Tips for a Winning Voice Mail

By Joe Stein

What is that “old” saying…“Don’t sweat the details”?  Whoever created that one may have been a wise person, but definitely did not do a job search during these modern times.  There is certainly value in the details of one’s job search, right down to being strategic about voice mail (both your greeting and in leaving a message).

Let’s take a look at an area that you probably have not given a whole lot of thought about…the voice mail.

When Recording Your Personal Voice Mail Greeting:

• Make Sure to Have a Voice Mail Greeting – Let’s start at the most basic point.  In order to assist the Recruiter in connecting with you, provide a number that you are most likely to answer. If you can’t answer, make sure this number contains a voice mail greeting. Don’t forget to check your voice mail frequently so you can respond promptly to any messages.

• Be Professional – Don’t have a message that will not present you in the best light.  I recommend taking a conservative approach in the tone and message of the greeting.  Consider having a friend or family member listen to your message to ensure it is appropriate.  Refrain from having a greeting that contains children, music, attempts at humor, and slang, etc.

• Greeting Details – Be sure to note on your greeting who you are, so the Recruiter does not mistakenly believe they have an incorrect number.  A skilled Recruiter is not going to leave a “blind” voice mail message, not knowing for sure if they have the right number.  This is due to the respect a Recruiter should have for the confidentiality of an individuals’ job search.

• Friendly Tone – Open your message with a warm “Hello” and use a friendly tone that conveys to the caller that the message is important to you.

When Leaving a Voice Mail Message:

• Prepare Your Message – When you call, assume that you may not connect with the person you are calling.  Prepare the message you plan to leave, prior to making the call.  You may even want to record your message (or have a friend or family member listen) in order to obtain a different perspective to the content and delivery.  If you do receive voice mail and you don’t feel ready, you are better to hang up rather than leaving a bad message.  I suggest waiting a little while before you call back, in case the person is in their office but unable to pick up the phone. You don’t want them to see your number pop up multiple times back-to-back.

• Be Personal – You don’t want to be too casual, but try to call a specific individual (especially if you are cold calling) and use the person’s name in your message.

• Be Brief – A typical Recruiter will receive many voice mail messages during the course of the day.  Leave a message that very concisely shares the necessary information.  You do not want a Recruiter skipping over your message to get to the next one because you did not quickly make your point.

• Remember the Details – I can’t tell you how many times I have played a voice mail from a Job Seeker and important information is left out, such as their name or a contact number.  You can also leave the date you applied or came in for your interview along with the position you are seeking, to help the Recruiter remember you.  As mentioned above, preparing your message ahead of time can greatly assist in this area.  A busy Recruiter does not have the time to look up “missing” information in order to get back to you.

• Calm the Nerves – Unless you are applying for a broadcasting job, no one is expecting you to have a melodious radio voice.  You are going to be expected to have some confidence in your voice when leaving the message.  This is another area where preparation will be helpful.  Take your time to speak clearly, this will serve to help calm your nerves and to ensure your message is being delivered.

• Watch the Number – There is certainly some value to staying in touch with your prospective employer, but you also don’t want to come across as desperate or even harassing with the frequency of your calls.  While there is no defined acceptable number, there really is not a need to leave more than 1 message a day or a couple in a workweek.

• Slang and Grammar – It may be tempting to become more casual in your speech, since you are not speaking to a live person.  Your voice mail should be professional and display your strong oral communication skills.  Once again, preparing your message ahead of time can assist you in this area.

• Keep Your Cool – It may be frustrating for you to call and receive a person’s voice mail greeting.  Don’t let this bother you.  Stay courteous when leaving the message.  Don’t sound stressed on the message or make a reference to not receiving a call back from a previous call.

• Finish Strong – You are seeking some type of response from your message, so don’t be shy. Confidently leave a phone number where you can be reached, along with some suggested time ranges. 
So much time is spent on the most common areas of your job search, such as your resume and in interview preparation.  What about the other “unsung” areas of your search?  You can leave a real positive impression by the voice mail greeting you create.  By leaving a well-thought out voice mail you can convey important information, impress the Recruiter, and greatly increase your chances of receiving the desired call back.  A savvy Job Seeker “sweats the details” and realizes that even the littlest areas, such as voice mail, can have a big impact on your search.

As always, best of luck in your job search!