A Telephone Etiquette Test

While forms of technology are making inroads into the communication process, the telephone is still an important source of contact with people. You need to make sure the experience is pleasant and efficient.

Test you telephone skills with this simple quiz:

  1. How quickly should you pick up a ringing phone?
  2. What should you say when answering?
  3. When is the best time to call someone?
  4. How should you put someone on hold or transfer a call?
  5. What information should your voice mail message contain?
  6. What’s the best way to tactfully screen callers?
  7. Who responds when disconnected?

Answers after the jump.


  1. Answer a ringing phone by the third ring. Set up your voice mail to answer after the third ring.
  2. Don’t sacrifice information for the sake of brevity. Saying “hello” may be quick, but it’s not useful. At the very least, answer with your name. A better greeting could be, “Thanks for calling Happy Camper, Inc., Harvey Trailer speaking.” If your phone system shows internal vs. external calls, alter your greeting appropriately.
  3. If you must call someone at home, call between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
  4. Always ask and wait for an answer before putting someone on hold. If someone wants to hold waiting for another co-worker, check back every 30 seconds or so to make sure they want to continue to hold.
  5. good out-of-office message has three parts: date(s) of absence; reason for absence; alternate contact. Be as concise as possible. If you have to leave a lot of information, start by letting callers know which key to push to skip the recording.
  6. Get the information up front. If you ask a caller to hold, come back and ask a name a reason for the call, put the caller back on hold, come back and say the boss is unavailable, you’ve just told the caller they are not important.
  7. The person who initiate the original call should dial back.