Q: What approach do you suggest on leaving (or not leaving) a voicemail if the person I am trying to contact in my job search is not available? And if I do leave a voicemail, what level of detail should I provide?
A: The first time you call, don’t leave a voicemail; just try calling back. The second time, go ahead and leave a message, if you get no answer or the person is tied up. Your name may have come up on caller ID, and you don’t want the people you’re calling, or their secretaries who watch their calls for them, to notice you making multiple calls and not leaving a message. But keep your message pointed, e.g., I wanted to talk with you briefly (maybe say: about a professional matter). Then leave your number…which I like to say twice, just so they get it without having to listen, even if they’re willing. Add something warm, such as that you look forward to hearing from them, and hang up.
One more thing: if you don’t actually know the person for whom you’re leaving the voicemail, invoke your common colleague’s name, e.g., I’m calling at ______’s suggestion. Or identify the commonality, e.g., We are fellow alumni of ______ Law School, and I’m calling about a professional matter…not for a donation! I look forward to talking with you. Number, goodbye. Easy, clean, quick but not curt. Does that help?