Saturday, March 14, 2009

Phone etiquette, please!

On Friday morning, I was once again headed north on I-95, the asphalt corridor that’s become my second home of late. Within the confines of my mobile office, built by Ford, I was making follow-up calls to 12 WorkReady candidates that had been accepted into the 20th such program that I’ve coordinated over the past 30 months.

During this period of time, WorkReady has grown from a small localized pilot, to where it is now recognized across the state, with close to 300 graduates now holding the WorkReady Credential, signifying that they've completed the 60-hour, ready-to-work program.

I regularly place calls to a variety of people, many of them out of work, and hoping to reenter the job market. More often than not, I come away nonplussed in making initial calls to potential WorkReady candidates, following up with someone who has left me a voicemail about about other training opportunities, or in my general day-to-day interactions with people searching for the onramp to success in the job marketplace.

Here is a list of items I’ve encountered this past week that are the norm in my interactions with people that either are, or will be receiving contacts from potential employers:
  • The cell phone voicemail that doesn’t have a message, it just unleashes a blast of music, most often rap, into your tinny cellphone earpiece. I’m not sure who came up with this technique, but listening to 30 seconds, or more, of music that isn't my music genre of choice is a great way to make a negative first impression on me, as well as a potential employer.
  • The cell phone, or home number, answered by someone with, “yo,” a grunt, or some other semi-intelligible greeting. Then, after identifying who I am as the caller, and why I’m calling, the message taker asks, “who are you?” or “what?” requiring a restatement of my information. The kicker is always, “let me get a pencil,” and the interminable wait of 30-45 seconds for them to return. Then, begins the torturous task of repeating your information several times while the semi-literate scribe cobbles together the message that at this point, you know will never get to the party you were attempting to connect with.
  • The number that rings and rings and rings, with no answering machine, or voicemail on the other end. Even worse, the busy signal that indicates, more often than not, a dial-up internet connection.
  • And lastly, the person that you just met, after recruiting them for your program that corrects you for some perceived error that they picked up on. After you explain that the reason why you asked your question about having internet dial-up, was because you attempted to call four times over a two-hour period and received a continuous busy signal. A potential employer might try once, or twice, max! Rather than getting all indignant about some perceived slight, you should be thankful that someone cares enough to tell you that there is a potential problem, before you lose an offer for an interview.

Folks, it’s a very selective job market out there, with many employers postponing hiring decisions entirely, while they wait and see what happens over the next few months. Those employers who are hiring want candidates that at the very least, can pass the “phone test,” before being offered an interview.


Anonymous said...

You are so right on with addressing phone etiquette, a huge peeve & annoyance of mine.

Phone rings. I answer. Only to hear a sullen unidentified voice saying, "Is this HR?", or "Are you guys hiring?", or "Who is this?"

What do I want to hear first? Who are you? What can you do for me? & Why are you calling me?

If we are going to enter into a meaningful dialoque, with a true exchange of meeting, let's get on the same page first.

I do want to help each unemployed citizen dp attempt to guide through a brief learning experience by discovering who they are, what skills and talents they may have, where they have worked in the past. If they offer something that I may need in the future, I invite them to come in and fill out an application. Then, we will sit down for a few more face-to-face moments. When we get to the point that we are hiring again, and we need someone with your skills and talents, I will be glad to call them back for a formal selection for employment interview.

However, often, that is less than the case.

g2bn2n said...

Hit the nail on the head! Dead on!

We have certainly seen our share of job seekers coming through Maine's CareerCenters who have absolutely no idea as to why they cannot land an interview or after landing one cannot seem to get any further. During my HR days I used to interview several people during the course of a week and encountered many with the phone skills/issues you describe.

On another note, I recently attended a couple of job fairs and once again was just floored at the number of job seekers ill prepared for such an event. Poorly written resumes, torn, tattered and mismatched clothes, (that just got outta bed look) seemingly lost in an unfamiliar world. Tried having a meaningful conversation with several of them and even found that quite challenging.

I realize not everyone has well honed job seeking skills and likewise understand people have differing educational and social backgrounds. It is just so disheartening to see so many job seekers who just don't get it.

In my experience, it is often not the lack of skills or work experience that hinders one's employment success but the lack of the social and communication skills needed to get in the door in the first place. Then once in, not being able to leave a positive impression to warrant consideration for the desired position.

For most, it starts with the phone call. "Ring, Ring" Hmmm, I wonder if that's an employer calling?