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Marc Cenedella: Leaving the Right Voicemail Message

Voicemail leaves opportunities to mess up your message.

Voicemail leaves opportunities to mess up your message. (Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

In the old days, a recruiter received her phone messages on a sheet from a pink, While You Were Out notepaper that had all the right info to contact the caller. There was no way the caller could mess up the message.

Voicemail is self service, and there are multiple opportunities to mess up the message and hurt your chances the recruiter will be able to reach you or even want to.

Consider this message from job seeker Stan to a recruiter named Susan:

“Hey Susan, it’s Stan. I think you’ll agree that I’m perfect for the Director job we discussed three weeks ago. When I spoke with your CEO at our Alumni Conference last week, he mentioned what a great background I had for the role. Please call me back – I’m ready to get started on Monday!”

Susan isn’t going to call back. Why?

1. No last name! No phone number!
2. “I think you’ll agree that I’m perfect for the Director job.” This is presumptuous. And the purpose of this voicemail is not to “seal the deal” – that will be a live conversation. The purpose should be to provide a pleasant reminder of your candidacy.
3. ” … three weeks ago.” And just getting around to following up now? How serious is this guy Stan?
4. “When I spoke with your CEO at our Alumni Conference …” – the recipient is thinking: great, you went to school with my boss. But this appeal to a higher authority is really very annoying. Are you vaguely threatening me? Implying you’re going over my head?
The recruiter or hiring manager is well aware of whether their boss is a meddling sort or not. If not, your bluff is called. If so, they’ll wait to hear directly from the boss about you – your application is going to the “hold” pile for now.
5. “Please call me back – I’m ready to get started on Monday!” Being available is good, sounding desperate is not.

A better voicemail is this imagined example:

“Hi Susan, it’s Jim Ablebody. Just calling to let you know how excited I am about the opportunity there at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. As I mentioned last week, I’ve spent 15 years in nuclear safety, so I feel there could be a great fit. You can reach me back at 867-5309, and, again, it’s … Jim. Ablebody.”

What’s right here?

1. Jim gave his phone number and repeated his full name (slowly) twice. No need to replay the message to get his information.
2. Jim is upbeat – “how excited I am,” ‘I feel there could be a great fit” – without being needy or pushy.
3. “As I mentioned last week” – my advice on phone follow-up is: call one time per week for five weeks. That lets them know that you’re consistently interested, without appearing desperate. And if you don’t hear back after five weeks, it is time to move on.
4. “I’ve spent 15 years” – just a simple reminder, not an argument, for why you make sense for the job.
5. It is a short, simple, polite message that brings Jim to the top of Susan’s mind. That’s good.
6. Jim doesn’t try to close the deal or get the job during this voicemail. He realizes that you can’t do that. What Jim does accomplish here is to increase the odds that the next time the job is discussed, his name will come up. And the next time his name comes up, it will be in a positive light. And that’s the most you should hope for from a voicemail. Trying for a bigger result is ultimately just going to set you back.

Marc Cenedella

(While You Were Out by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com, CC3.0)

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One comment for “Marc Cenedella: Leaving the Right Voicemail Message”

  1. [...] Marc Cenedella: Leaving the Right Voicemail Message [...]

    Posted by Post-Interview Thank You Note Says More Than Thank You | career-line.com | May 14, 2009, 11:14 am

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