Revealed: People working in human resources and recruitment have the worst phone etiquette in the country

4Com research reveals the industries with the worst phone manners in the UK

Whether it’s to a friend, family member or a client, making phone calls is part of everyday life, but which professions carry the best and worst phone manners?

A recent study, run by business telecommunications provider, 4Com, explored how well British people do when it comes to phone etiquette, and their worst pet peeves. The research revealed people working in recruitment and human resources are the worst phone communicators in the UK, with one in nine (87%) admitting to demonstrating bad manners while on the phone.

The five worst professions for bad phone manners are:

  1. HR/Recruitment (87%)
  2. Media/PR/Marketing (85%)
  3. Lawyer (82%)
  4. Doctor/Nurse/Dentist (81%)
  5. Accounts (77%)

When it comes to the specific telephone faux pas that recruiters and HR workers admit being the guiltiest of, putting people on speakerphone, while being distracted with other tasks comes in first with almost a quarter (22%) claiming this habit as one of their own. Close behind, 16% admit to eating and drinking when using the telephone, while one in ten (11%) say their worst phone habit is speaking too quietly and mumbling.

On the other hand, the phone habits that recruiters and human resources workers find most irritating are:

  • Someone playing loud music in the background (58%)
  • Someone having a conversation with another person in the background (38%)
  • Someone speaking too quietly (36%)
  • Being put on hold (33%)
  • Someone eating their food/having a drink whilst speaking (29%)

In the face of these annoying habits, one in six (16%) HR and recruitment workers will happily put the phone down with no explanation, while three in five (60%) will interrupt them and inform them they’re being irritating and 13% are more likely to just mute the call.

For writer Simon, the most annoying thing is being called outside of his working hours: “I work freelance, so I don’t do the traditional 9-5 that most do. Because of this, people seem to think it’s acceptable to call me at odd hours of the day. This is especially annoying when it’s not even an important issue. Calling first thing in the morning to ask a simple question, really? And then they sigh deeply when the answer they get at 7am isn’t what they want to hear!”

Engineer James’ pet peeve is people chewing his ear off… literally! “I have one client who always seems to call me when he’s eating an apple. He probably doesn’t even notice it, but it’s happened more than a handful of times now. It’s like he’s literally chewing in my ear. Infuriating!”

Commenting on the research, Mark Pearcy, Head of Marketing at 4Com, said: “As a telecoms company, we’re all about communication, so we were surprised to see just how many people admit to having poor phone manners.

“While texts, emails, social media, and all other forms of communication all have their benefits, speaking on the phone is perhaps most effective at passing on your message. As they allow you to hear the speaker’s tone of voice, phone calls help to avoid, for example, the risk of innocent phrases sounding passive aggressive, jokes being taken the wrong way, or sarcasm interpreted as serious thoughts.

“Hopefully this research will help people realise their phone habits can be considered rude and make chatting on the phone smooth sailing for recruiters and HR professionals!”
To make sure you stay on the right side of the etiquette line, head to
to see how Jo Bryant, Jakemans etiquette expert, suggests you make the most of your phone calls.

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The British Institute of Recruiters is the Professional Body operating The Recruitment Certification Scheme

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