We use our phones for everything: looking up directions, surfing the internet, texting, and even the lesser-known function of making actual phone calls. Even though in our personal lives, true phone calls are going by the wayside, they are still a huge part of how we communicate in the workplace, and along with phone calls, so too, are workplace voicemails.
Knowing how to leave a voicemail that is equal parts succinct, professional and courteous can be hard for those not accustomed to doing so. Below are tips on proper voicemail etiquette to help you craft and leave the perfect voicemail:
Seriously. Leave a Voicemail
When we call our friends and family, we often call and hang up without leaving a voicemail -assuming the missed call will be notification enough that we want this person to call us back. Even though this is acceptable to do in our personal lives, phone call etiquette in the corporate world plays by different rules.
Different phone systems allow users to see different amounts of information ranging from a number, to name and number, to nothing at all. So, this “missed call” method of requesting a call back could end up costing you the very thing you are seeking.
Deciding what to say in a voicemail can be difficult. Poor quality and unprofessional voicemails come in a lot of shapes and sizes. Great voicemails strike the right balance of being concise, friendly and professional, which can be hard to do if you don’t leave them all the time.
Remember, you are not trying to cram your entire conversation into the voicemail, but rather, get the person to call you back to have that conversation.
Your voicemail should answer the following questions:
And that’s it.
Depending on the purpose of your voicemail, these three bullets can take different forms, but if you’re checking these three boxes, you’ll be in good shape.
The length of your voicemail plays a big role in its efficacy. Try to keep the length of your voicemail between 15- 30 seconds. Anything more and you will be rambling, anything less, and you’re probably not checking one of the three boxes above as effectively as you need to.
When opening your voicemail, start with a professional or generic greeting like, “Hello” or “Good Morning”. Be sure to clearly state your name, who you are/where you’re from, and (where applicable) how you got their contact information.
Try to avoid casual salutations like, “Hi” or “Hey” if this is your first time calling someone.
Your introduction should be one or two sentences tops. From there you can move on to the body.
DON’T SKIP YOUR INTRODUCTION!
One of the fastest ways to derail the cohesiveness of your voicemail is to skip the introduction altogether and jump right into the body of your message; skipping the greeting is sure to leave your listener confused about who you are and why you are calling them.
The body is the meat and potatoes of your voicemail. This is the section where you leave details about why you are calling and what you hope to achieve from this voicemail, which is usually a call back.
Although it is okay to give a little bit of information, keep in mind the goal of your voicemail is to take the next steps in the conversation, and not to have the whole conversation then and there in your recording.
After you have stated the nature of your call, you want to be sure to close out your voicemail confidently. If you say something similar to “please call me back”, or “I really need to talk to you” you run the risk of coming across overly excited and potentially a little desperate.
Instead, close out by saying something to the effect of, “I look forward to speaking with you soon”, or even “Call me at your earliest convenience.” Even though all these examples communicate the same thing, they take different approaches to the call back request, and little things like wording make all the difference.
Additionally, you will want to close out your voicemail by (re)stating your contact information and name and purpose of your call. This is another little trick of leaving voicemails - people tend to remember the first and last things you say more so than the middle, so by summarizing the important pieces of your message at the end, what you said is more likely to stick.
Because you never know the quality of someone’s phone audio or your cell phone service, it's not a bad idea to give your name and phone number twice within your message. The thought being, if the person you called can’t understand who you are or how to call you back, how can they be expected to return your call?
If you are calling someone to get more information on a position you saw posted online, the voicemail may look something like:
- “Hello, Hannah Hiring Manager,
- My name is Andy Applicant and I am calling regarding ABC Company’s open customer service position I saw posted online. Your information was given to me by Frankie Friend who works at ABC Company and he let me know you are the best person at ABC Company to speak to about this role. I am interested in learning more about this position and your company to see if my experiences align with what you are looking for.
- Please let me know a time within the next week that works for your schedule so we can connect. I can be reached at 123.456.7890. I will be following up with an email as well. Again, this is Andy Applicant looking to schedule a time to discuss ABC Company’s open Customer Service position. I can be reached at 123.456.7890.
