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Convert Gatekeepers Into Greeters

Six steps show you how.

November 6, 2008
by Debra Feldman

Want to convert corporate gatekeepers from frustrating to fruitful? Do you know the correct techniques to win over the efficient administrative assistants? Good manners go a long way if backed by the right strategy and a strong value proposition.

Gatekeepers are their boss’ designated agents and are responsible for screening unnecessary, potentially wasteful interruptions and unexpected interference. If you don’t know the boss, then you have to explain to the gatekeeper why they should give you an appointment, schedule a meeting, provide an e-mail address or switch you to voicemail.

The gatekeeper uses various criteria to evaluate such requests. If you pass the test, you are referred to the boss. Here are six key ways that can increase your personal odds. Starting with the premise that the gatekeeper is not an enemy but — like yourself — is a professional trying their best to fulfill an assignment, keep the boss happy and get rewarded for a job well done, is just the first hurdle.

  1. Offer a low risk, high reward situation. Do your homework. Plan your presentation so it is clear, compelling and engaging. Pique the gatekeeper’s curiosity. Be ready to address the gatekeeper by name, to inquire if they have a few moments for your call and how their day has been. Listen. If they hesitate, sound busy or are juggling other lines, offer to call back, even before you leave your name. Ask for a more convenient time to call back.
  2. Convince the gatekeeper why they should offer you an appointment. The gatekeeper is balancing two competing choices: granting too much access to the wrong applicants or being too stringent thereby excluding individuals whom their boss would want to meet. If the gatekeeper believes it would be more detrimental to keep you out than let you in, you have won!
  3. Interact with gatekeeper. The more interaction you have with the gatekeeper, the more invested they will be to help you and be a part of your success. Speak respectfully and politely. Make small talk. Ingratiate yourself and it is more likely that your proposal will sound attractive. Be likable and you’ll have a greater chance to communicate your value, engage in a dialog and explain more about your business.
  4. Follow the gatekeeper’s instructions, cooperate and be pleasant. Not only do you have to have a high-quality concept and credentials, but your personality has to be a fit. If you are asked to e-mail a request, send it out within 24 hours or less. Smile as you speak — it will come through in your voice. Be patient and helpful. This gatekeeper may be your new boss’ administrator or even your own right-hand person some day!
  5. Win the gatekeeper’s support. Gatekeepers can become your personal liaison, warming up the boss on your behalf and facilitating the impossible. If you can win the gatekeeper’s support, this individual can become your ally, squeezing an appointment for you into a booked calendar, talking you up to the boss and giving you hints on how to make your meeting be more positive.
  6. Be persistent. Timing is critical. If you don’t succeed, try, try, again. Don’t be discouraged if your first approach isn’t wholeheartedly embraced. Re-group and after an appropriate interval, attempt another connection revising your presentation, enhancing your value proposition and using better timing. Persistence and creativity pays off. Follow-up is key to making progress.

The secret’s out. Next time you’re hunting for that new job, remember to brush up on your gatekeeper etiquette and before you know it, you’ll be an employee instead of just another job seeker.

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Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz™, a nationally-recognized expert who designs and personally implements swift, strategic, and customized senior level executive job search campaigns, banishing barriers that prevent immediate success. Her gift for cold calling, executed with high energy and savvy panache, connects candidates directly to decision-makers, not HR. Network Purposefully™ with the JobWhiz, and compress your job search into mere weeks, using groundbreaking techniques profiled in Forbes magazine. In addition to her private practice, writing featured columns and conducting exclusive workshops, Debra is a recommended resource to alumni of top-tier business schools. Contact Debra at www.JobWhiz.com to expedite your executive ascent.

Debra Feldman, 2008