hiring manager seemed annoyed that I called for more information

A reader writes:

I recently found a position that I was interested in applying to on a very trade-specific website. The position is for a very large company that is headquartered on the East Coast, but the position is on the West Coast, where I live. The job ad didn’t list much information other than the basics — it was pretty sparse, and left a lot of questions open (at least in my mind).

Someone I trust advised that I should call the hiring manager to express interest, ask questions, get more information before applying, etc. So I did. This involved me looking up the name of the person listed on the job ad (she is the person who I would send my resume to directly), finding the number via Google, and calling. The contact person is the VP of the department (she is not in an HR or hiring role), and I would probably be working for her if I did end up getting the position.

The result was that …it didn’t exactly go well. The person on the line was obviously not expecting my call, and when I told her what I was calling about, she didn’t seem receptive to talking at all, and it was basically a short, terse conversation, which ended with her telling me that all of the information I needed is in the ad. I thanked her and said I would just go ahead and apply via the contact details mentioned in the ad. She wasn’t open to questions, open to elaborating about the position, etc.

Was it wrong of me to find her contact information and reach out the way that I did? Is it overreaching? Part of me thinks (hopes?) that she won’t remember that I called, since it was not a pleasant experience. Does it pay to call and reach out for positions in companies that are in such high demand? Or is cold calling always a bad idea? Also, given that I received such a cold reception, should I take that as a sign that the work environment may be unpleasant?

Yeah, it’s generally a bad idea.

First and foremost, calling to express interest is just going to be annoying. You express interest by applying for the job — that’s as clear an expression of interest as it gets. There’s no reason to call, and it’s likely to interrupt the person and take them away from higher priorities (which sounds like exactly what happened here). It comes across as trying to circumvent their hiring process or stand out in some way, but it’s attempting to serve your own interests with no thought as to theirs.

Now, if you truly have questions and aren’t just calling to make contact for contact’s sake, the calculation is a little different. In most cases, the information they’ve put in the ad is what they intend to share at this stage, and you can get into questions at later stages of the process if they reach out to express interest in talking. The vast, vast majority of the time that candidates call with questions, the questions are either (a) something that’s already answered in the job posting (like “what are the biggest things you’re looking for in candidates?”) or (b) questions that really don’t need to be addressed at this stage and could wait for the interview (like “I have a client base I could bring with me — would that be a plus for the position?”). From the hiring manager’s standpoint, that ends up coming across like you’re just calling to try to build a connection and get special attention in their process, rather than because there’s a genuine question that needs to be answered before you apply.

You might think it shouldn’t be a big deal to spend a few minutes on the phone with a candidate — but most employers are fielding hundreds of applicants for each role, and at least 80% are probably going to be screened out in the initial resume review. So most hiring managers would rather take a look at your resume first before deciding if it makes sense to spend time talking further. If you do move forward, most will be happy to spend time at that stage talking and answering questions, but they’d rather have the chance to decide if you’re a plausible candidate first.

There are some exceptions to this, like when the role is particularly senior or hard-to-fill. Even then, though, calling ahead of time still tends to falls into the “things that won’t get you rejected but which strong candidates never do” category, which isn’t a category you benefit from associating yourself with.

Ultimately, I’d say to reach out only if you truly have to — for example, the application instructions are genuinely unclear, or you’re having a technical problem submitting your application. But if you’re just interested in learning more, apply and trust you’ll be able to learn more if they reach out to talk further.

For all these reasons, I wouldn’t assume that the hiring manager’s terseness is a red flag. I’d assume she’s frustrated to keep getting these calls, interprets them as “I’m saying I want more info but really I’m hoping to get a leg up, at the expense of your time,” and simply wants to shut that down.

{ 199 comments… read them below }

  1. flubb

    I would say that if you have an email to apply – use the email to ask questions in addition to applying. If you don’t get a response – bring up the question at the interview, if you don’t get an interview – drop it.

    1. Engineer Girl

      Phone calls are extremely intrusive. They have to be serviced immediately. Emails can wait for a more convenient time.
      I’d be annoyed too. Phone calls really disrupt my other activities. Sorry to say OP but you probably made a bad impression.

      1. Chocolate lover

        I rarely call someone, I’d rather email, but I also don’t feel any more obligated to answer a phone call than I do an email. If I’m not able/willing to answer it, I don’t. I have turned down the volume though to make sure it doesn’t disrupt me when in a meeting.

        1. LawLady

          But caller ID isn’t yet sophisticated enough to pop up with “job seeker calling about position x”. It just shows “Dany Targaryen”.

          1. designbot

            heck, mine just says “outside caller” and only displays names if it’s someone from my own office calling from their own desk phone.

          2. Christopher Tracy

            That’s why I let my work phone go to voicemail. Once I’m able to handle calls, I listen to my message(s) and decide who needs a return call and who can be deleted and ignored.

      2. sam

        This – even within my company, the general rule tends to be to set up meeting invites for telephone conversations that are going to take more than 20 seconds.

        If it’s truly a one-off super quick question that needs an immediate answer, we’ll just pick up the phone and call each other, but if it’s something that can wait for an answer, we email. Because even if someone’s not in a meeting, they could be deeply involved in working on something, or have someone in their office, or a million other things.

        1. Vicki

          “even within my company, the general rule tends to be to set up meeting invites for telephone conversations that are going to take more than 20 seconds.”

          Wow! That is so… civilized! I am in awe.

          That is not typical. It’s a great idea.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Even then, though, you’re already applying so clearly the questions aren’t ones that will determine whether you apply or not. So I’d just hold them entirely. If you get an interview or phone interview, you can ask them then.

    3. Jesmlet

      Generally if a candidate has a bunch of questions to go along with their resume submission, I assume they’re high-maintenance and not worth the extra time. Be courteous of mine and let me review your information first before bombarding me with a ton of questions that I can answer better if I choose to have a phone interview with you. Maybe that seems harsh but I’ve found it saves headaches in the long run.

    4. INTP

      I still think that questions can wait until the first phone call, but agree with this approach if you must ask them – but it is VERY IMPORTANT that this be “in addition to applying” and not “before applying.”

      When I was a recruiter it was a massive pet peeve when people called with questions before they would even submit an application. For one, it’s just presumptuous – it’s worth my time to answer questions without knowing if you’re a viable candidate but not worth yours to fill out an application without knowing every detail of the job? But it also makes you look LESS interested in the job. You look like nothing about the company or position stood out enough to make you think “This is a position worth my time to apply to even if I don’t know ____.” If you’re the right candidate, the job will be appealing even before you have all the details.

      1. Lindsay J

        I don’t think that’s always the case. Say, for example, the job posting was vague about the location of the position (for example if it said “Houston area” which can cover a large distance, or even like in the example above it was an East Coast company, but the position was listed in the west coast and you wanted to be sure the position was actually on the west coast and wouldn’t require relocation. In those cases, it’s not worth my time to apply to that position until I get an answer. If it says “Houston area” and the job position is really in La Porte – 50 miles away from where I live – I know I’m not going to take that position, so I’m not going to apply until I know where it is. It takes far less time for a recruiter to answer a quick question like that than it does for a candidate to customize a resume and cover letter and/or fill out a resume.

