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The art of calling when applying for jobs

The art of calling when applying for jobs

Ruth Beran

An important skill for securing a job is picking up the phone, writes Ruth Beran.

Most people these days will email or message rather than use the phone, but when you’re looking for work, a quick call can make the difference between getting a job and missing out.

Generally, calling is better than emailing when applying for a job because it makes you stand out from the crowd and the person is likely to answer your questions directly. It is also hard to ignore someone who calls, but easy to delete or ignore an email.

Calling the contact person

If you’re applying for an advertised position, there will often be a contact person listed and I would strongly recommend that you ring him or her before applying for a job. As well as being a great way to find out useful information about the role and the application process, it is also a fantastic opportunity to get yourself noticed before you even apply for the job.

The art of calling the contact person is to ask relevant questions while selling yourself, so that the contact person takes note of who you are and looks out for your application. Make sure to link your experience, skills and qualifications with any questions you ask. The best indication of a successful call is if the contact person asks for your name again at the end.

Before you call, it’s important to do some quick research on the contact person. If they are just an administrative contact, it’s less important to sell yourself.

However, the contact person may well be the person the role reports to, so making a good impression on the phone can help your application enormously.

When calling the contact person, have your CV in front of you and always have a list of questions ready to ask – preferably 3 to 4.

A good starting question could be: why is the role being advertised. Is it a newly created position? If it is a new position, this makes the application process easier because the employer is starting with a clean slate. If there is someone leaving, you can ask why.

You could also ask what the job involves on a day-to-day basis. This type of question helps you work out if you even want to apply for the role.

If you’re interested in the salary for a position you could ask the contact person for an indication of the salary range. But a word of caution: make sure it is not your first or only question as it may not leave a good impression.

Another benefit of calling the contact person is that the information you gain can be useful if you are successful in getting an interview. For example, a great question to ask the contact person on the phone is: “If I was in the role, what is the one problem I could help you solve”. The answer will give you insight into what the organisation needs. You can prepare your answer on how you would solve that problem and then use it later in the interview process.

If there isn’t a contact person listed on a job ad, it can still pay to find a relevant person and call them (unless the job ad specifically says no calls).

Sometimes it can be hard to find a good time to call a contact person. One way around this is not to leave a message if the person doesn’t answer. That way you can call back at a time that is convenient to you. If you do this though, remember to give yourself enough time before the application is due to try and catch the person again.


If you’re looking for work, don’t wait for a job to be advertised. It is estimated that up to 70% of jobs are not advertised. These jobs are part of what is known as the hidden job market.

If you think you would like to work for a particular organisation, do some research and then pick up the phone and call.

The hardest part about cold-calling is getting past the gate keepers.

To do this, always have the name of a person you want to speak to and ask for that person by name. Sometimes you will get lucky and be put straight through.

If not, and you are asked for your name, be honest and say who you are and explain that the person you’re ringing won’t know you. If asked why you are calling, have a brief answer ready, something like “I want to find out about working for your organisation”. You may be redirected to HR, but have a response prepared to try and convince the gatekeeper why you really need to be put through to the person you are calling.

Make sure you have done some research about the person and the organisation before you call. If you know the type of position you are after, simply ask if the organisation has any roles of that kind available at the moment. Have your CV in front of you, and sell yourself. Write a script if you think it will help and have pen and paper handy to take notes.

If you express a strong interest in working for that particular organisation, you may be offered unpaid work experience. If you have time available, grab it as this may lead to an offer of paid employment down the track.

Alternatively, the person could also ask for your CV and put it on file for when an opportunity comes up in the future. They may also know about opportunities in other departments of the organisation, particularly if you ask a question about this.

Your first phone call may have none of these beneficial outcomes. Your second call might not either. The trick is to be persistent, and learn from the phone calls you do make. Eventually one of them will pay off.

Calling if your job application is unsuccessful

If you’ve applied for a job, perhaps even gone for an interview, and then found out you were unsuccessful, always call to find out why.

You can learn valuable lessons for the next job application, and it may be something quite simple to fix.

If you were unsuccessful because you lacked relevant skills or experience, that is useful information too. If you really want that type of role in the future, you need to find a way to upskill, train or get that experience so that you will have a better chance for such a role next time.

You may not get a specific answer as to why you were unsuccessful, but you may find out more about the person who was successful and why they got the role.

This is still useful information, and will help you tailor your next application.

You can also ask how many job applications the organisation received or how many applicants were short listed for interview. If they tell you, and it’s a large number, it can sometimes take the sting out of missing out on the job.

Just pick up the phone

Picking up the phone takes a certain amount of courage. People realise how hard that is to do, and will respect you for it. 

It’s not a bad idea to practise what you’re going to say before you call, and always have questions prepared.

The more you call, the better you’ll become at it. If you call often enough, it will just become another one of your job-seeking skills - a tool that will enable you to get the jobs you only dream of.

Ruth Beran is a Careers Service Associate, assisting Joanne Glanz in the Careers Service at the UNSW Law School.

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The art of calling when applying for jobs
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