In today’s world, communication takes many forms and continues to evolve. While email is a mainstay in many business operations, one mode of communication is still widely used—the phone. More and more companies are starting to use texting or instant messaging platforms such as Slack or Microsoft Teams to communicate with their interns or employees, but it’s very important to have a solid understanding of proper phone etiquette as a basic principle of communication skills. The job or internship you’ve been dreaming of could come to you as a phone call, and acting or speaking inappropriately could cost you the job.
Speaking on the phone may be daunting; but, like anything new, it just takes a little training and practice. Many people feel more comfortable sending a text or an email, but often texts can lead to misinterpreting someone's tone or implications. This is why speaking on the phone is such an important skill to master– lessens the chance for miscommunication. Whether this is a skill that comes easy to you or not, it never hurts to learn a few pointers.
Be sure you actually have your voicemail set up. Callers who hear an automated voice telling them you haven't set up your voicemail can suggest that you aren't open to receiving calls. You may have to record a new greeting every time you get a new phone.
Record a personal greeting. It may not seem necessary, but employers (and others) expect to reach a person–not a computerized voice with your phone number. People feel better knowing they have reached the correct person–a number alone can't always convey that.
State your name so the caller is certain you're the right person. Example: You've reached Katie Johnson at xxx-xxx-xxxx. Please leave a message. Thank you.
Keep your greeting short and simple. Avoid trying to be funny in your greeting–it doesn’t add personality like you might think and will likely come off as obnoxious and unproffesional.
Clean out your mailbox! A full mailbox is very frustrating for callers who would like to leave a message but are unable to.
Check your voicemail every day. Return calls in a timely manner, especially if a time window was specified in the message.
Always leave a message. If you call without leaving a message, the person you are trying to speak to will likely not remember that you called. Leaving a message sends the impression that you not only see the person you’ve called as a priority but also suggests that you are a priority worth calling back. Leaving brief details as to why you’ve called is courteous and helpful.
Speak slowly and clearly when leaving a message. Ensure you include the following: your first and last name, the date and time of your call, the purpose for calling, and your phone number. Example: Hi, Mrs. Rodrigues, this is Katie Johnson. Today is Friday, May 3rd around 1 pm. I am calling to inquire about a summer internship. You can reach me at xxx-xxx-xxxx. Thank you.
If you are in a noisy area, go to a quiet place to answer the call. If that is not possible, dismiss the call and return it as soon as possible. Luckily you've set up a great outgoing message, so the caller knows they’ve reached the right person.
Don't Text or Email When Driving. If you're running late on your way to your internship or appointment, CALL. Don't text. Don't email. Either pull the car over to a safe place as soon as possible to call someone or use hands-free calling. Your employer would much rather you be late than in a car accident because you decided to contact them unsafely.
Practice makes perfect and can ease your nerves. Many workplaces require the phone to be answered using a prepared script. If you are asked to answer the phone, ask a supervisor for instructions or a copy of the script.
Different workplaces may have different answering systems. Make sure you know how to use the hold or the call transfer feature to avoid dropping a call.
Always be polite. If you don't hear or understand the person, politely ask them to repeat what was said. If there is a disruption on your end that is out of your control, inform and apologize to the person on the other end of the call.
Prioritize giving the caller what they need. Oftentimes, especially as an intern, you won’t be able to help the caller if it is beyond your workplace knowledge. That’s okay! You are there to learn. If you can't assist the caller, politely put the person on hold and go find a supervisor or co-worker to assist you or take the call.
Write down messages. In the moment, it might seem like you’ll remember what the caller is telling you, so you don't write it down. Don’t take that chance. Write down the date and time of the call and ask the caller for the nature of the call as well as their name and phone number. Repeat the information back to the caller to verify it, including the correct spelling of the name.
Eliminate distractions. If there are distractions going on in your house, dorm room, or whatever workspace you choose, do your best to minimize them if they will draw your attention away from a phone conversation or disrupt the call. Be mindful of household noises such as kitchen appliances or air conditioners, street noise/outdoor noise, roommates or family members, babies, pets, music, or TV.
Check your service and/or internet connection. If the call is going to drop or get interrupted by a poor connection, do your best to prevent this before the call. Check your Wi-Fi or internet stability since many cell phones use Wi-Fi calling. If you are scrambling during a call to try and fix tech difficulties, it won't be a productive call.
Don’t chew or eat during a phone call. Don’t do this during any professional conversation–people may not see you eating but the microphone is right next to your mouth (and is louder than you think)!
If talking on the phone is outside your comfort zone, you’re certainly not alone. You will feel nervous or uncomfortable at first, but this is part of the internship experience–learning and growing professionally! With practice, you will become more confident and will be a pro in no time, and eventually, you’ll forget that you ever worried about it in the first place.