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Outgoing Messages, the Phone and Your Image

Don't let your answering machine message "wring" out your professional image.

by Miriam Salpeter-Keppie Careers  |  4945 views  |  4 comments  |        Rate this now! 

It’s not rocket science --  potential employers and everyone else will judge you based on anything you offer them.

A typo on your resume?  You’re careless.

Unkempt appearance?  You’re a slob.

Unprofessional phone greeting?  You’re unprofessional!

If you use your phone number for business or a job hunt, your outgoing phone message is an important, but overlooked piece of your professional image.  Since no one wants to hire or work with someone who is unprofessional, take the time to make this very easy check of your outgoing phone greeting.

Does it contain music?

Are there children's voices?

Is there background noise?

Does it make an effort at humor?  Is it “cute?”

Is it political? Religious?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, stop everything you are doing -- change it now!

Record a basic, easy-to-hear greeting:  “Hello, you have reached April Showers.  Please leave a message and I will return your call.  Thank you.” 

You use the family number for business?  Your greeting:  "Hello, you have reached the Shower Family.  Please leave a message and we will return your call."

Listen to the greeting.  Is it garbled?  Did you rush it, as if you were escaping a fire but wanted to record the message first?  Re-do it!  Ask your hard-of-hearing neighbor to call and listen.  Does he understand what you said?  If so, you are golden!

Now, don’t get me started on kids, family members, or roomates who answer the phone and don’t relay messages.  Or who tell the caller that you’re stuck under the car trying to rescue the cat.  Or in the bathroom, and you won’t be out for a LONG time.

Try to give out a number that only you or a trusted adult will answer. Usually, that is a mobile number. Many of us answer our phones whenever they ring -- even when we are driving, in a mob of screaming baseball fans or supervising a 2-year-old's temper tantrum. 

Be aware that trying to scream, “I can’t HEAR you” or cursing at the driver who just cut you off as you are picking up your phone does not offer the professional impression you want to relay.

If you are job hunting, be aware that any time the phone rings, it might be your dream job on the line.    You're an entrepreneur?  Every call could be your next big investor.  If you’re in a bad or loud spot -- let it go to voice mail (to your nice, clear, professional greeting), listen to the message, and call back as soon as possible.  You (and the caller) will be glad you did.

About the Author

Miriam Salpeter is a career coach and resume writer ( offering practical tips, encouragement and clarity about the job search. Visit her blog:

Read more by Miriam Salpeter-Keppie Careers

4 comments so far...

  • Hi Miriam! Great post! You know my outgoing message isn't exactly brief. I get people who LOVE it, and those who would prefer "less is more". What do you think?

    See you Monday!

    Lauren Davidson, Professional Organizer & Coach
    ARoundTuit Organizing & Productivity

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by OrganizerLauren on 13th April 2009

  • Diane - Thanks for reading and commenting. I like short messages as well, although I do enjoy long emails :-)

    Mandy - It sounds like you have an interesting job (and busy life)! That's a great point about leaving clear and concise messages. I hate when people rush through the phone number and then don't repeat it back, leaving me with no choice but to listen to all of my messages again! Thanks for stopping by :-)

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Miriam Salpeter-Keppie Careers on 10th April 2008

  • Miriam, can I tell you how jealous I am that you published this before I could ;). As someone who makes a living by making sure peoples phone systems (and commercials and websites and...) sound professional, I easily get annoyed at horrible outgoing messages or phone prompts recorded by bad accents and with background noise.

    The only thin I'd add to this is for everyone to remember these points when leaving a professional message as well. Start with you name and phone number, add the BRIEF message, and close with the name and number (or just the number if they already know you). Being clear and concise has helped me to get a job many times just on the brief phone snippet.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Mandy Nelson - Dandysound on 9th April 2008

  • Nice advice! My favorite phone messages are short ones so I can get on with leaving my message!!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Diane on 7th April 2008