when an employer asks you to call them long-distance

by Ask a Manager on May 11, 2012

A reader writes:

I applied for a job at a large insurance company and was contacted to set up a phone interview. When I called the HR representative back to set up a date and time, she requested that I call her at the appointed time. I agreed. After hanging up, I realized that this is a long distance phone call and I will be paying the cost for the 30-45 minute interview. If I’d realized it before hanging up, I would have said no to her request.

Is this normal business practice? This is a large company making billions of dollars a year. Do I call her back and request she call me? I’m not inclined to do that, as it seems silly. But it is very frustrating for an out-of-work person seeking employment. And this is the third company in 6 months that has requested that I call them for the phone interview. A new trend?

This sucks. And it stems from employers just not thinking about the fact that there might be a cost to you, especially now that so many people have cell phones that don’t charge extra for long-distance calls.

I suppose you could simply be straightforward and say, “Since this is a long-distance call, would you mind calling me?” But now you’ve maybe introduced a slight awkwardness, and maybe you have to deal with some judgy person rudely wondering why you can’t afford $4 or whatever it’s going to cost, and you shouldn’t have to worry about any of that.

I suppose you could just say, “Actually, could you call me? I’ll be at (number)” and just not even get into the cost aspect of things, but this is going to make you worry that you’ll be judged for messing with their system, or whatever.

It sucks and is unfair. I don’t have a good answer.

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{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

Mlhd May 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm

I doubt they even thought about it considering pretty much everyone nowadays has a cell phone and there’s no such thing as long distance.

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Vicki May 12, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Except for the fact that they also hope you’ll call from a landline (or at least be sitting still in a place with good reception.)

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Shane May 14, 2012 at 12:02 pm

“No such thing as long distance”

Not everywhere and not with every phone contract.

To the OP: Try using google voice. You can call long distance for free within the US and Canada.

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Kat May 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Do not use Google Voice. GV sometimes has a problem where it will start recording a conversation out of the blue and an automated voice will tell all parties that it’s recording. It’s happened to me, & there’s an online forum on the problem, too.
If that happens, the employer will NOT be understanding.

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Shane May 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm

From Google Voice Known Issues Page ( http://support.google.com/voice/bin/static.py?hl=en&page=known_issues.cs )

Some users have reported that the Call Recording feature has been turning on unintentionally. We are working on resolving this issue as soon as possible.

As a workaround you can disable call recording. To disable this feature:
1.Sign into Google Voice and go to your Google Voice Settings.
2.Click the Calls tab.
3.Under Call Options deselect the checkbox next to Enable recording and Conferencing options on inbound calls.

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Emma May 11, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Do you have Internet service and a mobile phone? You could sign up for Google Voice and place the call over your computer.

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JamieH May 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm

If I got this request from a job candidate, I would question the candidate’s resourcefulness. There are a number of ways to make free long distance calls via the Internet. Is that not an option? Calling cards can be inexpensive and would certainly not cost more than you would typically pay in gas to get to an in person interview. I would not mind calling the candidate, but it would leave me with some doubts.

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Stells May 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I can see this point, but it would also depend on where the candidate is from. Some rural areas don’t have access to high-speed internet or decent cell service so both of those options would be out of the question.

As long as the email was framed in a way that wasn’t difficult or demanding, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash (and I am part of the generation who’ve never owned a landline and was raised on computers )

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Natalie May 11, 2012 at 4:05 pm

“Some rural areas don’t have access to high-speed internet or decent cell service so both of those options would be out of the question.”

Excellent point. As a lifelong urbanite, I forget this a lot and I don’t doubt other people do, too.

Similarly, I could see a frugal unemployed candidate dropping a little-used cell phone and going back to dial-up to save money.

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AJ-Memphis May 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm

You can’t assume that anyone you interview can afford: internet, cell phone plus a land line or any of the above. Besides, how one anticipate the length of a telephone interview? You could question their “resourcefulness” when comes to answering your questions in a creative / honest / concise way, but not when it comes down to choosing to spend money on an interview that the company could very easily (and should) pay for or gas money.

I would be cautious of them if they made an issue of a candidate having to pay for an interview.

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Mike C. May 11, 2012 at 11:51 pm

On the other hand, maybe they need the job to afford things like these.

