Telephone etiquette for your job search

by Salpeter, Miriam Thursday, April 14, 2011
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Years ago, when I was working on Wall Street (and mobile phones were a lot less common), I called a candidate for a job. She answered her cell phone — from a loud, New York City street corner. You can imagine our conversation:

Me: We’d like to see about scheduling an interview…

Her: I’m sorry…I can’t really hear you so well. It’s really LOUD here. Let me try to get somewhere quieter.

Me: Okay. (Waiting…thinking — why did she answer the phone if she can’t hear me?)

Her: Okay – I think this is better…

Me: We’d like to have you come in for an interview. When is a good time?

Her: Oh, this isn’t any better. Can I call you back?

Me: (Thinking…It hardly matters what I say — she can’t hear me.) Okay. Bye.

While it was great to b able to reach this candidate (in theory) while she was out and about — a communication revolution at the time — the reality was she would have been better of letting me leave a message and calling me back when she was in a quiet place.

That was probably 15 years ago. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as if we’ve learned much about telephone etiquette in the interim. Just yesterday, I contacted a job seeker via a mobile number. He answered, and we proceeded with pretty much exactly the same conversation as above. While I am not hiring anyone, I imagine if I were, it would have been pretty much the same story.

It’s not rocket science – potential employers and everyone else will judge you based on anything you offer them. If you can’t hear to speak on the phone, don’t answer the phone!

Once your resume is out there, be aware that any time the phone rings, it might be your dream job on the line. If you’re in a bad or loud spot – let it go to voice mail (to your nice, clear, professional greeting), listen to the message and call back as soon as possible.

While providing a mobile number for your job search should prevent anyone else answering the phone, resist the need to answer your phone whenever it rings – even when we are driving or in the middle of a mob of screaming baseball fans. If you are job hunting, be aware that trying to scream, “I can’t HEAR you” or cursing the driver who just cut you off as you are picking up your phone does not offer the impression you want to give your prospective employer.

You (and the caller) will be glad you did.