What Does Your Phone Etiquette/Voicemail Message Say About You?

What Would I Hear?

If I were to call you right now at your job, what impression would I get of you?  Would I think you were professional?  Unprofessional?  Tired?  Would you make me feel like you were busy and not really listening?  Or would I be able to tell that you’re having a bad day or upset with your supervisor?  Hopefully, my impression would be the first one because you are answering the phone in a professional manner at all times.  Regardless of how you feel at that moment, you should always answer the phone pleasantly because you never know who is on the other end – especially if you receive phone calls from the public.  State your name and your company/department clearly and sound enthusiastic when receiving a call.  Do this simple experiment tomorrow when you go to work…..answer each call with a smile on your face (whether you feel like it or not) and see if it doesn’t put some “cheer” in your voice.  I know it’s not always easy to do (especially on a Monday morning), but it works!

Placing Calls At Work

When placing a call to someone else in the workplace use proper phone etiquette as well.  Your co-workers are human too, so take a second to ask how they are before getting right down to business.  It takes 2 seconds to ask someone how their weekend was before you jump into asking them to send a report to you or fix a problem.  The more you get to know them on a personal level, the more prone they are to want to work with you and send you the reports you are requesting.  Think about it….you would also appreciate the same.

Personal Phone Calls

Now, let’s switch to your personal cell phone………UH OH!! If I were to listen to the voicemail message you have on your cell phone, what would I think?  Would you want a potential employer to hear the voicemail message you currently have?  Did you know that your voicemail message says a lot about you?  It is one of the first impressions an employer has of you.   As a hiring manager, I called potential employees all the time and judged them based on their voicemail message.   Was it fair?  Maybe not, but that’s what I did.  Having music playing as your answer tone or on your voicemail message is NOT appropriate.  When job searching you should record a simple, but professional message because a potential employer could be turned off by an unprofessional message.  Below is an example:

Hello, you have reached the voicemail for Dena. I am not able to come to the phone right now, but if you leave your name, number and a brief message I will return your call as soon as possible. Thank you and have a great day!

Do’s and Don’ts

When looking for a job, be sure to check your missed calls and voicemail regularly and return all calls ASAP.  A missed call or an ignored message may mean a missed interview or job offer.  And whatever you do…..DO NOT put an employer on hold when they are calling you to offer you a job or set up an interview.  I actually know of a situation where a candidate was on the phone with an employer and they were discussing the job offer.  The employer wanted the candidate to come in and sign the paperwork and finalize when the first day of employment would be.  The candidate received a call on the other line and clicked over to answer it.  By the time she clicked back over, the employer rescinded her job offer and no longer wanted to hire the candidate.  I called the employer later that same day to ask what made her change her mind.  She said she didn’t think the candidate was serious about accepting the job because she clicked over to take another call.  So, those few moments of answering another call actually cost the candidate the job!

Answering the Phone While Preoccupied

When answering the phone at home or while driving in your car, you shouldn’t have loud noise or music playing in the background.  If an unfamiliar number comes up on your caller ID, it could be an employer so turn your radio or TV down BEFORE answering the call.  You do expect them to call you, right???  So be prepared.  If you are driving, it is perfectly okay to ask them to give you a minute to pull over so you can get paper and a pen to write down information.  Don’t ask if you can call them back…..just ask them to give you a minute and pull over and park your car as quickly as possible.  (Tip:  If you can’t pull over and happen to have someone else in the car with you, put your phone on speaker and have the passenger write information down for you.)  The same is true if you are out having lunch or at the mall and an employer calls, ask them to give you a moment to get to a quiet place.  You don’t have to say where you are, just let them know you would like to be able to hear them clearly and would like a moment to step away from the noise.

Placing Calls to Employers

If you are calling an employer to follow up to an interview or maybe networking with an employer over the phone, jot down the key points you want to discuss beforehand in case you get nervous.  This will help to keep you on track and keep you from stumbling over your words.  Also, have your 30 second commercial memorized if you are introducing yourself or trying to “sell yourself” to the employer.  If you will be setting up an interview or appointment, have a calendar in front of you so you can readily set a time to meet.  Be mindful of the employer’s time and discuss what’s necessary without dragging the conversation out.  Lastly, if you need to leave a voicemail message for them, keep that brief as well.

So, the next time you receive/place a call or record your voicemail message, think about what it says about you.  At your current job, you just might win a customer over by answering the phone pleasantly.  Also, you may be surprised how much your co-workers appreciate a genuine inquiry about their day before requesting something from them right away. When interacting with employers, hopefully you have realized that your phone etiquette and/or voicemail message could very well cost you the job!

15 Quick Tips for Your Interview Day

Your interview day has finally arrived!  You are ready but nervous.  What should you do?  What should you not do?  What will happen in the interview?  How can you convince the employer to hire you?  I know all of these questions are going through your mind but relax….you will be fine.  Here are some quick tips to get you through your interview day.

1.  Dress professionally – less is more.

This is definitely something you want to prepare in advance.  You shouldn’t get up the morning of your interview and be frantically looking through your closet for something to wear.  It should be taken very seriously as it is part of your first impression….and most importantly it should be PROFESSIONAL.  Decide the night before what you will wear and bring to the interview.

