by Bill Rosenthal

Has your IT career stalled? Rev up phone skills and text tactics for surest route to a better job

Mar 29, 2016

Stop, think and plan every time you reach for your phone, and stand out before the first handshake.

My most recent blog identified IT’s top four communication challenges and suggested means for overcoming them.

I’ve matched them to all the milestones we encounter when pursuing a new job or promotion, starting with the phone call and winding up with the perennially underrated thank-you note. I then zeroed in on which of the four looms largest at each of the milestones.

Consult the resulting reference guide right below (and in my next IT career checkup installment) for an efficient, substantive and easily graded progress. Value to you? Freeing up your sharpest thinking for the complex and quite often unpredictable negotiations themselves.

1. Make the right call

You can learn only so much about a stranger’s true characteristics through a phone call, but busy recruiters and managers will concentrate every second of one to determine why you, in particular, are a wise investment of their resources.

Because these initial conversations are non-visual and involve two people with full and conflicting schedules, one of whom must keep the talk a secret, almost everything turns on the following hurdle: technology professionals’ reliance on brief, dry and terse phrases and sentences to get their point across.

Another obstacle is the assumption your interviewer or your interviewer’s administrative assistant is as accepting as you might be of tech jargon along with less than considerate mobile phone habits. It’s going to be all the more irresistible when you’re under the gun to wrap things up fast.

Plan your message well and raise your awareness of the clarity and motivation you display.

Have just one or two relatively modest goals per call. Ensure the opportunity appears a good fit with your expertise, expectations and background. Since attitudes about when to bring up salary have changed, stay alert for an opening for you to introduce a ballpark figure you have in mind.

If time is tight during the workday, stick to arranging a mutually convenient date and time for a fuller interview in a safe location, by phone or Skype (or similar video chat service).

Prepare for a glitch that prevents you or the recruiter from accessing your career-oriented social networking profile or the curriculum vitae you’ve previously emailed.  (You have a hard copy of your CV on hand, for example.)

On to how you sound. If you’ve never met the other person before, and all they have is your online photo, their observations and assessment naturally converge on your voice and how you speak. If you’re mumbling or racing through your dialogue, you’ve already lowered your chances.

Confirm the other person is ready and able to listen. Enunciate your words and slow down, but don’t veer into dullness. Pause to let your listener absorb each distinct thought or statement. Breathe steadily and inhale and exhale quietly.

Vary your tone of voice and be forceful to convey the energy people instinctively know accompanies sincerity and commitment.

Banish from this day forward all words and sounds like um, er, well, uh, you know, sort of what I’m saying. Visual stimuli almost always overpower what we hear, so these verbal tics seem harmless enough in daily office banter. (Certainly that’s true of IT pros who see no need to express themselves beyond the bare minimum.)

We’re also naturally concerned about a momentary silence to collect our thoughts causing discomfort for our listener.

When on the phone, however, you signal only unpreparedness, disinterest and confusion once you toss out these ubiquitous and irritating fillers.

Practice with someone who acts the interviewer’s role or serve as the interviewer yourself. Record and play back these sessions, adjusting your style as you go along.

2. Text, and text again

The biggest IT communication challenges for texting mirror those for phone calls, only more so. Any intricacy or nuance doesn’t survive in this rapid-fire, short-on-space environment.

My best advice is to limit texts to straightforward yes-or-no questions and answers, such as announcing a last-minute cancellation or offering another meeting spot.

Remember the inherent advantage of being able to review what you write before you hit send. Read each text aloud three times. Be wary of any pretentious lingo or a line that’s a bit too blunt or ambiguous. Watch out for spell checkers with minds of their own.

Why not apply a touch of your unique personality to lower the stress level of any contact in the job search process? Texts and phone calls are ideal for testing out this trait. A simple “hi” or “thanks again” add warmth and don’t risk a joke falling flat. Experiment with making these salutations and sign-offs more original to you.

Skip emoticons; you should maintain some formality in your dealings with high-status acquaintances.

We’ll expand on humor’s potential in our next blog, decoding the intense face-to-face parleys for demanding and well-paying positions.