When I was a kid, I hated talking on the phone. I remember my biggest fear was when my parents tasked me with things like ordering pizza. Something about speaking to a pizza cashier gave me crippling anxiety — to the point where my dad would tell me if I couldn't talk to them we wouldn't have pizza. When faced with this ultimatum, I often denied myself a slice of cheesy goodness with relief. Perhaps I thought they would be able to sense my nausea through the telephone line, like the way dogs smell fear and know when you're being ultra fake.
I think most adults today still feel the same sentiments about incoming phone calls unless part of their job description involves business, sales, or customer service. Luckily for me, my love of pizza is so intense that I no longer face these worries. But as a twenty-something about to hit the road towards selling my soul for employment: I need to be ready to answer the phone and pretend like I'm a real, qualified human. Here are some tips I've learned along the way that have helped me prepare for any type of call.
1. Unknown number? Don't just say hello, answer with your name.Giphy
"Hello, this is __insert-your-name-here__ speaking."
Boom! One simple sentence! Identification is usually at the top of phone etiquette mannerisms. I saw my friend Alex do this one day, and it was a more liberating experience than my first music festival. Alex is a freelance grip, so he applies to a multitude of the jobs in the film industry and expects calls for work often. When you answer with your name, you avoid a few things: such as an uncomfortable back-and-forth exchange while they seek to make sure they are calling the right person.
Now I understand the world is full of weirdos and the NSA is watching us through our webcams and you might not want to introduce yourself right off the bat. But more than likely if you applied for an internship or job or are questioning if that area code is your aunt from Arkansas, it's better to save everyone some face and answer with your name.
2. Always ask how the other person's day is going.Giphy
Even if you don't care.
Usually, they'll just respond with "good". No one is going to use this opportunity to discuss the economy at large or the political climate or if the Yelp review they gave a taco joint yesterday was too mean — especially if the phone call has a timed agenda. However, "How is your day going?" is slightly more thoughtful than "How are you?". It shows that you have manners, and even more importantly, that you can fake politeness with a good attitude.
3. Always treat every caller with courtesy and respect by giving them your undivided attention.
If only Jordan had focused on Becca with precision accuracy.Giphy
So, you were in the middle of watching last week's episode of the "Bachelorette" when potential employment calls. Spoiler alert: the guy who got the final rose is a douchebag and you don't have to be one too. No side convos and no open browser tabs. It's best to clear your space and find somewhere comfortable to carry a conversation. I like to sit up straight, or immediately leave the room and go pace outside. Stay away from the kitchen! You may be nervous, and the bag of brownie brittle (thanks, Sheila G) may seem like a good idea at the time, but not when you can't answer the question posed because of munching.
4. Be confident! Be you! And make your voice sound like it would if you were selling department store fragrances.Giphy
Recently the satirical film "Sorry to Bother You" was released, which captures the story of a black man who rises through the company ranks while using his "white voice" in sales. I have not seen the movie and therefore can offer no verdict on what this actually means, but I think the message here is subtle. Regardless of color, anyone who is one step away from selling a bottle of Chanel Coco at a Dillard's counter will be extremely careful with their tone and diction. You don't want to seem too eager, and you don't want to seem like you could care less, even though you're really dreaming about hitting up the Auntie Anne's pretzel kiosk. You want these people to buy this perfume or at least leave the store remembering the quality of the pitch.
5. Grab a pen and paper faster than you would free Beyonce tickets.Giphy
As a writer, I'm a little biased. Do this as soon as you pick up the call. I cannot stress how important it is for you to write down information to be able to reference later. Additionally, during the call you may have a question but will be unable to interrupt. Write it down and save it for the end of the phone call. Having questions makes you seem invested. Having good questions makes you seem like a genius.
All of this faking being a human stuff? It's like method acting, and you can be remembered as the Benedict Cumberbatch of potential hires. There are additional tricks to do the job, such as having your resume on hand or a copy of the job posting. When it comes to phone calls, just remember that no matter how qualified you do or don't feel, you can always make an impression by being respectful and well-spoken. Then when you hang up you can have a mental breakdown or order yourself a pizza.