2.  Arrive 15 minutes early. 

This is to give you time to gather your thoughts just before the interview.   Use the extra time in the lobby to look over your notes one last time and observe the atmosphere.   Remember, the interview starts as soon as you walk through the door and they are watching you.  If you happen to arrive more than 15 minutes in advance, just wait in your car.

3.  Turn your cell phone completely off.

The last thing you want to happen is your phone ringing or vibrating in the middle of your interview.  So you should turn it completely off or leave it in the car.  You don’t want the employer to think that if you’re hired, you’ll be distracted by family and friends calling you all the time.

4.  Be nice to everyone you meet.

It is very important that you DO NOT underestimate the receptionist.  If you encounter the parking lot attendant or custodian, be nice to them as well.  They could have more say in whether you or hired than you may think because they could tell the hiring manager about your rudeness.  Plus, if you get hired you don’t want to already have “enemies.”

5.  SMILE and have a nice, firm handshake.

You got an interview so SMILE!! You should be ecstatic to be there!   Remember, your handshake says a lot about you and it displays your confidence at the beginning and end of the interview.  A nice firm grip with 2 – 3 pumps will suffice.  If you have sweaty palms, very inconspicuously wipe your hand on your pants or skirt just before you extend it.

6.  Let the interviewer be in charge and match his/her style.

You are in the employer’s “territory” so let them be in charge and determine the pace of the interview.  Each employer has a different style so you have to figure out what it is and match it.  Some may be straightforward and just want to ask you back to back questions and some may have a more laid back approach and be open to small talk.  Keep in mind, if they don’t like talking to you in a 30 or 60 minute interview, why would they want to hire you and talk to you everyday?

7.  Have several copies of your resume and references (or letters of recommendation) available.

Even if you have already submitted your resume online or emailed it to the employer, bring extra copies anyway.  Besides, you may be interviewing with more than 1 person and they each need their own copy.  If your resume has changed since you initially submitted it, just let the employer know that you wanted them to have an updated copy.  It’s not a bad idea to have your references/recommendations ready because it shows you’re prepared.  If you don’t give it to them in the interview, you can always attach them when you follow up (see tip 15).

8.  Make eye contact and be mindful of your body language.

Both of these directly relate to your confidence.  Generally, you want to make eye contact the majority of the time and occasionally look away. A little trick is to look at the person’s nose or the space between their eyes and it will still look like you are making eye contact.  For your body language, make sure you always have a pleasant expression on your face and you’re not slouching or messing with your hair.  Try to keep your hands in your lap.  Ladies, cross your legs at your ankles if you’re wearing a skirt.

9.  Have paper and a pen to take notes during the interview.

This is because you won’t remember everything.  It also shows that you are interested in what’s being discussed.  Prepared for the interview = prepared for the job.

10.  Be conversational and have adequate answers to their questions. 

The interview is the only way an employer can tell if you’ll fit into their team.  So you want to give them plenty to go on by having adequate answers to their questions – not just 2 or 3 sentences.  Think of it this way….if you asked your friend what they did over the weekend and all they said was, “I watched tv and did the laundry.”  What would you think?  Of course, you would think they were leaving out something and you would want to know more.  Don’t leave the employer wanting to know more.  Adequately answer their questions by telling a complete story.

11.  Be very familiar with the company.

Do adequate research on the company AND the department you will be working in.   The key is to identify what they do so you will be able to communicate how you can help.  This research will come in handy when they ask, “What do you know about this company?” or “What attracted you to this position?”

12.  SELL YOURSELF!!! 

If you can do this very confidently, you have accomplished 75% of your goal.  Most people are very bashful in this area because they don’t feel comfortable talking about their accomplishments.  Actually, the interview and the resume are 2 places where you can brag on yourself and not be seen as arrogant.  Your task is to convey your skills and qualifications so employers know they need YOU at their company.  Even if you are unsure how to answer a question or if it seems like the interview is going rather badly, stay positive.

13.  Have at least 3 questions to ask the interviewer.

I know you’ve been made to believe interviews are one-sided and you have to just answer their questions and that’s it.  Erase that from your mind and know that you should ask questions to see if the job is a good fit for you as well.  Ask questions about the daily duties, company culture, management style, expectations, current issues (so you can offer a solution on the spot), etc.  You can write them down and read them right from your paper.  Not having any questions = not really interested in the job.

14.  Find out what the next steps are.

You should be confident that you will get to the next steps after the interview, so ask what they are so you will be prepared.  It’s that simple.

15. Follow up within 24 hours.

Get the interviewer’s business card to send a thank you letter (or e-mail).  If you had multiple interviewers, send a thank you to everyone individually.  Mention something specific from the interview so that they remember you and realize that you pay attention and retain information.  It’s important to do this in a timely manner because you want them to get your thank you BEFORE they make their final decision.

BONUS TIP:

Take a moment to gather your thoughts before answering difficult questions.  It really is okay.  You don’t have to respond the second they finish asking you a question.  Taking a moment will keep you from saying “um” and rambling as much.