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I hate the sound of your voice.
September 16, 2009 11:30 AM   Subscribe

I don't want people to leave me messages. What's the best way to say this in my outgoing message?

I'd like my voicemail to be a polite- and professional-sounding version of the following:

"Hi, this is Thebazilist. You can leave me a message, but I'll probably get back to you faster if you text me or e-mail me at [my e-mail address]."

Normally I shouldn't care if it sounded snarky, but I'm applying for jobs right now.

When I call places like Jetblue, they're always interrupting my hold to tell me that I should go to their website instead. Will my message be annoying? Should I not even do this?

(Reasons: it just takes a lot of time to check voicemail, and also I feel that "tug" of guilt or obligation more when I know I'm going to have to hear someone's voice needing something from me. I know, I'm terrible.)

I already know about things like Callwave, but right now I want to try to work this "free" option.
posted by thebazilist to Human Relations (43 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why don't you just disable your voicemail?

Otherwise the, "Hi, this is Thebazilist. You can leave me a message, but I'll probably get back to you faster if you text me or e-mail me at [my e-mail address]." sounds fine to me.
posted by zephyr_words at 11:33 AM on September 16, 2009


Is there a reason why you even have voicemail if you don't want to use it? Why not just remove that service from your phone and go from there. :)
posted by gwenlister at 11:34 AM on September 16, 2009


Explicitly telling people not to leave a message might be a turn-off for some, and it'll always be ignored by some others.

I'd just say "I'm not here right now. If you would like a response, please e-mail me at...."

(Without mentioning that a voice message is even possible.)
posted by rokusan at 11:34 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're applying for jobs, I don't think you want to be telling people to not leave you voicemail. Under other circumstances, I'd think that simply disabling the service makes the most sense, but know that it is an exceptional step to take, and will likely come across as such.
posted by ellF at 11:39 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


First, Google Voice will transcribe your voicemail, and it's free. But since you need to keep your current number, my outgoing message says "If you're leaving a lot of information, please email me instead at xxxx," which cuts out most unnecessary rambling voicemails, except my mother's.
posted by miniminimarket at 11:39 AM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


My experience with doing something similar is that even if your message says, "I do not check the voicemail from this inbox," people will still leave messages for you, and be upset that you didn't receive them.

Knowing that, however, I can still understand your desire for there to be a message that people receive so they don't wonder whether they reached the correct line, and so that, in certain situations (doctor's offices that don't email because of HIPAA, etc.) messages can still be left. Here's what I would say:

"Hi, you've reached the voicemail of Thebazilist. This voicemail inbox is checked once a week. If you need to reach me more quickly, please either email me at [my email address], or send me a text message at this number. Thanks for being in touch."
posted by ocherdraco at 11:39 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're applying for jobs, I'd make it as easy as possible for the caller to leave a message, rather than for you to receive it. Discouraging the caller from leaving a message may frustrate or irritate them enough to send them on to the next applicant.

Something along the lines of -- "Hi, sorry I can't take your call. Please leave a message at the tone. Or, a faster way to reach me might be by e-mail or text."
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:39 AM on September 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


You could try Google Voice, if you want a free option. They'll email or SMS voicemail transcripts to you. You need to get an invite, but I think it took all of half a day from when I requested an invite until I got one.
posted by suncoursing at 11:42 AM on September 16, 2009


One thing I've done successfully with one of my business numbers where I did not want people leaving messages is to leave an obligatory announcement style greeting, make an artificial click noise by a light tap on the phone to the pen, then leave about one minute of dead silence (hold phone very still, no noise, no breathing). Someone will assume the line went dead and that no tone is forthcoming.
This of course will not work on certain voicemail systems that only do short recordings or get smart-alecky about dead audio.
posted by crapmatic at 11:42 AM on September 16, 2009


If you're applying for jobs, I wouldn't do this. If an employer called you instead of sent you an email, they probably don't want to spend the extra time emailing you once they get your message. As soon as you start your new job, feel free to change you outgoing message to something that discourages voicemail, but I would not want to risk dissuading an employer unintentionally.
posted by katemcd at 11:43 AM on September 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


