shutterstock_236963272IF YOU HAVE BEEN CONDUCTING A SYSTEMATIC, WELL-THOUGHT-OUT, WELL-EXECUTED NEW JOB SEARCH, and if you have clearly positioned yourself as being among TOP candidates, in today’s burgeoning job market, sooner rather than later, you should expect to receive an initial contact from a hiring professional, i.e., a hiring manager, headhunter or in-house corporate recruiter. Nearly always this initial contact will be a telephone call.

You should of course consider this initial contact as a positive first step toward possibly landing the position you seek. Something about your résumé, your cover letter, LinkedIn profile, etc., obviously tweaked the hiring professional’s interest and the telephone call is a clear indication that she wants to learn more about you as a possible candidate.

Be cautioned, however, that you shouldn’t get TOO excited at this point because, like virtually every step in the hiring process, the initial telephone contact is designed to accomplish one principal goal: To exclude you from further consideration! Yes, you read that correctly. Do not fall into the trap that so many candidates fall into by assuming the call is intended to include you in the potential hiring pool. It’s not.


The importance of intelligently and professionally fielding the initial call from a hiring professional simply cannot be overstated. How you field the call, more than any other factor at this point, usually spells the difference between “staying in the game” and being summarily eliminated from further consideration.

Ill-prepared or unprepared candidates usually fall quickly and easily into the screening-out process that defines a hiring professional’s initial call. There are several reasons for that:

  • They do not screen incoming calls, therefore they are not adequately prepared when a call from a hiring professional comes in. As a consequence, they may answer the phone like this: “Hell – o – o.” Then, when the hiring professional identifies himself/herself and mentions the position under consideration, these candidates normally come back with, “Now who is this again? What is the position again?” Great first impression! Very professional!
  • Since these candidates are unprepared (obviously) to properly field questions that they should anticipate in this initial screening call, when asked a question such as, “Tell me a little bit about yourself and your qualifications,” they are more likely than not to come back with an answer such as this: “Well, you’ve seen my résumé (or LinkedIn profile), right? Everything you need to know about me and my qualifications is there.” (Don’t believe it? Our recruiting firm, The HTW (“Hire to Win”) Group, encounters this type of response on a continual basis!)
  • These candidates apparently are still laboring under the impression (FALSE!) that the hiring professional must sell the position and the career opportunity to them. Doesn’t work that way anymore and hasn’t for years.

I could go on and on about the incredibly self-defeating (and incredible!) things job candidates oftentimes say during this all-important initial phone contact from a hiring professional, but I’m confident you get the point. Now, let’s take a look at the flip side of this same coin.

Here is how polished, professional—and savvy—job candidates handle the initial phone call from a hiring professional:

  • They NEVER answer any unexpected calls from a hiring professional. Instead, they screen such calls before responding. That way, they can get organized and prepared before discussing a possible career opportunity.
  • They set up a professional voice mail greeting on the phone(s) they have designated as their official job-hunting contact number(s). The greeting can be something as simple as this:

“You’ve reached the voice mail of (your name). Please leave a message and a contact number and I will return your call promptly. Thank you.”

  • When they return the hiring professional’s call, they are ready, willing and able to intelligently answer any questions, as well as to specifically discuss the career opportunity. If they are unable to reach the hiring professional when they return his/her call, they leave this type of voice mail message:

“(Mr./Ms. Hiring Professional), this is (your name) returning your call regarding (name of position) at (name of hiring company). I am excited about discussing this career opportunity with you soon. My number is 123-456-7890. Thank you!

See the dramatic difference between the approaches taken by each of the two types of candidates? If you were the hiring professional, which type of candidate would you be most likely to “keep in the game,” all other consideration factors being equal?


It’s certainly become a cliché to say that you get only ONE chance to make a good first impression, but like many clichés, there is a great deal of inherent truth in this one. If you don’t make a good first impression during the all-important first call from a hiring professional,  you definitely won’t get a second chance. You’ll be out of the running from that point on, regardless of how great you may look on paper, or even how well you might have interviewed in person. You may also have quite unnecessarily missed out on what could have turned out to be an exciting career opportunity, an opportunity that won’t be coming your way again—ever!


If you happen to be among the savvy job candidates who successfully make it through the initial phone screen by the hiring professional, you do indeed have cause for at least some celebration. Why? Because a significant percentage of candidates never make it past this initial stage, usually for reasons such as the ones I have addressed in this post. Keep in mind, though, that this is just the first of many steps involved in a successful job search.

If you prepare for each subsequent step in the job search using the same intelligent, professional approach you used to stay in the game during the initial phone screen, you are far more likely than the average candidate to have genuine cause for celebration—when you land the job!


This post is based on career management information and advice featured in Career Stalled? How to Get YOUR Career Back in HIGH Gear and Land the Job You Deserve—Your DREAM Job!, Skip’s most recent book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets Series of Career Development & Management Publications.

Would you like to receive a FREE evaluation copy (PDF format featuring entire book content) of Career Stalled? via email? Shoot an email to my editor and co-author, Michael Garee, at (Copy & paste email address into your email client.) All we ask in return is that, once you have had an opportunity to review the book, you go on and write an honest review.