In my role as an Employment Counsellor, I phone a lot of people. If I’m fortunate, I usually get through and am able to communicate with whomever I’m calling. However, I also hope that I get the opportunity to hear what happens when they don’t pick up the phone and I want to leave a message.
As soon as I realize the person I’m attempting to reach isn’t going to pick up the phone, I imagine myself as a prospective employer attempting to reach a job applicant for the purpose of having them in for a job interview for some position they’ve applied to. And so, with every ring I hear at my end, I wait with anticipation to hear what happens. Having to leave a message is a key way to gather information which can help me assist those I serve.
A basic truth we all know is you’re going to miss calls. Let me share some poor experiences I’ve had:
- The phone just rings without end. These days, having some way to leave a message is no longer just a good idea, it’s a critical necessity. If an employer can’t leave messages you can’t know the calls you’ve missed. They have too many other qualified applicants to choose from these days and will move on so no don’t expect they’ll just keep calling until you actually pick up the phone.
2. The automated voice recording says, “You have reached (dead air). Please leave your message.” Like an employer, I may be calling with confidential information that is meant solely for you. If you find people aren’t leaving you messages, it could well be that callers don’t want to leave messages that could be heard by people they aren’t intended for which would compromise your confidentiality. To protect you, some callers will just hang up and try again later; maybe. Identify yourself so callers are certain they’ve dialed the right number.
3. A child’s voice; or multiple children are heard on the recording, each identifying themselves while being coached in the background by you. If you’re going for the cute factor here, please stop. You’re actually raising a concern about your professionalism and possible childcare or absentee issues with every voice that comes on the phone.
4. 25 seconds of your favourite music. When people call you, it’s to leave you a message; and in the case of an employer, time is important. Your decision to force callers to listen to music first does more than reveal your musical preferences, it just annoys people. Please stop.
5. “Hey y’all, you know what to do.” Leave a message like this and you could be wondering why the messages you go to listen to are just clicks. There’s nothing wrong with the answering device, that’s the sound of callers hanging up who are sending you the message, “Yes I do know what to do. I’m hanging up.” Again, no identification and no professionalism.
So what’s the worst example I ever heard? A woman I worked with once was bright, intelligent, took the advice I gave her to heart and improved her resume, cover letter and interview skills. She wasn’t getting anywhere though. It was a head-scratcher. One day I called her and she didn’t pick up as she had always done previously. This is what I heard as her greeting in a sultry voice: “Hi, I’m not home as you can tell, so leave a message or go to ____” (and then the beep was heard to signal a message could be left). What was she thinking? She changed it the same day. In less than one week she got messages which led to interviews and she was hired and no longer unemployed in less than a month.
“Hello you’ve reached (your name). I’m sorry I missed you. Please leave your name, number and a brief message and I’ll return your call as soon as possible. Thanks for calling.”
The above is a professional, tight message that says everything a caller needs to hear. It identifies yourself, indicates your regret at not being there live, invites them to leave their contact info and the purpose of their call, indicates your response will be quick and finally extends appreciation for the contact.
In addition to the words above, smile as you leave your message. When you smile, it will add a little life to your voice; a little enthusiasm. The tone of your voice is going to reveal a little bit of your mood and attitude so go for a positive impression.
If you have privacy concerns, you may not want your name revealed to unwanted callers but still want to come across professionally to legitimate callers. Okay so leave your number instead of your name in the above example as an option.
Finally, please make sure callers can leave messages for you. Having a full inbox or not setting it up in the first place makes it impossible to reach you and then what’s the point of having a phone number on your resumes?
It really is about what happens when they, the potential employers call you and it’s not only employers. It could be someone who you’d like to stand as your reference, it might be someone who has been referred to you by someone in your network and it could be any number of other people who are important to getting a job.
May your phone start to ring!