Oftentimes telephone calls precede face-to-face meetings with important professional contacts. When you use proper telephone etiquette you help to ensure that the person you are talking to will want a face-to-face meeting to take place.
When placing telephone calls:
Keep the time in mind. Be familiar with the hours of operation when trying to reach someone at his or her place of business. Avoid calling right at closing time. If you have been given permission to contact someone at his or her personal telephone number, never call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
Be polite to everyone with whom you speak. Never be rude to administrative secretaries or other support staff who may answer your call. Not only is it unprofessional, but you can be assured that the person that you are trying to reach (professor, potential employer, etc.) will hear about it and this will tarnish his or her opinion of you.
Identify yourself. Clearly state your first and last name to the person answering the call, and let them know the reason for your call.
Ask if this is a good time to talk. Once you've been connected to the person you were calling, ask him or her if this is a good time to talk. This is especially important if you anticipate that your call will last longer than a few minutes. If you know that a particular call will be lengthy, it may be best to schedule a specific time to call.
Be cautious when leaving messages on an answering machine or voicemail. Speak in a pleasant tone, be concise and to the point, and be sure to leave your first and last name, the current date and time, your telephone number, and brief explanation of the purpose of your call. Be sure to speak clearly and slowly enough so the listener won't have to replay the message repeatedly to gather the information.
When answering calls:
Use a friendly tone and greeting. Smile as you pick up the phone and say, "Hello." As silly as it may sound, smiling while talking on the phone affects the way you speak, causing you to sound more pleasant.
Speak clearly. Avoid eating or chewing gum while on the telephone, as the sounds will be amplified to the person on the other end of the phone. Hold the telephone about two finger widths away from your mouth to ensure that you do not sound muffled. Be mindful of the volume and speed of your speech.
Always ask permission before placing someone on speaker phone or on hold. These features should only be used if absolutely necessary.
End calls on a pleasant note. Thank the person for calling you and wish them a nice day.
Your voicemail or answering machine: Make sure that the recorded message on your voicemail or answering machine is professional sounding in case you should happen to miss a call from a professional or business contact. Make sure the message is polite and states your name. Avoid being funny or clever on your outgoing message, and do not use slang. Return all calls as soon as possible.
Do not allow cell phone interruptions. Before meeting with a professional contact, make sure that your cell phone or other electronic device is on silent mode or turned off and put away to avoid interruptions. Also, do not check your missed calls or messages during professional meetings or conversations. You want the person or people with whom you are meeting to see that they have your undivided attention during that time.
Remember your surroundings when using cell phones for business or professional calls. Background noise is often picked up by cell phones, so it is a good idea to move to a quiet area before placing or receiving business or professional calls on a cell phone. This is also done out of respect for others who may be nearby, as they likely do not want to be forced to listen to your phone conversation. Also be sure that you are in an area where you get good reception to avoid dropped calls during important conversations.
Sources: Backpack to briefcase: Steps to a Successful Career. Virginia Tech Career Services Website.