Cell Phone Etiquette

This very curious email came to me through a contact at MyCFONetwork, asking for my thoughts …

In the past two days, I have been privy to listen to someone pitching a new business idea to a colleague and also someone chatting to their commercial insurance broker. 

And this

People that conduct business conversations on their cell phones while visiting the restroom … proper business etiquette? 

The age of “always connected” has made us lose all common sense, hasn’t it?  Things that we would otherwise have only talked about in the privacy of our homes or offices are now talked about and typed about very publicly. However, “business” still carries a modicum of confidentiality and as a finance or other executive, business etiquette should apply.

— Talking about a business deal at lunch with a colleague is typically done in hushed tones with heads leaning forward to create an environment of confidentiality. Deals done on cell phones are usually discussed at double volume for the entire restaurant to hear. Regardless of what public place you find yourself, my suggestion … let the call go through to voice mail and return it in a private setting. Or, if you think the call is that important, step outside or find an isolated, quiet place to converse. Have you considered what confidential information you might be revealing by talking so publicly?

— In the restroom. Seriously? I shouldn’t even have to comment but since I was asked, I will. Do you really need to have a business conversation while doing your personal business? How do you think it is perceived on the other end to hear the toilet flushing (or worse) or the water running or the hand dryer blowing? Do you want that image attached to your brand. My suggestion, let the call go through to voice mail and call them back from a quiet, private environment.

— And finally, please don’t ever call in sick, ask for a raise, or resign through texting.

What crazy things have you heard people discussing on their cell phones, where were they, and what were you're thoughts when you heard it?

CFOs, Social Media, and Email

Remember when …

–The Post Office was actually relevant because all correspondence came through your mailbox?

–IBM Selectric typewriters and “White Out” transformed office environments?

–30-second jingles heard on TV were “the” advertising medium?

And then …

–Mail was first replaced by fax transmissions, and now email.

–Memory typewriters and gargantuan computers replaced electric typewriters. Does the product “White Out” even exist today?

–Thankfully, intrusive push advertising became easily handled with a push of the mute button.

And today …

–There’s a computer in almost every home; and

–According to an Internet trends report by Morgan Stanley, email usage is flattening out as social media usage is increasing. 

What does the SM trend mean for you as a Chief Financial Officer? Maybe nothing if you are one of the few CFOs embracing the power of Web 2.0 technology. If you’re not onboard, you might get run over because this train is coming … and coming at full speed.

Beyond the typical career strategies social media facilitates (Tweeting, Social Media Boat, Sequel), here are some ways you can begin easing into the new technology …

–Use a private or internal Twitter account to rapidly and transparently communicate with your entire finance or executive team and/or track high priority projects;

–Encourage your executive leadership team to get on Linked In with complete profiles to raise the visibility and credibility of your company;

–Make your loyal clients or customers feel exclusive and inclusive with a private group on Linked In or a Facebook fan page. (If you’re a CFO and would like to join my CFO Careers group on Linked In, please send me an email and I’ll send you an invitation to join … or follow my Facebook Business page.)

I’d love to hear how you, as the chief finance leader, are leveraging the power of social media either corporately or individually.

The Rules Have Changed

So the question becomes, are you playing by the new rules or the old rules? As “The New Trouble on the Line” points out, the game has changed and the new rules are catching candidates by surprise. It’s a good read. More than that, it’s an important read.

Here are a few more areas where I believe my finance execs get tripped up … and it primarily comes from a reticence (for whatever reason) to embrace new technology.

–Email address

This seems like such a minor point, but it’s not. Your email address will often be the beginning of that “first impression” … especially when it is an AOL (amateurs online) address; some weird, nonsensical combination of words; your wife’s email address; or worse, something playful or even suggestive.

Linked In

I’m delighted to see more and more senior finance executives and CFOs getting on Linked In. This is a “must be” place for proactively managing your career. Where I see folks getting tripped up is in creating their bios with “yesterday’s boring corporate speak” or not creating it at all. This is your one shot at attracting recruiters who have the positions you want. Your profile must be compelling and sell value, your experience section must be complete and sell value, and joining groups and securing recommendations are critical. Linked In is a “networking” site … that requires action.


I was participating in some discussions in my various Linked In groups the other day, and there was a Twitter post with the invitation to list your Twitter url so you could follow others and be followed. My first response was “k-e-w-l, look at all those finance folks who are tweeting.” As I clicked the link my response changed to … “oh no, they don’t get it.” 

Twitter is a micro-blogging platform requiring you to talk with people … regularly and frequently. It is not a “build it and they will come” holding place on the Web. What I saw were accounts that were established with no identifiable name or bio, no tweets, and few followers. Not the message I’m sure these folks want to be sending.

–Voice Mail Message

What does your voice mail message say about you as an executive? Your kids are cute … that’s a given … and the voice mail recording they made is just adorable. And, unprofessional. If your home phone has anything other than a professional message, don’t use it on your resume. Use your personal cell phone and make sure the voice mail message is professional and includes either your name or your phone number (or both) so the caller knows they got the right person.

