7 Ways You Can Use Your Phone to Screw Yourself Out of a Job Opportunity

7 Ways You Can Use Your Phone to Screw Yourself Out of a Job Opportunity

by Kerry Scott on 12 October 2009


This post originally appeared on January 26, 2009.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Peeing—Wondering whether we can hear that through the phone? Yes. We can.

Photo by flattop341

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Sabrina October 12, 2009 at 10:26 am

I once lost out on a job because I never got the message. It was a summer job while I was in school so not the end of the world, but still annoying. My dad took the message on a paper plate which got misplaced and then didn’t even mention that they’d called. Cell phones were around but hardly anyone had them because they were so expensive. I did get a pager with voice mail a few weeks later though.

Tim G October 12, 2009 at 11:35 am

Amen to number 6. I don’t wan’t to hear screeching breaks and horns and then a disconnect.
Barking dogs too. Move to a room where they aren’t distracting us both or offer to call me back in a few minutes.
You’re remining me of why I don’t miss being in the middle of hiring processes.
.-= Tim G´s last blog ..5 Reasons We Aren’t Always As Safe As We Could Be =-.

Carla October 12, 2009 at 12:26 pm

I cant believe people have to be told about these things, especially numbers 1, 2, & 4-7! I think having a cell phone while job hunting is the best thing ever (don’t have to be confined to the house), but basic decorum and professionalism should come naturally. Maybe not.
.-= Carla´s last blog ..Green and Chic Store Makeover & SoLi Design Studios Review =-.

teresahrgirl October 12, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Kids screaming in the background. Maybe its just me, but my 4 year old always absolutely NEEDS something when I’m on the phone. I never answered/returned employer’s calls when I was job hunting until he was napping. I hope people give me the same curtesy.

majigail October 12, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Oh #3… In college, I was applying for internships. I had sent out at least 20 letters/ resumes at that point. I came home from class one day and my roommate said, “Someone called today about a job.” I asked Who? She said, “I don’t know, they woke me up from my nap.”
I obviously didn’t get to return their call…

HRLeigh October 12, 2009 at 2:27 pm

When I was in staffing in the late 90′s, the trend was to have your answering machine message start with music and then the person would say I’m not here, leave a message. The problem was that some people would play a couple of minutes worth of music before their message. And this was before cell phones and digital machines where you could just hit # and skip the message. When you’re calling 100 people a day to fill temp assignments, this was horrific to listen to. It was probably a good thing the sound quality was always so bad. I never heard any obnoxious lyrics, but then I could understand most of them either.

HRLeigh October 12, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Oops, that should be “couldn’t” understand them.

novice-hr October 12, 2009 at 5:00 pm

hahaha. I love the last one.. I just don’t get why ppl would even think of answering an important call while in the bathroom!
.-= novice-hr´s last blog ..The Value of an MBA =-.

JBurns October 13, 2009 at 7:04 am

I was calling someone about a job opportunity and an older woman, who did not speak english, answered the phone. She started screaming at me, and I could not understand a word she was saying. It startled me so badly I just hung up!

class factotum October 13, 2009 at 8:32 am

Novice HR, I wouldn’t answer the phone while I’m peeing, but if someone calls unexpectedly and then talks for half an hour in the morning after I’ve just had two cups of coffee and won’t hang up despite my gentle hints, I am going to be really distracted and may have to take drastic measures.

Fortunately, there is a mute function for conference calls. Unfortunately, that annoying woman who talks and talks while you’re on mute won’t tell you how to un-mute. (And yes, for a scheduled call, I would make sure to slow down on the liquids before the call starts.)
.-= class factotum´s last blog ..Monday letters =-.

Julie O'Malley October 13, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Wow, the part about women demanding to know what the hell you want with their husband or boyfriend is one I hadn’t heard before. I suppose it’s a good thing to find out early if the candidate is going to have that much domestic drama in the background!
.-= Julie O’Malley´s last blog ..Job Interview Etiquette from the ‘Experts’ =-.

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