Help: How can this job seeker get results from his phone calls and emails?

March 22nd, 2013

I recently got an email from Wayne, who is doing a lot of right things, but perplexed that his outbound communication attempts aren’t getting the results he wants.

What would you recommend?  Leave your advice in the comments below.  I’ll answer with my ideas on Monday’s blog post:

I have a question about not getting a return phone call from a potential  networking contact after 5 or 6 tries. The following is my approach:

1.  I make a call during off hours (to ensure voicemail) letting the individual know about my purpose (evaluating some career options) and I wish to expand my network with other experienced professionals through a brief meeting. I also mention that they should expect a follow-up letter in the mail.

2.  The letter (see below) goes out 2 days before the call via normal mail, with the intent that it arrive not more than 2 days after my initial voicemail call.

3.  I then begin following up the letter and initial call with other calls (almost always getting voicemails) asking them if they have received the letter and would it be possible to spend a few minutes with them. If it is a VM, I leave my name and number and ask them to call back.

4.  A couple of times when I have received a call back, people pay no attention to the networking aspect and probe me on what I am looking for re employment

5.  After 5 or 6 tries using this method, I switch to something else (e-mail if possible)

I can only assume that something is either wrong in this process or I am missing something because activity (meetings) have been painfully slow to come my way.

Here’s the letter he sends (see #2, above).  This is with a nice letterhead with all the contact info:

Dear

My name is Wayne ———- and I left you a telephone message recently with respect to connecting with you on a professional level. I am an executive in the ————— business, formerly with —————-, and I am evaluating career opportunities.

I am seeking to expand my network and I would like an opportunity to meet with you in order for you to get to know me.

I am not expecting you to know of a job available for me although that would be nice. Rather, it is to ask you, professional to professional, if you would be willing to look over a list of target companies when we meet and perhaps share some of your knowledge base on a few of them.

My tactic is to connect with professionals in the industry with the goal of becoming “top of mind”, partly in the event you may require industry information from me , but also to seek out the right ————- professionals to network with. As a result of these, and other initiatives, should a career opportunity open up in the future within our industry, my expectation is that I will be thought of first.

I would very much prefer to meet with you in person for 20 or 30 minutes within the next few weeks. May I suggest the following dates and times for a face to face meeting but please suggest alternate dates if they are not suitable to your schedule: ….. ( dates and times)

Sincerely,

Alright smart people, what do you think?  What would you tell Wayne?

And Wayne, thank you for letting me share this with the world. I hope the answers in the comments will be helpful to you and many others!

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23 Responses to “Help: How can this job seeker get results from his phone calls and emails?”

  1. As a career coach, who spends copious amounts of time with clients and writing blogs, articles and part of my ‘Winning Through Redundancy’ book, extolling the virtues of networking,it is very clear what the problem is……..
    Firstly, networking is a two way street
    Secondly, this means it is not about me/I but WE – what is in it for us both!
    Thirdly, with regard to points one and two, maybe a better focus is to start by recognising the other person’s kudos etc to either suggest ‘looking to explore mutual opportunities’ or ‘valuing their standing and knowledge as someone who can help to steer them in the right direction’

    In summary, completely change the focus to the other person or mtual NOT you :)

  2. Forgot to leave notification of follow up comments!

  3. Patrice Waidner says:

    I suggest that Wayne is too heavily suggesting that he needs a ‘job’ and you might get me connected with a ‘job’. Keep the message to ‘information’ that this person with expertise may be able to help with. Becoming known and ‘top of mind’ simply is a by product of information exchange.

    Also, is this a cold, warm, or hot contact. Did he select the individual out of a website, are they mutual professional group members, or did he have a referral name? It is certainly much easier when a referral name is used or an active introduction is provided.

    Six contacts can be seen a ‘harrassment’. The particular individual may not have time or interest. Or, simply does not understand the ‘networking/informational meeting’ process.
    Hope my perspective helps.

  4. Angela Loeb says:

    The Diagnosis: The letter is very “me-centric” and there’s no incentive offered as to why this would be of value to the recipient.