I completely understand your preference, and I share it, but you really can't do this to potential employers. Especially with the economy as it is right now, employers aren't going to go out of their way to contact a candidate who makes things difficult for them. Don't say anything about not leaving messages, and DEFINITELY don't disable your voicemail. Don't give potential employers any reason to pass you over. Then, when you get a job, you can disable your voicemail or be as snarky as you like.
posted by decathecting at 11:44 AM on September 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


I use a service call Youmail to handle all my voicemail (they have a free version)
You can create settings for individual callers, groups, or just everyone.

One setting is just play greeting and end call (no voicemail). You can make that your default for callers not in your address book. For your friends and fam, you can have a separate greeting and allow them to leave voicemail.
posted by special-k at 11:44 AM on September 16, 2009


Personally, I would suggest not doing this until after you've landed a job. You do not want to put any barriers in the way of someone reaching you at this point.

I once called an applicant with the intention of making them a job offer, but I was so put off by their outgoing message that I hung up and gave the job to someone else. This is an extreme example -- and it was an egregiously awful message -- but HR people can be very sensitive when they're trying to make hiring decisions on fairly minimal data. Why risk the chance that they'll decide you're picky or difficult, or that they'll just move on to the next resume if they have to jump through any special hoops to reach you?

You could of course feel free to say, "You can also reach me via email at [my email address]."
posted by timeo danaos at 11:46 AM on September 16, 2009


PS: You can also just allow them to leave you voicemail as other have suggested. You can set youmail to send you an email for every message and it will allow you to even listen to the entire message right from the email.
Perhaps this will make it easier to keep track of messages.
posted by special-k at 11:47 AM on September 16, 2009


My boss does this. His voicemail says specifically "Do NOT leave a voicemail. Please call my office at 555 etc etc." In three years, I've only had one complaint.

Wait till you get a job first, though.
posted by sugarfish at 11:47 AM on September 16, 2009


I feel you. I hate my voicemail - takes me about 15 minutes to check it, because I have the longest, most tedious voicemail service.
I have become exceptionally well-known amongst my friends as the woman to never leave voice mails, because I won't ever check them.
The thing is, this works because my friends are my friends, and they've known me, and they know that I'll call them back as promptly as possible. This is also good, because they know to only leave a voicemail if it's really, really important, and they know I do the same.

Jobs fall under really, really important, unfortunately. Like other people said, you want to facilitate getting that contact back as much as possible. Don't make an annoying message (example: one of my friends has one of those voicemails that doesn't tell you it's a voicemail, and his message is him saying "Hey, how's it going? [long pause] Just kidding! Not here!").
I do think a message giving your name and number and politely suggesting your email as a better way to get a hold of you is a good way to go.

If you're in the midst of applying for jobs right now, I'd suggest just forcing yourself to check your voicemail somewhat regularly.

Sorry. I do recommend training your friends to not leave you messages though.
posted by circle_b at 11:51 AM on September 16, 2009


Normally I shouldn't care if it sounded snarky, but I'm applying for jobs right now.

When looking for a job, it pays to be accommodating to those from whom you seek employment. This includes regularly checking and responding to voicemail.

Once you have the job, you can stop, and change your outgoing message to indicate that no message should be left.
posted by The World Famous at 11:51 AM on September 16, 2009


If I were hiring for a position, I might be concerned if a candidate expressed an aversion to direct contact with other people (myself included). Perhaps this might not be relevant according to what industry you work in, but I think that trying to redirect all contact away from talking and interacting to something comparatively asynchronous and removed like email might be perceived as antisocial. To that end, I think M.C. Lo-Carb! makes a great suggestion re: choosing a message that mentions multiple ways to get in touch with you aside from voicemail, rather than just saying DON'T LEAVE ME MESSAGES I WON'T RETURN THEM. To potential employers, this makes you look conscientious, available, and easy to be in touch with, rather than potentially picky or misanthropic.
posted by sarabeth at 11:54 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Agreed that you're going to have to tolerate it during your job hunt. I haven't had any trouble just not setting up my work voicemail at my current job though. Maybe every few months I get an email that starts with "I tried to leave you a message but something was wrong with the phone system and it wouldn't let me," but no one has made an issue of it in the three years I've been at this job. Maybe you can think of escaping voicemail as an extra benefit of finding a a new job!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 11:55 AM on September 16, 2009