        However, I do think questions should be limited to logistical ones like that, not questions about the details of the position. What you’ll be doing day-to-day you can find out in the interview.

        1. MillersSpring

          If a position for an East Coast company was listed as based on the West Coast, I would not inquire whether it was *really* based on the West Coast. That’s something you can confirm if they call you.

          As for your Houston/La Porte example, that’s something I’d clarify in a cover letter, e.g. “I’m seeking a position within 10 miles of downtown Houston.”

    5. Canadian Dot

      When I had job applicants email for more info, unless it was something like, “To whom do I address my cover letter?”, my answer was, “The information you need is listed on the job posting. If you want more information about our organization, please see our website at http://www.suchandsuch.com.” Hiring is a very time consuming process to begin with, without a bunch of extraneous questions.

  2. Miss Nomer

    I think the only exception to this is if someone’s contact info is explicitly listed. For my current job, you sent over a cover letter and resume directly to the office manager, and in that case it might not be totally weird to send an email. Otherwise, I figure if someone wanted to be contacted, they’d make it easy to do so.

      1. Joseph

        If you actually know the hiring manager, it’s networking, which is completely different from cold-calling someone.

      2. designbot

        yes! In that case, it might almost be better to email (which I think is always better than calling, for reasons others have already noted) before applying. I put an email into the manager at my current job before applying because we already knew each other and I a) wanted to make sure he would remember me, and b) wanted to give him a heads up to keep it confidential, since we had a lot of network overlap. This started a great behind-the-scenes conversation that gave me a total leg up, which is what I’m sure LW was hoping for, but it only works when you know someone.

        1. g'day

          I’m really curious about this — why does it change things so much to know the person? I just emailed a person I know who is hiring and asked to chat a bit about the position and got a positive reply and invitation to set up a call. But I was so nervous about it! Does knowing the person change the situation that drastically that all of these other concerns don’t matter–intruding on their time, trying to get a leg up, should just apply via the regular means, etc?

          1. Annonymouse

            It changes because you have a relationship with them and if you have questions they are probably legitimate ones or ones that aren’t weird for you to ask.

            Also you emailed them and THEY set the appointment – which shows little inconvenience for them.

            Imagine people who you don’t know calling/emailing “about the job” but are asking questions that are:
            1) answered in the job ad already
            2) not relevant at this point because the hiring people don’t know if your a contender yet
            3) secretly a way to pitch yourself and circumvent the process.

            You’d get annoyed too.

    1. Murphy

      Even then I wouldn’t do it. The name is usually there in case of technical troubles in submitting an application, not for reaching out to ask preemptive questions. Honestly, if you call me about a job posting I have there is no information you’re going to get from me that’s not in the job ad. If you get an interview, we supply you with the full job description. Calling me is just going to stand out as eager and doesn’t earn any bonus points with me (and eager isn’t one of my top metrics for hiring anyway).

    2. Gandalf the Nude

      Honestly, not even if the contact info is listed. Often enough, someone other than the hiring manager does the posting on CareerBuilder or wherever and, with good intentions and a heap load of ignorance, lists the manager’s contact info not knowing what fresh hell they’ve just opened. Same thing for folks that just don’t use those sites or hire that often. It has happened every single time we’ve let a senior manager write and post his own ad, and none of us actually want to field those calls.

      Just apply the way the ad directs, barring the caveats Alison mentioned.

      1. Allison

        Right, just because a person’s contact information is available doesn’t mean they want to be called out of the blue regarding the job.

        1. Miss Nomer

          I was picturing less of a “random question to get noticed” and more of a “the directions are unclear/other technical question” kind of situation. I assume if there’s no contact info, I’m on my own entirely. If there is, I would not consider it a total faux pas to ask a technical question.

      2. AVP

        Agreed. The industry-specific job site I use insists on putting your name and phone number on a posting, and once you do that it’s easy enough to deduce any other contact info. Drives me insane.

    3. Teapot maker/recruiter

      +1 I’ve worked places where I’ve had some recruitment responsibilities even though my core role is something way different and I’ve been in the situation where people have tried to contact me in ways other than emailing (which is the way requested). I feel for them but, honestly, I hate it – if somebody calls me, it pulls me away from my actual day job and I don’t appreciate that. I don’t mind “Hey, this isn’t clear – mind explaining?’ questions on email, because I can deal with it when ‘day job’ slows down, but ‘Hey, do you mind dropping what you’re doing to answer it on the phone?’ annoys me and, if I’m brutally honest, comes across as being in a self-absorbed bubble – yes, I know this application is important to you but I can’t believe you don’t think I have other demands on my plate!

      /rant

      1. Allison

        Same here! Part of my job is to contact (not interview) passive candidates about job openings, but I’m not the one who conducts the phone screens, so it can be nerve-wracking when an overly eager candidate calls me the second they read my e-mail, expecting to be screened on the spot and asking me questions I don’t know the answers to. I worry it makes us look bad when the first person they talk to is completely unprepared to speak to them and doesn’t have the information they want.

        So people, if someone contacts you about a job via e-mail, respond via e-mail unless they invite you to call them.

    4. Chriama

      No, the contact info is so you can apply. Don’t send an email that’s basically “I want to stand out! Notice me!” Just apply.

      1. INTP

        Exactly. Unless there is a major need to ask a question, like the site where you are supposed to apply doesn’t work, asking questions either means you are just wasting people’s time to try to get noticed, which is presumptuous, or the company and job description don’t interest you enough to seem worth your time to just apply without verifying some detail. (I’ve had people call me to ask the salary of the job, seriously?) Either way, it doesn’t make you come across like a good candidate.

        1. Lindsay J

          I think wanting to know the salary range can be legitimate if it’s the type of role that can vary widely. Why should someone waste their time applying (and waste your time reading their cover letter/resume/application) if the position tops out at $10K less than they currently make?

          1. MillersSpring

            Disagree. Salary range is the kind of thing to ask if they phone you after receiving your resume, even if you think the range might be low.

      2. Miss Nomer

        I was picturing less of a “random question to get noticed” and more of a “the directions are unclear/other technical question” kind of situation. I assume if there’s no contact info, I’m on my own entirely. If there is, I would not consider it a total faux pas to ask a technical question.

    5. Amy G. Golly

      Even if the person’s contact information is explicitly listed, I wouldn’t get in touch unless it were one of the situations Alison detailed: where the listing/application is genuinely confusing, you’re having technical issues, etc.

      I was the volunteer coordinator for an organization with a large number of volunteers. I created an application they could access from our website that included all of the basic information applicants would need. My contact information was listed on there in case anyone needed it, but I was decidedly not impressed when I would receive calls from people asking, “When can I expect to be contacted about my application?” or “What sort of volunteer positions are available?” when the answers to those questions were clearly spelled out in the application!

      1. Amy G. Golly

        Oh geez, sorry to pile on! The above replies weren’t there when I started typing, I swear!