    The Fix: Think about what you have in common with this person and establish some sort of mutual interest in the opening of the letter. Remember WIIFM… people want to know “what’s in it for me.” After you establish the connection, then you can make an “ask.” Until then, you presume too much by asking the person to meet with you, as well as asking the person to look over a list of companies. Also, I would totally change or even omit the sentence that begins “My tactic is…” Why share your tactic… and why even use the word “tactic” in this letter? First of all, “tactic” is a word that many people equate to “manipulation,” so it comes with a lot of baggage and can be off-putting. Secondly, I wouldn’t even mention your tactic in the note. What you describe as your tactic is something that should happen naturally when there’s synergy between people. If you want to say that’s your intention, say it when you have made a connection with the person either in an email exchange, over the phone or in person. Basically, what you’re doing here is a sales process. You’re trying to “sell” someone on making time to give you something. People will only act if they a) feel like there’s something they’ll get out of this relationship (and effort) and/or b) feel a connection to you and decide that they “like” you. Otherwise, if they respond, it’s probably because of compassion for your situation… maybe they’ve recently been in your shoes or something like that. That’s not a bad reason for them to respond – in fact, it’s great to get help from a compassionate person. But let’s face it, that’s probably a low percentage segment of the list you’re targeting. Bottom line… figure out what’s in it for them, and “sell” them on that.

  5. #1 He should be treating his job search as a sales call. Qualify the opportunity and/or person first so that he BEST way to position yourself as a benefit to the contact NOT vice versa. The tactic is VERY focused on what the candidate wants NOT the benefit to the company/contact.

    #2 It continues to be all about WHO you know these days. If he could get an introduction from a contact who knows the person OR someone at the company that he wants a meeting with it would work to his benefit to get a meeting. I have found that if you send a blind resume to someone it goes to that bottomless black hole ATS BUT if you can find a contact, which is so easy to do these days, it makes it a lot easier to get your foot in the door.

    #3 Depending on the geographic location of this person, the larger face to face regular networking events can really help build a quality network of people. This helps tremendously when applying for jobs. Even though we live in a social media world, in person networking still can be an important way to set yourself apart from your competition AND you never know who might be hiring at the event!

    All else fails, it’s time to hire a personal career coach!

  6. My reaction to Wayne’s approach is that it feels like an aggressive sales campaign…and the reader is going to put up defenses against being “sold to.”. The recipient is likely to feel like a “tactic” and part of a long list of targets rather than a colleague. Wayne hasn’t made this the one-on-one approach that networking needs to be — he’s missed the part where he should find out something about the person and/or their company and connect himself to it. “I see that ____ Company is about to launch several new products to enter the ____ market. Two years ago, I [...describe similar experience and suggest sharing insights...]” Or for those contacts where he is just trying to pick their brains a bit, ask for a 5-minute phone call, not a 20-30 minute face-to-face. No one has that kind of time any more.

  7. David Perry says:

    I read the letter. It’s like many I’ve seen before. As Angela and others have alluded to it’s me-centric. and I have to tell you – nobody cares! Harsh? Not really,

    1st. People do want to help but they don’t want to be hurt in the process, even accidentally. What I mean by that is Wayne’s letter doesn’t tell me that he’s a great guy that will make me look good or at least not foolish if I refer him. There’s not one single accomplishment in the note that would lead me to believe he has any value to offer my referee. Good news is that’s easy to fix.

    2nd. Using language like “top of mind” is so salesy you turn most people off including me AND I wrote guerrilla marketing for job hunters. Good news is that’s easy to fix.

    3rd. There’s no WIFM [what's in it for me] not even a hint. Good news is that’s easy to fix. show them how referring you would make them look like a hero to the referee. Talk about the skill/accomplishments you can bring to bear at your next position for starters.

    4th Asking for 20-30 minutes is overstepping your boundaries. Ask to have a coffee at their convenience. Can’t do that? Send them a list of the top 10 companies you’re targeting to see who they know youi should speak to.

    Jason knows this from past experience – go Google “networking with the newly departed” and read about an alternative to traditional networking.

