When networking, following up on an application, reconnecting after an interview, or for virtually any other aspect of a job search… talking to someone is always better than an email.
A professional voice on the phone is much harder to ignore than one of dozens of emails.
However, for most people, the majority of calls you make will initially result in leaving a voicemail than actually being able to catch someone on the phone.
I recently received an email from someone asking what they can do to improve their chances of getting a call back. Good question!
Here are some points to consider:
Be prepared! Many people prepare well for their introduction and presentation should they get the intended person on the phone. However, most are unprepared and stammer or ramble on if they get a voicemail instead. It is just as important to be prepared for a voicemail as it is to talk to the person directly. Just as you should have a script prepared for a conversation, you should also prepare a script for a voicemail. Having a well prepared message to leave will keep you from rambling, stammering, or leaving a message you may regret.
Make it brief! The fact is, a lengthy voicemail is not likely to be listened to in its entirety. And even if it is, it will likely hurt the impression you leave rather than help it. If they are trying to get through their voicemails quickly, a lengthy one quickly becomes annoying. Briefly state your name, the reason for the call, 1 or 2 very brief reasons you would be of interest to them, and be sure to leave your name and return number at the end. The impression you leave will be much improved by being succinct, substantive, and upbeat. Your voicemail should never be more than 30 seconds or so.
Let them know you’ll be back! If you make it clear that you will be following up again, it may improve your chances of getting a call back. If you leave a voicemail without any indication that you will be following up, it’s very easy for them to delete it and forget about you. The likelihood that they might call you first, or at least remember your call is greatly improved if you indicate you will be persistent. Let them know you’ll be reconnecting.
Be Pleasantly Persistent! Keep trying! Only leave a voicemail once, however, keep trying to reach them often. Many times it’s easier to catch a manager before or after “core” hours. They may be easier to catch at their desk before 8:00 am or after 5:00 pm. Try several times throughout the day to improve your chances of actually catching them by phone versus getting their voicemail. While a call back from them is fine, you will invariably be better prepared for an effective call when you are the one making the call to them rather than receiving one at a random time.
Say something like…
Hello Mr. Smith. My name is Harry Urschel. I’m calling in regard to the open Accounting position you have posted online. I believe my Oracle AR experience in a manufacturing environment over the past 5 years fits the requirements exactly. And I have process improvement skills that saved my previous company a great deal of money.
I’m sure your schedule is full, however, I hope we can speak soon. If you are able to call, you can reach me at 867-5309. I’ll also call back around 4:00 this afternoon and keep trying over the next day or two until we actually connect. I look forward to talking soon. Again, this is Harry Urschel, and you can reach me any time at 867-5309.
Some points to keep in mind when crafting your voicemail script:
- Never use someone else’s script! You will never sound natural using someone else’s words. Write your script in words that you feel comfortable using.
- Practice. Don’t try your script out for the first time when you’re leaving a message to an important contact. You will be better if you’ve practiced it several times in advance.
- No more than 30 seconds. Time it. If you’re over, figure out how to say it more succinctly.
- Immediately connect the dots. Give the most relevant experience you have to the requirements for the position. Telling of unrelated skills, no matter how impressive they are, will not gain interest if it’s not required for the role. Then, give them one BRIEF skill that might set you apart from the competition…. again, related to the open position.
- Repeat your name and phone number at the end of the message so they don’t have to “rewind” to get that information. Make it easy for them.
There is no “guaranteed” way to get a contact to call you back. However, by following a few basic guidelines, your chances can be greatly improved. In most cases, though, your voicemail sets the stage for an effective conversation when you catch them on the phone another time.
Harry Urschel has over 20 years experience as a technology recruiter in Minnesota. He currently operates as e-Executives, writes a blog for Job Seekers called The Wise Job Search, and can be found on Twitter as @eExecutives.