From Guest Blogger: Jessica Newcomb, Assistant Director, Graduate Business Career Services, Texas A&M University
Preparing for and executing a networking phone call is arguably 100 times more difficult than conducting an in-person meeting. The reasons why that is make perfect sense! For starters, you don’t have all of the non-verbal cues to help you interpret how well the interaction is going. There are no visible facial features, eye contact or body language, so you are left only with the voice on the other end of the phone.
With the holiday season approaching, you might find that contacts are more open to a networking phone call rather than a meeting. As job seekers plan for a phone call, their plan is often too vague and centered around the general approach of asking about the other person’s experience. If you get your target on the phone, don’t waste his or her time by being unprepared, unfocused, and uninspiring.
How do you conduct an effective information interview over the phone?
A great idea is to start at the beginning by identifying the goal for the meeting because if you don’t know, there is no roadmap for the interaction. Simply put, I see the goal of many networking calls as being to gain clarity about your career search. If you see the goal as being different, then define what is the goal and what questions you can ask to meet that specific goal.
Some nuts and bolts type advice about executing the call is to stand during the phone call, but don’t necessarily pace around the room. You certainly don’t want to be out of breath or get distracted by something you see. It’s ok to have some notes or your resume in front of you, but remain in the moment and focused on what the contact has to say. The most tried and true advice for any meeting, call or not, is to smile throughout.
Now, here is a template for a phone conversation you might have. There is no perfect formula, so adapt and revise this as needed.
1 – Initiating the conversation:
You might start my asking about the contact’s week. Be personable! Then, identify your goal in scheduling the call. “I would really appreciate your advice based on your experience about my job search and differentiating myself from other candidates.
2 – Telling a little bit about yourself:
“My background is unique, and I’d like to better leverage my skills and experience. I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself.” Introduce relevant details concerning what you are currently doing, what you want to do, what accomplishments make you most proud, what sets you apart, or what inspires you.
Captivate your contact with an anecdote. Don’t be afraid to open up a bit and tell a few personal things about your journey to this point in your career. You want the contact to gather data about you (degree, skills, etc.) but more importantly information about your personality, presence and attitude.
3 – Asking questions:
Prepare by looking at the contact’s LinkedIn profile to see if anything jumps out like unique skills, career changes, first job, etc. You might ask, “How did you set a positive trajectory for your career?” “Has the role aligned with your expectations or differed in any key ways?” “What do you wish you knew when you started out?” “How have you overcome roadblocks in your career?”
Tell the contact a little bit about what you have been doing in your job search and ask, “What additional activities do you think would be most impactful to my search?”
4 – Ending:
Don’t blow all the goodwill you have fostered by ending the conversation too abruptly or awkwardly.
Here are a few examples: “I have really enjoyed our conversation! Thank you for your time today. Would it be ok for me to follow-up with you in the next couple of weeks? If there is anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to ask.”
5 – Follow-up:
Send a thank you note or email. Get back on the contact’s radar by following-up with a timely and personal message.