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Smarter Voicemail Messages

by Susan P. Joyce

You've worked up the courage to call that employer, as we've been suggesting. But, your call is diverted to voicemail. Rats!! Now what?

If you are not prepared to leave an effective voicemail message, your best bet is probably to hang up. Then, get prepared for future voicemail encounters. The beauty of it is that if you are prepared for voicemail, you'll handle "live" people better, too.

Preparation

Kathleen Peterson, founder and Chief Vision Officer of Powerhouse Consulting, is a frequent speaker on the subject of effective telephone use, and she shares the scripts and strategies that work. The key is preparation: don't just "wing it."

The Strategies:

1.) Find a name

The most effective calls are to a specific individual. If you don't have a person's name, search the employer's Website, ask your reference librarian, ask your support network, scan the local (or industry) press, visit appropriate industry Websites, check out Web research sites (e.g. Bloomberg, etc.), or use a preliminary phone call to get the name.

2.) Know the employer

Be sure that you are a good match for the employer so that you don't waste your time or theirs. Who are they? What do they do? Where are they? Should they have the kind of job that would fit you? Do they have any current openings appropriate for you?

This information will enable you to leave a more compelling voicemail or to make a better impression if you speak to a live person.

3.) Practice your script

Once you've established your script (below), practice it until you can say it out loud cleanly and confidently. No verbal "typos" and no hesitation allowed. You have 35 seconds to make a good impression and be compelling enought to motivate your listener to call you back.

Be persistent.

According to Kathleen, don't stop at one message, unless you get a response. People are very busy, so continue leaving messages (up to five) at regular intervals, several days or a week apart. Don't scold, and don't count. Do NOT say, "this is the 4th message I've left." Be politely persistent.

The Scripts Two different circumstances and two slightly different scripts. The first is the initial call, and the second is for the follow-up calls.

* The Frst Message
"Hello [person's name]."
"I'm responding to your ad in [where you found it]."
OR - if you are not responding to a specific ad or posting -
"Through my networking I understand that you may have [job title or very brief description of the opportunity you want] jobs open."

"My name is [your name], and I may be reached at [phone numbers]."
"I believe my skills and competencies match your opening."
OR - again, if you are not responding to a specific ad or posting -
"I believe my skills and competencies fit your needs."

"Again, [their first name], my name is [your name], and I may be reached at [phone numbers]. I look forward to speaking with you in person."

* The Follow-up Messages
"Hello [person's name]."
"I'm responding to your ad in [where you found it]."

"Through my networking I understand that you may have [job title or very brief description of the opportunity you want] jobs open."

"My name is [your name], and I may be reached at [phone numbers]."

"I understand that you ["are extremely busy" or "have a lot on your plate" or "are very crunched for time"], but I ["think that our conversation would be very beneficial" or "would hate to see you move forward without talking to me."]

"Again, [their first name], my name is [your name], and I may be reached at [phone numbers]. I look forward to speaking with you in person."

A Closing "Do" Plus a Critical "Don't"
* Be confident.
According to Kathleen, you must be confident that you are worthy of a call back. If you don't believe it (or can't pretend for 30 seconds that you believe it), you won't deliver that message, and you won't get that returned call.

* Don't sound desperate.
Desperation is not attractive (think about dating situations), so even if you are desperate, hide it.

Success

The old cliché is right - success is when opportunity meets preparation. Yes, a very few people are very lucky and seem to just fall into good opportunities. The rest of us must work for them. Use Kathleen's strategies (which do involve some work) to increase your probability of success.



For this article, Susan Joyce, of Job-Hunt, interviewed Kathleen Peterson. Kathleen is the founder and Chief Vision Officer of Powerhouse Consulting, a consulting company focused on call centers and the associated technologies.


About Susan Joyce: In 1995, Susan emerged from a corporate career to found NETability, Inc., a Web site development and consulting company, teach online job-hunting skills and grow Job-Hunt.org, the award-winning job search portal. For more than a decade, she has written and spoken extensively on the subject of online job search to groups ranging from the U.S. Department of Labor to local support groups. Susan is truly a pioneer in this field. She has been quoted in TIME Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and countless other publications, both online and offline. Susan has an M.B.A. in Information Systems and a B.S. in Education.