  3. some1

    “she is the person who I would send my resume to directly . . . . person is the VP of the department”

    I can almost guarantee that an admin or hiring committee is screening snail mail and email and pulling resumes for a VP.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe

      Right, or an HR department who is better equipped to answer these kinds of questions…. at a pre-determined and agreed-upon time.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Yes, and if there is some kind of technical glitch with the application software or a returned email, etc., I usually call their main number and explain the reason for my call to the receptionist. Something like “Hi, I was applying for a job on your website and ran into a glitch. Is there an alternate email I can forward my resume to?” It’s not common, but it does happen.

        I’ve been transferred to HR and told to just email it to them, which I did. If I hit a dead end, I just thank them and that’s it. I figure they know about it now and can fix it. Sometimes I’ll go back and try again in a couple of days, but if it still doesn’t work, I move on to the next company.

  4. hayling

    OP—did an older family member or friend give you this advice? If you dig around on AAM you’ll find a lot of advice from Alison (and echoes in the comments) that you need to be very careful taking job searching advice of people who are older and/or haven’t applied or hired in a long time. In the age of online applications, norms have changed *fast*.

    Last time I was applying for jobs my dad kept telling me that I needed to “get on the horn” and call the “personnel office” instead of just waiting to hear back from online applications—so I totally get where you’re coming from!

      1. PoisonIvy

        As the only American in a UK office, I will say this purely to get laughs. Particularly because ‘the horn’ is a reference to an old very funny Peter Cook and Dudley Moore comedy sketch (don’t listen if you’re easily offended).

    1. BRR

      I was thinking when I read “Someone I trust advised that I should call the hiring manager to express interest, ask questions, get more information before applying,” is this really someone you can trust? I don’t doubt that this person has your best interest in mind but I’m concerned if they are someone to go to for job hunting. I’m also curious about ” The contact person is the VP of the department (she is not in an HR or hiring role), and I would probably be working for her if I did end up getting the position,” as it sounds like it might be advice to circumvent the application process which you shouldn’t do.

      In general I’m just echoing Alison. Call are interruptive in general. Interviews are for you to learn about the position too. And it’s rare that you should contact a company before applying (or after applying and hearing nothing).

    2. Coffee and Mountains

      Yes. I had this conversation with my mom, explained the rationale to her as a hiring manager, and she told me I was rude to all those poor people because I didn’t call each and every one of them to tell them I received their application. Even after I told her there were usually at least 100 applicants, 80% of them I could easily weed out. I told her I thought that people were rude when they interrupted my day to “follow up” or come by in person to drop off their resume, or all the other great things that we hear about here, but she disagreed.

    3. AVT

      HI Hayling
      Yes, it was an older person, and I’m regretting taking the advice, especially because I’ve never done that before, I felt like it might be weird, and did it anyways. Believe it or not, I am actually pretty successful at the job application/ interviewing process, I have a lot of experience in the field that’s valuable, and typically make a good impression during interviews – I just went against what I felt was best in this situation, unfortunately. Never again!

      1. Kira

        Hi AVT, it’s great that your gut told you the right thing. I’m not sure what kinds of questions need to be asked before applying unless the job ad is really sparse. Most questions I can think of (including pay range) can get covered in the phone screen or later.

      2. AnonInSC

        Just adding that while, yeah, I’ve been annoyed by those calls, I wouldn’t completely eliminate a qualified candidate because of one. (More than one, emails that imply the person is BFFs with the ED when the ED doesn’t know their name, etc will!). So it’s not a deal-breaker IMHO.

    4. INTP

      Yep. My parents told me to apply for jobs requiring 5 years of experience (with 0-1 years of experience) and put my SAT score on the resume. That way, the employers would know I was smart, and they would hire me and train me instead of someone experienced in the field.

      It was SUPER frustrating when I first graduated and lived with them because not only did I have to deal with constant rejections from jobs I applied to, but I constantly had to explain to my parents why I wasn’t qualified for jobs they wanted me to apply to (and then be treated like I was unambitious and insecure for not thinking I was qualified).

    5. Wendy Darling

      My dad, who has not applied for a job since the late 70s, is FULL of advice when I’m looking for a job. He does not believe me when I tell him that’s not how it works anymore. I now just stick with “Yeah I’ll try that” and then… don’t. Otherwise he won’t lay off.

    6. Elfie

      I don’t know, my husband is only a couple of years older than me, but he gives me such terrible advice when it comes to job hunting!! (I ignore him). However, he’s been at the same job for 22 years, and I’ve had 6 jobs in 17 years, my most recent I’m 9 months into. We’re also in completely different industries, with very different norms. I tell him he just doesn’t understand, and he doesn’t really have a come-back for that. I guess my point is that it’s not really age, but situation to bear in mind.

    7. Anonhippopotamus

      This tactic can work but you have to be considerate. My husband got his first job out of uni by building a relationship with the HR of the company, which started with a cold call. At one point his situation changed and he informed the HR – there happened to be an opening so she forwarded his CV across to the right person :) I definitely would cold call a non-HR person though.

  5. Mae

    Yeah, did your mom or dad advise you to do this? When I was struggling a year ago, my mom accused me of not trying hard enough because I didn’t “show up” or “call daily.” On the other side of the coin, though, I hate it when job descriptions are vague. Puts you in a crummy spot.

    1. Stranger than fiction

      Me too! I swear they’re deliberately vague sometimes because they want to pay you for doing a-f, but end up making you responsible for doing a-z, so one does need to be careful when interviewing that they’re forthcoming with more details at that stage. If not, run.

      1. SevenSixOne

        Argh, yes. Something I run into often is that I have an XYZ license. Many similar-sounding jobs require the XYZ license, or require an ABC certification (which I don’t have) instead/also. I don’t want to waste my time if I don’t have what the employer is looking for, and it’s really frustrating when the posting isn’t clear about that.

  6. Mel

    I think the part that’s most annoying is interrupting the hiring manager who’s likely in the middle of something else unannounced and commanding the time it takes to q&a. Because given the choice most managers will want to hurry up and redirect you (without sounding rude) to the application instructions instead of scheduling a time to call back.

  7. Allison

    I get this too sometimes, when I post a job and my name is attached to the posting, many people think it’s a good idea to message me with questions about the role, and I suspect most of them are doing it to start a dialogue and stand out. I’ve told people “yep, you sound qualified, here’s where you apply to the job” and then nothing, they never apply, because they expected they wouldn’t need to if they messaged me directly.

    Don’t try to maneuver around the application process. Don’t try to be a maverick or go rogue, contrary to popular belief employers actually don’t like this, and dealing with candidates who refuse to “play by the man’s rules” is really, really frustrating.

    Unsolicited calls are rarely welcome in the application process, especially to the hiring manager. I’d say the only time it may be appropriate to call is when you’ve been screened or interviewed, they told you you’d hear from them by a certain day, it’s after that day, and it’s been 24 hours since you sent them an e-mail. Don’t call before applying, don’t call after applying “just to check” or reiterate your interest. If you must follow up, do it via e-mail.

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

      Don’t try to maneuver around the application process. Don’t try to be a maverick or go rogue, contrary to popular belief employers actually don’t like this, and dealing with candidates who refuse to “play by the man’s rules” is really, really frustrating.

      I petitioned to get the “reports to” line removed from our posted job descriptions because I was so sick of the emails that were like, “I’m going to pretend to have a question so I can talk about myself.” Or the, “I have submitted my application through the online system, but want to ensure you actually saw it.”