- I look forward to speaking with you soon. “
Try to put yourself in the recipient’s shoes and think about the type of voicemail you would like to receive
Don’t make your recipient hunt for information
Not only does leaving a message akin to “Hey, It’s me. Call me back when you can.” cause the person to have to dig back through their mailbox to figure out who you are, it also means that *if* they can find the information to call you back, when they do so you are less likely to have an effective conversation.
Sticking with our "Andy Applicant" example, if Andy had left Hannah Hiring Manager a voicemail of, “It’s me and I would like to talk to you.” She will not know who Andy is nor what Andy wants to talk about. Effectively she will be answering Andy’s questions on the spot the whole time after she figures out how to get in touch with him. What if she forgets to mention something?
Leaving ambiguous voicemail messages almost guarantees that you will not get all you could have from the conversation, as you did not give the person you called the opportunity to prepare for your call.
Take note of your surroundings
Background noises can be picked up in voicemail recordings, and even though we may not want them to, they do subversively impact how our messages are received. Noisy backgrounds tend to trigger thoughts of a chaotic atmosphere --implying that you are disorganized or do not consider the content of your message to be important enough to be heard clearly. And if you don’t care about what you’re trying to say, why should the person on the other end of the phone?
Finding a quiet place with good reception where you won’t be interrupted ensures that when you speak, you will be clearly heard; it also removes background noises from the equation, entirely.
Follow up with an email
If you have the person's email address, follow up with an email. Depending on the person’s schedule, it may be easier to correspond (or schedule a time to talk) via email. If you are going to go this route, say in your voicemail that you will be sending over an email shortly.
In your email mention that you are following up with your voicemail; that level of synergy, communication and integrity is sure to wow any professional and leave them with the impression you do what you say you’re going to do and you are organized.
There is something about that voicemail beep that sends brains into panic mode, and we will start spewing out words as fast as possible to get the awkwardness of talking to a machine over with. The problem is if you speak too quickly, your listener won’t be able to understand what you’re saying –making the whole point of the voicemail irrelevant.
Take a deep breath before beginning and stay calm while speaking. Try practicing a few times beforehand if you need to. No rule says you have to build out what you want to say on the fly.
Put yourself in their shoes
A lot of times our anxieties get the best of us and we don’t often think about the person on the other end of the voicemail and the information they need.
Think about if you were someone working in the corporate world, what kind of voicemail would you like to receive, and try to keep that image in mind when leaving a voicemail.
You can always listen to (and rerecord) your voicemail
Most people don’t know this, but voicemail systems have the functionality to listen to and rerecord your voicemail if you are unsatisfied. Usually, this can be accessed by pressing # or 1 to return to the voicemail menu. From there you will hear the prompts to listen or rerecord your voicemail.
Try to sound like you
To some extent, we all have a “phone voice”. But there are phone voices and then there are PHONE VOICES. We’ve all gotten a voicemail from the stiff, ultra-peppy, overly rehearsed cheerleader; it doesn’t sit well with you, right?
When people listen to voicemails, they’re listening to more than just the words you say; tonality and inflection play a big role in how your message will be received.
That’s not to say strip all emotion and personality out of your voicemail, but be yourself! Presumably, you are leaving a voicemail with someone because you want to continue a conversation with them either by phone or in person. What will they think if the “personality” of the voicemail doesn’t match the one in more fluid forms of correspondence?
Knowing how to leave a voicemail that is equal parts succinct, professional and courteous can be hard for those not accustomed to doing so.
Your Voicemail Greeting
A commonly overlooked aspect of voicemail etiquette is your own mailbox greeting. A lot of us simply set it and forget it when we first get our phones, which for some of us was when we were teens, or we don’t have anything set up at all.
If you are currently in the job market and you can’t remember what your voicemail greeting is, it might not be a bad idea to check in and see if it needs updating. Depending on what it is, when a hiring manager hears it, they may decide to not leave a voicemail after all.
If You're not Sure Where to Begin
A simple voicemail greeting may be something like:
- “You have reached the voicemail box of Jane Smith. I am sorry I missed your call. Please leave your name and number and I will return your call as soon as possible. Thank you.”
Building a unique voicemail greeting for yourself that is simple, friendly and professional will guarantee that regardless of who calls, it’s sure to be palatable to them.
Following these tips of voicemail etiquette and voicemail structure are a sure-fire way to give you a professional edge in your job hunt and throughout your professional career. By having a strong voicemail template to follow you can be sure that when you call your voice(mail) will be heard.