Applying for a job via voicemail

Marketplace Staff Nov 22, 2010

Applying for a job via voicemail

Marketplace Staff Nov 22, 2010


Tess Vigeland: The job interview is basically a sales pitch, right? And with so many people trying for so few open positions, you need to hone that pitch. But can you do it in two minutes? You’ll have to if you want a job at one company in Birmingham, Ala.

Tanya Ott reports from station WBHM.

Tanya Ott: Last year, when Caroline Bowling needed a job, she trolled and CareerBuilder for something in retail or customer service. She put in four applications.

Caroline Bowling: Two of ’em were applications that I put in through e-mail. And the other two, I mailed those in.

She got no response. Then she found an ad in a local newspaper for her dream job: Racing USA, the nation’s largest online NASCAR merchandiser, was looking for a customer service representative.

Now Bowling is a huge NASCAR fan. Her office is plastered in Jimmie Johnson pictures. He’s on teddy bears, clocks, calendars, mouse pads, you name it. But before she could even submit her resume, Racing USA required Bowling to record a two-minute voicemail message explaining why they should hire her.

Bowling: The ad was very specific in what they wanted — knowledgeable with Word, Excel and Access.

Bowling spent hours plotting what she would say. And it paid off. Out of 200 applicants, she got the job. Her voice message was erased shortly after she was hired, but there are plenty of less successful applicants still littering the voicemail vault at Racing USA.


By the way, did I mention that I have previous customer service experience, type 65 words per minute and proficient with various computer programs? So don’t delay, hurry now and call me…

Bit of overkill for a stock clerk position, according to Racing USA president David Carrington. He’s got a pretty clear idea of what he’s looking for.

David Carrington: If someone would say, “My name’s Bill Jones and I’m interested in the job” — delete. “My name’s Suzy Q, please give me a call back” — delete. I’ve heard parakeets in the background. I’ve heard husbands in the background saying, “Don’t tell them that.” I’ve heard wives say, “You better get this job!” I’ve heard kids screaming.

Carrington says with the tough economy, he’s been flooded with applications for every job opening. Normally it would take a couple of days to go through hundreds of paper applications, so Carrington decided to speed up the process by introducing the two-minute voice mail pitch.

Fred Rogan: I have never heard of that being used.

Fred Rogan has worked in HR for more than 30 years and teaches at Samford University. He thinks voicemail screening is a bad idea.

Rogan: It’s so one-dimensional. There’s not any other consideration given to the entire person and their experience and their education.

A lot of people agree with Rogan. Here’s a sample of responses from an online message board that asked whether people would feel comfortable using an automated phone screening system:

Woman: The hiring process is already de-humanized why add more humiliation and torture to it?

Man: If an actual person cannot be bothered to talk to me, then this company is not one that I’m interested in joining.

Still, Racing USA’s David Carrington says it makes his job easier, so he’s going to keep using it. Which leaves me with just one more question:

Ott: Give me your two-minute statement of why you think you’re qualified for this job.

Carrington: Surely: I started the company. That’s why I’m qualified — I own it!

I’m Birmingham, Ala., I’m Tanya Ott for Marketplace.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.