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I feel like I could do a whole post on the “I’m going to pretend to have a question so I can talk about myself” phenomenon. It also comes up when I ask candidates in an interview what I can answer for them and they ask disingenuous questions as openings to pitch themselves. I want to answer their actual questions, not get a sales pitch.

        1. Allison

          I love when it’s super blatant. “Oh hi, I saw the job posting and I have a few questions. I was born on a snowy day, and ever since then I’ve had a passion for blah blah blah blah, and then I went to college to study this thing but then realized what I really wanted to do this other thing, and then blah blah blah blah and then I moved to Indiana to work for this one company, and oh boy was that an interesting experience, and that’s when I really got into blah blah blah blah. So anyway, do you think I’m qualified for this job?”

        2. BRR

          I’ve noticed this elsewhere too. The memory coming to me is a presentation on something and one person raised their hand “for a question” and it just went “I had situation one time that was exactly like you’re talking about so I’m going to repeat it.”

          1. Allison

            I hate when I’m presenting, or even attending a presentation, and someone goes up to “ask a question” but it’s super obvious they just wanna show off how much *they* know about the topic.

            1. animaniactoo

              It’s the reason I sometimes feel embarrassed when I have to ask a question which is showing off that I know more than the presenter – or at the very least, am posing a question that makes it pretty clear they didn’t take something into account. I’ve seen the way show-offs are perceived and I really don’t want to be lumped in. I also don’t want to embarrass the presenter who has clearly put in a lot of effort, has an overall good presentation and focus, and just missed big glaring blind spot.

              1. Kira

                Animaniactoo, there’s definitely a fine line there. In academia, there are people who will ask a version of that question (Have you taken X into account?) but really X is irrelevant to the subject, it’s just the question-asker’s pet theory.

              2. ArtsNerd

                You can still do this with the right framing and tone! And provided you’re actually looking for more insight from the presenter and aren’t just calling them out.

                “I know that sometimes [circumstances that aren’t addressed.] In these cases, what’s your recommendation for [people who are doing things] so they can best [achieve goal]?”

                1. animaniactoo

                  I do my best, but sometimes it’s kind of a “whoops! embarrassing!” moment no matter what. I can give more details if it really matters, but the time I’m thinking of was a design summit where we were being shown packaging for an item to demonstrate the feeling they were going after in terms of target market, and I raised my hand to ask if the product itself really made sense for the target market (it didn’t. at all.). It wasn’t just a callout on them, because we were all there as licensees and choosing which products in our own industries we were going to push, so that kind of overall brand strategy had to be clear. But the whole room ended up laughing as the presenter said “Uh. Good question. Probably not….”

                2. ArtsNerd

                  Hah! I think you’re fine in that example. If the core product doesn’t have any reasoning behind it, that’s important info for you to know about that vendor!

              3. Alucius

                One of the things I’ve enjoyed about my particular branch of academia is that most people are pretty gracious in framing their questions when they are more advanced than the presenter. Phrasing questions with statements like “in your research, have you come across…?” or “scholar X’s work would really be a worthwhile addition,” or “another avenue to consider…” give the presenter an out and do point out where the deficiency in the work might be.

                Of course, we do have our share of grandstanders as well *sigh*

                1. teclatrans

                  Yes! Although I ended up not belonging in the niche in terms of my ultimate research questions, I will forever be grateful that my little slice of the history profession was so welcoming and good at boosting up the speakers while pushing the research ans analysis forward. Although,yeah, that didn’t preclude the grandstanders (though luckily most of them didn’t find my panels of interest).

            2. Mazzy

              Especially when no reasonable person would know the answer to the question they ask because we’d all have to look up whatever information they’re asking about.

            3. Quickbeam

              OMG…I did a lecture tour for 10 years as a part of my public health role. The blowhards who wanted to do a stand up routine about their deep knowledge base would slay me. And they were almost always wrong so it was fun to wait until they inhaled and correct them.

          2. Artemesia

            One of the best stories I ever heard in my field and one which I incorporated into almost every subsequent talk I gave on the subject came from exactly that ‘question.’ The participant raised their hand and said more or less ‘I have an example of exactly how that theory you are talking about worked for me in my professional program’ and it was a perfectly yowza story to illustrate a somewhat abstract process. Loved it.

          3. Wendy Darling

            For this reason a local venue that has many invited speakers, usually with question and answer time, has an instruction at the beginning of the Q&A that goes “Please keep all questions in the form of a question.” Otherwise you get a lot of pontificating masquerading as questions. Usually like 500 words followed by “What do you think?”

        3. Kai

          I’ve noticed this at art events where there’s a Q&A. Inevitably, there’s that one person in the audience who wants to ask a question of the actor/producer/artist after the show, but ends up just rambling about their own project. It’s so irritating.

          1. Allison

            One panelist at PAX East really cracked down on this this year. He explicitly defined what a question was, and did NOT tolerate people who just wanted to say something. God, I wish I could remember who that was, it was awesome.

          2. Kira

            Oh yes. I want to hear the presenter. I don’t want to hear a 5 minute fan speech about how the presenter is awesome, listing every one of their major works. So frustrating.

          3. ArtsNerd

            Yep. Also one of my classmates used to do this with EVERY visiting speaker. It seriously impacted her professional reputation among our peers.

          4. CMT

            I always leave events when the Q&A starts. There’s never any value added by staying for them; it’s always people who just want to talk about themselves.

            1. LQ

              I’ve done webinars where 95% of the value came from the “chat” window or q&a stuff. But I feel like you can get a feel pretty early for if this is a super value added thing or not. (Though sadly it seems that most of the time this happens the presentation is a low value but high interest, in person or online.)

              1. CMT

                That’s true. I guess I should have clarified that I meant things like an author talk or panel with a lot of high-profile people on it. For more mundane things like webinars — where everyone is there for the same reason — I think it’s different.

            2. Kai

              Yes, or questions like “what was it like to work with [celebrity]?” If you’re going to ask a question, ask a GOOD question.

            3. Wendy Darling

              I mentioned in another comment that I go to a venue that’s really serious about keeping questions in the form of a question, and those Q&As can actually be delightful because usually the questions are like, “You mentioned Super Cool Thing X in passing, can you elaborate on that because it sounds super cool and we all want to hear about it?” and we all DO want to hear about it.

              I used to dread the Q&A before they started the public shaming of people who just want to ramble.

          5. INTP

            I noticed this with the token older student in the room in all of my college and grad school discussion classes. They would raise their hand and talk about their life experience for 5 minutes straight, then ask some inane question to justify having done that.

            1. Wendy Darling

              “AS A NON-TRADITIONAL STUDENT–”

              I think we’ve all had that one. For some reason they picked that person to do the commencement speech at my college, so we actually got 30 straight minutes of AS A NON-TRADITIONAL STUDENT (A TREATISE ON HOW I OVERCAME THE ADVERSITY OF GOING TO COLLEGE AS A MIDDLE CLASS 30 YEAR OLD). I wanted to die. There was eye-rolling and cringing in the audience. I cannot for the life of me figure out why they thought she would be a great commencement speaker but I can only presume the people on the committee had never been in a class with her or they would have known they were making a huge mistake.

