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Smarter Voicemail - Quick, Clear, Compelling, and Confident

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. You can try again, to see if you break through the voicemail gate, but you may not have the option, at least initially, to talk with a live person.

So, 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. The scripts below work for those golden opportunities when a person, not voicemail, answers the phone.

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Preparation Required for Effective Voicemail

Since leaving effective voicemail messages is a tough and touchy subject, I interviewed an expert for her advice.

Kathleen Peterson, founder and Chief Vision Officer of Powerhouse Consulting, is a frequent speaker on the subject of effective telephone use.

Below, she shares the scripts and strategies that work.

As usual in a job search, the key is preparation: don't ty to "wing it" and expect to succeed.

Voicemail Success Strategies

These strategies will help you leave a successful message that should lead to a good response (but, unfortunately, may not always).

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. Hoovers, 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.

4. 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.

Voicemail 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 first message

If you are responding to an job posting or ad, be as specific as possible -

"Hello [person's name]."

"I'm responding to your ad for [job title] 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, said slowly and distinctly].

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.

Hello, [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]."

OR

"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 nameis [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"

DO Be Confident.

According to Kathleen, you must be confident that you are worthy of a call back. If you don't believe you are worthy of a call back (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.

Do NOT 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.


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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