Ask A Recruiter: I like to leave funny messages on my answering machine. I believe my messages may give recruiters a welcome laugh. Am I wrong?


Leave a silly message on your machine and that click you hear may be the sound of a recruiter hanging up on you.

Recruiters make dozens of call a day, so they don’t have the interest, or time, for anything but a message that gets right to the point.

Besides, while some people may laugh at, “Hello, I’m Jane’s answering machine. What are you?” others may just groan and question your sense of humour.

So before you give your phone number to any recruiter, make sure you clear your answering machine message of jokes, music, barking dogs, crying babies and kids, and all references to late night parties.

Whether you are seeking full-time employment, temporary work, or contract work, your message must to be professional. It should sound like the message you hear when you call someone at an office.

Here’s a tip sheet, compiled by recruiters at The Bagg Group, for how to leave a message to impress human resource professionals:

Short and simple is the way to go. “Hello, this is (name). I’m sorry I’m unavailable to take your call, but please leave a message. Ill return your call as soon as possible. Thank you.” That’s really all you need to say.

Put a smile in your voice. According to studies, 85% of a person’s impression of you over the phone is determined by the quality of your voice. In other words, how you say your message is even more important than what you say. If your voice has no energy and you sound exhausted or depressed, hiring authorities will be put off.

Articulate. Often people speak so fast that the message sounds like one garbled word: “Hi, plzseezeamsagemelateatbeep.” That doesn’t make a good impression. And all accents sound stronger on the phone, so be sure to enunciate every word.

Borrow a voice. It doesn’t have to be your voice on the recording. Many people have friends or family who are natural voice talents to record their message for them. But don’t use a young child. The voice may be adorable, but the impact is unprofessional.

Ask relatives to let the machine pick up when you are not home. Recruiters say it’s not unusual for someone to pick up a phone, bark, “He’s not home” and hang up before they have a chance to leave their name and number. That doesn’t help you land the job opportunity. Unless you can trust the person to take a message well and deliver it, insist members of your household let the answering machine do the work.

Update your message. From Monday to Friday, your message has to sound like a work message. So don’t forget to delete “Heeeeey, party at my place tonight. Prepare to go wild,” message from the weekend.

Make sure you have an answering system. It’s not a big investment to get a message feature for your phone and it’s an essential one for every job-seeker. If people can’t leave a message, they’ll move on to the next person on their list. And check your messages frequently.

Finally, when leaving a message with a recruiter:

Give your full name and speak slowly when giving your phone number. Recruiters tear out their hair when they receive messages from people who identify themselves only by their first name or who speak so fast that they can’t catch the phone number.

Hold back the cough until you put down the phone. It’s not unusual for people to call in sick and cough their way through a message. This makes it impossible to catch key information. Rather than feeling sympathetic, the receiver of the message just feels annoyed.

For more tips, read How to make a better impression on the telephone.  

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