              1. C Average

                My fairly small department in college had a particularly egregious “questioner”-cum-soliloquist who loved to hog all the floor time in class and at guest lectures. He became informally known behind his back as Band Camp Guy. He had a story for everything. “This one time, at band camp . . .”

              2. Mazzy

                Oh the cringe….I know lots of people who went to school in their 30s. Yes, it sucks, especially if you’re a parent but it’s not rare enough to give a speech on like that

        4. Mimi

          This is right up there with the “I’m just emailing/calling to verify that my application has been received.” Even though all applicants received an automated email after applying that DOES THAT VERY THING.

          Sometimes I just want to respond, “Yep, got it. Bye.”

          1. fishy

            My job coach keeps insisting that if I don’t get a response from a company within a week or so of applying, I need to call to “make sure they received my application”. My thought is that I know they got it because they sent me a confirmation email SAYING they did! I really don’t think it’s likely that they somehow misplaced my electronic application.

            She claims that this sort of following up is how most of her clients get their jobs and seems to think I’m being uncooperative. Sigh…

              1. fishy

                Maybe, but asking whether they’ve received it is really just an excuse to “follow up”. If she didn’t want me to call and ask that, she would want me to call and ask something else.

        5. Jackie

          Then you get someone like me who got sort of screwed over by just trusting in the “process”…

          I applied to a large school board who do their hiring centrally, with 1 person being the gate keeper for each type of teacher. I got a “you are great – but we don’t need your specialty right now, but feel free to update your resume if you gain experience” letter. So, I went and got more experience and followed the letter to update things. I hear crickets.

          A few months later, I finally send a follow up e-mail to “verify” that they got my updated resume because my friends from university all for calls for interviews within a few weeks of updating their resumes with the same board. Got an immediate call back that the person who had been in charge of my specialty was no longer working there and could I please resend my updated resume because they had no record of it.

          But, I had sadly already missed that summer’s hiring blitz. I wished I’d been more aggressive with the follow up.

      2. Joseph

        “I have submitted my application through the online system, but want to ensure you actually saw it.”
        In my experience, this email is always, always sent within about 5-10 minutes of the online submission. No, I haven’t seen your application. In fact, I set up the system specifically so that I *don’t* get immediately notified every single time someone applies.

        1. Murphy

          Yes! In fact, our system is maintained by HR and the applications don’t get pulled until after the deadline. Then HR pulls them, gives them an initial screening, and then sends them to me a week later. Trust me, I haven’t seen your application.

        2. Jesmlet

          This. Seriously it’s like these applicants think I have nothing better to do than continuously stare at our ATS.

      3. Judy

        Our job descriptions include the “reports to” information, but it’s a generic “Software Systems Manager”.

      4. BRR

        That’s a tough call to me because for what I do I care about who I report to. But I also completely understand why you would want to remove it from a position. Curse whoever started the “go around the application process” advice and the other writers who promote it.

    2. addlady

      One time I suggested a man apply to my company because it’s a nice place to work; I tend not to pick up on weirdness so I didn’t notice anything “off” about him. Then he started messaging me asking if he was qualified and could I please evaluate his skills–I told him no, I couldn’t, because I am not in a position to judge other peoples’ abilities. Then he showed up AT MY WORK and tried to get everything answered about his qualifications right there and then–in short, tried to get an interview on the spot. The receptionist had to hold him off, and I was honestly scared and a little creeped out. So sometimes this sort of gumption-y self advertisement is actually not only tasteless but off-putting.

    3. Mel

      It’s probably no coincidence that out of everyone I’ve ever hired it’s never been the person who cold calls #gimmickythingsthatgreatcandidatesdontdo

  8. Countess Boochie Flagrante

    Honestly, OP, I’d say the first and foremost mistake you made was googling the phone number. That information was not included with the ad, and that’s for a reason. If you need to resort to trawling the internet for contact info, that’s a clue that you’re not going about things the right way.

    1. Chriama

      Agreed. That’s right up there with showing ‘gumption’ or offering to work for free/cheap in order to ‘prove yourself’. It’s outdated hiring advice that satisfies a candidate’s need to feel like they have control over the hiring process and ignores the perspective of the employer who has an actual job to do and doesn’t want to be fielding stuff like this from hundreds of applicants who all similarly want to ‘stand out’.

      1. Artemesia

        Working for free to prove himself is how Bob Woodward got his start at the Washington Post — but that was like 35 years ago. Times change.

        1. Jennifer Brooks

          Longer than that! 1970 was (deep breath) 46 years ago. And that’s the year he did the 2 weeks. And it didn’t actually work.

          (I got curious, and Wikipedia tells me this: “Harry M. Rosenfeld, the Post’s metropolitan editor, gave him a two-week trial but did not hire him because of his lack of journalistic experience. After a year at the Montgomery Sentinel, a weekly newspaper in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, Woodward was hired as a Post reporter in 1971.” And maybe it was a free trial, maybe not. Wikipedia doesn’t say. The article about Rosenfeld has more info about it.)

        2. Anonhippopotamus

          That’s how I got my first job working on a farm when I was in highschool (and that was only 10 years ago so it’s not that outdated). How else was a 110-lb 15-year old blond girl with no farm experience or knowledge going to get a job on a farm?

          1. Shortie

            Good example of a different context. Another context/perspective I would add is that some of this advice depends on the size of the town. In the small (5k not 50k) town where I grew up, it is still very common for people to apply for jobs in person, go door-to-door asking if companies are hiring, or call hiring managers to ask questions. Everyone doesn’t know each other, but almost everyone knows OF each other, and it’s just how things work there.

    2. INTP

      Agree. If they don’t include contact information with the ad, that’s because they don’t want you to have it. Finding it anyways just comes across as intrusive and creepy, not resourceful. They don’t know if you’re just a young person who got some crappy advice from their parents like the OP, or a person with no social boundaries and good stalking skills who will not react well when you don’t get the job.

  9. Turanga Leela

    Personally, when my company has been hiring, I’ve never been annoyed by calls with a very quick, specific, dealbreaker-y question, e.g. “Is this position based in the New York office or the Hoboken office?” I don’t think it’s out of line to call or email for that type of thing. But YMMV—we were in a small job market hiring for hard-to-fill positions, so other employers might have less time for that sort of thing.

    1. BRR

      I do think there are times when it’s ok but I think it’s similar to the question on resume’s earlier this week where Alison said there are exceptions but everybody thinks they’re the exception when they’re really not. Or something along those lines.

    2. AndersonDarling

      Those are the only kinds of questions I could think of that could be the exception to the Do Not Call list. Along with questioning if the job ad had a typo…”Is the shift actually 5am to 8pm, 5 days a week?”

    3. Joseph

      That’s the exception that proves the rule.
      As an aside, if you really get such calls regularly, you might want to take another look at your hiring ads. Applicants shouldn’t really need to call you to figure out which office the job is in.

      1. Turanga Leela

        Yep, I agree. We were open to hiring someone in either office. I think we wrote “NYC or Hoboken,” and people found it confusing. I thought it was clear, but I don’t blame them for asking.

