Phone etiquette is something you would think in our present day - with everyone and his uncle walking around with a cell phone - that we would all be experts at.
Unfortunately, many people have no idea how to be professional on the phone. Job-seekers are not excluded.68% of communication is non-verbal.15% is your tone of voice.7% is the words you use.
Your most powerful communication tools - eye contact, body language, posture, gestures, etc. - are no longer available to you on the phone. All of sudden, the words you select and your tone of voice have never counted for so much.
The phone is incredibly important to the average job-seeker. Whether you are calling a company to ask about an opening, or being pre-screened with a phone interview, every detail counts!
Make sure your voicemail is set up and professional.
First off, let me be upfront in saying that I do not like voicemail. I have call display. If I see that I missed your call, I will just call you back. But when it comes to looking for a job, you have no choice. You must have voicemail. That one phone call you get might be your only phone call - so in the unfortunate event that you miss it, you don't want to be calling back your prospective employer saying, "Did someone from this number just call me?" That doesn't look very good on you at all.
I recently heard a statistic that 10% of Canadians don't have their voicemail set up and initiated. I cannot verify that statistic, but what I can tell you is that more than 10% have unprofessional voicemail greetings. This includes slang, jargon, mumbling, music, jokes, "duos" in which two people record the message together, etc. Your voicemail greeting should be short, simple, and enthusiastic. Speak slowly, clearly and loudly.
Hi there! You have reached the personal voicemail of Brent Jones. I am unavailable to take your call. Kindly leave me a message and I will return your call at my earliest convenience.
Effective? You bet.
And it needs to be a personal greeting - not a system-generated greeting.
Do not answer in a casual manner.
Whether you like it or not, a casual greeting can be an instant turn off. Remember that first impressions are formed instantly. I'm talking about greetings like:
Stick with something simple. What is the first question a company will ask? They will ask for you by name. Beat them to it.
Hello, Brent speaking.
Simple, effective, and professional.
Turn off all noise before answering.
You might think that the radio on in the background is inaudible, but think back to the phone conversations you have had. You hear everything in the background! Turn off the TV. Tell your friends to be quiet. If you are in a noisy area, get up and quickly leave. If you can't avoid noise where you are, make a judgment call:If you are in a noisy place but believe you will still be able to hear, answer. But ask quickly for a name and number to call back. Relocate. Call back.If the noise will be overpowering and you think picking up will sound completely unprofessional - you are in a nightclub for example - let it go to voicemail. It's not worth answering.Get rid of all distractions.
We have all had a conversation with someone who was clearly distracted.
Don't do anything when on the phone with a prospective employer. Don't cook, don't wash your hands, don't shuffle papers, etc. Keep materials you will need for this type of call handy in advance, such as a pen and notebook, or a copy of your resume to reference.
The topic of "distracted driving" is usually a concern for safety reasons, but talking on your cell phone while driving is a bad idea for other reasons:You are distracted nonetheless. Even if you don't feel you are distracted from driving, sharing your mental resources means you're only half-focusing on the call.There is a lot of background noise in a moving car.If you are using a Bluetooth headset, the sound quality is generally not very good. Some of your tonality and personality is lost.
If you get an important call from an employer while driving, ask them to hold for a minute. Pull over then continue your call without a Bluetooth headset and with no distractions.
Speak slowly, clearly and loudly!
This probably goes without saying, but we often forget in a stressful situation - like trying to ace a phone interview - to speak slowly and clearly. Pause a moment before you answer questions. Take a deep breath with the mouthpiece away from your face. Do not mumble - speak up. Give direct, short and concise answers. There's nothing worse than having to continually ask the person on the other end, "What did you say?"
With that comes the need to be enthusiastic. Don't forget to make the right first impression! An easy way to do this part is just to smile. When we smile, generally others hear it in our voices. I used to teach people before making a sales call to smile while they dial. (It rhymes) Again, it is cheesy, but it helps.
End the call on a positive, memorable note.
It is always a good idea to confirm at the end of the call that you understood all the information. Repeat it back.
I want to make sure I didn't miss anything. Just to confirm, I am scheduled to come meet with xx on xx at xx, and I am to arrive a few minutes early to complete a detailed application. Is that correct? That's great. Thank you so much for the opportunity and I look forward to meeting with you and xx on xx at xx.
Then either hang up with the push of a button on your cell, or by pushing down the button on your landline with your finger. Don't just hang up the receiver! It makes a loud ugly noise and hurts most people's ears.
I have heard applicants say so many times that just had a phone interview, or it was only a phone interview. I want you to understand something. The first interviews are the most important, including the phone interview. That is when you have the most competition. When you get to a second or third interview, there are good odds that your interviewers already like you or you wouldn't have moved on. A phone interview is when the majority of applicants get eliminated! So do not blow your one and only chance to make a great first impression.
Pay attention to every detail - that is the best phone etiquette tip I can give!
For more articles and other tools to help with your job search, I recommend you visit my blog at JobGettingTips.com. There you can subscribe to get updates and find other valuable resources.
My name is Brent Jones. I am a recruiter living in Toronto, Canada and the author of the successful resource '7 Fatal Mistakes Made by Most Job Applicants.' You can read it for free by clicking here.