Telephone Technique, Part One

Do you think you already know how to use a telephone? Think again. Sure, you probably know how to use more of your smart phone’s fancy features than I do. But that’s not what I’m writing about. I’m writing about whom you call, when to call, what you say, and how you say it. Follow my advice and you’ll be far less likely to drop your job-search connection.

Consider the hardware

If you’re like most people, you’ve got at least two phones, a home phone and a cell phone. You may have your own business phone, too, and for reasons I haven’t yet plumbed, some people seem to have more than one cell phone.

If you do choose to employ just a cell phone, make sure you have one of those pocket batteries that allows you to get an instant charge when the “battery life is at 10%” notification pops up on screen, and keep it with you at all times. Figure out where in your house you get the best reception. Above all, stay in one place when you’re on an important call. If you’re driving, pull over.

Finally, get a good pair of headphones with a corded microphone—especially if you use a cell phone, which usually has inferior audio quality. When you’re forced to use Skype or some other form of online voice communication tool, a high-quality headset can eliminate (or at least reduce) that annoying echo.

Business protocol

Most scientists starting a job search think that networking is something you do on a computer: updating your LinkedIn page, responding to online advertisements, and sending a CV package to a new contact referred by a friend. These are all valid job-seeking activities, but they’re all preliminary to the hardcore, productive networking that starts when you finally talk in person (the first choice) or by telephone (a solid second choice). I know this sounds old fashioned, but trust me: The business world still runs by telephone conversations and face-to-face interactions. Your computer can hold you back, if you hide behind it. It might be best to think of your computer as the world’s greatest phone book, a mere accessory for the telephone in your hand.

Are you convinced that you need to use the phone? Good—but that’s only a start. While anyone can make a phone call, not everyone can use their voice to make a positive impression, or to leave a subtle, positive message behind. Skills like that can get you hired. If you want to become a telephone pro, you’ll need to work on it over time, but I can help you get started. This month, I’ll focus on phone protocols for networking. Here is a list of my best advice.

  1. One of the biggest determinants of successful telephone use is the way you sound on the line. If you speak in a quiet monotone, your job-search results may be similarly monotonous (and not in a good way). On the other hand, you’re unlikely to come across well if you try and fake enthusiasm. You need to seem relaxed, upbeat, and authentic. For most people, that takes practice. Meanwhile, the advice I give people is to care a bit less about the results of the call. That may sound strange, but if you’re hung up on making sure that every call goes perfectly, your anxiety will be audible. If you care a bit less and just have fun with it, you’ll achieve a better vocal quality, and that will get the attention of the other party.

In next month’s Part Two, I’ll consider how best to handle interviews, and how to follow them up using your new favorite communication device—your telephone.

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