    - David Perry
    Rogue Recruiter
    Perry-Martel International Inc.
    co-author Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters
    http://www.gm4jh.com

  8. Gretchen Holmes says:

    After reading the info and letter and briefly scanning the other comments, I too believe the letter is weighted to heavily on “what’s in it for him” and not enough about maybe why this person has been selected for contact. I think using a more “them centered approach might bring more results. Maybe try something like “I am contacting you because I have learned you are an industry expert and I believe I can learn a great deal more about… Or your name has been selected as a “go to person” and I would really enjoy learning more about the industry by meeting with you briefing and getting your insight into… I wouldn’t even mention being out of work or allude anything to the possibility that a job is what you are ultimately seeking. Maybe try connecting first through local events, putting a face to your name and being Ble to say “we met at…” This way there is some connection to th already. It is about building relationships, so if people fell you are just looking for some personal gain, they are less likely to get back. Make it about “what’s in it for them” I think you will see some results using some of these tactics.

    My very best to you,

    Gretchen

  9. Karl Liechty says:

    Wayne should be using a different search tactic. He has the names of the people he wants to reach and he needs to make live voice contact with them.

    There’s not enough information to tell whether he knows they have posted positions or not. If he knows they have advertised positions he can offer information as well as ask for counsel. Others have correctly mentioned giving before asking when networking.

    If he does not know if they have open positions and is just seeking counsel his approach can be a little different by feeding the hiring managers ego a little by asking for his ‘counsel’. Regardless, he should NEVER leave voice messages. The majority of them will simply be deleted. Likewise with subsequent emails and/or mail.

    People are less likely to hang up on you if you can reach them live. Repetitive unsolicited contact is not viewed kindly by most people.

    Regarding calling for voice contact, carefully prepared and rehearsed scripts are a sales requirement of all calls, whether they are cold or warm calls, in order to get past gatekeepers and for when finally reaching hiring managers. There’s plenty of rejection with this method. Preparing scripts for overcoming different objections is also necessary. Rejection must not be taken personally; simply hang up and make the call to the next person on the call list.

    Making live contact with the hiring manager BEFORE sending any documents is the most effective job search (sales) tactic. Leaving voice mail is like hiding from confrontation unless one has already established rapport with the person being called.

  10. Karen Huller says:

    I like that Wayne is very regimented in his follow up and he owns it. With some tweaks I think he’ll see better results.

    It appears from the formal language of the letter that Wayne is attempting to gain a face-to-face meeting with someone he doesn’t know well or someone he has not kept in touch with. If he were asking someone he knew well I would expect it to be a short message like, “Can I buy you a coffee after church,” or “Are you as excited as I am about baseball returning? What do you say to a Phillies game,” or “Let’s meet up at the local watering hole for happy hour, my treat.”

    If he doesn’t know someone all that well, the approach could look similar. With a small amount of personal information available through a mutual contact or online profile, he can make the invitation align with a personal or professional mutual interest.

    And then, he could use the 7 steps within this newsletter to enroll these people as a member of his transition team:
    http://bit.ly/Chanews313

    Of course, if Wayne had kept his network activated while he was working, he would see a lot better response rates. Hopefully he will take that lesson with him throughout his career.

    I have offered JibberJobber members a 10% discount on my webinar: Insider Edge to Social Media – 3 Success Secrets of Getting Hired, which give people strategies on making pivotal contacts based on a reverse engineering of how hiring managers and other hiring stakeholders are using social media. http://bit.ly/3jobsecrets

    Best of luck, Wayne.

  11. Wayne’s dilemma is one that I hear often. Job seekers can’t understand why people they know aren’t responding. He is definitely putting too much responsibility on his target contacts and his approach is much too formal. If the positions were reversed and Wayne was the busy one trying to get his job done, how would he respond? Many of the people he contacts may want to help him but they don’t have time for this big of a request and don’t know how to respond. Since they intend to respond, they don’t delete his email and it sits in their inbox until it rolls down off the screen.

    My advice is always ask for something small…something that is easy for the person to give you. Make it clear that you are asking for advice only, not a job. If the contact has an appropriate job, they’ll let you know.

    And ask for a “chat” which implies 5-20 minutes of the contact’s time, something that is easier to say yes to. Many times, the person will actually give you more time, but you should always respect their time and not expect more…at least in the initial conversation.

    Don’t even ask specifically for a face-to-face meeting. If the person responds positively to your request for a chat, ask if you can meet for coffee. But if he/she is reluctant and agrees only to a phone call, take what you can get, be grateful for it, and use the time wisely.

