Job Search Problem: When You Don’t Pick Up


Okay, so you’re looking for a job and you’re growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of positive results. There’s a lot of things that could be negatively affecting your applications. Today I just want to focus on one, and that has to do with your phone. When you’re called and not reached live, what is the experience of the person attempting to reach you?

I strongly suggest you call yourself and don’t answer, to hear for yourself what anyone attempting to reach you experiences. When you’re done, ask someone else to do the same and give you their reaction. Preferably ask a Job Coach, Employment Counsellor, Recruiter, Employer, and not your best mate or family.

Recently I called a woman to invite her to an intensive job searching group I run. When I dialed her number, an automated voice came on immediately with the message, “I’m sorry, the person you are trying to reach is unavailable. At the sound of the tone, please leave a message for ________. Beep!” The blank space in the sentence above is where the owner of the phone is expected to identify themselves, but in this case, all I heard was dead air. Why is this a problem? Well, some employers are going to hang up immediately because they can’t be sure they’ve reached who they want and for reasons of confidentiality they won’t name the person they want to have in for an interview.

When job searching, you should be going out of your way to create a positive and professional impression on those you connect with. It’s not hard to do. In fact, identifying who you are on your phone is just about the easiest part of a job search.

Now I often hear people say that they are concerned with privacy issues; hence they don’t want to identify who they are until they can be 100% assured who is calling them. While I’m all for privacy to a degree, you have to consider again the impression you’re making on potential employers who are assessing your suitability.

Take the person I called just this week who I eventually got a hold of after 6 attempts. The organization I call from comes up as an unknown number and this person said they make it a rule never to answer numbers they don’t know. Many organizations don’t identify themselves by number; after all, we don’t know who might be at the other end and see who the caller is, which could put someone in a very awkward, embarrassing or even dangerous situation. You can imagine the problem is someone was keeping their social assistance status private and someone else said, “Hey it’s your phone. Why is Social Assistance calling? Oh my gosh, are you on Welfare or something?” Or you’re at work and your boss is at your desk wondering why you don’t answer the phone when it’s ringing from the competition where you applied for a job.

Not as often anymore, (thank heavens), some people play music; forcing every caller to listen to 25 seconds of some love, rap, rock n’ roll song etc. Time is money people, and businesses don’t have or want to sit waiting for your favourite indulgence to finish. They won’t be amused; they won’t be impressed, and they won’t typically wait either. NEXT!

Then there are the people who as well as being job seekers are parents. As parents they think it cute to have their little one(s) take a turn on the phone saying their names or singing a song. Again, not a good impression. If you must, get a job first and then put the kids back on the phone.

A sultry, “I’m not at home as you can tell, so leave a message or go to ____” is the very worst message I have ever heard. This was the voicemail message I heard after working with someone for a time. She always picked up the phone when I called so it wasn’t until a long time had passed that I heard her message. “I get a lot of crank calls where people just hang up without leaving a message”, she said. Turns out those weren’t crank calls. No, they were employers who just hung up and called other applicants for job interviews. She changed her message when I asked her to and got calls for interviews almost immediately.

“Yo, you got the RT. You know’d the drill.” Seriously? Sadly and not surprisingly anymore, yes. Go ahead and call me out of touch, conservative, conventional. How’s this working for you? This is what I’d ask. Depends on the job you’re after for sure. Remember though, people know you can street talk  or dress down. What employers don’t always know is whether you can speak and represent them professionally and dress appropriately for the job when it’s called for.

Look, the phone is just one of the tools in a job search. I suppose the only thing more frustrating than a poor message or not identifying who you are is when you’re called and no one even has the option of leaving a message. Make sure you have time on your phone, that messages can be left. Being told th e person I’m trying to reach hasn’t initialized their phone or to try again later won’t get you an interview. Without being able to be contacted, why are you even applying?

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