by Marissa Bell
Today’s tip requires an anecdote to start it off, otherwise the tip itself will make no sense.

There I was, a naïve 18 year old, innocent to the cruelties of the real world (who am I kidding, I still am), and applying for summer jobs. I had sent out many an application, and when people called me and followed up, I was available and picked up my phone. However, there was one time when I was in class, saw an unknown number calling me, and sent it straight to voicemail, without another thought. An hour later, I listened to the voicemail that had been left and this is what I heard:

“Oh, Hi. This is *Carly* from *Insert Company Name of Choice Here*… Uh. Just wanted to let you know that the position has been filled. Thank you for your application.”

*Names have been changed

But something wasn’t right. The person on the phone sounded bizarre, like telling me I wasn’t going to be receiving an interview wasn’t the original plan. I was left confused, but later forgot about it. Until the exact same thing happened again 2 days later. A prospective job called, I was in class, let it roll to voicemail, and then when I listened to the voicemail, the same confused voice telling me that a position had been filled. I was perplexed. I mean, not to toot my own horn, but they were simple retail positions that I had been being denied for; I didn’t understand why I wasn’t a good candidate?

And then it hit me. I remembered a Friday night 2 months ago that I thought it would be hilarious if I made my voicemail a 2 minute long pseudo-Public Service Announcement about a fabled war going on in Alaska between Narwhals and Unicorns, urging anyone who listened to donate millions of dollars to the cause. Yeah, your reaction is probably about the same as mine when I realized what was chasing those potential employers away.

And so, the clear moral of the story is: Professional Voicemails are your FRIENDS. It’s something no one ever thinks about when they’re applying for jobs. They change their names on Facebook to make sure employers can’t find them, erase their 4th grade embarrassing email address and replace it with a new one, and yet the voicemail is something that just slips people’s mind because it seems so unimportant. A professional voicemail can be as simple as, “Hi, this is *insert your name here*, sorry I can’t come to the phone right now, but leave me a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks!”

Yes. It’s not as fun as you and your friends’ rendition of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” sung in falsetto, but the second you start applying for jobs, just know that even if you look like the perfect candidate on paper, even the slightest things that make you look unprofessional could make the difference between getting that interview, and having to hear those dreaded words, “The position has been filled”.