Find someone who has a google voice invite, and just give that out. Then set your preferences to get e-mails when someone leaves you a VM. Works great.

Unfortunately I don't have any invites... I'm sure some MeFite does though.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:55 AM on September 16, 2009


I'd put the request for sending an email right at the front of the outgoing message so it's more noticeable:

"Hi, this is Thebazilist. Please note that the quickest way to reach me is by emailing [your email address]. However, if you would prefer to leave a voice message, please do so after the beep and I will return your call when I can."
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:55 AM on September 16, 2009


miniminimarket: "First, Google Voice will transcribe your voicemail, and it's free. But since you need to keep your current number, my outgoing message says "If you're leaving a lot of information, please email me instead at xxxx," which cuts out most unnecessary rambling voicemails, except my mother's."

In theory, you could get a Google Voice number, keep your current Cell number, but set the Google Voice number as your voicemail number through the use of Conditional Call Forwarding (if your phone/ provider allows you to change this).

Typically, your cell would forward the call to your provider's voicemail number (for example T-Mobile voicemail = +18056377243) when you don't answer after a set time (usually 30 seconds). Just change that number to your Google Voice number and set Google Voice to forward its calls to none of your real phones (settings --> phones --> uncheck all).
posted by sharkfu at 12:01 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


"You've reached the bazilist. The fastest way to reach me is via email thebazilist@gmail.com or via text message to 555-123-4567, however if your message isn't urgent, you can leave a message after the tone and I will get back you within X hours/days/months." This would be perfectly polite and non-likely to anger people.

That said, people will absolutely and routinely ignore your outgoing mail message. In fact, the more breathlessly urgent their message is, the more likely they are to hit * or 1 or whatever it is that lets them skip the message entirely and just leave you a message.

As long as you're on the job hunt, and you're publishing a phone number on resumes, you must be able and willing to check messages regularly.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:15 PM on September 16, 2009


nthing the recommendation that you leave a simple, professional message and check your voicemail while on the job hunt.

Alternately, you'll need a friend with a robot-sounding voice or a speech synthesizer. Their role in this voicemail message is bolded:

"You've reached the voicemail of Firstname Lastname. You can send me a text message at 555-5555 or e-mail me at email@example.com. ... BEEP ... Voice Mail Box is full. CLICK [lots of silence]."
posted by j.edwards at 12:21 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


As long as you're on the job hunt, and you're publishing a phone number on resumes, you must be able and willing to check messages regularly.

This.
posted by toastedbeagle at 12:23 PM on September 16, 2009


I don't want people to leave me messages. What's the best way to say this in my outgoing message? Normally I shouldn't care if it sounded snarky, but I'm applying for jobs right now.

"Hello, you've reached thebazilist, I'm not in right now, if you need to reach me please leave me a voice mail or better yet, please text or email me at [email address] and I'll get back to you. Thank you."
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 12:27 PM on September 16, 2009


If you have voicemail on, people will leave messages, no matter what you say. I have a work phone, the outgoing message says flat out that I won't ever get messages left there, and I still got a half-dozen messages from some woman confirming plans with someone who was picking up her kids for something, before I forgot the voicemail password. For all I know, she's still leaving messages, the red light is on. A lot of people know all the skip-codes, and just start in on them as soon as they realize it's "a machine".
posted by nomisxid at 12:43 PM on September 16, 2009


Your message will be annoying. Do not do this. I have the ADD and I need many things written to me or I will forget them, so I sympathize. Don't do it.