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Vicki May 12, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I wouldn’t. You say “There are a number of ways to make free long distance calls via the Internet.”
I’ve been using the Internet since before we called it “The Internet” and I don;t know what those ways are _and_ see no good reason to learn them.
YOU are interviewing ME. It’s up to YOU to call me at a time convenient for both of us.

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Corporate Cliff May 14, 2012 at 2:08 am

I really can’t say I understand what you’d have doubts about. You haven’t even gotten to the interview and already you’ve got a mark or two against the person, for something entirely unrelated to the job at hand. Unless, of course, the job is about finding cheap ways to make phone calls across state lines.

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Tax Nerd May 11, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Back in my early job hunting days, before ubiquitous cell phones with free long distance, it was no problem to ask employers to call you. (Man, I feel old.)

If you’ve been in touch via email, I would send an email just saying “I will be using a landline for our call to avoid dropped calls. Could you call me at (number)?” Just saying “landline” and mentioning spotty cell signal/dropped calls/having a cell phone plan with limited minutes, and they’ll clue in quickly that it’s not free for you. If they don’t clue in, and/or they judge you for not wanting to pay the expense, you probably don’t want to work for them.

Of course, you could also leave a voice mail asking them to call you, but email is better – that much easier for them to update their calendar. Besides, it gives them control of the timing if they want to hit the restroom or grab some coffee. I think the trend towards asking candidates to call has to do with currently-employed candidates having to sneak somewhere private for the call.

(I have lots of clients overseas, so I got in the habit of offering to call them at a scheduled time, or calling them back if they called me at an unscheduled time. But now they all seem to be using Skype.)

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Stells May 11, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Looks like we are on the same brain-wave this afternoon!

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Stells May 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm

As a recruiter, I’ve never had an issue with someone complaining about the long distance calls, but I’ve also never asked since almost all cell phone plans and even some land line plans have free calling within the US.

My advice? Send them an email and just say that due to connectivity issues in your building (or whatever make up some plausible reason to not use a cell phone, even if you have/had one), you would feel more comfortable using your land line, and you would appreciate if they would call you to avoid pesky long distance charges. They will appreciate you taking precaution to not get disconnected during the interview, and I can’t imagine they’d judge you for not wanting to spend money on a long distance for an phone interview.

I mean I would see this as a reasonable request. I guess you might get one person who’s seriously “bothered” by it, but to be honest, would you really want to work for a company that is THAT difficult and rude? If they judge you for that, what else are they going to make a big deal about once you start workine there?

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Janet May 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Check their website and see if they have a toll-free main number for the business. Test it out using the last four digits of the number you received as the extension you’re trying to reach. If the test doesn’t work, just e-mail the woman back and ask “Do you have an 800 number where I can dial directly into this line?” and she should be able to provide you with one.

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moss May 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm

That was going to be my suggestion too.

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HL May 11, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Mine as well.

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Elizabeth West May 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Me too. Most companies have one on their website, especially if they have out-of-state clients.

If not, you could voice call them over Skype. I no longer use my landline for long distance (I still have it because of DSL) and pay $2.99 a month for Skype and can call any phone, anywhere.

If you do use it, the microphone on your laptop should work okay but I would use headphones so you can hear clearly. Although the video sometimes sucks, I’ve never had any trouble with the voice. Clarity is good and people are surprised if I tell them I’m talking to them over the computer.

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Wilton Businessman May 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm

We’re talking about $4 here, right?

My personal take on it is you need to invest some money in your product; you. You’ll drive 20 minutes to an interview, do you expect to get reimbursed for mileage? If you mail me your resume, am I supposed to pay you for the stamp? Anything under about $20 you get to pay for. If you need to fly to your interview, I’ll pay for it.

After you have established that the candidate is going to call the employer and then trying to change it up will look petty and I will think you’re going to try and nickle and dime me every time.

That being said, I always call my candidates because I want to make sure I am in a place where I can concentrate and ask intelligent questions.

I’m not even going to touch on the cell phone thing again.

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HL May 11, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Job search expenses (mileage, etc.) are tax deductible, however, when you’ve been unemployed for quite a while and there is no money coming in and you’re trying to keep basic bills paid, $4 might as well be a million.

