How to Answer the Phone at Work

Projecting a professional image at work is important for career success. Answering the telephone is something that almost every employee does, regardless of their position in the company. Answering the right way will project a positive tone, help the caller feel comfortable, and set you up to help answer whatever questions they may have.

Opening the Call

Answer quickly.

If you are in a business setting, it is rude to keep people waiting. Get to the phone and answer before the third ring.

Put the phone up to your face.

While you want to move quickly when answering the phone, you should be patient enough to actually get the mouthpiece to your face. Make sure you don’t start talking until the phone is right up against you so that the person on the other end doesn’t miss any information.

Take a deep breath before answering.

Once the phone is up to your face, take a deep breath before giving your introduction. This will help you keep calm and controlled, making it easier to speak slowly and collect your thoughts.

Introduce your business and yourself.

You want to make sure the other person on the line has called the right place and person, so make sure they know who you and your company are. Make sure you lead with the business name. You may want to give yourself a scripted greeting so that you don’t have to think about what to say when the phone rings. This message will change slightly depending on your circumstances.

  • If you are a receptionist, it is important that you identify the whole company, as you are the caller’s gateway to whatever they need. Something simple like “Hello, this is wikiHow Enterprises, Nick speaking. How can I help you?” is good. This lets the caller know who you and your business are, and gives them an opening to continue talking. If you are a personal receptionist, identify the person you are working for (“This is Mr. Miller’s office, Nick speaking”), as that is the person your caller is trying to reach.
  • If you are part of an office, let the other person know what you do so they know what kinds of questions they can ask. Identifying yourself by saying “Hello, this is Jessica in Accounting” lets the other person know if they have reached the office or person they want, and if they should talk to someone else.

Keep a pen and notepad near the phone.

This will let you jot down information quickly if the person wants to leave a message or give you other information. You don’t want to keep your caller waiting while you search for something to write with.

Speaking Professionally

Smile as you speak.

Even if you aren’t in a good mood, putting a smile on your face and faking it can help you sound more pleasant to the person on the other end. It will probably help your mood a little bit as well.

Speak clearly and professionally.

This is a professional setting, and it is important that both you and the other person understand each other clearly and precisely. Speak slowly and enunciate your words to make sure your information gets across.

  • Avoid slang words like “Yep,” “Sure,” or “Nah.” Instead, speak with clear words like “Yes” and “No.” You don’t want any confusion between you and the caller over what either person said. Don’t forget common polite phrases such as “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” when appropriate.
  • If you need to give someone specific numbers or letters, say passing along a name or phone number, it can be good to familiarize yourself with the phonetic alphabet. That way you can avoid confusion over letters that sound similar, like “B” and “V,” with helpful hints like “V as in Victory.”

Address the caller professionally.

Use the person’s title (“Mr. Jones”) and not their first name, especially if you do not know the caller personally. Make sure you remember their name and address them with it during the conversation.

  • It may be helpful to write down the person’s name after you get it in order to help you remember.

Transfer the person if necessary.

If someone is calling you at work, they probably have a specific problem or issue they need to resolve. If you don’t know how to answer a question or concern, don’t try. Instead, offer to transfer them to someone who can help. This also shows that you are interested and willing to help solve your caller’s problem.

  • Many office phone systems will have a way to transfer calls. Make sure you know if your office does, and how it works. If not, get the right person’s number, and pass that information to your caller.
  • Be as polite as possible when doing this, and offer the transfer. Say something like “I’m afraid I can’t answer that. Would you like me to transfer you to Brian, who can help you?” Make sure the person on the other end agrees before changing the call.
  • If someone else isn’t available, offer to take a message. Just remember to pass that message along.

End the call professionally.

A clear and polite “Thank you” or “Goodbye” lets the other person know that the conversation has finished and they can hang up. There shouldn’t be any confusion over whether or not the conversation should continue.

  • Let the other person hang up. They initiated the call, so you want to let them finish whatever they needed when they called in the first place. If you hang up when the caller isn’t ready, it can appear rude, or you might miss important information.


  • Avoid answering your personal cell phone at work. You are at your job to work, not chat with your friends. Personal calls and messages can wait until the working day is done.
  • Avoid distractions. Put down what you are doing and focus on the phone call so that the caller has your undivided attention. You do not want to come across as distracted or too busy to answer questions and provide assistance.
  • Keep things out of your mouth when on the phone. This means no eating, drinking, or chewing gum. This gets in the way of clarity and suggests to the caller that they are not important.

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