Can Your Voicemail Greeting Disqualify You?

by The HeadHunter on May 25, 2009

I’m a headhunter.  I make a lot of phone calls.  I reach a lot of voicemail.  


Voicemail greetings are an important point of communication that can tell me a lot about someone.  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.


When I hear this phrase in a prospective candidate’s greeting



it’s clear that I’m attempting to connect with someone who doesn’t grasp nuance in professional or personal communication.  This is someone who has flipped the appropriate “…please return my call at your earliest convenience…” into a striking pre-recorded, edited and redundant communication faux pax.  They are believing all the while, of course, that their greeting is highly professional.   That’s the kicker.  It’s not smart. 


Now, I’m not that particular about voicemail greetings.  I’m not looking for creative ways to disqualify the prospective candidates that I take a great deal of time and effort to identify.  I’m OK with the family dog barking in the background.  I’m cool with musical interludes.  I don’t make a judgment when I reach a robotic default greeting. 


What I am particular about are relevant communication skills.   A voicemail greeting can provide me with critical insight into one of the most important qualifying determinations I need to make for a hiring executive.  “Does this person exhibit professional communication skills?”


So, you get a call from an employer or a headhunter looking to set up a phone screen or first interview.  They listen to your message. 



They don’t leave a message  for you.  They don’t call back because you answered a primary qualifier in your greeting. 


You just experienced a very fast phone screen.




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