  12. PS – Don’t bug the person so much. Wayne is making too many contacts with each person and risks becoming a pest, thereby decreasing or eliminating any chance of a response.

  13. Joanne Meehl says:

    Why would someone share contacts at your target companies, Wayne, if they don’t know you? This is their *network*, and their credibility is at stake. So you must establish your credibility first.

    One way to do this is to discuss some of the successes you’ve had and how you can bring those to other companies with similar issues, and what other companies would they suggest? Then you can mention some of your other, targeted companies.

    Along with the excellent advice in the other responses here, especially about networking being a two-way street, I’d suggest you offer to share who’s in YOUR network for needs they may have. This may open the door even more for them to do some sharing.

    Also, I’d stop using phrases like “20-30 minutes of your time” — it sounds too beggy-beggy and it’s code for “really more like an hour”. If you show what YOU will be bringing to them, it’s far less likely for them to ask, “So how long will this take?”

    Wishing you the best!

  14. Candace Moody says:

    It sounds like a good process, but there is something that is keeping it from working. The problem is that it sounds like he’s approaching strangers. It’s hard to persuade them that they should take action – for someone they have never heard of. Much stronger to have a connection (no matter how weak) and be able to say: “Bob Jones recommended that I speak with you about the industry.” That way, you are not simply approaching a complete stranger asking for a favor; you’re following up on a recommendation to seek out an expert. Much easier ask.

    I would also include a link to my LinkedIn profile. That makes it easy to see who you are and who you know- a way to gauge your seriousness as an industry professional and perhaps to ask a common contact if you are worth investing time and energy in.

  15. The job search is all about networking. Right now, the hiring managers/recruiters do not know you. All they know is, you need a job and based on the level of communication, they could be interpreting your actions as, you need a job NOW! Desperation is a turn off.

    A better approach would be to figure out a connection you have with the company. Use LinkedIn to see if you have any 2nd degree connections that could make an introduction. Then share some information without asking for anything in return. Research the company, what are their problems, pain points? Then send a white paper/article/book recommendation with a solution or offer to introduce them to someone that can offer solutions. Give them something that will benefit the company and ask for nothing in return. Use the name of your mutual contact in the subject line of the email. “Referred by John Smith” They are more likely to open an email with they recognize a name. In the email, simply say, “I know xyz company is dealing with ____ issue and I thought this resource would be of benefit to you.”

    Usually, they will reply with a “thank you” and then you can follow-up with a request for networking advice or industry hiring insights. Your request should be simple and easy to fulfill. “Glad you enjoyed the article, xyz is a great company and I was happy to help. I’m new to the area, would you mind recommending a few networking groups for our industry and the best job boards for employment opportunities? Thank you so much for your time.”

    Quick, specific and easy to fulfill and since you helped them out, they are more than likely to return the favor.

    Good luck!

  16. Lynne Cogan says:

    If Wayne had come to me, I would have mentioned that he would receive better results if he approached networking from the standpoint of building relationships and providing service.

    I would have explained how this letter is:

    ► Providing too much, an attempting to move too quickly.

    ► Mostly about Wayne. Very little about the person he’s contacting.

    The letter looks like a vailed he is seeking help with a job search, even though he says it’s not:

    ► If it’s not about finding a job, don’t mention jobs.

    ► Even if it is about finding a job, don’t mention jobs.

    Do a little research about the person. Look at his (or her) LinkedIn profile, Google him, and speak with any contacts they have in common:

    ► Do a little research, find some commonality.

    ► Then connect around this commonality. For instance: “I see we both went to the same university. I see you were a business major. I was in economics and had quite a few business courses.”

    ► Mention your common contacts.

    ► If there is no commonality, find something of interest to comment on.

    ► Have some sort of call to action or ask an easy question, so he’ll have a reason for responding. For instance, “I found a cool article about the basketball team when they won the NCAA (providing you know he’s a fan). Would you like a copy?”

    Start building a relationship.

    ► Look for opportunities to be of service.

    ► Ask for a meeting, when there is a purpose for doing so . . . even if that purpose is: We seem to be hitting it off. I’d like to know more about you, what you do, how I can help. Let’s meet for lunch.