    4. JessaB

      Yeh but those can be fixed by making sure the advert states which office. That kinda stuff really needs to be in the posting in the first place, which would stop all those questions, and allow people to self select out of wasting your time. Even so I’d probably just apply (unless you have a majorly sticky takes an hour and a half thing to fill out,) and shrug and say no thanks if it’s in the wrong location for me.

    5. Observer

      There are times when asking a question is ok. But given the ubiquity of email, there is really no excuse for a phone call.

      This needs to really be a genuine question. And the question needs to be something that really got left out of the ad, but might be a deal breaker. Also, it either needs to be quick to answer (yes or no, or one sentence type answers) or the application process needs to be long and cumbersome enough to make this reasonable. So, if the application process is to send in your resume, then it REALLY needs to be a short question. If this is one of these applications that require a 52 application form to be filled out on line, plus, plus, plus – then you have a lot more flexibility.

    6. Jenny

      I have a disability and had the issue that I was applying for positions which are always advertised as full-time, for new graduates in a specific field. I can’t work full-time, but it’s extremely rare that anyone qualified for that job would need reduced working hours so the adverts just don’t mention it. It was a definite deal-breaker, so it would’ve wasted my time putting together an application and attending interview otherwise. They seemed happy to answer that sort of question, and I think at least one of them said she was glad I was bringing it up early, because it raised some logistics questions they needed to think through (that place had given a “yes, but…” type of answer).

      1. Jenny

        Oh, and they were all customised web forms with loads of details to fill in and unique longer-answer questions, rather than just an “upload your CV and cover letter” quick job. So it would have been a huge timesuck to fill all of that in knowing I might get rejected for not being able to do 37.5h. For some reason, my field doesn’t use CVs like everyone else over here does.

    7. Don't mind me

      Totally off topic but your name caught my eye because I have a cat named Leela (her brother was Fry!). And I live in Jersey City so we must practically be neighbors.

      Carry on…

    8. Anonhippopotamus

      That’s totally fair considering that a candidate is going to spend several hours of their time preparing an application.

  10. HRChick

    I am in a position like the VP and while I don’t mind most phone calls, I don’t have much information beyond what’s in our job descriptions that I can give out. I definitely am polite and professional with these conversations, but they definitely are a time-suck, especially when the person won’t take “that’s all I know” for an answer or gets snippy with me when I won’t tell them what I would pay them exactly, only the pay range (which is also posted)!

    Only my information is not in the postings – but people google and call me. Maybe someone put the VPs info in there without telling her first?

    The worst is when they call about a job position and ask me if I’m accepting applications while they’re literally looking at the “Apply Now” button on our posting! Yes! That’s what apply now means!

    1. Edina Monsoon

      I hate that! I once had a woman come to our building to give me a printed copy of her resume addressed to “The Managing Director” even though there was a name to apply to on the ad and if she’d looked on the first page of our website she would have seen that the person who applications were to be sent to wasn’t the MD. There were also very clear instructions to apply by email as one of the main duties of the job was following up email querys from customers. She said she wanted to hand it in in person in case she’d missed the deadline, how she thought that would make a difference I don’t know!

      She then called a couple of days later to ask when, not if, she would be interviewed.

      I told the owner that she’d been wearing so much perfume that it made me feel ill but as she was one of the few applicants who had experience and we need to fill the position quickly the owner decided to interview her anyway – he said it was a really weird interview where she point blank refused to talk about her previous job and he agreed with me that she had so much perfume on it was really off putting, and he was someone who wasn’t normally bothered by things like that.

      1. LQ

        Refused to talk about her previous job? That’s either very strange or someone who is very bad at being an exspy. Maybe she has a recognizable scent and that’s why she needs to wear so much perfume and she can’t talk about her previous job because she’s in witness protection. Maybe she’s being hunted by werewolves who could smell her if she didn’t wear all that perfume and so she’s doing this to hide.

        1. Edina Monsoon

          We just assumed that she’d either lied about what she’d done there on her resume or she’d been fired but I like the idea of her being a spy more!

        2. roisindubh211

          well in that case, potential werewolves are a bit too much of a health and safety risk…

    2. Anxa

      In those applicants defense’, plenty of employers do not remove their ads even after a position has been filled.

      1. Edina Monsoon

        That’s true, but I’m not sure why she thought printing it out and handing it in rather than emailing it would make a difference if she’d already missed the deadline or if we’d already hired someone else.

  11. JOTeepe

    From the HR perspective, we sometimes post vague job descriptions (particularly for more junior roles, though sometimes higher, depending on the circumstances) in order to cast a wide net. For example, today, we might have 3 vacancies in Title X on 3 different teams (which do similar enough work to warrant the same title, but still different jobs/roles); next week, there might be 5 vacancies with different teams. Or maybe someone from another team altogether expresses an interest in a lateral move, so now the opening is there. Etc.

    It is confusing (for both candidates and for HR offices), time consuming, and often expensive to put up multiple detailed job descriptions for the same title that requires the same minimum qualifications. So, we’ll put up a more vague post to cast that net.

    Having said that, if there is a contact for HR then a quick call to them, in these cases, is not always frowned upon. When I got calls like that, I would often say, “Well, it could be on Team X, Y, or Z, as stated in the posting. You can discuss the details of these positions if they call you to schedule an interview.”

    OP, it sounds like you sleuthed out a direct line of someone high up and that’s why you got the chilly response. There are very valid and specific reasons HR acts as the middle man in these instances.

      1. JOTeepe

        I should give 2 caveats to my above:

        1. When I say “vague,” I mean general as opposed to specific. i.e., “These positions typically are assigned to Team A, B, or C and may perform such duties as X, Y, or Z.” They aren’t sparse.

        2. It’s government, and we are bound by both union and civil service rules (and strict transfer and/or promotion guidelines), so the same the pool of candidates eligible for Teapot Makers in the Electric Kettle Division as are in the Stovetop Division. If we post specific to Stovetop and then in the process have an opening in Electric Kettle, we would have to repost with Electric-specific duties. If we post duties that can apply to both Stovetop or Electric, we can draw from the same pool and cut down our hiring timeline. Since it is the same pool of candidates who are eligible, multiple postings tend to mean multiple applications from the same candidates, which is more work for everyone.

        I was thinking more along the lines of “Can you tell me which division your Teapot Maker opening is in?” I would say, “Well currently we have an opening in Stovetop, however it is possible there will be an opportunity in Electric in the near future. You should discuss the details of available opportunities with the hiring manager if he calls you for an interview after the posting closes next week.”

  12. Grumpycat

    Gotta be honest, I would have reacted similarly to this hiring manager. It makes me think the candidate doesn’t understand professional norms or expects a lot of handholding. This is a call I got once:

    “Hi, I saw your job posting and I have a question about the application process.”
    “What’s your question?”
    “What is the application process?”

    No.

    1. Chocolate lover

      Someone once called me about an office manager position in my office. I’m not at all sure why she picked me, out of all the people in our office. Maybe I was the only one who answered my phone?

      “I understand someone in your office is looking for an office manager.”

      I’m thinking, yeah, the director is. The description says the position answers to the director. I am not the director.

