10 Tips for Creating A Professional Voicemail Greeting

You found and applied for the perfect telecommuting job but it’s been weeks and you can’t understand why you haven’t heard back. Well, maybe they called and got your voicemail and it sounded something like this . . .

Do you honestly think anyone will sit through all that and still leave you a message, much less consider you a professional who cares about the quality of your work and offer you a job?

Believe it or not, voice mail greetings like that exist and it’s not just large companies giving customers a long list of instructions to punch their way through in hopes of talking to a real, live person. It’s job seekers and small business owners not thinking about the image they’re portraying when they note a phone number in their contact info.

Still don’t believe your voice mail greeting makes a difference in landing, or not landing, that telecommuting job?
One headhunter explains how your voicemail greeting can (and does) disqualify you. He says,

For me, voicemail protocol doesn’t fall into a “pet peeve” category like a candidate arriving for an interview with bad breath or dirty fingernails. A voicemail greeting tells me something very specific about the communication savvy and sensitivity of a prospective candidate.

A voicemail greeting is pre-recorded. It’s easy to edit. It’s easy to get right. I assume that a job seeker giving their primary contact number understands that a prospective employer may call. I assume that a voicemail greeting is a person’s best effort to make a first impression.

If you’re actively looking for a telecommuting gig, or you’re a small business owner looking to project a polished, professional image, do yourself a favor and call the number you’re giving out and listen to your voicemail greeting or, heaven forbid, see how your phone is answered by whatever family member happens to pick up the ringing phone.

  • Are you impressed, or embarrassed?
  • Was it useful, or was it a colossal waste of your time?
  • Could you understand every word clearly, or did it sound like you were in a tent in the middle of a monsoon?
  • Is the information you provided recent, or was it dreadfully out of date?
  • Did it sound like someone you want to work with or hire? Or not?

If you gave it an honest listen and you’re satisfied with what you heard, you can stop reading and go enjoy a cup of coffee. If not, or if you’d just like to read some reminders for creating a professional voicemail greeting, read on.

Ten Tips for Creating A Professional Voicemail Greeting

First and foremost, it nearly goes without saying that it’s important to get a dedicated number specifically for work-related calls, but let’s just say it. Many of us working from home have had to deal with using our home phone number or getting an additional land-line installed. Those days of dial-up are long gone for most of us and it seems nearly everyone on earth now has a cell phone. There’s really no excuse not to have a dedicated work number these days. If you don’t have one, secure one today. It’s even easier than you think if you also consider options like Google Voice and My1Voice.

  1. Leave a personalized message
    You’d think this also goes without saying, but don’t leave the standard voicemail provided by your cell phone carrier or answering machine. It’s annoying. Everyone hates them. And don’t think that saying your name at the beep to customize your message helps. It’s just as annoying to hear the robotic voice that pauses as your voice interrupts the message to insert your name.
  2. Actually say your name
    You think I’m joking? I called someone just last week and when I got the voicemail it just repeated the number. I dialed by choosing the contact from my contacts and I’m not good with numbers. I wasn’t sure if the number was the number I mean to call, so I just hung up. It happens.
  3. Reveal specific information
    If it’s a typical work day and you’re just unable to answer your phone, it’s fine to say you’re currently unavailable. But if you’re sunning yourself on the beaches of Tahiti and have no intention of even checking your voicemail until you return to your desk in two weeks, it would be nice to let someone know. If they’re calling you they must need something. Let them know when you’ll be available.
  4. Give an emergency option
    Depending on what you do for a living, or just how accessible you want to appear to a potential employer, leaving an additional option for the caller to reach you often makes a good impression. Doctors offices do that all the time, right. If you can’t reach me this way, you can reach me THIS way. Or, you can reach someone else who can help you right now.
  5. KISS
    Keep It Simple, Stupid. You don’t want to speak like an auctioneer, but you do want to get as much information across as quickly as possible and get on to the beep. Your caller doesn’t need to know your life history, just the current facts and then sufficient space to leave you a message.
  6. Write it down
    Put some thought into exactly what you want to say. Don’t just hit record and play around until you’re satisfied that your message doesn’t suck. Think about it. Write down what you want to say and give it a try. Rearrange things, revise things. And, when you’re ready, hit the record button and give it a whirl.
  7. Smile
    Did you know that it’s believed that some 50 different types of smiles exist, from triumphant ones to bitter ones. Interestingly enough, there was a study a couple years ago where scientists used the phrase “I do in the summertime” to study the effects of smiling on person’s voice. Read all about in Smile – And The World Can Hear You, Even If You Hide. Or listen to the NPR show, Hearing a Smile in Tone of Voice. So close your eyes and think of your happy place. Think of something funny or amusing. Then, right before you hit the record button and begin speaking, SMILE. Callers will hear it. Just make sure you’re not actively laughing like the Joker from Batman throughout your voicemail greeting.
  8. Cut the comedy
    Smiling is a good thing. Acting like a clown, not so much. Cutesy comedic messages really don’t have a place on your work voicemail greeting.
  9. Be considerate
    Above all, consider the caller. A considerate message lets them know they’re important and that you’ll be returning their call. Even if the sun and moon revolve around your every move, your voicemail greeting isn’t the place for egocentric SOMETHING
  10. Listen to your messages and return calls
    ‘Nuff said.

Want to know the one thing that’ll guarantee you experience a very fast phone screen from Rick Deare, active recruiter and the founder of Deare Recruiting Solutions? It might surprise you. Hop on over to his blog post, Can Your Voicemail Greeting Disqualify You?, to see what he says gets potential job seekers a very fast phone screen every time he hears it.

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