How to Circumvent Gatekeepers Using Voicemail System Features

Gatekeepers are the Cerberus of the recruiting industry. Their job is to allow the properly associated souls to pass, while turning back the rest of us at the gates.

Many articles have been written about how to approach them, what to say to them, and even about forming long-term relationships with them.

While administrative assistants are usually the most difficult gatekeepers, receptionists can also be protective, asking your company and reason for calling. Even when receptionists are obliging, after speaking to them 20 or 30 times a day, they will start to recognize your voice.

Calling late to reach an after hours “auto attendant” feature that clicks over after 5:00 p.m. is used by some as an alternative. The problem with this is that the person you are trying to contact may have gone home, forcing you to leave a message.

The solution has typically been to find an extension for someone at the desired company, and then sequentially dial other extensions until you find the person or group that you are looking for. While this technique can work, it is very time-consuming and impractical in the extreme at larger companies. Also, many companies are aware of this tactic and will assign extensions in a more arbitrary manner.

Fortunately there is a way to directly contact almost anyone at any company, using little-known, but very useful features built into voicemail systems. Below is a brief summary of my findings.

All voicemail systems have the ability to transfer from person to person and reach automatic phone directories. Many of these will also give out extension numbers that are easily turned into direct dial numbers.

The first thing you need to do is get a direct dial number. Almost any one will do. This can be done different ways. The easiest way is to compare an office’s phone and fax numbers. If they share the same suffix (i.e. 415-989-3800 and 415-989-3801), then try dialing something around that number, like 415-989-3822. If you get an error message, don’t worry; I will address the issue of finding a direct dial number near the end of this article.

Once you get a valid extension (it’s key that no one answers, you must get a message), then you have everything you need to get started.

Every voicemail system is different, but certain keys on your phone will bring up different options in different voicemail systems. The first keys you should try though are the “*” key and the “#”. Try pressing them while you are listening to the person’s greeting message (always before the beep!). Your results will be different, depending on the voicemail system. For the purposes of instruction, let’s assume they have an Audix TM system.

An AudixTM system can be recognized when you hear the message “Your call is being answered by Audix.” There are exceptions to this rule, but it is easy to confirm this particular system. Before the beep, quickly press * and then 8 on your phone. If you hear the message “Enter the four digit extension and pound sign,” you are in an AudixTM system.

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By Gregory Pankow, reprinted with the permission of Electronic Recruiting Exchange
 BlackDog Recruiting Software Inc.
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