A Four Step Program to Improving Your Phone Voice

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Jul 28, 2014
This article is part of a series called Tips & Tricks.

The phone voice is almost everything in making placements. Even in personal meetings, 38% of the meaning is conveyed by the voice. Surprisingly, the words themselves only convey 23%. What you convey it is more important than what you say.

Since recruiters (and lawyers) talk so much, they tend to become deaf to their own voices. We practice a four-step program of simple voice improvement techniques. We’ve achieved unbelievable results in negotiation and trial using them. Since I introduced them to our favorite recruiters they’ve made more placements. It’ll work for you too.

Let’s get started!

Your “voiceprint” is unique, but you probably don’t really know how it sounds. This is because you hear your voice as it echoes through your head. Others hear it through their ears. How do you hear it through your ears? Record your phone conversations.

For a few dollars at any electronics store you can buy a phone pickup that attaches to a digital recorder. This is undoubtedly the most important training device you will ever find at any price. As long as the device is used solely by you, it’s perfectly legal. You’ll probably be surprised at how bad you initially sound. That’s good. It only takes a few days of brutalizing to develop a more effective voitelephone2ce.

It is best to start with recording three segments of three minutes each at morning, midday, and afternoon. Undoubtedly, you will notice wide variation in the rate, volume, pitch and articulation. These items form the four steps.

To a great extent, your breathing affects your voice quality. While proper breathing is a separate subject in itself, the key is to breathe slowly and calmly from the diaphragm (below your chest). Untrained speakers generally breathe from the chest. If your shoulders move when you breathe, you’re one of them. It just takes a little conscious practice.

Now, the Four Steps:

1. Vary the Rate

The average person speaks at the rate of 145 words per minute. The recruiter average is 165. You can check your wpm by re-playing the midday segment of therecording for 20 seconds, counting the number of words, and multiplying by 3.

Check to see whether:

  • Your rate is consistent.
  • You pause for emphasis.
  • Your words run together.
  • You gasp for air.
  • You speak in a monotone.

If you’re trying to obtain a job order or arrange a sendout, the chances are your rate of speech will increase. If you’re giving directions to a candidate, it will decrease. Since phone communication doesn’t permit use of gestures and body language to convey a message, a runaway rate of speech at “closing time” can blow a placement. If you’re up over 200 wpm at the critical stages, you’re conveying more than enthusiasm,  you’re conveying anxiety.

2. Control Your Volume

Do clients and candidates ask you to speak louder? Do they ask you to repeat what you said? Do they hang up while you’re still talking? If so, you’re probably the only one listening. It’s hard to make placements that way.

And you know the other extreme. The people who think a telephone is a megaphone. This “hangup” is most common among those who work in a bullpen (“fishbowl”) office, where shouting may be a matter of survival. A number of our clients who like this open arrangement have installed soundproof partitions to eliminate this problem. It’s unbelievable how well they work. They also give the recruiters a sense of privacy without the cost and loss of control associated with separate offices. However, just like the factory employee or rock singer who shouts at you during off-hours, retraining in volume control is necessary.

Check your midday segments to see whether:

  • Your volume level is varied.
  • You use a lower volume on unimportant words (“a,” “an,” “and,” “but,” “in,” “into,” “the,” “with,” etc.).

I learned the value of this on the talk show circuit. Changes in vocal power allow you to stress key words (especially action verbs), or use a whisper to get a point across.

Your recorder should be getting a good workout at the office to help you develop an optimum basic volume level. Then you can work on varying it for emphasis and persuasiveness.

In her book, The Four-Minute Sell, Janet Elsea relates:

I once heard actor Sir John Gielgud say that loudness is a focusing of the sound to pierce the armor of the air mass and reach the intended listener. He had us move to the back of a theater while he stood upstage and whispered a soliloquy from Hamlet. We heard every single word.

3. Use Proper Pitch

George Bush’s (father or son) pitch is high; Barack Obama’s is low. Yours is yours, but ask your feedback friend to tell you about whether:

  1. Your statements sound like questions with a rising inflection at the end.
  2. You sing rather than say.
  3. You speak into a rain barrel with a nasal, raspy, gargling voice.

Combine 2 and 3, and you know the type, a walking kazoo.

Since most people have a pitch range of only one octave, it is unlikely you’ll be able to change the pitch significantly. However, reducing the volume (if you find it necessary after working with Step 1 will tend to lower it, and vice versa.

4. Improve Your Articulation

The last step that affects your phone voice is the distinctness of the words you use. If you hear the playback of a familiar voice saying “duyawanna,” “gonna” or “interdukshun,” it’s time to correct the “prolem.”

In surveying voices for Finding The Right Job At Midlife, we discovered that candidates over 40 tend to lose enthusiasm and dynamism in their speech. The result was a constant pitch, with little difference in speed or intensity. This boring pattern is nothing more than a symptom of the “rejection shock” that afflicts so many job seekers who haven’t learned self-marketing techniques. Recruiters aren’t immune. Regardless of what you say, the message is, “You wouldn’t want to hire my candidate anyway.”

Your voice conveys more about your feelings toward the client and candidate in the first few minutes than all of your words that follow. A take-charge, confident, articulate voice is essential to making placements.

NOW you’re talkin’ — the placementmakin’ talk!

This article is part of a series called Tips & Tricks.
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