Job Search Skills: Leaving the Perfect Voicemail

Job searching is full of uncomfortable moments, and making phone calls is no exception. Whether you are calling to follow-up on an interview or reaching out to a networking contact, there are unspoken rules you will want to follow. Here are a few pointers to take the stress out of leaving messages.

1. Leave one. Some people just don’t leave voicemails- they prefer to call and call until they reach someone. That’s fine when it’s your friends, but in a professional context, it’s bad etiquette to call over and over without leaving a message.

2. Be brief. Leaving a voicemail becomes simple when you consider that you only need to cover a few basics. Keep it to 30 seconds of the most crucial information someone needs to make the decision to call you back.

3. Include context. It’s important to be specific about how you got to this particular person. Did you meet them at an event? Did someone refer you? Professionals, no matter what their role, are super busy and get a large volume of voicemail and email. Be specific so you grab their attention.

4. Be clear about what you want. People are generally wary of returning ambiguous messages. Let them know explicitly why you are calling, and make sure that you ask them for a specific follow-up. When I get a voicemail that does not explicitly say “please call me back to….” I assume they don’t need a response.

5. Don’t forget your phone number! Sounds obvious, but about half of the voicemails we receive in the Portfolio Center are missing either a name or a phone number. While we are willing to dig for this information, professionals typically are not. Leave both your name and phone number TWICE to be safe. That way if the connection cuts out the first time, they still have a way to contact you. As a bonus, you can also leave an email address and give them the choice about how to follow up.

6. Clear up YOUR voicemail message. When they do call back, you want the caller to be greeted with a professional message on your end. Avoid a VM message that is low energy, unprofessional, or non-existent. Personalize it with your name, phone number, and a brief greeting so they know they made it to the right place.

To recap…

Bad: Hi, this is (first name), please call me back regarding a meeting.

Good: Hi, ____, my name is (first name, last name) and we met last Tuesday night at a Columbia College Music Industry Event. We spoke briefly about a band you manage and your interest in finding someone to manage their social media accounts. I would love to send over my resume and talk more. Can you give me a call back and let me know which email address I can send my materials to? My phone number is 312-369-7280, again this is ______ and my number is 312-369-7280. Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you!“

Like most aspects of the job search, your mantra should be "how can I make their life easier?” Providing the right information ensures that they immediately know who you are, why you are calling, and what you want from them.