6 Key Elements for Leaving Great Voicemail Messages


Whatever your profession, leaving a good voicemail is extremely important, but can be a difficult skill to master. Even when you record a well-crafted message, will the receiver listen? Will they take time from their schedule to call you back? Not usually.

So should you even bother with leaving a voicemail? Yes you should, and here is why. You may get a higher response rate from email, but responses to voicemail are generally richer and demonstrate a greater level of interest. What you may lose in quantity, you will gain in quality. Also, if you don’t leave a carefully planned and thoughtful voicemail, you won’t get any responses, high quality or otherwise. So, here are the key elements to a great voicemail that will generate more quality responses.


Length: 20-30 seconds.

A perfect voicemail should be in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 seconds — not much longer, and not much shorter. This is a very specific window of time, here’s the reasoning for it.

When a call is missed, most cell phones show the number and duration of the voicemail. Prospects are not going to listen to a long voicemail from a caller whose number they don’t recognize. Any message over 30 seconds is almost certain to be deleted immediately. On the Other hand, people are not likely to listen to a very short message either. If the recipient sees the message is from an unknown number and only a few seconds long, it wont appear to be substantive. They will assume it’s not important, not be prompted to listen and hit delete. 

20-30 seconds is the sweet spot. A voicemail in this time frame sparks curiosity without demanding too much time.


Never hang up without leaving a voicemail.

If you’re going to make a call, you have to leave a message. Whether the prospect was screening calls and choose not to answer, or they were simply away from their desk, your number will pop up as a missed call. If there’s no accompanying voicemail, they will assume the call must not have been important.

If you do this two or three times in a row, you further degrade your chances of ever connecting with this person. Now they have seen your number come up multiple times without anyone leaving a voicemail. They’re likely to decide this call is not one they want to take and you can bet the next time you call, they’re not picking up.


Lead with information relevant to the intended listener.

Representatives tend to be very declarative in their messaging. Their starting sentence in both voicemail and email usually sounds something like, “My name is ______________, and I work for _____________.”

This is a very straight forward approach, but it is not effective. As soon as the prospect realizes this voicemail is a pitch from someone trying to procure their time, money or other valuable assets, it’s getting deleted. 

Instead, try leading with something relevant to the prospect, such as a thought-provoking question.


Ask a question you wouldn’t in an email.

If your voicemail messages and emails are exactly the same, you lessen your chances of getting a response to either. So make them different by reserving certain questions for voicemail instead of email.

While both voicemail and emails should be customized, voicemail messages should be ultra-specific. In an email, you might ask for a referral, an appointment, or feedback. These sorts of classic questions — while still tailored to the prospect — can be customized for reuse with another prospect, or even another 100 prospects.

The question you ask in a voicemail should be so specific that it could never be intended for any other listener. For example, let’s say a recruiter was trying to get a possible candidate interested in a position they have to fill in Southern Californian. Let’s say the candidate is from the upper east coast. Right now, the idea of a warmer climate could be very appealing. The recruiter could ask the candidate how they like the weather where they work and live, or if they have ever considered a different part of the country and why? 

The more personal and specific the question, the more likely it is to get a response. Think about it this way. If you start to have chest pains on a busy city street, and you cry out, “Somebody call 911!” you might get help, but you might not. However, if you point at one specific person and shout, “Would you please call 911 for me?” it’s an almost certainty that the stranger you selected will grab their phone and dial.

Why the difference in response? When you made the request specific to one person, you placed a burden of responsibility on them. This works for voicemail messages as well. The more specific the question, the more responsibility the person feels to answer you. 

Want more work tips and advice? Visit the Higher Education Blog, part of Kaye/Bassman International Corporation, an industry-leading recruitment firm with more than 20 areas of expertise. 


Don’t use a traditional close.

Here I’m referring to lines such as “Please call me back” or “I’ll check in again on X date.” They’re generic. These requests don’t increase the prospects feeling of responsibility. Instead,  pose your specific question and end the call there.


Use your normal tone of voice.

Salespeople, recruiters, telemarketers, all are often coached to sound enthusiastic and excited on the phone, thus raising their natural voice pitch to a high, unnatural tone. This tone of voice signals to the listener, that not only is this a possibly uncomfortable call, but it is a generic one. It’s easy to imagine the caller hanging up, dialing another person, and leaving an identical voicemail using the exact same high pitch, and then another, and then another. If it sounds like someone is just doing their required calls for the day, the listener feels no responsibility to respond.

If you start a voicemail with a normal tone of voice, and maintain it throughout the message, you sound at ease making the call. Without hearing any excessive excitement in your voice, it is easier for the listener feel that the specific question you’re posing is meaningful. They are more likely to feel the message is meant for them, and only them, increasing the chance that they will decide to respond to your message.

 Source: Hubspot