–And finally, Telephone Interviews

If you are not in a place where it makes sense for you to answer the phone, don’t. It would be far better for you to let them leave a message and call back when you are at your desk and focused than in the car with the kids or running errands. If you do answer and you are busy or otherwise distracted, politely ask if you can reschedule to a mutually convenient time. 

It is time (past time actually) for senior finance executives to proactively embrace Web 2.0 technology. Just as the rules have changed regarding telephone interviews, so have the rules changed in the competitive job search arena. Dinosaurs are out. A-players are in. On first pass, perhaps before you even know it happened, your status as either a dinosaur or an A-player is evident from your web savvy, or lack thereof. 

Non-Social Social … the New Norm?

My son-in-law and I were spending some time bonding on Saturday, interacting together while simultaneously checking our crackberries. Our society is quickly moving towards being non-socially social. Have you noticed how many people walk around with a beetle attached to their ear talking into thin air, but not to the person(s) walking with them? 

I love my blackberry and there is no question that it feeds my addiction to immediate gratification and information, but for the job seeker (executive or otherwise) … blackberries and iPhones can be the kiss of death.

The lure of casual …

Like texting, emails and messenger discussions sent thru a phone can lull you into the false belief that because it is a “phone” message, it can be casual with little or no regard to professionalism, courtesy, or spelling and grammar. Don’t get caught in the “casual” trap. The job search process is still very much a formal process for executives.

If you believe you are THAT important …

that you can’t turn off your phone during an interview, you might be living in a fantasy world. There is a time and a place for checking your messages; however prior to, during, and immediately following an interview are NOT the times nor the places. If you want to beat out the competition, there are much better uses of your time during these critical moments. The time to turn off your phone is before you leave your house or office to head to an interview; and keep it in the car, with the off button properly engaged, until after you’ve decompressed from the interview.

There’s an OFF button for a reason …

So it can be used. Not vibrate, not quiet … OFF! And, as noted above, preferably left in your car. Getting distracted mid-sentence by an incoming call or message reflects poorly on your professionalism. If your focus isn’t on winning the interview in anticipation of scoring a job offer, how will you focus on getting your job done once you’re hired?

This message is from … who?

“Sent from my blackberry” does not constitute a proper signature line. Even on your phone, it’s important to include your full name, contact information, and personal branding statement.

And please, don’t forget to remove the beetle from your ear!

What’s in Your Signature Block?

An easy – and often overlooked – opportunity to extend your digital footprint occurs every time you send out an email. What’s in your signature line and what does it say about you?

Here are some suggestions for building a signature block with punch.

–Full Name. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? If there is any chance your email will be forwarded, make sure your full name appears. The person reading your original email might know you by only your first name, but the next person might not.

–Contact Information. 

Phone number. Preferably cell so you have control over who answers it and what the message says. If you are using a work number, including your personal cell phone number as well so people can still contact you after you leave your current position.

Email address. Professional and personal (non-business) so it follows you regardless of where you’re working.

–Branding Statement. What is compelling and unique about you that can be delivered in a Tweet (140 characters)? You might be a CFO, but so are many others. How you are different is much more interesting and memorable.

Linked In Profile. A complete and branded profile on Linked In is your portable resume. It goes everywhere your email goes and makes it easy for people to click and see who you are. 

Don't let your emails leave home without these basic components.

Two More Linked In Mistakes

One of my very brilliant colleagues, Louise Fletcher (@louise_fletcher), just tweeted about a great article she penned on seven common mistakes made in creating a Linked In profile. I’ll add two more.

–Not having recommendations

Some recruiters will pass you by, not matter how great you are, simply because you do not have any third party endorsements attached to your Linked In profile. Not only “having” recommendations, but “how many” recommendations.

Another equally brilliant colleague, @CareerPro, tweeted this a few days ago …

A client just told me that for a VP of Finance interview the interviewer wanted xx amount of Linked In endorsements just to get past the screen. [emphasis mine]

A sub-mistake of not having recommendations is to, upon reading this post, send an email out to everyone in your Linked In network asking for a recommendation. Please don’t. If I don’t know about your work, your attitude, your contributions – I sure can’t write a recommendation about it.

–Not being branded

If you aren’t unique and different, you are just … a commodity. I’m sure you know that commodities don’t hold much value these days. They are not only cheaper, but we will often hold out for a coupon or discount before making a commodity purchase, further devaluing it.

Branding touts what’s distinctive about the way you contribute. Rare – now that’s valuable!

Missed Opportunities

You miss 100% of the opportunities you never receive.

Having an email address specifically for the purpose of finding a job, with the intent of disabling it once you land, is a short–term job search strategy.

Securing a permanent email address used specifically to receive potential opportunities – whether you are in search mode or not – is a long–term career management strategy.

Now, you can choose to operate in the short–term … search for a job, find a job, land in a job, lose a job, search for a job … and on and on and on.

Or, you can begin to view your career as if it is always in perpetual motion and you constantly employ strategies to ensure you capture 100% of the opportunities that come your way.

What’s your plan?