      That call ended quickly. And certainly didn’t make her stand out in a positive way.

  13. Joe Jobseeker

    I agree with Alison and everyone here that the call shouldn’t be made but I think it is a real shame. I have encountered plenty of poor job descriptions, wonky applications and host of other things I would love to ask about before I waste my time or the employers by applying to something that is a poor fit. I get that the hiring manager can’t answer 100s of calls, but both the lack of human contact and the lack of information across the hiring process are constant frustrations for this candidate.

    1. Grumpycat

      Does it take that much time to just apply for the job though? I see the transaction as: employer gets to put out whatever kind of job ad they see fit, and I get to decide whether it’s worth my time to apply for it.

      I say this as someone who took a long time to find full time work after graduating in 2007 – I really do not understand the bitterness toward HR. Yes, some companies have dumb ads, or chilly reps or whatever, but that’s part of the general spectrum of interacting with humans.

      1. Allison

        Usually no, it doesn’t. I agree if it’s a standard “submit your resume and cover letter” deal, take the half hour to tweak stuff and send it over with the benefit of the doubt. If the application contains a questionnaire, or a writing prompt, or some other thing that takes a lot of extra time or effort, I can see wanting to ask about certain details first, like location or main responsibilities. But asking about pay or benefits before you’ve even applied is generally considered tacky and I don’t recommend that.

        1. Teapot maker/recruiter

          +1 I don’t mind quick “deal breaker” style questions over email as it ultimately saves everybody’s time – I don’t want to spend my time going through a recruitment process with somebody if it turns out that they can’t actually do the hours I need them to, for example, and I’d rather they just came straight out and asked (although, as ranted about above, via contact details provided, not via ‘sleuthing’ out my phone number, thanks!). But, rather than demanding a list of bullet points from me, why not attach your CV (which is pretty much the process for the limited responsibilities I have) and add “Oh, by the way, I can only work until 4:45pm, not 5:00pm – hopefully that won’t be a problem”.

          ….I’m in a rant-y mood today

      2. Overeducated

        If there is a painful ATS that makes you re-enter your resume (or worse, entire lifetime work history and contact info for all past supervisors) into tiny individual boxes, then yes, it can really take that much time. I think those usually took me at least two hours….

        1. Grumpycat

          Yeah, I guess I have some bias because in my field (nonprofits) not many organizations have a “system” beyond emailing the resume and cover letter. But that’s true, there are some heinous ATS systems out there!

      3. Mazzy

        I disagree it needs to be just the way things are. Many applications took over an hour each during my last job hunt because you had to type or cut and paste way too much information into all of these customized field that seemed to be different at every company. Way too much time to go through when the ad is vague.

        And many ads were vague when they didn’t need to be, and I spent many hours researching linkedin to see what level many positions actually were, because you couldn’t tell for your life what level so many jobs were.

    2. Mimi

      I’ll be honest, if a job posting is that sparse, I won’t bother applying. I can’t express interest in a position if I don’t have a clear picture as to what it would be doing.

      1. Art Anderson

        I had an interview where the owners ending up asking me what they should call the job they want filled, along with details on how to describe it. What? For the next person you interview? – because they made it obvious I wasn’t what they were looking for from the moment I arrived. “Well, you’re probably the oldest person we’ve interviewed” at the door for starters, but they were in their 70’s. What a dead loss :)

        My sense of humour is the only thing that kept me there longer than necessary. I didn’t want to leave the scene of the crash, I guess, seeing how bad it could get. No clear picture at all of what the difference is between a video and graphics multimedia producer and someone who packs the salesmen’s travel kits and ships out the exhibit materials and literature for trade shows.

        So Mimi, they are out there.

    3. C Average

      I’ve thought about this a lot!

      I am job-hunting, and I occasionally look at the job listings at a company where I used to work. When I was there, the job descriptions made total sense to me, because I understood the corporate matrix and I spoke the jargon and I was aware of the hierarchy of the different titles. After just one year away, I already feel like an outsider when I read those job descriptions. It’s made me think a lot about the fact that the people who fine-tune job descriptions always do it with an insider perspective, and that perspective is likely to yield job descriptions that are totally opaque to an outsider.

      Unfortunately, at least where I live, the job market is competitive enough that employers get lots of great candidates despite writing horrible job descriptions and using kludgy, crappy application management software. It’s a basic supply-and-demand issue. There’s a huge demand for jobs (and job descriptions and application portals), and the jobless aren’t in a position to be picky. Nor do employers have to be good at this stuff to attract good candidates.

      If employers created a consumer experience like their application experience, they’d have no customers.

      (Can you tell I feel strongly about this right now? Ugh. I spent a lot of time in retail and in consumer services, where the emphasis was always on “how can we make this better and more pleasant and frictionless?” and it feels like none of these questions come into play for employers. It’s like once they moved their application system online as opposed to on paper, they felt that their work was finished on that front.)

    4. Dot Warner

      I agree! The last time I was job hunting, I came across an employer whose job listings were one sentence long. Literally, “The Teapot Maker makes teapots.” Well, that’s nice, but what kind of teapots? How many per day? Is this a senior role or a junior role? Is my chocolate teapot experience relevant, or are you looking for someone with experience in caramel teapots? Or does the job require both? Or neither? That was the only time I’ve ever called HR for clarification of a job listing, and when the HR rep was snippy with me, all I could think was, “Well, maybe if you had more than one sentence in the job description, I wouldn’t need to call you…”

  14. bibliovore

    All that said, if you don’t remind me that you made that call, it is doubtful that I will remember that it was you unless you kept me on the phone a real long time or spelled out your name for me.

    1. Vroom Vroom

      Disagree, I might be so annoyed that I’d specifically remember their name. We hired for a role last year and I got a lot of those kind of reach outs and jeez it grinds my gears.

      1. Michelenyc

        I would actually e-mail the name to HR and ask them specificcally to not forward their resume if they should happen to apply.

        1. Bibliovore

          Probably just me, but if I sense that this is one of those calls, I am immediately disengaged. I go on automatic…yes, 5 years experience, yes, exactly what the posting says, no I do not have any further information at this time. By the time we are interviewing , I would have no recollection unless the person reminds me.

  15. Vroom Vroom

    Call me a millennial, but I hate getting phone calls about anything. I love that my hair salon now has the ability to text me to confirm (text back yes or no to confirm your appointment). I am on the phone a lot for work, and if my work cell rings I answer it immediately. But if my personal cell rings and it’s not my mom or my husband I’m irritated. Send me an email or a text! In fact I always send unknowns to voicemail, and my voicemail recording says ‘This is Vroom Vroom. Please send me a text, I don’t check voicemails.’
    Again, this is on my personal phone, not my work phone. And if I were to be job hunting I would obviously change my greeting! :-P

    1. Allison

      I dislike using the phone. I don’t like worrying that they won’t pick up or that I’ll catch them at a bad time, phone tag is the worst, and the idea of talking to someone verbally but not being able to read their facial expression or body language is just odd to me! I don’t even like calling to make appointments, I wish online appointment systems (good ones) were universal by now.

