enable you to copy and paste them into a document for future calls.

Just as a note I have a few things open on my computer when I place a follow up call.  The company’s website (specifically to the about page so I can be reminded of what they do in case I am asked).  The resume and cover letter that I sent so that I can talk about what the person sees on their screen (if they take a second to find my application while we are on the phone).  And a blank document so that I can take notes (although sometimes I record things in a paper work book instead of on the computer because it is a bit hard to type fast enough while cradling a phone to my ear and the clacking of a keyboard can be a bit distracting at times).

The last thing to remember is to be enthusiastic about working for the company you have called.  This is your first chance to interact with someone from a potential employer and having a monotone voice or sounding like you just rolled out of bed is not going to portray the type of person they want to hire.  Every company, no matter what they do or what position they are hiring for, wants someone who is going to be excited about working there and if you can come across as being interested (even if you are not) that will increase your odds of landing an interview.

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