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class factotum May 11, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Four dollars is not insignificant when you have slashed your spending to the bone because you don’t know when you’ll have a paycheck again. I didn’t have long distance on my phone and I didn’t have a cellphone after I was laid off. I got a $5,000 deductible on my health insurance and was walking to the grocery store to save gas money. I stopped coloring my hair and got my haircuts at the beauty school, which I do not advise. I would have spent the money on a long-distance call if I had to, but I would have been thinking, “I could have spent that on peanut butter.”

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HL May 12, 2012 at 10:41 am

Exactly!

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Long Time Admin May 14, 2012 at 11:21 am

This.

When you don’t have four extra dollars, something like this is hard to take. Been there, done that, and resent like hell people who don’t even take that into consideration.

Wilton, you always seem to think everyone who reads this blog has $100 in their pockets at all times. You’ve forgotten what it’s like to be on the edge financially, if in fact you’ve ever known. Not everyone has advantages these days.

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Ry May 15, 2012 at 10:39 am

+1.

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Ry May 15, 2012 at 10:40 am

Sorry for the double reply, but it’s interesting that Alison pre-empted this in her initial response:

“…maybe you have to deal with some judgy person rudely wondering why you can’t afford $4 or whatever it’s going to cost, and you shouldn’t have to worry about any of that.”

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Flynn May 11, 2012 at 11:11 pm

There’s a huge difference here between the interview and employment stages that you are disregarding.

As an employee, they are getting paid. As an interviewee, they are NOT. They may be out of work, and have been out of work for a long time. The whole reason they want a job is because they have no money.

Yes, sometimes you have to suck it up and put money into getting your CV in front of an employer. But it shouldn’t be a requirement, and if there’s a reasonable alternative, then a sensible, presumably unemployed, person with an eye on their declining finances should take it. Especially if it is most likely a matter of oversight, rather than the money being a big deal for the employer.

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Anonymous May 11, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I had a phone interview to the UK not too long ago and the employer asked me to call her (knowing I’m in the states).

I just said OK and planned on calling from Skype or Google Voice because it is a little cheaper.

I emailed her back asking what time zone she was in (so I could calculate what time I needed to call her). I lucked out and she said she’d call me instead.

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Elizabeth May 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm

1)Use googlevoice or something free online to make the call, if you can.

2) If 1) is not an option and you ask them to call you, they will wonder why, but I don’t think that they will dwell on it or hold it against you. I wouldn’t.

3) I find it weird that they wouldn’t call you. When I do phone interviews, I want to make sure I am ready with my questions, have looked over your materials, that anyone else who needs to be there with me is ready, etc.

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Stells May 13, 2012 at 1:26 pm

When I’m phone screening, I tend to ask them to call me since I get ADD and I’ll lose track of time. It’s a personal problem, so its convenient for them to just call me if it is a busy week.

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Blinx May 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm

I too find it odd that they wouldn’t call you, but I’m the type that wouldn’t want to “bother” them with special requests or instructions. I’d get a prepaid calling card to use with this and future interviews. Good luck!

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Laurie May 11, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Oh yeah, good point, @Stells. My first thought was, how is this even an issue in this technological age? But yeah, I agree that most of the solutions involve high-speed broadband internet, which we don’t know if the OP has access to or not.

I’ve actually forgotten how land-lines work – do you not get charged for incoming long distance calls? No clue.

On the other hand, if the OP has access to a good broadband connection, she has no excuse. Anything from Vonage to Skype / Google Voice or even using a friend’s cell phone (a friend that has some minutes to spare, of course) will work.

Also, the only cost I would hesitate to pay in an interview situation would be flight costs greater than $100, and even that I would possibly stretch to $200-$300 if it’s for a worthy company – though at that point I would judge the company for being stingy. Phone time /internet/gas costs/getting a haircut/buying a suit/dry cleaning/printing 25 copies of your resume/color printing your portfolio whatever should not be an issue when you are potentially getting a job. It seems a little penny-wise-pound-foolish to me.

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danr May 11, 2012 at 4:54 pm

“I’ve actually forgotten how land-lines work – do you not get charged for incoming long distance calls? No clue.”… how times have changed. No, you don’t get charged for incoming calls. Only cell phone charges work both ways. Hope you’re not faced with an older phone with no buttons in the future. .

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Elizabeth West May 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm

I found a bunch of rotary phones at the flea market. I dialed them just for fun and realized there are people alive who will never know what that sound is.

