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Region 8
Business Etiquette

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E-mail Etiquette

E-mail can often be your first - and possibly, your only point of contact with other people.  Practicing good business etiquette on the Web can make a difference between hearing back from an employer or not when applying for that perfect job.

"Think of your e-mail as a serious communication tool, not an excuse to forget about being professional, courteous or friendly," says Rohn Everson, Human Resources manager at Maintainer, Sheldon.  "Sometimes, even thoughtless little things can completely destroy what otherwise is a professional message."

What message does an e-mail address like bigman@xyz456.com, hotbunny@abc123.com, singlebabe@123.com send, he asks?  Those addresses are not professional, and could be considered demeaning and insensitive.  Most businesses don't want to convey that type of image, and applicants with these types of addresses will probably not be considered for employment.

Bryan Kooi, Human Resources manager at MEDTEC, Orange City agrees.

"I receive a lot of resumes via e-mail.  I see some very questionable e-mail addresses that make me wonder about the ethics, morality, and overall professionalism of the applicant," says Kooi.

Always provide a personal name if your mail system allows it - a personal name attached to your address identifies you better than your address can on its own, advises Everson.  For example, RobertAnderson@abc123.com conveys the sender as a professional person to be taken seriously a lot more than boblovesbeer@abc123.com

"Use a sensible personal name: 'Guess who' or other such phrases are annoying as personal names and hinder the recipient's quick identification of you and your message," says Everson.

Matt Ricke, a Sioux City-based manager with Manpower, considers questionable e-mail address as a "red flag - a reason not to hire someone."

He advises people to select a simple address, not one loaded with letters and numbers, and definitely not something odd or off the wall.  He understands that some people consider their e-mail address as a personal expression, but offers this cautionary advice to job seekers:

"If that's their image, they have to understand the consequences of those choices."  And sometimes, he says, the consequence is not getting the job.

Our society needs proper etiquette now more than ever, Everson believes.

"Good manners maintain consideration and kindness in our busy lives.  Knowledge of good manners can lead to success in life.  Appropriate conduct can make or break business deals, or determine the outcome of a job interview and promote good relations," says Everson.

The bottom line, according to all three managers, is to be professional.  Your e-mail address is a direct reflection of you, your image and your values.

Your Answering Machine Could Cost You a Job

You wouldn’t answer an employer’s job interview question with “Loser! You’ll have to leave a message,” so why risk never getting an interview – much less the job - by putting that greeting on your answering machine or voice mail?

 Local human resources managers are encountering more and more unprofessional voice mail and answering machine messages, and other poor telephone manners that cost people job opportunities.

 “It is not unusual for HR’s first contact with an applicant to be via his or her answering machine or voice mail,” says Jack Schreurs of Rosenboom Machine and Tool, Sheldon & Spirit Lake. “Most HR professionals can tell you about messages that left the impression that the applicant was neither mature nor professional, and certainly not serious about making a favorable impression with prospective employers. Those same HR professionals will tell you that some of these first attempts to contact these applicants were also their last.”

 Rohn Everson of Maintainer Corporation, Sheldon, advises job seekers to skip the dramatic, comical and unnecessary messages that waste the caller’s time. “Employers make many return calls to applicants, and the last thing they want to do is listen to a collection of time wasting antics.”

One job seeker who wasted Everson’s time was the one whose message said “Hi. I’m probably home; I’m just avoiding someone I don’t like. Leave me a message and if I don’t call back, it’s because I’m avoiding you.”

 Carla Gates of Rohlin Construction, Estherville, dislikes job seekers who use message numbers – but don’t bother to let the other person or the employer know.

 “My biggest pet peeve is when the applicant puts someone else’s phone number on the app, and when you call to leave a message for John you get Crystal’s voice mail, so again you don’t know if you have the right number or if you should even leave a message.” Gates’ advice to job seekers: Let employers know they are calling a message number.

  “I called one applicant to offer him a job, and the lady on the other end said, ‘I don’t know why he gave you my number, he never comes over to check his messages and is really irresponsible,’ and then she hung up on me,” said Gates. “Needless to say I didn’t hire him.”

 Gates has also had her share of unprofessional messages. She didn’t hire the applicant who advised her that if she was a creditor she should hang up, but to leave a message if he had won any money, or the one with laughing small children and an unintelligible message.

 Matt Ricke of Manpower, Sioux City, agrees with Gates. “If you live with other people, make sure they know you have applied for a job with companies X, A and Q, so if they call, there is a priority to call them back right away.” If they can’t speak in a cordial manner, or take a complete message, ask them to not answer the phone and let the voice mail pick up. A message from “someone from someplace” won’t help you get the job.

If you don’t have a valid phone number or another reliable way to get a message, you may miss the one chance to get an interview, Ricke adds. “The others, who are prepared, get the message or call, get scheduled for an interview and may even get the job, just because they were available and ready for work.”

 Another problem, he says, is people who don’t keep their land line or cell phone service current.

 “I wish I had a nickel for every person who calls me after they had applied previously, and asked why we never call them and the notes I have are ‘bad phone number or disconnected,’” says Ricke. He would also appreciate people returning phone calls.

 “We also encounter people we leave messages for who never call back. When we do eventually get a hold of them, they say, ‘Well, I got another job and didn’t know I needed to.’ ”

Bryan Kooi of Med-Tec, Orange City, offers these suggestions to job seekers who use answering machines, voice mail or message numbers:

  • Avoid generic messages, such as “Leave message after tone.” Personalize the message by including your name so the employer knows they have reached the correct number, such as “You’ve reached the Smiths. Please leave a message. Thanks.”
  • Be polite, brief and clear, and don’t waste time on such things as telling the caller to leave a message at the beep, or explaining you cannot come to the phone right now. People calling long distance don’t want to listen to lengthy messages.
  • Avoid a current trend to include a snippet of music from your favorite band. It wastes time and money. Also avoid using profanity, like the message that said, “You better know what the hell to do by now.”
  • If you are expecting an important phone call or possible job offer, don’t have small children answer the phone. Do you really want the caller to know that “Daddy’s in the shower”?

 Everson also has advice for people who leave messages with potential employers. “Keep it short but clear,” says Everson. “State your name, the time of your call, your phone number and your reason for calling.” He doesn’t think it hurts to repeat your name and phone number, and if you are calling about a job advertised in the newspaper or at IWD, say so.

 “A professional and clear message will certainly not guarantee you land the perfect job,” Kooi says. “But having an inappropriate message will definitely hurt your chances.”


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