Email or ring?

"I just saw a job that looked as though it might be right up my street in my inbox. The thing is, it said I could ring up the person on the mobile number listed, or I could drop an email through. Which is best?"

This came up on a one-to-one interview coaching session that I was running and it's a highly important issue. My view is that in almost all cases you should take the bull by the horns and ring up. Almost inevitably, you'll find you need to leave a voice-mail message and so I would hang-up after leaving one and then immediately drop an email through as well.

However, there are quite a few steps you can take to improve your chances of contact and / or selection:

  1. Ready. Be clear beforehand exactly what you will say if you have to leave a message. A surprised-sounding rambling stream of waffle left on an answerphone is unlikely to persuade anyone to call you back.
  2. Aim. Likewise, if you do get through to the person, be clear what you will say in your opening statements. Give your name, the opportunity you're interested in, (including the reference if required) and ask for more information.
  3. Fire! There is the possibility that the conversation may jump immediately into a telephone interview so be clear about why you're interested and, based on whatever information you already have, know exactly why you think you're suitable and, ideally, be able to say what you think puts you toward the front of the queue.

Prepare! Notice the theme throughout the above? Do this before you pick up the phone. Even a few minutes will help, even with the very limited information available to you. Any preparation and rehearsal that helps you to sound positive, well structured and succinct will really mark you out over the average standard of tedious rambling that will come from many people that ring up.

Bearing in mind the time taken to run a telephone conversation, it's actually very likely your contact will use voice-messaging as the first step in the elimination process. If not, they'll use the first minute of conversation to decide whether or not it's worth the effort of running a telephone interview (or even if it's even worth the bother of dropping you the info pack through on an email).

So what's in it for you? Quite a lot, as it happens.

  • Anticipate. It sounds harsh, and it is, but sadly this is a practical way of sifting applicants quickly. The great news is that you can use it to your advantage to stand out from the start and at least get your application considered for the next step.
  • Get in the game. If you don't ring, and the person named as the contact is using telephone elimination as the first step, then your applicantion falls at the first fence.
  • Interview them. But passively. Remember, the call is also an opportunity for you to get a feel for the people, the organisation and the position. Be ready with your questions and make sure they are well structured and concise before you ring up.
  • Get ready for the next stage now. Make notes throughout any conversation and then immediately summarise them when you've put the phone down.
  • Follow through. And the email? Drop a note through regardless. Either summarise what you left on the answerphone and add to it (mentioning your message so they don't contact you twice) or thank the person for their time on the phone and confirm your interest and why it sounds as though there's a good fit between you and their requirements.

I wish you well with this. It's hard to do, but the fact that you're anticipating the course of likely events means that you stand a much better than average fighting chance.

Oh, did I mention about preparing? ;-)

Remember the 6 Ps - Perfect Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.