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class factotum May 11, 2012 at 9:07 pm

We have an old, old phone in our living room. The “hello Central” type. It works. When my friends visited with their teenagers, the two kids spent the afternoon calling their friends on that phone because they thought it was so cool.

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Anonymous May 11, 2012 at 10:50 pm

dididididi…3…dididididididi…7…dididididididididi…9…didiididiiddididi…oh crap, i messed up.

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Anonymous May 12, 2012 at 12:53 am

I always hated that my phone numbe had a lot of 8s and 9s in it. :)

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K. May 12, 2012 at 1:35 pm

I’m an 80s baby but we had one rotary phone in our house growing up – my parents got it from my grandparents when they were first married and they just held onto it (they sold the house a few years ago and got rid of it then). When my and my younger brother’s friends would come over, we’d make a point of showing it to them.

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Flynn May 11, 2012 at 11:06 pm

You get charged for incoming calls in the US? How does that even work?

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Laurie May 12, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Yeah, cell phones, you get charged for incoming calls as well. If you so much as pick up the phone to speak, you are being charged and so is the other person. Same thing for incoming and outgoing texts. Nice business model, huh? :) I’m from a different country, and every time I tell my friends back home about this, they crack up.

And when you ask a question about whether landlines have that too, you get subtly lectured about being faced with button-less phones (hello, iPhone, but I rest my case).

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Ellie H. May 11, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Even $100 is a ton of money for many people. Yes, there is always the risk of being penny wise and pound foolish, but it’s so hard to get a job lately and spending money on getting your suit dry cleaned could be totally depressing when you don’t get the job and are out $12 you could have spent on food, school, etc.

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K Too May 13, 2012 at 11:46 am

+100.

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Andrew May 12, 2012 at 9:47 am

Someone who assumes that they have no alternative to paying for incoming calls has no business lecturing other people about being penny wise and pound foolish.

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Laurie May 12, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Are you confusing me with the OP? The OP is the one that thinks there is no alternative to paying for incoming calls. I am the one saying that broadband internet technology (VOIP), borrowing people’s landlines/cell phones are viable options.

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Andrew May 12, 2012 at 7:31 pm

“I’ve actually forgotten how land-lines work – do you not get charged for incoming long distance calls? No clue.”

This is from YOUR post.

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Laurie May 14, 2012 at 2:12 am

Yeah, all I was saying there was, I don’t recall how land lines work here in the United States. My parents used to have a traditional land line, but it always had nationwide long distance on it, and I never discussed with them the finer intricacies of how they got charged for the calls. They switched to Vonage about 5-6 years back, which is VOIP and standard monthly rate. I have never owned a landline. Hence, the question.

Also, I may not know how landlines work, but that hardly translates to “assumes that they have no alternative to paying for incoming calls”. On the contrary.

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Just me May 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Is it possible the company has a toll free number?

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Anonymous May 11, 2012 at 4:25 pm

This is also probably the same type of employer who wouldn’t pay for interview travel expenses for an out-of-state candidate.

I say, ask them to call you. If they won’t budge, it is indicative of how you’d be treated as an employee.

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HL May 11, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Agreed.

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KayDay May 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I would just send them a quick email asking them to call you. I really doubt they meant anything by it, they probably just didn’t think about long distance charges (which are thankfully on the way out!). Even some land-line phone companies now have nation-wide packages…but I digress…

I would flat out tell them that long distance phone calls are expensive for you and that you would appreciate it if they could call you. Something simple, straightforward, and friendly . E.g. “Dear XXX, Thank you for scheduling my phone interview. Unfortunately, I checked with my phone company, and long distance calls to your area are quite expensive. Could you please give me a call. I look forward to speaking with you on DATE at TIME.”

If they have a problem with it, that’s probably a red flag. Or you could just suck it up and pay the extra fees.

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Liz May 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm

First, I wouldn’t make the call over the internet because I have a rather girlish voice and sound quality matters a lot to me. But if you have a booming voice I guess it wouldn’t matter as much.

Second, honestly, I really understand that not everyone has a cell or can borrow one. Still, access to a cell phone is pretty common now, and it would make me think the candidate would be resistant to technology and have trouble adjusting to other ways of doing things if I heard a request that basically says, “I only have a land line, can you adjust to me so I won’t be inconvenienced by $4?” ‘

How hard would it be to borrow a friend or family member’s cell phone?

