don’t call to “schedule an interview”

by Ask a Manager on December 4, 2010

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A reader writes:

Somewhere out there, somebody is telling kids that they should be “proactive” and call a company to “schedule an interview” as soon as they apply. I’m beseeching you to do a public service announcement to tell them to STOP. There is no way this is a good idea, and I am getting very, very tired of telling people in my nice voice that unless somebody from the company has already contacted them, there is no way I am going to schedule an interview for them, and that they have been sadly misinformed about how an application process works.

I don’t mind nearly as much a “did you get my application, I would really like to work there!” phone call. At least I don’t come out of the phone call feeling like you’re a pushy jerk with boundary issues and an inflated sense of your own self worth! Kids, (and it has mostly been young applicants) sometimes your career center is wrong.

I’ve gotten these calls too. They are not a good idea — because job-seekers don’t get to decide to schedule the interview; employers do, and it’s inappropriately pushy, not “good salesmanship” or whatever some of those awful job-hunting books claim, to pretend otherwise.

There are some career centers and some job-search books out there (and some well-meaning friends and relatives, I suspect) that are really steering people wrong, often with what I suspect is advice that worked decades ago but is no longer effective or relevant in today’s market. It’s infuriating, because they’re doing job-seekers such a disservice.


Suzanne Lucas December 4, 2010 at 6:38 am

Yes, yes, and ummmm, yes. I hate the concept of "Gee, I sent in an application, but I better call to let them know I'd like to schedule an interview because otherwise, they won't know why I submitted an application!"

Urgh. Bad, bad career advice.

Mike December 4, 2010 at 7:08 am

I'm so sick and tired of all the bad advice I and my peers received. We don't have inflated egos or senses of self worth. We were simply drilled from the high school guidance counselor to college career centers and fad business books that it's all about SELL SELL SELL and if you don't be obnoxious then you aren't "selling yourself" and they'll think "you don't really want the job" (even though you made a custom cover letter).

If I could go back and verbally smack the people that gave me crap advice like you mention above, I would.

Before this becomes a "kids these days" argument, remember that this behavior isn't innate – it's taught to them by someone else.

Mike December 4, 2010 at 7:15 am

And I'd also like to note that folks like Ms. Greene and Ms. Lucas do a pretty good job correcting ;)

Anonymous December 4, 2010 at 2:45 pm

While I'm glad my college center hasn't given this piece of "advice," I still believe mine is completely out of touch.

Anonymous December 5, 2010 at 2:24 am

An unrelated comment, but I'd like feedback…

I graduate in May 2011 with a Masters degree in Library & Information Science. I also have a Masters degree in Professional Writing. I've been sending out resumes and tailoring cover letters for jobs that I feel I am qualified for – I am not getting any interviews, but employers/hr departments are taking the time to tell me "thanks but no thanks."

Would you agree that someone is at least taking the time to read my resume, so it is catching someone's eye? Any other thoughts?

Tracy Brisson December 5, 2010 at 8:08 pm

My experience is that people think because they once were hired for a job they applied for, they are an expert in job-seeking and careers. It's the same false logic that makes people think that because they were once a student, they know how to be a great teacher.

People talk about all the conflicting advice out there, but I find that 99% of people who have worked in recruitment or hire regularly are almost always on the same page about great job search strategies. It's everyone else that it's in conflict- the parents, the career centers, the free library workshops.

Megan December 16, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Anonymous 9:24

I just graduated last year with my MLIS and recently got a real library job (albeit part-time). All I can tell you is my experience, but I started getting the "thanks but no thanks" emails before I got my last interview. So hopefully that's a good sign. Fingers crossed for you and good luck!

Anonymous May 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm

I got a job the other day, I applied at the business and then the next day I called to let them know that “I applied yesterday and i’m determined to get the job so I was wondering if I could get an interview. He set up an interview with me and at the end of the interview he told me that he thought it was nice that I called asking for an interview. I’m 18 and I now have a corporate job making 19 dollars an hour. I guess I can say I am glad there wasn’t a grumpy prick like you at the other end of the line.

Ask a Manager May 18, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Yes, that’s the lesson. Clearly.

Anna February 25, 2013 at 5:16 pm

And it’s really great that you’re learning so young to swear at people and call them names when they say things you disagree with. That’s an incredibly effective way to get your point of view across!

Lik June 7, 2013 at 10:56 am

There are no rules. Every HR person has his/her own standards, mindsets, norms, ideas of OK and NOT OK. You never know. If you sit and wait and later call they can tell you, oh why didn’t you call earlier?. If you do call some other person might think you’re an impatient and pushy. One will tell you, call! I want to see your passion and that you really want it! Another person would be like, gee this guy is calling to ask for an interview…omg if he’s so pushy now, what kind of an employee is he gonna be? [ sound of paper dropping in the trash bin]

You can never know what kind of HR wanna-be-psychological-reader person you might bum into. Many HR people are too confident in their psychoanalytical “skills”, so they like to give advice on what’s OK, what not.

