Jaroslav Plotnikov

Call the employer!

This is the next step after A/B testing for your Job search

Picture: salesbuzz.com


It’s not that scary. Let’s figure out the whole procedure.

Don’t try to sell yourself over the phone – in most cases the idea is doomed to failure. We’ll do things easier and more polite.

Remember, you’re not selling anything. Your call has only one purpose: to find out what to write in the cover letter.

Can you hardly believe it? The only purpose of your call to your employer is to find out what you should write in the cover letter.

On the contrary, be very honest. And briefly.As soon as you have this information, you can hang up. That simple? Yes.

Three rules to remember:

  1. Know exactly what you want.
  2. Get their cooperation.
  3. Ask one question at a time.

Keep in mind what you want.
Get the cooperation.
Ask a one question at a time.

It is important, so we’ll take a closer look.


8.1. Know exactly what you want. Remember that your cover letter should have only three paragraphs:

  1. This is your biggest problem.
  2. This is how I solved a similar problem for another company.
  3. Let’s talk about this.

You call the company to get the answer to number 1. I can’t stress this enough: that is the only purpose of your call. As soon as you have the answer to that question, thank your benefactor sincerely and hang up. You don’t need to tell anything to get these answers. You only have to ask. The answer to your question will be the first paragraph of your cover letter!

Dear Ms. Meyer,

Thank you for our phone conversation. You mentioned that the most important task in the business analyst position is to prepare brief presentations that will allow management to come to a quick decision because you are moving in a very volatile market.

These few lines will take roughly seven to twelve seconds to read, and that’s the maximum amount of time an HR manager spends on most job applications. If you are Ms. Meyer, would you read on—or would you rather read on after a typical opening for a cover letter, something like this?

To whom it may concern,

I have five years of experience as a business analyst, blah, blah, blah…

Tip: If you want Ms. Meyer to read your cover letter, talk about Ms. Meyer, not about you.

I have two additional points that will help you have better phone conversations.

8.2. Get Cooperation

People will be very helpful—as long as you show respect. Always ask permission before you ask your questions. Say “thank you” for every answer you get, and always give them a reason why you are asking the question in the first place.

The reason should be short—half a sentence. It’s not about the content but about the fact that you show respect. For example, you might ask,

“Could you tell me what the biggest challenge for this position is, so I can write my application in a way that you can easily evaluate? or

“In every job, there are a good number of tasks. But some are always more important than others. For this position, what is the most important task?”

8.3. Ask One Question at a Time

Think about the best conversation that you had recently. Who did most of the talking? Was it your partner? Or was it you?

People are willing to talk to you—so let them!

Always ask only one question at a time. Imagine you get two phone calls about your job hunt. …

Recruiter: “May I take five minutes of your time and ask you two questions so that I can better understand h­­ow I can help you in your job hunt?”

You: “…”

Recruiter: “Thank you. My first question is this: in the last six months, how many job applications did you write?”

You: “…”

Recruiter: “I see. I respect your determination. May I ask: how many job interviews did you get out of this approach?”

You: “…”

Recruiter: “You put a lot of work in your career. Why do you think it was so hard to secure more job interviews?”

You: “…”

…You will get a lot of cooperation from employers if you treat them with respect and ask them just one question at a time.

I understand that this approach can be very hard to put into practice. Test it first with a person you trust. Then call ten companies where you don’t want to work, and test it with them.


Step 9: Discern Facts and Myths

Back to our phone conversation. Ask only two short questions.

  1. What is the biggest problem you try to solve with this position?”
  2. How do you measure success for this position?”

If you talk to HR, then the first answer will be either a directive to look at the job description or a list of skills.

But skills is not what the hiring manager wants. A skill is only a tool, like a hammer. You want to know what the hammer is used for!

No matter what answer you get, always follow up with why. You need to determine “Y“!

Why is this skill is so important to them? If your partner in this conversation is giving you several reasons, ask: “From this list of reasons, which one is the most important one? And why?”

Write down the answer and the name of the person you talked with. Congratulations! You have the first paragraph for your cover letter:

Dear Ms. Meyer,

Thank you for our phone conversation. You mentioned that the most important task in the business analyst position is to prepare brief presentations that will allow management to come to a quick decision, because you are moving in a very volatile market.

The second question you ask is, “How do you measure success for this position?” Once again, you will follow with “Why is this criterion the most important one used to measure success?”

This second set of questions helps you to verify the problem. Are there discrepancies in the answers to questions one and two? Check that you understood the biggest challenge correctly!

 Now that you know exactly what his or her biggest problem is, you only need to prove that you can solve that problem.

If you can only reach the HR department, you need to know one thing: in most cases, the answer the HR manager gives will be wrong. But you should still call!

Most recruiters never bother to learn which results a hiring manager wants to achieve. Therefore, HR might dream up reasons of their own. In other words: HR might tell you nonsense—because they just don’t know better. But that doesn’t really matter!

Why? Because your cover letter will still be good enough to impress the HR person. He or she will then forward it to the hiring manager—the person you really want to reach. Because of the incorrect information you were given by HR, the hiring manager will read your cover letter and think you have the wrong idea about the challenges for this position. But the manager will also understand:

  1. You have the wrong idea because HR gave you the wrong information.
  2. You were interested enough to ask.

Every single … HR manager wants the exact same thing—an employee who takes ownership of his or her project, who constantly develops talent, and who will have his or her manager’s back.

You just proved that you have all these qualities—because you cared enough to ask what the hiring manager wants. Very often, the hiring manager will contact you and explain the real challenges for this position. Then you are in a direct conversation with the hiring manager.