Also, in my own, “Der” moment when I read the question I was totally surprised that long distance still exists. I haven’t paid for a long distance call in about 12 years, and I’m hardly the fastest person when it’s time to adopt new technology. I guess I just sort of thought it was one of those things that the phone company didn’t bother with any more.

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Anonymous May 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Actually, I’ve found that the sound quality with google voice is much better than what I get with my cell phone. But I haven’t used a land line in a decade, so I can’t compare it to that.

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Joe May 18, 2012 at 12:03 pm

As a person who doesn’t own a cell phone, I normally have no problem in saying that if I need a cell phone in a pinch, I’ll borrow one from somebody. But for an interview, it might be harder: I’m going to be at home, and my friend/family member/whatever probably won’t be there, so that means that I’m going to have to arrange with someone to give me their phone for the day, or find a way to get it from them beforehand and get it back to them afterward.

And just because I don’t own a cell phone doesn’t mean I’m slow to adopt other technologies. I just hate telephones (I’m one of those people who does much better in a conversation with the visual cues, and even just being able to focus on looking at the person talking to me), and one that has poorer sound quality, costs more, and interrupts my life wherever I am is not something I want. But with other technology, I’m all over it.

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Dan May 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm

My corporate phone is a Cisco VOIP. It costs the company nothing to make domestic long distance calls. To use this phone, I have to pick up the handset, and dial ten digits. It’s pretty easy, and is of no inconvenience to me whatsoever.

Those of you telling the OP to suck it up are picking the wrong battle to fight. If I were interviewing candidates, I wouldn’t think twice about the request. I wouldn’t want to inconvenience someone when it was of no inconvenience to me to accommodate them.

The times that “suck it up and pay the small expense” is an appropriate response is when I’d have to fill out paperwork to reimburse you for that expense. For the few $ it takes you to drive across town, deal. The company probably pays me more the time it takes to fill out the paperwork than it cost you to drive over.

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Just Me May 12, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I agree with this. I question the company as well for them not calling the OP.
As it is the job seekers ” problem” so to speak to put out some money to get the right clothing, pay for the gas to get to an interview, a stamp for the resume and so on, it is just as much the companies responsiblity to ” suck it up” and pay for a phone interview.
It is a part of the interviewing process on both ends. Each end obsorbs some cost of interviewing. A phone call from the company has to be a spit in the bucket expense as it relates to the grand scheme of hiring.

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Just Me May 12, 2012 at 6:50 pm

I think there is another ” Just Me ” posting…..

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Long Time Admin May 14, 2012 at 11:30 am

You might have to start calling yourself “The Original Just Me”.

This happens a lot. I use a different name on another blog and had to do that. I guess it wasn’t as unique as I thought when I picked it out!

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AD May 11, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Call collect!!!

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Camellia May 14, 2012 at 10:02 am

hehehehe I love this!!

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Charles May 11, 2012 at 5:12 pm

I vote for just asking them to call you, no explanation needed unless they ask. If this becomes an issue for them then you could view this as be a red flag that they are penny-pinchers who would treat employees the same way.

OP, being out of work with no or little income is not a “suck it up” time. Kudos to you for watching pennies when money is tight.

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HL May 11, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Agreed!

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K. May 12, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Co-sign. It’s one thing to ask an employer to come to your house for the interview if you don’t want to pay for gas or public transportation, but asking an employer to make a phone call is really not a big deal, and pinching pennies when your pennies are limited is NOTHING to be ashamed of.

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Katers May 11, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Jebus. I am baffled at those “suck it and pay small expenses” comments. You don’t know what her finanical situation is like and honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with ask the company to give her a call. It’s important to be straightforward from the start.

I envy those who can make calls from Skype, Google Voice and cell phone. I’m deaf and I use relay services to make/recieve calls. Whenever I make a call to a potential employer, they would hang up on me assuming that I’m a telemarketer (usually because the relay operator would announce that they are relay operator number 7653 and they are talking with a deaf caller ) or aren’t willing to take the time to talk with me because the delaying in response. This is very frustrating for me, so whenever I fill out applications, I always put down that e-mail is my primary method of communication.

Anyways, I really hope everything will work out in her favor.

