I spend the majority of my working hours on the phone, it’s just what I do and I love it in fact. My Bluetooth earpiece has become a ‘tool of trade’. I talk to people all day every day, to clients, candidates, people I am head hunting, people who are enquiring about jobs I am recruiting. Or to people who phone to talk about possible job opportunities that may come up and be suitable for them in the future. Some are short calls, some are much longer. And in fact I am spending increasing amounts of time doing FaceTime and Skype meetings and Interviews. What that means for people trying to call me is that it’s often really hard to get a hold of me! I don’t mind a bit of phone tag. Often there is a couple of phone messages left for me prior to speaking directly to the person that wants to speak with me (versus an answering machine). It’s just the nature of my work.

The one thing that’s been bothering me for a while, well actually probably more so worrying me (for the job seeker) is that there are a few things you need to know when you are looking for a new job, and leaving phone messages, or making phone calls about jobs.

I am going to talk about three phases of the phone interactions I have daily with candidates for the purpose of throwing some light on where I coming from and probably a lot of other recruiters actually. I love speaking with people as I’ve already mentioned, by all means as a job seeker give me a call, but for goodness sake I encourage you to do it with a reasonable level of professionalism and style!

So here we go, just some pointers for you..

1) leaving a voice message on the phone

2) the initial phone screen with questions from the recruiter

3) how you approach both of (1) and (2) above.

I am constantly amazed how candidates just don’t realise the importance of leaving a phone message that’s a good one! By a ‘good one’ I mean one that is audible, where you sound pleasant, even upbeat. A phone message where you make me want to return your call, one where you state your Christian and surname clearly, you state why you are calling (reference the job you are calling about – i.e your intent) and ask would I please call back? Then the most important part….. leaving a return phone number clearly, or if you are really being daring why don’t you repeat it a second time? That way if I am listening to your phone message in the car, or on a train, or on the hop between meetings I can have time to jot down your phone number the second time you say it instead of having to listen to the whole message again just to get those final three numbers of the mobile down that I didn’t quite manage the first time. That was because you were talking too fast or unclearly. Just saying. It’s really easy, but often we forget.

Also I encourage you to remember that the initial phone screen (when we manage to actually talk on the phone after doing a couple of phone message tags) is of paramount importance in getting through to that sometimes elusive (to the job seeker) ‘face to face’ meeting / interview…

Often candidates talk to me about how terrible they have been treated by other recruitment agencies or recruiters. How we recruiters don’t respond to emails, or acknowledge receipt of resumes on emails, just the most basic of recruitment courtesy – on the whole in this industry that base line of customer service doesn’t exist. Granted. But for those of us who are professional recruiters, who do operate within a strong values base in terms of quality customer service – to clients and candidates – those initial phone interactions are essential and important in setting the tone of the recruitment process. So have some consideration, maybe even a phone plan when you pick up the phone to speak with a recruiter. It will get you so much further than others who don’t take heed with those phone messages and interactions. Get these right and you’ll be 10 steps ahead of the other candidates who all want the same job.

I have to say, when people call to enquire about a job I am recruiting that what I can’t stand is candidates who call me up, don’t tell me their name, ask that the conversation be confidential (durr, I have been doing this for 13 years now, do you think I would still be in business if I broke individual privacy and confidentiality?), launch at me with a barrage of questions and immediately put me off even considering them as a prospect for the role. Pure and simple – if you can’t conduct yourself appropriately in a phone conversation you are over and out. Drop the attitude folks, start calling and have a phone manner that is decent. I am really happy to divulge the job insights, but let’s do it professionally. Let’s have the question and answer banter, that’s what you are doing, fact finding. But there’s a way to go about it and I am afraid even the most senior executives sometimes get it wrong. When you’ve been phone screening candidates for 13 years like I have, you become very good at categorising the ‘yes’ from the ‘no’ candidates. Just based on what you say and how you say it on the phone!

Play it right and you’ll make it past that first phone screen with a recruiter like me. I am not tough, just experienced in phone screening. How I treat people is how I expect to be treated. And by that I mean phone treatment! There is such a thing in life I think. You won’t get anywhere in the job hunt unless you can play your cards right, that is for sure.