Start putting your phone on speaker and listening to your messages whilst making tea or clipping your toenails so you don't feel like you're wasting too much time.

The best way to discourage voicemail leaving amongst friends is to summarily ignore them while acknowledging the call--call them back and tell them "I didn't listen to your voicemail, you'll have to repeat everything."

Or text them with "saw you called, what's up" so they are encouraged to respond via text.

After a while they'll get the hint and leave you, at max, messages that say "call me, bye".
posted by kathrineg at 12:44 PM on September 16, 2009


I've ALWAYS wanted to make my work cell phone voicemail like this:

"Hi, you've reached [my name] of [my company]. I can't take your call right now, however you may leave me a voicemail. If the matter is urgent please email me at [my email address] as I check my Blackberry frequently and may be able to respond sooner."

I think this will give my clients the impression that the suggestion to email me is for THEIR convenience, not mine. In my line of work, I am often not phone available (and thus unable to check or respond to voicemails) for hours, whereas during that time I am able to read and respond to email.

I think, since you are looking for a job, you do not want to entirely take away the option to leave a voicemail OR make it sound like you won't check them. That would leave a bad taste in an employer's mouth, IMO.

UGH, though, in a world of caller ID, text message and smart phones I just hope voicemail becomes obsolete and unused as soon as possible. I totally vote for starting that revolution, as long as you are careful.
posted by bunnycup at 12:45 PM on September 16, 2009


The best way to discourage voicemail leaving amongst friends is to summarily ignore them while acknowledging the call--call them back and tell them "I didn't listen to your voicemail, you'll have to repeat everything."

Or text them with "saw you called, what's up" so they are encouraged to respond via text.

After a while they'll get the hint and leave you, at max, messages that say "call me, bye".


LOL, I do this all the time with all of my friends, family and even often my boss, and it has absolutely never worked! Rather than being passive aggressive, I vote you ask people for what you want.
posted by bunnycup at 12:47 PM on September 16, 2009


I have known the annoyance of overeager recruiters who want to talk on the phone before they even tell me what the job is.

My solution was to nip it at the source:

On my resume I posted on job sites, I just removed my phone number and wrote [please contact via email]. When sites demanded a phone number, I wrote (310) 000-0000.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:16 PM on September 16, 2009


No offense, but I'm hitting # or * or 1 to bypass your lengthy message listing your cell phone number and/or email address 'cause I don't like to sit and listen to lengthy messages. So I won't be hearing your instructions and we're in a sort of standoff. After you ge the job, not so much of a problem.
posted by fixedgear at 1:17 PM on September 16, 2009


When hunting for a job, make it easy for people to reach you. If a potential employer is calling and then you tell them to call somewhere else, they could find that irksome.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:29 PM on September 16, 2009


Yeah, I changed my voice mail message to say, "You've reached [lunalaguna]. I can't take your call right now, but you can leave a message or, better yet, send me a text, and I'll get back to you promptly."

It flat out did not work. The people who correspond via text message or e-mail wouldn't be calling me anyway. The only person this did work on is my mom because she noticed I did actually get back to her more quickly via text.
posted by lunalaguna at 1:32 PM on September 16, 2009


It is not tremendously likely that someone will call you, hear this, stop calling you, hunt around for a mobile phone or a computer (which may not be instantly available to them), and then try to contact you via your preferred method. You can try, but these people are going to be something like two seconds and a beep away from what they want to do (leave you a message); only the most dedicated/eager to please are going to then stop that and go do it a different way.

I wish everyone would email me, personally--it's not just you.

When I call places like Jetblue, they're always interrupting my hold to tell me that I should go to their website instead. Will my message be annoying? Should I not even do this?

It is annoying to me. If I thought I could get what I needed to do done (or done easier ) by calling, I would have done that. You think I'm waiting in a call queue for fun?

Also, I don't have a text plan--so if I text you, it costs me money. This may in fact be the case for other people too. (I wish it was free and everyone used testing so I don't have to interrupt what I'm doing, but everyone is not me and everyone does not share my preferences. Oh well.)