Rule #1 is to try to find a connection through someone who could refer you directly. Everything else is more or less a matter of a chance, and you have to try different ways of cover letter writing. Somewhere leave everything nice and sterile, somewhere bold some key points in it etc. Sometimes call or email to ask what’s going on and if the decision has been made, somewhere it might not work…

Nicole March 3, 2012 at 8:01 pm

I can tell you exactly where that bad advice is coming from — Job Choices magazine. There’s always been a copy in my university library and career center for years. And I think they’ve been recycling the same articles for years too.

They advocate for both an objective in the resume and the “I shall contact you next week” line in the cover letter. Who says “shall?” In my field, over 100 out-of-town people applied for a job in the middle of nowhere (it’s a shrinking field), and I’d hate to be the person who gets 10o phone calls asking for interviews.

Anonymous April 14, 2012 at 4:20 am

Thanks for this article! I faced the same too. Very often we get calls from applicants asking for interviews, saying they’ve already sent in their cv 3 weeks back and questioning (sometimes, in a very overbearing manner) why they were not contacted. It takes a while for us to gently remind that the ad said “only shortlisted candidates will be notified”.

Reed Kirby June 19, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Thanks for the advice. I wouldn’t get too caught up in other recent grads sounding arrogant though.

Sandra November 28, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Hey, this is great advice, but it isn’t necessarily true for every single job. Some jobs like when people take initiative and push themselves to ask. It shows that they really want the job.

Ask a Manager November 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm

The only people who respond to that tactic are bad managers, and you don’t want to work for them. For the vast majority, it’s annoying and doesn’t work.

Marilyn January 10, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Not convincing to me unless you can back yourself up.

Peter January 10, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Saws what? Your holier-than-thou, I’m-right-you’re-wrong attitude? I don’t think so.

Myron March 18, 2013 at 2:01 pm

As a hiring manager, I completely disagree.

Ask a Manager March 19, 2013 at 12:15 am

There are exceptions to every rule, but it wouldn’t make sense for job seekers to play to those.

Chris August 25, 2013 at 11:36 pm

But you just said that anyone who responds to this tactic is a bad manager in response to a comment above. So essentially you called Myron a bad manager. So which is it? Only bad managers or different strokes for different folks?

Ask a Manager August 25, 2013 at 11:38 pm

I don’t know anything about Myron, but yes, it’s bad hiring to respond to this tactic.

Chris August 25, 2013 at 11:47 pm

But why? You never really explain why other than that it annoys you. It would be great if you actually backed up your claim with further explanation, or possibly even a better option, explaining what people can do to get noticed without being “overly pushy and annoying” like you say calling for an interview is.

Ask a Manager August 25, 2013 at 11:49 pm

Because a a good hiring manager reviews all applications and picks the candidates who appear the strongest to talk further with, rather than being swayed by someone who just happens to call and ask for an interview. They pick based on merit, not on persistence.

Chris August 25, 2013 at 11:58 pm

I’d argue that, while ideal, the strongest candidates aren’t always the ones who get the interview. Networking and connections can play just as big, if not bigger part in getting an interview/job as your 4.0 GPA or your few years work experience. Truth is a lot of college kids don’t have experience in an office setting and getting that experience can be hard, because employers are wanting more and more experience for entry level jobs and even internships. So when 20 students with the same degree, similar gpa, and no connections apply to the same job/internship what else are they supposed to do to stand out and get themselves a chance? Not everyone has 10-20 years experience in their field and not everyone has employers knocking down the door to get them to interview with them.

U.H. November 6, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I know this is months late, but I’d like to answer your question- they can stand out with a great, personally customized cover letter. Bonus: No one is going to be irritated/put off if you send in a cover letter (unless they specifically express not to send one). All 20 won’t have a great letter, all 20 aren’t going to be the same type of people. From what I’ve learned from Ask A Manager, good hiring results in a good fit. All 20 college kids aren’t necessarily going to be a good fit in terms of technical skills and company culture. The cover letter is the first place to possibly get some insight on that matter and is a better way to stand out in the way you intend.

Marilyn January 10, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Bull. I followed this advice and went months of searching, sending my resume, sending my customized cover letter, and barely had any responses. When I began making the calls, I started actually GETTING the jobs. It takes seconds to look through someone’s application, cover letter, etc.

I understand begging fir an interview, calling incessantly, etc., but just simply calling? That’s insane. No one knows your work schedule.

It may be annoying for some to receive a phone call. If that’s the case, then you don’t have to hire me-because I want the job badly enough that I will get it without your help. My life trajectory is not concerned with some pet peeve of yours.

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