    Somewhere along the line, you’ll wind up discussing business. It’s a natural thing to do. And focus on being helpful rather than “needing” a job

  17. Cleo Parker says:

    Comments so far have been excellent, but I do want to add that one thing that really stands out to me in the letter is that I get absolutely no sense of Wayne’s personality or interests other than finding employment. Making yourself sound like a real person, with enthusiasm for the type of work or industry I assume you share with the target person would make me more likely to want to meet and/or help you. I would also prefer to get something written before I got a call, especially if the letter is more of a form letter than one personalized as a follow up to a conversation.

  18. [...] on my JibberJobber blog I wrote about Wayne who graciously shared his technique for trying to get informational interviews [...]

  19. Perhaps there would be a much better ROI for Wayne if he would take a step back, build a solid “career transition team” of people he knows, likes and trusts (and they him) and connect / build relationships with others based on a referral rather than a “cold call” solicitation. I would also invite Wayne to read (and re-read) then execute the teachings in Chapter 3 of In Transition From the Harvard Business School of New York’s Career Management Seminar. (Wrote a blog post about this book over on Career Hub recently). Building a vibrant career transition team is smart thinking IMO and an effective strategy in this intensely competitive job market. I have worked with hundreds of clients who have found their next opportunity using this team-based approach. Look forward to reading your post, Jason! Great topic to help many job seekers. All the best to you, Wayne.

  20. Chris Hogg says:

    I think the book, The 2-Hour Job Search by Dalton, would help in setting up a system for contacting people. It also explains the three types of people we will contact and how to interact with them: Curmudgeons – people who will not help us no matter what; Obligates – people who say they will help us but who won’t; and Boosters – people who genuinely enjoy helping others and who will help us (if approached correctly).

    Wayne’s approach is too indirect, too technology oriented, and too complicated. He should start building a network by contacting people he knows, asking for referrals, and directly telephoning the referred persons.

    What to say? Something along the lines of, “Mr Suarez, this is Martha White, do you have a moment?” If Suarez says no, say, “I’ll call again, thank you” and hang up. If Suarez says yes, say, “My name is Martha White and Mohamed Abdi from Fullerton Bank suggested I call you…” and continue with a very focused and fairly short (30 seconds or so) reason for your call. End with something like, “Would it be possible to meet together for no more than 30 minutes sometime in the next week or two?”

    Finally, as many above have said, Wayne’s current approach is all about him and his looking for a job, and wanting the person to help him. If in your call you actually say you are looking for a job, or heavily infer (as Wayne did) that that is the only reason you are calling, you will go nowhere, fast. An informational interview is about getting information and guidance (see the book, What Color is Your Parachute? By Bolles) and finding additional people that you can talk with.

    Finally, we can “cold call” people without being referred to them, but having a referral is so much better.

    Oh, one more thing. If Wayne was truly an executive as he states in his email, he would not be sending emails like this and he would not be leaving voicemails. I think using this term immediately eliminates him from any consideration by the recipient (although some people are calling him back, but I wonder who they might be).

  21. Everyone has said it: Wayne does not demonstrate his value proposition. Hate to sound harsh, but he seems to have positioned himself as a “beggar,” not a contributor.
    IMO, there is no evidence that he’s done a S-W-O-T analysis to understand what he can offer the organization he has targeted. This post is a great way to get feedback on this ineffective and generic style of self-marketing, Jason!

  22. Sunitha Narayanan says:

    Everyone has practical suggestions for Wayne. The disconnect for me is around three things –
    1. Connection – “why buy” isn’t clear because it is “me-fcoused.” Language matters and word choices in this letter are not inviting to a reader. The heart of the message is missing. Assuming that the reader might not know of openings, in itself is presumptious.
    2. Alignment- why must the reader be curious and therefore engaged? Nothing in the letter suggests this–whether a reference to a trend, a business issue or even a novel idea–he could have included a newsworthy article, summarizing key points as it relates to the potential reader’s company or field and invited a discussion.
    3. Accountability – why should the reader trust this message and dedicate time to read and answer? If this is sent cold, what information could be distinctive enough to make someone curious enough to read the letter completely?

    Thanks Jason and Wayne for sharing and inviting us into this conversation.

  23. [...] Why Introductions are SO Powerful March 26th, 2013 On Friday we talked about Wayne’s dilemma of having a system and process but not getting results. [...]

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