What to Say to Get the Interview
When you reach the Hiring Manager, you need to be fully prepared with a structured script. It's time for action and brevity. The best thing you can do is have a ready script that you can rely on—but don't use a script as something to actually recite word-for-word. Your script is merely a dress rehearsal—to give structure to your call so that you are fully prepared to cover all the key points.
Although the basic approach can be altered, you should follow this overall structure to keep your calls brief, yet productive:
- Introduction — who you are
- Purpose — why you are calling
- Summary — a brief summary of your potential benefits
- Action — the requested next step(s) to be taken
Following are two primary approaches that can be used with this structure: the direct approach and the indirect approach.
The Direct Approach to Getting the Interview
The direct approach is generally preferred when you are targeting specific companies and are not afraid to be direct in stating your goal of setting up an interview. It can be modified in intensity mainly by the use of alternate action statements. You can use either the trial close (ask what their level of interest is) or the assumed close (don't even ask for the interview, just ask what day would be best). Following is a sample script:
- Introduction — "Hello, Mr./Ms. _____, my name is _____. I'm currently finishing up my final year at _____ and will be getting my _____ degree in _____ in May (or August or December or whenever)."
Purpose — "The purpose of my call is to inquire about potential needs you may have within your department for _____."
Note: this is an appropriate time to mention how you were put in touch with the person in the first place; if you were referred, say so.
Summary — "My background includes…"
Note: state your top two or three features and potential benefits. These can include items from the Summary section of your resume and any personal attributes you feel would benefit the employer. If you have done your research properly, you should be able to customize your features and benefits specifically for your target company and target contact.
- Action — "I'm planning to be in your area and available the week of _____ and currently have Tuesday or Wednesday open on my calendar. I'd appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and briefly discuss how I might serve you and your company. Is either Tuesday or Wednesday open for you?"
If you want to provide an alternative choice as your close, your last statement would be the following.
"Which day would work better for you, Tuesday or Wednesday?"
Remember, the key statement is the action statement. This is where you lock down on setting up the interview. One recovery statement that can be used if you get a "not interested" reply is:
"Are you aware of anyone else either inside your company or at other companies who might have a need for someone of my background and abilities?"
Yes, it is a pressure release, but it can also be a cop-out.
The Indirect Approach to Getting the Interview
This is the preferred approach by those who might cringe at the idea of directly approaching a company to inquire about employment. It allows you to comfortably ask about employment opportunities without directly asking. Instead of asking a Hiring Manager about opportunities within his or her company, you ask a "Who-do-you-know" question, which could lead to one of three results: s/he doesn't know of anyone (or at least is not willing to give you the information if s/he does); s/he is aware of someone else who may have an interest (either within or outside the company); or s/he may have a direct interest herself.
You will find this to be a much more subtle approach, one that almost anyone can handle comfortably because there is none of the pressure that accompanies presenting yourself directly. If they happen to remark that they might be interested, this takes the pressure off, since they are now technically coming after you instead of you going after them. Here is a sample script for the indirect approach:
- Introduction — "Hello, Mr./Ms. _____, my name is _____. I'm currently finishing up my final year at _____ and will be getting my _____ degree in _____ in May" (or August or December or whenever).
- Purpose — "I was referred to you as someone who is well connected in the _____ field."
Summary — "My background includes…"
Note: state your top two or three features and potential benefits. These can include items from the Summary section of your resume and any personal attributes you feel would benefit the employer. If you have done your research properly, you should be able to customize your features and benefits specifically to this target company and target contact.
- Action — "Are you aware of any employer that might have a need for someone with my background and abilities?"
It's low pressure, but it does come at a cost. If you are conducting a nationwide search, be aware that most referrals you will receive back will be local or regional at best. And with some managers, if you do not directly ask about their specific needs, you may never get the desired response.
The Hybrid Approach to Getting the Interview
The hybrid approach uses the same basic script as the indirect approach (and therefore has the advantages associated with the "no-pressure" approach), but adds a crucial direct approach statement at the end of the conversation:
"And are there any areas within your company where my background and abilities might be of benefit in the near future?"
Although it is a direct approach, when used in tandem with the indirect opening lines, it usually makes for a very comfortable direct statement. And it can often develop more external contacts than the direct approach by itself.
Use the above scripts as basic guidelines, then develop your own standard script. Use a script only as a guide, not as a verbatim recitation. If you do, you will end up sounding stiff and lifeless. Use scripts only as your practice material, then develop a personal presentation when you are fully comfortable with your approach. Most of all, make sure you modify your script over time to add wording that may flow naturally when you are making your presentation. If you mention something particularly poignant during one of your phone conversations, write it down and incorporate it into your standard script going forward. If you are asked a question for which you have no ready answer, write it down—and make sure you have a ready answer the next time.