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Danielle May 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm

I’m Deaf too . . you can tell the relay operator not to announce as Relay Operator 841 or whatever and just go right into the phone call. It’s usually in the Special Instructions box on the internet ones or if you have VP there’s usually a “do not announce” button or you can just tell the interpreter. But any company who hangs up on you or refuses to use the relay is violating the ADA and you don’t want to work for them anyway! I’d also report them to your local state agency for the Deaf/HOH so that they can reach out to the company and provide education on the relay and how to work with Deaf individuals.

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Anon May 14, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Do you tell them ahead of time how this will work? I can see them not understanding what’s going on if they’ve never had a deaf person call them before, and I imagine most people have never experienced this (I know I haven’t).

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Michael May 11, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Use Google Voice or borrow a friend’s cell phone?

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MK May 11, 2012 at 6:25 pm

I use calling cards quite a bit (for example, when I had a visitor from another country arriving for a meeting, and I new that he cell phone may not work in the US, I purchased a $5 calling card and send him dialing information so that he would have a way to contact me). You can buy calling card which would provide a cost of a couple cents per minute so that a $5 card would last for about 10 hrs. That’s what I would use in this situation.

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MK May 11, 2012 at 6:26 pm

I meant to say “I knew that his cell phone may not work in the US”. Sorry for misspelling.

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Andrea May 11, 2012 at 6:34 pm

What I see as short sighted is losing a prospective job over this. So you are in essence saying that being out of work for X amount of time is preferable to paying for a call? It’s not as though they are asing you to fly out there on your dime.

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Navan May 11, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Long distance still exists?! I couldn’t get a local- only phone plan if I tried- the cheapest one from my home phone provider includes unlimited north American wide calling.

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Lynne May 12, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Depends where you are…here in Canada, the cheapest landline *or* cell plans typically don’t include unlimited long distance (even just for calls within Canada or North America).

My cell phone plan is not among the cheapest (sigh), and I still only get unlimited long distance to ten pre-specified phone numbers…if I dial anyone else long distance, I have to pay by the minute.

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Laura L May 14, 2012 at 8:57 am

Wow, that’s rough. As far as I know, all U.S. cell phones come with long distance. It’s included as part of whatever package you buy. The service provider just doesn’t bother to differentiate between long-distance and local.

I bought a pay-go phone recently because my cell phone was stolen and that phone didn’t even have a local area code!

I think that in many places in the U.S., the cheapest landline plans still don’t include long distance, but I’m not sure.

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Stacy May 11, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Perhaps it’s my age, but I don’t even think about long distance thanks to cell phones, so I really wouldn’t read into this as someone “making you pay for the call”. It probably didn’t even occur to them what effect their request would have on you. Should the interviewer have been more considerate? Maybe, but it would be really easy for an otherwise amazingly polite and considerate person to make this “mistake”.

I definitely wouldn’t mention the cost to them. Even though I would try not to judge a candidate for a comment about the cost of long distance, at best it would “date” them and at worst it would make me think something was socially “off” about them and I’d wonder how they normally interact with people. I know $4 (or whatever) might be a lot to some people, but it’s still a petty amount in my world. (Of course, my world is San Francisco, where if you didn’t get the email that was sent to you 20 seconds ago on your smartphone, you’re pretty much a giant freak. So, do what you will with my comments.)

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Laurie May 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Haha. That’s the world I live in too. Fascinating discussion, this.

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Laura L May 14, 2012 at 9:01 am

I would have had a similar reaction about 6 months ago. However, I spent a few months this year helping prepare taxes for low-income families, individuals, and senior citizens and a lot of our clients had cell phones with no money on them because they couldn’t afford it.

People would carry their phones with them so they’d have those contact numbers, but we often had to let clients borrow our phones if they needed to call someone for more information.

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Stacy May 15, 2012 at 4:09 am

When I lived and worked in New Zealand, I came across this problem a lot because pre-paid cell phones are just as, if not more common than, contracts for cell phones there. In fact, I had a pre-paid cell when I was there and I was constantly running out of money on it. Now that I think about it, it was completely annoying to call my employer with that phone thanks to me paying for every single call individually.

How quickly I forgot the difficulties that come with a pre-paid cell!

Fair or unfair though, if you are an American applying for a job “above” the minimum wage realm in the U.S., it’s likely assumed that you have a cell phone contract. Even though I agree that may not actually be the case, (for a variety of reason… e.g. my mom has a pre-paid cell simply because she never uses it and I have another friend who doesn’t have a cell at all).

