3 Tactics For Getting Past Voicemail and Reaching More Decision-Makers

Are your marketing and recruiting efforts being thwarted by voicemail?

Recruiters are finding it increasingly difficult to reach prospects by telephone. Some clients and candidates seem to leave their voicemail on permanently! Here are three tried and tested tactics to get past voicemail and have more conversations with decision makers.

1. Don’t leave a message until you’ve called at least 3 times.

Leaving a voicemail message should be a method of last resort. It’s preferable to simply keep calling back because then you retain control of the process. Once you leave a message, the ball is in their court and they may not call you back. Or worse, they may avoid your calls in the future! So try calling back several times at different times of day before leaving a message.

2. Don’t hang up too soon!

Upon reaching voicemail, don’t hang up. Listen carefully to the message for important information – such as your prospect’s mobile phone number, and clues about their communication style.

Then hit “0” to go back to reception and see if you can locate the person you want to contact, or at least gain more information. Say: “Can you please help me? I’m trying to reach Bob, but I keep getting his voicemail. Do you happen to know if he’s in the office today and if not when he’s due back?”

  • If Bob’s on holiday, find out when he’ll be back. Set a reminder to call him back 2 days after he returns, and make a note to ask him about his holiday.
  • If Bob’s in a meeting, find out when it’s due to finish. Assuming the meeting finishes at 4pm, you would leave this message: “Please tell him that Mark Whitby called and I’ll try him again after 4pm.” Decline to leave your telephone number. Then when you call back, if you’re asked what the call is regarding you can say “He’s expecting my call.”
  • If Bob’s stepped away from his desk, ask for him to be paged. (Provided you’ve got a valid reason for calling and a strong call opening for when Bob finally comes to the phone!)
  • If Bob’s working remotely ask for his mobile phone number. You might only get it 10-20% of the time, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get!
  • If the receptionist doesn’t know Bob’s whereabouts, ask to be put through to somebody else in Bob’s department who might know where he is.

Think about it this way. How important is it that you speak to Bob? If you have something that could benefit Bob, surely that’s important enough that you should make every reasonable effort to contact him. If you don’t really consider this to be an important call, then you probably shouldn’t be calling him in the first place!

3. Do use a script – but don’t give a sales pitch

Don’t wait until the “beep” to think of what you want to say! You’ve got one shot to nail this so have your voicemail script ready before you place the call.

Having said that, don’t promote the voicemail box to the role of sales representative. Your message should have only one objective – to get a return call. Curiosity is a powerful motivator and you’re more likely to get a call back if you don’t leave a detailed message. For example:

“Hi Bob, this is Mark Whitby calling at 10.30 on Friday. Please call me when you get this message on 0131 664 8064. I look forward to hearing from you.”

“Hi Bob, this is Mark Whitby. I have reason to believe you might be able to help me with a project I’m working on and I’d like to ask you a couple of quick questions. Please call me back on 0131 664 8064.

You want to create a sense of intrigue. If you tell them everything they need to know (“I’m a recruiter and I’ve got an opportunity that might be of interest to you”) then they have no reason to call you back.

The voicemail “game” is not one of pure chance. Winning this game involves a combination of both luck and skill. You can’t control when your prospects schedule meetings or take their lunch. However by adopting the right mindset, and refining your technique, you can significantly improve your odds of success.

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  1. Mark,

    I can appreciate your approach in dodging voicemail as I have heard this from other trainers in the past. I use voicemail a little differently to reach candidates and would be interested in your thoughts. I usually precede my calls with an email. They then know why I am calling. If I can reach them, they usually take my call, but if they are not interested they usually do not call back or pick up the call. Since I am targeting those few needles in a haystack who might have an interest, why should I care about the vast majority who are not interested. The target market I go after – high level consultants — are usually considering a change or not – and if not, little is going to budge them. Your thoughts?

    1. Hi Rob,

      If you’ve got a method that produces good results for you that’s great. I learned a long time ago there’s more than one way to do things in the this business. Sometimes emailing first can be very effective, of course it all depends on exactly what you write in the email.

      On the other hand, I don’t agree that “if they’re not considering a change then little you say is going to budge them.”

      How do you (or they) know if they’re interested before you’ve spoken to them? The email alone doesn’t (or shouldn’t) give enough information for them to make that decision.

      I find candidates typically fall into 3 categories:

      a) Actively looking for a new job
      b) Definitely not interested in changing jobs
      c) Not looking, but open for the RIGHT opportunity

      The majority of people are in category “c” – they’re not necessarily going to return your voicemail, because they’re not looking for a change. But this is where your skill as a recruiter can move someone from “not looking” to “OK I’m open to hearing more” to “yes I’ll attend the interview” to “I’d like to accept the position.”

      I can’t help wondering how many more people you might recruit by modifying your approach. You can adapt my suggestions to include email AND voicemail. The email serves the same purpose as voicemail – to arouse their curiosity without giving any detail.

      I suggest on your next search, you try a hybrid approach and then evaluate the results to see how they compare to your usual sourcing strategy.

      Good luck!