I think you're on the right track with respect to how to politely indicate your preferences, but especially for a job search I wouldn't count on everyone accommodating them. Best case is you "train" some of your friends ("Oh, he never responds to voice mail, better email him..."), and/or set up services so voicemail gets transcribed/forwarded to email. But when you're searching for a job, you need to be the one accommodating, not the other way around.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 2:09 PM on September 16, 2009


I do NOT want to disable my voicemail. There are plenty of people who can't text or aren't at their computer to e-mail. I'm not looking to rule voicemail out of my life (yet), but I'd like to reduce the number of messages I get. While job-hunting, I absolutely plan to check all of my messages. I just want to put the option out there.

This is why I asked for potential wordings, because I don't want tell people "fuck off don't leave a voicemail I hate you and your job offer, and you too Aunt Joan." I don't want them to think that they can't leave a message or that I won't check it, just that I'd prefer a text or e-mail, or that it'll be faster.

Obviously some people won't pay attention. But I know that if I heard such a message, I'd immediately hang up and send a text or e-mail.
posted by thebazilist at 2:23 PM on September 16, 2009


I tried the a version of "This is not the best way to reach me, you'll hear back faster if you e-mail" on my (rarely used) cellphone voicemail, and it never seemed to make any difference. Of course, both my phones have outgoing messages that say, "Hi, you've reached not that girl," and I still get regular wrong number messages like, "Shawna, we're meeting at Applebee's instead of Olive Garden, see you at 6," and "This is Dr. so-and-so's office, Mr. Smith, please call us back about your test results," which tells me that outgoing voicemail messages fall into the category of things that people pay no attention to whatsoever.
posted by not that girl at 2:32 PM on September 16, 2009


If I was trying to hire someone and they told me in their voicemail message not to leave a voicemail, I would reconsider my decision to hire them. Seriously sometimes at work you will need to answer phones and voicemails and someone who cops out of it in their job search will definitely seem like someone who will cop out of it at work. You will sound like the type of person who isn't going to follow the rules or deadlines or assignments because you "didn't get the memo". Hold off on this pursuit until you have a job.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:42 PM on September 16, 2009


Don't do this if you're applying for jobs.
posted by radioamy at 3:37 PM on September 16, 2009


But yeah, I have voicemail too in general!
posted by radioamy at 3:37 PM on September 16, 2009


My flatmate was both looking for a job and dating quite a bit, and his voicemail "greeting" was set to "I HATE VOICEMAIL" in a very angry voice.

I told him he was crazy, better to disable voicemail but such was his anger at voicemail he couldn't be bothered wasting time on disabling it. I was sure he would never get a job or a date if they heard his voicemail greeting.

I was wrong.
posted by Admira at 3:41 PM on September 16, 2009


Pretend I'm a hiring manager or, worse, some HR clerk:

I go through the trouble to pick up the phone to speak with you; perhaps infer a bit about your social skills and professionalism from your manner of speaking; and possibly offer you an interview, more interviews or even a job. Then I get a message that you want me to reach you through some other venue.

What would motivate me to put forth more time and effort on your behalf? Given that workers are a dime a dozen, absolutely nothing.

The result: opportunity missed.

Just as an aside, believe it or not, voice communication is a more efficient and complete means of communication than texting or email because it communicates more than mere words (e.g., tone of voice, body language) and allows for the transmission of a larger and / or more complex message in less time. And it works better in person than on the phone as, although I can infer a lot from a voice alone, I can intuit a great deal more if I can see your face and observe your physical carriage.

Typing, whether through texting or email, just doesn't measure up -- especially if the message is involved or you are trying to communicate with someone you don't know well. For this reason, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to even sell heaters to eskimos without some form of contact using the voice.
posted by SuzB at 4:30 PM on September 16, 2009


I use an automated voicemail transcription service called PhoneTag. They do charge, but they also allow you to keep your existing number - it's seamless. I haven't checked voicemail in years.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:22 PM on September 16, 2009


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