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Career Advice for Job Seekers

Making a Good or Bad Phone Impression

the job search solution Avatarthe job search solution
April 22, 2006


I frequently get messages on my voice mail from job seekers, and quite often end up in some lengthy games of phone tag… this in itself doesn’t bother me a bit, but along the way, some candidates begin creating unfavorable impressions of themselves before I ever meet them face to face. Here’s tips for avoiding some of the common mistakes:


1. PLAY DJ ON YOUR OWN TIME
If I get your voicemail, I’d like to leave a message quickly and be on to the next item on my to do list. Yet all too often, people’s outgoing messages are preceded by music beds which may last 15, 30, even 60 seconds. This can be very frustrating on a busy day… even if I may enjoy the song, I didn’t call you to listen to it.
2. LISTEN TO THE MESSAGE BEFORE RETURNING THE CALL
I’ll admit this up front: I hate caller ID. Or more properly, I hate the way it’s misused. If I’ve taken the time to leave you a detailed message explaining who I am, what company I’m with, why I’m calling, and a number for you to call back, it is my expectation that you are going to take the time to listen to the message. However, with increasing frequency, people are calling back without listening to the message, just because they saw the number on their caller ID. I’d prefer you not do this, but if you are going to do it, at least use proper phone etiquette when I answer your return call.
CORRECT: “Hello, this is Herman Smith, at 555-4444. I was telephoned from this number, and am returning the call.”
INCORRECT: “Did you call me?”
I have actually had more people than I care to remember use the “incorrect” version, and my patience has grown thin. My response now is usually a simple, “I don’t know.” Often, the comeback to this is, “Well, someone from this number called me, and I want to know why”– still not giving me any information about who is calling me. This, to me, suggests a lack of both decent manners and common sense. So please, check your messages before making that return call (and remind others with whom you share a phone to do the same… especially when you are in the process of job seeking, make sure they know how to behave on the phone.)
Oh, and most annoying… if a day has been extremely busy for me and I haven’t gotten through returning calls before leaving the office, I have sometimes returned job seekers’ calls from my home in the evening… and again, if I get someone’s voice mail, I’ll leave a detailed message asking the person to call me back… AT MY OFFICE NUMBER. Getting calls back at my home number from these people because they saw that number on the caller ID is very irritating. (I have learned my lesson… I do not return calls from home anymore!)
3. AVOID IMPATIENCE
I make every effort to return calls from job seekers as soon as possible, but please realize that I’m not glued to my phone… I have had times where I come in at 9am and already have three messages from the same person since I left the office at 6pm the previous evening! (My favorites are the ones where by the third message, the caller is sounding obviously irritated, complaining that “I’ve left three messages and no one has called me back.” Similarly, I’ve returned from a two hour meeting and found multiple messages from the same caller. Hint: the more messages you leave, the longer it takes me to listen to my messages, thus, the longer it will be before I can call you back! Now if it’s been 24 hours since you left the first message, I can certainly understand you calling again. If it’s been 24 minutes, you just appear impatient.
Those are the big ones… there’s lots more little ones, and I’ll cover those in the future.

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