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Candidate Help & Advice

Why I Won’t Respond to Your Voice Mail Messages*

Voice Mail photo from Shutterstock6:26 p.m., Thursday, September 18, 2014I have just finished listening to eight voice mail messages left by potential candidates for positions our executive recruiting firm, The Hire to Win Group, is trying to fill for our hiring company clients. Sadly, only ONE potential candidate will get a return call. The other seven? They may be left wondering why their voice mail messages got absolutely no response at all—if they even remember leaving me one!

Before I tell you why I responded to only one of these voice mail messages, let me quote, verbatim, three of the eight messages, two of which are representative of the seven which I will not respond to, and one which is the message I did respond to:

1.    “Hi, Skip, this is Jim Smith (fictitious name). I saw your posting and I would like to discuss it further. My number is xxx-xxx-xxxx.”

2.    “Mr. Freeman. I am calling about your sales position and I have some questions. Please call me between 1 and 2 PM. I can be reached at xxx-xxx-xxxx.”

3.    “Skip, Hi, this is Daren. I am interested in your chemical sales opportunity in the Houston area. I have a mechanical engineering degree and have been in industrial sales for 14 years, including six years with a major chemical company selling waste water chemicals. My number is xxx-xxx-xxxx.”

If you were a hiring professional, which of these voice mail messages would you be most likely to respond to?

How about number 1? Has this person given me (or any other hiring professional, for that matter) any reason whatsoever to respond to his voice mail? Has he given me what I refer to as a “cause for pause”? No! And, thank goodness, our executive recruiting firm certainly has more than just one posting! (We actually have over 140 as this is being written.) Would I really be interested in spending the time to learn which posting this person is referring to in his message? You guessed it, no, I would not!

Or, how about number 2? Again, this person, who didn’t even bother to leave his name, gave me absolutely no “cause for pause,” although he was very specific about the time I should call him! Same comment as above: Thank goodness, our firm does have more than just ONE sales position we’re attempting to fill for our hiring company clients! And, no, again, I wouldn’t spend any time trying to discover which sales position this person was referring to.

By now, you should have concluded that the message I did respond to was number 3. Why? Here are the principal reasons:

  • This potential candidate provided meaningful specifics in his relatively brief voice mail message.
  • I knew immediately which of the many positions our firm is attempting to fill he was interested in pursuing, i.e., the “chemical sales opportunity in the Houston area.” (We actually have three of these positions in the Houston area, but he was close enough.)
  • I immediately knew what his educational background is, as well as the relevant experience he appears to bring to the table.
  • I knew immediately that I would be dealing with a true professional because he immediately branded himself as such by the quality of the voice mail message he left!

Without question, this potential candidate definitely gave me considerable “cause for pause”!

Now, let me pause here for a moment and explain why I (and virtually every other hiring professional you’re likely to encounter during a new job search) appear to be so “picky,” so apparently hard to please.

Am I just being cantankerous? Do I take pleasure out of automatically rejecting so many potential candidates because they don’t quite “measure up” to my standards? Or, as a reader of one of my recent online posts suggested, am I perhaps risking missing out on some really great candidates because I don’t follow up on each and every candidate who contacts our firm? No, no, and maybe, but it really is of little professional concern to me. Let me briefly explain.

My job as a “headhunter” it is NOT to find any candidate a job! It is my job to find my hiring company clients the very best candidates for positions they are trying to fill in their companies. That means that each and every potential candidate who contacts our firm, either by telephone, email or any other means of communication must earn the right to be contacted, let alone be seriously considered for any particular career opportunity. They must immediately give “cause for pause” or we simply can’t—and won’t!—waste any of our valuable, and finite, time on them.

As any person in the hiring business—“headhunter,” hiring manager or Human Resources hiring professional—soon learns, to follow up on each and every “lead” or communication is a strategy destined for professional failure! Indeed, the hiring professional who neglects to exercise informed selectivity with regard to potential job candidates may soon find himself/herself on the other side of the desk!

So, if you want to significantly improve the odds that your voice mail messages (as well as all of your other communications, of course) left during a new job search elicit a response, then make absolutely certain you provide a “cause for pause” for the hiring professional!

*And neither, by the way, will most other hiring professionals!


This post is a modified excerpt from Skip’s newest book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets series of Career Management/Development publicationsCareer Stalled? How to Get Your Career Back in HIGH Gear and Land the Job You Deserve–Your DREAM Job!

Available NOW in paperback and Kindle editions on!

Like a “sneak peek” at the first THREE chapters (in PDF format)? Send an email to Skip’s editor, Michael Garee, at, with “CS? Chapters” in the subject line. WARNING: Offer ends Oct. 8, 2014!

Going on a job interview soon? Know someone who is?Download Skip’s FREEHow to ACE the Job Interview!”publication by clicking HERE. Learn how to interview the way Superstars do!