Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why aren't decision makers calling you back?

I've been growing increasingly impatient with a particularly annoying behavior of people who call me at work. For the most part, these people fall into two categories: job seekers, and sales people. I am definitely more patient with the job seekers, but I'd still like them to stop doing these annoying things they're doing.  Here's what a typical message sounds like on my voice mail, 5-10 times per day: 

 "Hello Meg/Mac/Mug/um.../Meg Steele/Maggie/Megan, this is Flibjskah (mumbled name), from Ajdilaoosnd (mumbled company/school/social service/social network name) and I'm just calling to ______ (insert annoying stand-in phrase from list below*). Please call me at 212-555-12xx (mumbled last two digits)..." 
The message usually continues with a lengthy Value Proposition Speech but by now I've hit "delete" because it doesn't matter what else they say since I can't call them back.

Alright, let's just break this down, starting at the top: 

  1. Caller, please know who you are calling and get their name right.  If you aren't sure how to pronounce it (because "Meg" can be pronounced so many different ways, right?!) just don't say it on the voice mail message.  If you botch my name, I'm pretty sure you don't know me and weren't referred to me by someone who knows me. 
  2. As an extension of #1 above, if you don't know me, then you definitely want ME to get YOUR name right so that I will know who I am calling back, and won't be embarrassed that I don't know your name when I do. Speak your name clearly, slowly, and more than once in the message - at the beginning and at the end. This gives me a chance to correct it on my phone log at the end if I got it wrong the first time. Don't assume everyone knows your name as well as you do or that they know how to spell it. (An employee once called me because she was seriously agitated that I spelled her name 'Kelly' instead of 'Kellye', when I had never seen it in print. Really?!)
  3. If you're representing a company, it's a good idea to apply the same standards of diction, enunciation, and volume as stated in #2 above, as your message continues. I am very likely going to Google your company before I call you back, so it's a good idea to spell it if it's a weird name like 'AdJurpion' or something. The other day a guy left me a message and said he was from 'Delta'.  Yeah, right. He was from 'Delta Healthcare', a staffing agency, which I found out when I searched for him on LinkedIn. Hmm... was he deliberately misleading me? I'll never know, I guess. Deleted...moving on. 
  4. "I'm just calling to..." - and now we get to the real source of my irritation, and why I wrote this post. Caller: Be honest about why you are calling, please.  If you want to know why you didn't get the job you applied for, say so.  If you want 15 minutes to do an online demo of your product, say so. If you want me to refer you to someone else in my company, say so.  Please do not try to fool yourself or me by using one of these phrases*: 
  • "I just want to know if you got my application."  No, you don't. You received the auto-reply from our ATS saying your application was received. What you want to know is did anyone look at it? Are you being considered? Is there anything you can do to advance your candidacy for the position?  Job seeker, I promise that if you ask the real question you want the answer to, I will call you back and do what I can to help you or have someone else do the same.  We really do care about you and want you to have a good experience with our company, even if we can't hire you. But I can't call every applicant personally to say, "just want you to know we got your application."
  • "I'd like to learn about your priorities for 2011."  Oh, ok. Let me stop everything and call you back, stranger-whose-name-I-couldn't-hear, to tell you my priorities.  HUH?  Seriously?  Why would I do this?  If you're trying to sell me something to address one of my priorities, tell me so. Here's an alternative that might inspire me to call back, "I represent ABC Co. and we have a solution for ____ (insert the reason your company is in business still in this economy, e.g., ineffective job postings, screening under-qualified masses of candidates, narrowing your candidate pool to 2 or 3 highly qualified individuals, etc.) If this is a business problem you would like to solve, I can give you an overview very quickly over the phone. You can reach me at..."  This doesn't sound desperate, I don't think I'm #452 in your weekly cold-call list, and it is focused on my need vs yours. No offense, but I am not going to prioritize calling you back to tell you my priorities. 
  • "So-and-so (insert name of one of my company executives) asked me to call you about our product/service/candidate..."  You know what I'm going to do next?  Ask so-and-so if they referred you to me and if they really want me to call you. And 99.9% of the time, they simply told you my name so you would stop calling them.  But they did not refer you to me nor say you should call me nor ask you to call me. When this happens, and the executive tells me, "I said no such thing!", you have effectively lost credibility with both me and the executive. And guess what? Neither of us will call you back.  Instead of trying to intimidate me, just say, "I've been trying to find the right person to talk to at your company, and so-and-so gave me your name."  It's the truth, does not imply an endorsement, and does not make an ass out of you, me, or the executive. 
  • "This is ___ (insert first name only here). Call me right away at..."  If you can imagine that I am a relatively busy person, you can imagine why I am not going to call back. There's the whole icky underlying message of "I'm so important you should know me by first name. I'm like Cher, Oprah, Rihanna, Batman, and Obama. I am that big and if you don't call me back you are a big stupid idiot."  Blech. Then there is the false sense of urgency in your tone of voice, like you think maybe I'll think you're a teacher from my kids' school or a co-worker of my husband's, and I better step out of my very important meeting to call you back because something could be seriously wrong with the most important people in my life. Yeah, buddy, I won't fall for that twice.  When you leave this message, I immediately delete it.  Just go away and get over yourself.  (Don't you know that teachers always start their messages with, "This is (teacher name), everything is fine with the boys. I'm calling about..."?)
  • "I have left you X number of messages, would you please, please, please call me back and just let me know if you're interested in me/my product?"  Ugh. This is especially distasteful.  If you've left messages for me like the ones above and I haven't called you back, and this approach is your last ditch effort, it's not looking good for you.  Begging is pathetic.  And, it's a lot like my first example in which the caller doesn't state the true reason for the call. In actuality, you really do know already, if you're willing to accept the message that my not returning your calls conveys, "I'm not interested."  And now you've made me feel bad and we'll have a whole new layer of awkwardness where I actually have to apologize for not calling you back so that you could try to sell me something or debate why you weren't chosen for the job. 
I am ready for all the backlash this post will bring from salespeople and job seekers and anyone else who does their business via phone.  I promise, it's not that I think I'm better than or more important than you. And I recognize that it's your job to try to reach me, get an audience with me, or get an answer from me. In my heart, I want to help. But if I returned calls to everyone who called me, I would spend way too many hours per week just doing that.  I have to prioritize the calls I make and return.  I want to spend my time in the most productive way I can, and that is talking to people who have something legitimate to share, teach or demonstrate to me, and those individuals whom we really do want to hire but just haven't connected with yet.  Perhaps the time isn't right for us to talk, but please don't put yourself immediately into the "delete" pile before you've had your chance.  Be honest, speak clearly, and don't try to scare, guilt-trip, or intimidate me into calling you back. I'm already over it. 

P.S.  I almost forgot... please leave your phone number right at the beginning of the message. If you wait til the end of your Big Value Proposition Speech, I may not stay on the line that long. Remember, Name, Company Name, Phone Number (and email address - much more likely I will reply!), and reason for your call.  Then name and number again. Bingo! Your phone is ringing!  :) 
P.P.S.  I see you calling me over and over and over in a 5 minute period. I have caller ID.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love the honesty in this post. Smart and practical, which is what phone messages should be as well.