A reader writes:
I’m about to lose my job (temporary hire for a project that’s almost over) and now am starting the hunt again. I’ve been reading all the advice, going to the free federally-funded we-help-you-get-hired places, and all of them tell you to constantly call, call, call the place you’re applying. Call after you’ve sent in your resume/application to make sure they got it. Call to get an interview if you haven’t heard anything. Call after the interview to thank the interviewer. Call to see if a decision has been made. To me this just sounds… insane. And stalker-ish.
So, how much contact is too much contact? How much should I give to show I’m interested but not a crazy stalker lady?
Your instincts are right. The advice out there to aggressively call at every opportunity is crap, and is probably being provided by people who either haven’t done much hiring in the last decade or who weren’t that great at it when they did. Here’s why:
1. Being interrupted by an unnecessary phone call is annoying and even arguably rude. Email is much more courteous, because it allows the person to respond when it’s convenient, rather than having to stop whatever they’re doing to take a call. And remember, you’re not the only one applying; you’ve got to multiply your phone call by the 200+ applicants they likely have for the job
2. I’m organized and competent and thus I don’t need to be reminded of your application, because it’s not going to slip through the cracks. If a great candidate can only get an interview with me by calling to nag me, I’m horrible at my job. Now, it’s certainly true that plenty of employers are unorganized and incompetent, which is why you’ll occasionally hear a story about someone who called to follow up on their application and got an interview out of it. But if you take that as confirmation that those calls are worth making, you’re self-selecting for bad employers over good ones.
3. The “advice givers” who recommend this aggressive calling routine are generally basing it on the idea that it’ll help you “stand out.” Can I train everyone’s gag reflex to kick in whenever you hear people talk about “standing out” in any way other than by being a well-qualified candidate? You stand out by being a highly qualified candidate, writing a great cover letter, and being responsive, thoughtful, and enthusiastic. You don’t want to stand out for having an overly aggressive, rules-don’t-apply-to-me, pay-attention-to-me-now approach. (And if such an approach actually gets you somewhere at that company, guess what it’s going to be like to work there?)
The one exceptions to the above might be for (a) jobs where they’re actively looking for someone who is aggressive to the point of intrusive and (b) jobs in restaurants or retail, where the convention for calling seems to work differently.
Aside from those exceptions, if you want to communicate with a prospective employer, use email. Times when it’s appropriate to follow up via email are:
* sending a post-interview thank-you note
* checking in about their timeline for next steps, particularly if they’ve exceeded the timeframe you were originally given
* alerting them to a constraint on your own side, such as a deadline for responding to another job offer
* if you’re not local, alerting them that you’ll be in town during certain days and available to meet
I want there to be some kind of career-advice-giving certification — run by me, of course — where we could fine the people giving bad advice on this kind of thing.