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Cassie May 11, 2012 at 10:58 pm

At first read, I thought “what’s the big deal, cell phones don’t (usually) charge extra for long distance?” but I guess I think it would be better anyway for the interviewer to call the applicant. It’s a business expense (for the interviewer) so why not?

I guess it’s just my personal preference – I don’t like waiting for calls so I’d much rather be the person making the call (of course, I try to avoid calls as much as possible either way).

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Nethwen May 13, 2012 at 8:45 am

Here is a true story that one might choose to consider when saying that paying for a phone interview shouldn’t be a problem.

http://234journal.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/thats-the-story-of-thats-the-glory-of-by-sarah-tucker/

As for borrowing another’s phone, that assumes you know someone who has a phone you can borrow at an appropriate time for an interview, that they are reliable enough not to leave you hanging, that they paid their bill so that their equipment works, and that you haven’t borrowed from them so much that one more favor is too much.

And guys? Truly, there are times when the only internet access a person has is at the local library. Would you want to have an interview in public with others talking around you (or alternately, with the expectation that people will whisper only)? Even the ESC here doesn’t have a way to help people without phones (or if they do, they are excellent at hiding it).

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Anonymous May 13, 2012 at 11:17 am

One thing I’d like to point out is that “long distance is cheap/free” may not apply if the OP is not in the US.

In Canada, that $4 number everyone keeps throwing around would be closer to $25 for that one call (on a landline or a cell).

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Anonymous May 13, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I recently interviewed over the the phone with three people in three locations. They had me call a toll free number, and I, of course, dialed in a few minutes early. I was greeted and asked to wait while they finished some organizational discussion regarding a later interview before getting to me. So, in general, I would think the interviewer would like to control the timing to avoid the interviewee calling in before they are prepared to start.

Now that I have been hired by the organization, I understand what happened. The organization is full of “virtual teams,” I spend several hours a day dialed into the organization’s teleconference line for meetings. Those three interviewers dialed into the conference line same as me, and had no way of dialing out to me.

Back to question, I’d recommend asking them to call you. Using a land-line is a good idea, but the business should have no issue with footing the long distance bill while you understandably might have some hardships.

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Greg May 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm

I have a landline for use in my home (both for blackout protection and because cell coverage is spotty inside the apartment), but don’t have any long-distance plan attached to it, so I am simply unable to make LD calls on my landline (though if necessary I can do it on my cell). My experience has been that most interviewers expect to call me anyway, so it shouldn’t be an issue to ask them to do it. I doubt any of them would give it a second thought.

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Student May 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm

The problem with mentioning to the interviewer that you’re worried about the long-distance cost is NOT that it might be a financial hardship. I can sympathize with the OP not wanting to pay for the long-distance call! The biggest problem with bringing this up is that it makes you look bad. It’s unfair, as AAM mentioned, but realistically it will definitely not help you land the job. Maybe, with a little luck, it won’t actually hurt you to ask the interviewer to call you. But maybe the interviewer will form some negative impression – that you’re poor, cheap, not willing to invest in your job search, or 100 other things. Being on a tight budget because you’re out of work is 100% reasonable and even responsible – but it will not set off any good connotations to draw attention to your tight budget.

If I were the OP, I would ask to use a friend’s phone for the interview (or get the cost of the interview phone call from a friend). In terms of “material assistance with a job search” this is an extremely reasonable request for aide. It is probably cheaper than taking her to lunch, realistically. If you don’t have friends, then ask family – even family that don’t really like you will probably help out with something so minor for the sake of a job search.

I have let people make longer, more expensive calls on my phone for much less serious reasons. Heck, I’d let a complete stranger use my cell phone to make a call if they told me it was for a job interview, as long as I had some very mild reassurance that the stranger wasn’t just going to grab the phone and dash off into the sunset.

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Jamie May 15, 2012 at 3:04 pm

“I have let people make longer, more expensive calls on my phone for much less serious reasons. Heck, I’d let a complete stranger use my cell phone to make a call if they told me it was for a job interview, as long as I had some very mild reassurance that the stranger wasn’t just going to grab the phone and dash off into the sunset.”

I just wanted to say that this was the sweetest thing I’ve read in quite some time. Your whole comment just radiates kindness.

I don’t even like my own husband touching my phone, much less strangers, so people like you are my hope for a better humanity. :)

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