But what do you do if you can't even get the hiring manager on the phone because he/she never returns your calls or the 'bulldog' secretary screens you out? Let's take the first problem, getting the manager to call you back. You have a real simple procedure here. There is a little flex and skill in how the message is left. But the procedure is, call, and if you can't get through, send an email or letter. Three days after the letter is sent, make the call again. If you don't get through again, leave a 2nd message and go on. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FOLLOW UP AGAIN! You are at the point of diminishing returns. Look for another hiring source.
What kind of message gets the best response? It is usually best to leave specific information, but try to avoid information that will be used to screen you. A good message would be “This is Ann” and just give the number. If asked the nature of the call, state that “he/she will know” or “I sent some requested personal information that I am following up on.” If you give the secretary the entire message before she asks, she most often will not screen you out.
The second problem, and without question one of our biggest hurdles in providing a service to client companies, is the 'bulldog' secretary.
Let's cover some of the things that you don't do.
• Don't start working with the secretary, i.e. taking positions, sending resumes, trying to get responses from resumes, etc.
• Don't give the secretary too much information.
Perhaps the best response to a secretary is: “This is personal”, and just give your first name or “I need a reference from him, what's the latest he returns calls?”
Or evade her/him. Make it a top priority to make contact with the hiring manager when he/she is most likely to be reached directly, when his/her secretary is unavailable. This is because not any type of politeness, flattery, or persistence can break down a bulldog secretary screen.
Do some research, find out her/his hours and normal working hours. Take note when she/he takes lunch. Find out when she/he arrives and when she/he leaves.
Managers usually prefer some times when no one else is around, either early am or late pm. Knowing when the hiring manager is most vulnerable to be unaccompanied by the secretary gives you the edge on when to move. Then be prepared to call! When you're effective in this initial contact the bulldog becomes a pussycat.