Professional phone etiquette: Ask Amber

By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting

If you are applying for a job, submitting your application to graduate school or taking any sort of professional calls on your personal phone, it’s important to think of the message your phone etiquette is sending. Does your how you behave on the phone show that even in casual settings you present yourself with poise, or is your cell phone as dangerous as those photos you begged your friend not to tag on in Facebook? Most young professionals know how to clean up their social media accounts and wardrobe, but this week’s Ask Amber focuses on cleaning up your cell phone habits.

Ringback Tones/Ringtones

From the moment your phone begins ringing you are sending clear signals to the caller. While working in a college admissions office, I once called a prospective student to confirm a visit and was shocked to hear, “Blame it on the Alcohol” as the student’s ringback tone. Even as a student myself, I knew that was not a good sign (especially considering the applicant was clearly underage). It can be very fun to customize what callers hear while waiting for you to pick up and can show off your personality, but be incredibly discerning about the song you choose—you run the great risk of annoying, or worse, offending the caller on the other end. The same goes for the ringtone you hear when someone is calling. In a professional setting, your phone should always be on silent, but we all know accidents happen and sometimes phones ring at inappropriate times. While you’re scrambling to find and turn off your phone, do you really want your boss to hear an obscene song or movie quote? I see nothing wrong with personalized tones and have used them myself, but the question you should first ask yourself is: What would my advisor/boss/interviewer think of this, and is it worth it?

Voicemail messages

I’ve had a good laugh over some of the wild voicemail messages I have heard over the years, but when making calls on behalf of a school, campaign or employer, I must admit I am less patient. No one wants to have to guess if they called the right person. Record your outgoing message in a quiet place with no distractions, and leave a clear and simple message. Example: “Hi, you’ve reached Amber Alarid, I cannot come to the phone right now, but if you leave your name and number, I will call you back as soon as possible.” This leaves friends and professional acquaintances with no doubt that they reached the right person and that they will receive a call back soon.

Inform the caller of your time and cell coverage

The beauty of cell phones is that they allow you to take your phone with you anywhere; the trouble with cell phones is that they allow you to take your phone with you anywhere. Just because you have your phone with you does not mean you are available to talk or that you have reliable service. If you are free to speak with the caller but are worried about losing the call, tell the caller that up front. Show your willingness and enthusiasm to speak with the caller, but explain that you are in a poor coverage area and ask if there is a number and time that is best to call back in case you lose the call. If you are unable to speak with the caller, use the same concept. Explain that you are very interested in taking their call but would love to take it at a time when you can devote your full attention. Suggest a time and number that is best for calling back, ask if that works into their schedule, and then truly clear that time. Remove all distractions so you can make the best impression possible on the caller.

Cell phones can make a big impact on your image, so remember to monitor your usage carefully if there is any chance you may ever get a professional call on it. What steps have you taken, or would you suggest other young professionals take, to clean up their cell phone image? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.


This entry was posted in College graduates and nonprofits, Commentary, Gen Xers, Generations, Human resources, Millenials and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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