Overcoming and Bypassing Roadblocks in Your Job Search

The Alternative Choice Technique

Have you ever bought a car from a truly sharp automobile salesperson? You might have noticed that they don't ask Yes/No questions such as "Do you want to buy this car?" since a potential answer is "No." Instead they ask, "Which color do you prefer, red or blue?" or "Would you rather have the automatic or manual transmission?" Why? Because the only answer options are positive. Do the same thing in your job search. Don't ask: "Can we get together for an interview?" Instead, ask: "I have Wednesday and Thursday afternoon open for us to meet. Which day would work better for you?"

By providing a choice of two or more positive options, you greatly increase the odds that you will get a positive response. Give them choices, but make them positive choices.

The Fair Enough Technique

If and when you do have to ask a yes or no question, the best technique is to frame the question in such a way that there is a "give-give" taking place, and you are willing to make an up-front commitment on specific parameters, such as limiting the amount of time necessary for the initial meeting. Then end your request with "Is that fair enough?" or simply "Fair enough?"

An example: "I understand that you have limited time in your busy schedule. Could we meet for lunch or even coffee as an introduction, and if there is further interest after that initial meeting, we can discuss setting up an interview. Fair enough?"

Why does it work? Because everyone wants to be fair, and you are appealing to their sense of fair play. Frame it properly and they will have difficulty refusing your request.

How to Handle the "Work Through HR" Stall

If you are told by the Hiring Manager to "Work through HR," the following reply will usually disarm them:

"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were the Hiring Manager for the _____ area (or department)."

Even the smallest ego cannot resist proving to you that he or she is in fact the person who makes the decisions regarding hiring for the department. Even if you are forced to follow this submission route by some arcane company policy (which usually doesn't really exist), make sure you reference the Hiring Manager in your email and Cc: the Hiring Manager when you send your resume. This will enhance your image in the eyes of HR (since you already have the name of the Hiring Manager) and will leave the door open to this person in case you get lost in the HR shuffle.

How to Handle the "Send Me Your Resume" Stall

One of the most common stalls in the employment world is the "Send me your resume" stall. Usually it is just a way to further stall the process and turn away those who are attempting to find their way inside the company. It also happens to be a favorite response of the HR Department.

In reality, it merely serves to kill the live contact that you have worked so hard to attain. The best response to this request is to let the person know that you are going to be in the area (assuming you are geographically nearby) and would be happy to hand-deliver a copy of your resume: "I understand the importance of the resume for you, so I'll stop by and hand-deliver it." This usually reverses the stall.

You have now converted the brush-off into a reason to have a face-to-face meeting—even if it is just for a few minutes. Never underestimate the power of this brief meeting. Even if all you do is shake hands and pass on your resume, you have now become a person, not just a piece of paper or a voice on the phone. Any further contacts will be much warmer. And if you have a gift for conversation (and even if you don't), use this opportunity to start talking about yourself and the employer, especially if you have done your homework on them. It only takes a couple of minutes for an astute Hiring Manager to recognize a person who could potentially fit with the team. So use the classic stall to your advantage!

The Email Yourself Technique

The next best way to handle the "Send me your resume stall"—especially if you are not physically located near the company—is to offer to email your resume directly.

Tell the person you will email your resume and call back in an hour. Then set a reminder alarm and call back in exactly one hour. By doing this, you accomplish two goals. First, you immediately overcome the initial stall. Second, you put information in their hands that can take you to the next step in the process: setting up the interview. Delivery is nearly instantaneous, so you can then carry your dialogue to the next level (i.e., setting up the interview). You have now overcome the stall and can set up the initial interview.