Job seekers should strive for a higher level of professionalism through proper phone etiquette, email presentation and social interaction. Recently, I had a job scheduling interviews for the Regional Director of a national company. With this job, I encountered some “less than professional” people, and luckily for many of them, I had no input as to their being interviewed or hired.
For the purpose of this article, I interviewed Dr. Deborah Frey. I chose Dr. Frey as a “Yin to my yang,” that is to say, the amateur person’s observations along with the professional’s solutions. Below you will read the types of things I experienced, followed by Dr. Frey’s advice on the proper way to correct many of the mistakes made by job applicants. This is a limited list of do’s and don’ts for that critical, initial contact with the person who can “lead” you to the job of your dreams.
A Ring-Back Tone (RBT) or Audible Ringing Tone is the audible ringing that is heard on the telephone line by the calling party after dialing and prior to the call being answered on the receiving end. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ringback_tones)
Although the automated message, prior to the ring-back beginning, suggests we should “sit back and enjoy the music,” these popular tones fail to entertain the business caller. In fact, some of the tones may be considered seriously offensive. Job seekers must remember that potential employers may not share your taste in music. There is a risk that the applicant will be perceived as disrespectful because the caller is forced to indulge in your tone.
Dr. Frey suggests, “If you choose to install a tone on your phone; select a mellow, inoffensive tone. This would mean inoffensive to anyone. This initial contact with a potential employer is not the place to demonstrate your cultural background or personal tastes in music.”
Also, keep in mind that music, like fragrances and tastes, can often trigger good or bad memories. Just as the aroma of an ex-partner’s favorite cologne, or a song can/may invoke strong human emotions. Choose your ring-back tones carefully, and if in doubt, defer to your strictest of critics, for example; your grandmother. Play the music for her and ask her opinion. This advice would apply to any type of ingoing/outgoing phone messages as well. If it is offensive to “grandma”, then it is safe to assume a potential employer may feel the same way.”
Etiquette is defined as; the act of politeness and proper decorum that should be used when speaking on the telephone. The practices and forms prescribed by social convention or by authority. (http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/etiquette).
In my scheduling agent position, I encountered many impromptu telephone responses and I am convinced, now more than ever, that phone etiquette is all but a dead practice. Phone salutations such as, “Yo!”, “It’s your dime,” or anything other than “hello” lost my interest immediately. Interview opportunities can be lost because of blatantly rude or offensive, first contact responses.
Dr. Frey strongly suggests; “Candidates should always answer phone calls with a confident, articulate voice, leading off with a clear statement of their entire name. For example, “Hello, Haley Koehling speaking” would immediately inform and appropriately impress the caller with professionalism.”
If you are screening calls, for any reason, let your voice mail answer for you. To “dodge” a call, discover that it was regarding a job, and immediately call the agent back is bad form and disingenuous. Some of my candidates have been dishonest with returned calls claiming that my earlier call had been answered by others. I am capable and skilled to recognize a familiar voice, especially if I heard the voice a few minutes prior to the return call.
Dr. Frey’s great advice is, “If you are screening your calls, for whatever purpose, do not lie about it. Simply state, “I’m sorry I wasn’t immediately available; I am screening my calls.” Employers’ agents are savvy and will not be impressed with deceitful candidates. Although screening your calls can be a problematic practice, your honest disclosure, especially if you include some time management activities in which you are involved, is likely to leave the impression that you are forthright. For instance, “During my position search, I have scheduled an 8:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. time block to return relevant calls and limit personal telephone conversations. Since I do not have a second telephone line, recently I have begun to screen my calls to dedicate this time to employer inquiries and appointments.”
Voice Mail Greeting (My personal favorites):
The voice mail greeting is your final verbal/audible chance at the all important, first impression. I’m torn between which I think is more egregious, the impersonal, phone-generated message or the far too personal message. For example of the latter, “Yo, hit me back, peace out!” left me dazed, and with my immediate reactive impression of, “You have got to be kidding me!” Again, if I were the employer or an agent with input, the call would have ended immediately, along with your chances of getting any job with my company.
Dr. Frey states, “The very best guideline to follow is virtually the same as mentioned previously; when you answer your phone, speak confidently, articulate and use your entire name. Also, candidates must frequently leave a message when returning a call to a prospective employer, do not allow yourself to “trail off” on the final two digits of your contact number. Repeating our own phone number often becomes “routine” and we have a tendency to blur those final numbers, making it difficult for the caller to discern the correct number. Not only should you put emphasis on the final numbers, but you should repeat the entire number, using the same emphatic manner. This message is equally as important to your chances of getting a job.”
This is the final piece to the “First Impression Puzzle.” In my position as a scheduling agent, when a candidate agrees to come in for an interview, the email address provided on the resume must be verified. This is a necessary step as emails are often sent as confirmation of your appointment, along with directions and contact numbers with regards to your interview location, etcetera.
The list of strange email addresses I have seen would be far to extensive to compile, so let me generalize by saying, references to body parts as a part of your email address is an immediate black mark in the eyes of the agent. And, I find the repeat-back process both embarrassing and unseemly.
Dr. Frey advises, “One of the most important aspects of serious job hunting is your email address. Use your name, with a numeric identifier (if required by the provider). Your name in the address adds clarity for an essential and appropriate professional email correspondence. Most providers allow multiple addresses. To simplify the job seeking process, set up an email account specifically for job seeking purposes. Both G-mail and Yahoo offer a more secure site for these addresses as they are less inundated with spam and are known both nationally and internationally.”
The next installment of my interview with Dr. Frey will be on, “Professionally “putting yourself” out into the job seeking market.”
*Dr. Frey’s credentials include; extensive work with professional development tools for college graduates and transitioning job seekers. She is a faculty emeritus from the Southern Illinois University, Carbondale campus. She has a Masters Degree in Business Education from Southern Illinois University and a Doctorate in Management and Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix. President-CEO of Freyworks, Dr. Frey is a business and learning and development consultant, certified for Innermetrix Attribute Index, DISC & Values diagnostic tools. (http://www.freyworks.com).