- Music instead of ringing—Apparently, there’s this new thing where instead of hearing a ringing sound when you someone, you hear music, chosen by the owner of the phone. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that-but consider whether your choice of music is really representing you well. A friend of mine just called a candidate to set up an interview for a management position, and was treated to a song that mentioned the singer’s intent to go to a club and “spread a little love and spread a couple cheeks.” She called back twice to make sure she heard it right…and then she hung up and called another candidate instead.
- Answering machine or voice mail greetings—Back when I started recruiting, most people didn’t have voice mail at home-just answering machines—and hardly anyone had a cell phone. As a result, I called people at home, and listened to long, long outgoing messages featuring their children singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and doing little skits and all sorts of cutsie stuff. I love kids, and mine are adorable too, but they don’t belong on the answering machine (at least, not while you’re job hunting). More recently, as more people have cell phones and home phones with personal voice mail, the mailboxes are usually for one person rather than the family…but that doesn’t stop the stupid stuff. The whole pretend-you-really-answered-the-phone-and-can’t-hear-the-caller routine is not that funny to begin with, and it’s even less funny when you have 20 candidates to call in a day. Knock it off. Change your outgoing greeting to something reasonably professional (and short!), at least for the duration of your job search.
- Kids, spouses, or roommates— I can think of two-count ’em, TWO-people I’ve called in my entire career whose kids have done an exceptional job taking a message. I made sure to let the parents know when I spoke to them later. The rest, though…forget it. Teach them to let calls roll to voice mail or the machine unless they recognize the number on the caller ID. I’d much, much rather leave a message with a machine than try to get a 10-year-old to successfully find a pen and some paper, spell my name, my company name, and my complete phone number, and then remember to give you the message. Roommates can be even worse. I can’t count the number of roommates I’ve spoken to who have refused to take a message altogether, saying they were too busy or couldn’t find a pen or said “I’m not his secretary.” Even better are the ones who think you are the other woman or something, and ask you what the hell you want with their husband/boyfriend. Love those. Best of all are the ones who, upon hearing you’re with XYZ Company, think you’re selling something and hang up on you.
- Television— It blows my mind when people leave the TV blaring when they’re on the phone with an employer. I’ve had people try to do this through entire phone interviews, and guess what? That sound travels better than you think. I can’t understand a word you’re saying, because all I can hear is the Dr. Phil theme song. Hit the MUTE button before you even pick up the phone. It is never okay to have the TV on during a business call.
- Call Waiting—Honestly, unless you are waiting for a call that is truly life-or-death, don’t interrupt a call about a job. You’re telling the employer that you have better things do to than talk to them, and that’s usually not a good message to send. If you MUST take the other call, make sure you’ve really pressed the right button. I once had someone say, “Hang on, I’m talking to some bitch from XYZ company,” not realizing I was still on the line.
- Taking calls while driving (or at the checkout counter, or getting your hair done)—Seriously, I’d much rather leave a message than compete for your attention with the other people you’re dealing with. You’re being rude to them AND to me. That’s just not cool. Just let it roll to voice mail until you’re someplace where you’re not in traffic and not talking to someone else.
- Peeing—Wondering whether we can hear that through the phone? Yes. We can.
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