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Watch that first impression.

Frequently, the first impression a potential employer gets is your voice mail message. Do you have a long interlude of music or nonsensical gibberish known only to your peeps? Does five minutes of your dog rowling “I ruve ru” or your three-year saying something adorable, yet unintelligible to the rest of the world, precede instructions to leave a message? If you’re conducting a job search, are expecting calls regarding employment and answer yes to these questions, go change your voice mail message now.


Firs ImpressionWhen job searching you’re going to be getting messages from strangers. Strangers who can dramatically impact your livelihood and your future. Don’t risk missing an opportunity because you’re hooked on your “Can’t touch this” voice mail intro. When job hunting, you want to be sure your voice mail message (both home and cell) reflects the first impression you want a prospective employer to hear. Cute messages and inside jokes are fine for friends and family, but can quickly turn off a hiring authority. When in job-search mode, outgoing messages should clearly state your name and basic instructions for the caller:


This is NAME. I’m unable to take your call right now. Please leave a message with your name, number and I’ll call you back as soon as possible.


Remember, an employer won’t know it’s you by your voice! Be sure to let a caller know they’ve reached the right number. When I recruited, if I wasn’t sure I reached the person on the résumé, I often didn’t leave a message. I might or might not call back later. It depended on credentials and time.


During a job search, be sure to check your messages frequently and return the call promptly. If you take too long to call back, you may miss the opportunity! Things move at glacial speed during the hiring process. They also move at the speed of light. Be prepared and ready to respond, regardless the pace.


Since you can literally get a call anywhere, at any time, be sure to have your job search info at your fingertips – especially if you’ve put your cell phone number on your résumé. You never know when a prospective employer will call. And be ready…nothing is more off-putting than a bewildered “you’re who, with what company?? I applied for what position???” Not a good first impression.


Of course, it is OK to ask to return the call if you’re driving or in the middle of something. Schedule a good time to return the call that suits both you and the caller. Or use your ignore button, and let your well-executed outgoing message give you time to compose yourself and promptly return the call. Remember: in not answering, you risk a game of “telephone tag”. If you do have to leave a message, give the hiring authority a few choices on good times to return the call, hopefully minimizing the number of attempts to try and connect. 


When leaving messages for a potential employer, be enthusiastic, speak slowly and clearly, and repeat your name and the phone number twice. It’ll save them from having to listen to the message a second time.


The HR Minion also gives some great insights from an HR perspective on how you answer the phone. Check out her advice too. Bottom line. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Don’t tarnish your otherwise well-executed job search by not paying attention to the details.



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  1. Gayle Howard says:

    Hi Dawn
    I know this article was from ages ago, but felt the need to comment with my own personal story. Keep in mind that it was my first job and I was only 17 so I can be excused for dopey behaviour (perhaps).

    I had my interview, came home on a high and the phone rang as I walked in the door. I was expecting a call from my best friend Anna to ask me how I’d gone so I knew she’d be keen to find out.

    I picked up the phone and this haughty, hilarious fake uppercrust English accent came over the phone. Is this Gayle? It’s Company Name calling.

    Did the fact the woman saying the company name mean anything to me? No I did the unthinkable. I laughed. Oh SURE Anna I giggled. Where the heck did you get that accent? Ah hahahahaha.

    No, said the woman sounding increasing like the Queen of England, I’m calling to say that you have been successful with your interview and you have the job.

    So wrapped up in “Anna’s” hilarious Queenly impression, I remained stupidly oblivious, until the woman’s voice turned quite cold and she reminded me of the name of the person who had interviewed me.

    Immediately the realization struck and I felt six different shades of sick and embarrassed. I managed to stutter out a few “Oh I’m sorry, yes thank you” before hanging up the phone mortified.

    My advice for anyone who is jobseeking, is that it is better to be pranked by friends and act like a professional just in case, than to make a fool out yourself with the people who matter!

  2. dawnbugni says:

    Gayle –

    Oh my. That story is hilarious. I’m sure it wasn’t anywhere near that funny back then. I felt my knees get weak and a knot in my stomach for the younger version of you. You’re so right. It is better to be pranked, and laugh later with friends, than be less than professional with people who can impact your future. Thank you so much for sharing. The School of Hard Knocks sure teaches some difficult, but unforgettable lessons!

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