The 3-second trick to impress on phone calls


Thanks to Adele and her world-class vocal chords, it was the greeting on everyone’s lips (well done, SNL) in 2015 after it debuted. The sweeping pop ballad features lyrics that sound like a one-sided phone conversation.

Hello, can you hear me?
I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be

“25,” broke the single-week sales record previously held by N’Sync for its 2000 release, “No Strings Attached.”

Hello, can you hear me?

Follow Ladders on Flipboard!

Follow Ladders’ magazines on Flipboard covering Happiness, Productivity, Job Satisfaction, Neuroscience, and more!

Yep. We all can, Adele. Loud and clear.

Let me ask a different question. When you make a work-related phone call, what’s your move after the person says “Hello?”

Too often, I hear people do the following:

“Hi, is ____ there?”

To which the person is forced to say:

“Can I ask who’s calling?”

Of course, the person needs to ask who’s on the line. We never said our name — how would he/she ever know?

That’s why, in only three seconds, you can impress people on the phone with a simple strategy: Introduce yourself right away.

It’s a tactic I discuss in Chapter 8 (“Phone Conversations”) of my new book, Wait, How Do I Write This Email?, which is available now on Amazon.

Adele, start us off: “Hello?”

“Hi, my name is Jane Doe from Acme Industries. Is John there?”

“Sure, let me get John for you.”

“Great. Thanks.”

See the difference? Plus, we sound much more confident if we lead with our first and last name and then ask for the person. Yes, it’s a subtle move and takes up one percent of the phone call. Still, a proper introduction sets the tone.

More public speaking advice: Why You Need to Hear Your Own Voice (Even Though You Don’t Like to)

Remember, in the business world you need to impress everyone at every turn. Let’s say you call a company for a pre-arranged phone interview. The boss has five phone interviews that day. Each time, the receptionist answers and the applicant says, “Hi, is Ron [the boss] there?”

Then, the secretary needs to say, “Can I ask who’s calling?”

But you…you know better. You dial the number, sit up straight, clear your throat and…


“Hi, my name is Jane Doe, and I’m calling to speak with Ron Gandry about the assistant director position.”

“Oh, hi Jane. Yes, let me put you through to Ron.”

A proper introduction is a small detail, but maybe you score points with the secretary and the other four candidates don’t. Maybe the boss asks the secretary which person had the best phone etiquette. Maybe you gain extra credit. Maybe it helps land the job. Ya never know.

What I do know is when “Hello?” happens, you need to be ready. It’s a little word with big opportunity.

I think Adele would agree.

This column first appeared on