      A planned conversation is fine because we’re both prepared and each of us knows the other will be available at that time.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m with you. I’ve picked lots of services solely because they had online appointment scheduling. It’s not phone anxiety (I talk on the phone a ton for work); it’s just so much more convenient.

      1. LBK

        I was just talking about this with some coworkers yesterday. I’d say about 90% of my decision-making when selecting a provider of a service is how much can be done online. In the context of the conversation, we were discussing how this is going to massively change the financial industry because the idea of going in to a financial advisor’s office and having a meeting with them is something that the current/next generation just flat out won’t do. It will have to be online or at an absolute minimum over the phone. I wouldn’t be surprised if physical advisor offices pretty much cease to exist as a business in 40 years or so.

        1. Nanani

          Interesting! I’ve been told by my advisor that regulations, at least in this region, mean certain things MUST be done in person, and others must have voice confirmation (so phone is OK), meaning there is a hard limit on what can be done with an email or web form.

          Those will have to change before we can do away with meetings, but I amlooking forward to the day they do.

    3. Nanani

      Same! I insist with all appointment setting places that I want EMAIL or TEXT, never call me unless it’s an emergency. Confirming an appointment is not an emergency.
      For reference “The building had a toxic leak, don’t come in” on the morning of an appointment might qualify. Maybe.

      I also use an app called Mr Number to filter out calls and am on my country’s official Do Not Call list.

    4. Elizabeth West

      I never answer my phone if the number isn’t one that’s in my contacts. Whoever it is can just leave a voice mail.

      I like your idea about the send-me-a-text voicemail message; I may steal that. It won’t stop my mother (who doesn’t use her cell) from leaving me one, but at least I can see that she called.

    5. Teapot maker/recruiter

      I kind of agree with this. For me, a phone call says “Hey, I need this to be on your radar within the next hour. I consider it important enough for me to need you to drop what you’re doing and have a think about this” or, slightly rarer, “I saw your email but I think the answer if more complex than you thought. I preempt you’re probably going to have questions, so I’m calling you.”

      Anything else (i.e not ‘drop what you’re doing this second to deal with this issue you’re probably going to have questions on’ urgent) is probably email-worthy. And when somebody calls me with an ’email worthy’ query I – hopefully without sounding like the worst person in the world – think it stinks of ‘special little snowflake’ and a warped sense of reality especially, as I’ve had in some case, if you make me sit through a five minute rambling monologue which doesn’t tell me about new (I am really ranty today!!).

      OT – That being said, I hate it when I spot really moody emails in my inbox when I haven’t picked up a super urgent request and I haven’t responded to it. IMHO, if you’re emailing, you should be prepared for the person to deal with it as and when they are able to. I mean, if you needed an answer from me specifically by a deadline, why didn’t you pick up the phone and call rather than throwing a tantrum because I didn’t see your email?

      TL;DR Pick your communication style appropriately – that is all! /rant

      1. Anon just in case

        I have found that, except for the above (also, the “We need to have an offline discussion about this matter” (as in, THIS CONVERSATION SHOULD NOT BE IN WRITING), which happens pretty frequently as well!), there are two types of Phone People:

        1. The people who just *like the phone.* They insist you need to CALL people to talk things through, always, without exception. They get annoyed with you when you insist on email, because, frankly, it is more efficient. I find this group is beginning to dwindle, but there are still more of them around than you’d realize. I am less annoyed by these folks as it is merely a style preference than anything. It’s not my preference, but I am adaptable. Often I can get these folks to meet me halfway.

        2. People who want to ambush/steamroll you into agreeing with them, or put you on the spot to answer questions/”problem solve” when you are completely unprepared to do so (because they want to ambush and steamroll you). I got so, in one job, when my caller ID displayed a particular number I knew it was the conference room for a particular client, and I would send it to voicemail, because I KNEW it was an ambush. (I told my boss I was doing this and she fully endorsed it.) If you want to discuss/problem solve, send me a meeting notice. It was not uncommon that it was a situation that I was not the final decision-maker on, either, which made it a waste of time. “I am going to waste 20 minutes of your time telling you why we need X” for me to answer, “OK, well, I have to talk to Boss first, so we’ll get back to you once we get a chance to connect.” Now I have to spend another 20 minutes explaining this to Boss., which then resulted in ANOTHER 20 min phone call so they could repeat their schpiel first hand. You could have emailed this to me, I could have hit forward, and we all could have saved a lot of time. OR, if you really wanted a phone call, send a meeting notice that I could invite her to!!!

        Once, I got an ambush call like this in regards to a project I was not working on and had no knowledge of the inner workings. The person who was had already left for the day. I repeated no less than 3 times (it was probably more, actually) that I was not working on that and they would need to discuss with Jane, which they could do tomorrow when she was back in the office. I finally had to cut them off and say, “I really don’t know anything about this. It’s going to have to wait until tomorrow because I can’t help you.” I’m fairly certain that they didn’t like the answers they were getting from Jane so they deliberately waited until she left for the day to ambush me.

    6. Ad Astra

      Even in a work capacity, I’d prefer people didn’t call. If it’s too detailed to explain in email or instant messenger, I’d prefer an in-person conversation. For some reason, I have a really hard time focusing on a conversation when I can’t see the person talking. I always feel like I can’t hear the person, even though my ears and my phone work just fine. Maybe it’s an ADHD thing.

  16. Recruit-o-Rama

    I get a half a dozen of these types of calls every day and 99.9% of the time the questions are irrelevant and not in any way urgent or deal breakers. It makes me notice the candidate for sure, just not in the way they intended.

  17. GreenTeaPot

    My experience is that aggressive job seekers rarely make the short list. I did once hire an aggressive candidate because she was the best. She stayed a year.

  18. Thumper

    This is a bit off topic, but it reminds me of a question that’s been itching at me for a while: how appropriate it is really to call a company asking for the name of the hiring manager to personally address in your cover letter? I’m in the very beginnings of my “real world” job search, and so many career advice sites say it’s a smart move. But whenever I call to ask, I either get misleading info, I’m met with hostility, or I’m flat out denied a name (for security reasons, which I understand completely and I’m never upset about it). At this point I don’t even think it’s worth the effort.

    (and by “misleading info”, I mean there was one time I called and was given the name of the VP of Human Resources for the entire multi-billion dollar corporation, whom I severely doubt was going to be looking at my entry level assistant app. it’s amusing in retrospect)

      1. Thumper

        Thank you! I agree, I really don’t see why it’s emphasized so much on other job sites.

        1. BRR

          Because a lot of other sites don’t actually do hiring and/or are writing what people want to hear instead of what is actually helpful. “This tip to get hired” gets more reads than “it doesn’t really matter as won’t help your application.” The irony being the job search tips articles actually often up being filled with advice that hurts applicants.

      2. Hooptie

        I loved getting stalked on Facebook by an applicant who found out my name and was desperate for an interview….I finally had to block her.

        1. Anon just in case

          I had an applicant for a position add me on Linkedin. At first I didn’t know who it was – this particular position got literally hundreds of applications, it was a nightmare to sort through because we did not have an electronic tracking system – but then when I browsed his profile I realized it must be an applicant. I was the HR rep in another city, and I was merely screening the applications, had NO involvement whatsoever in interviewing or hiring (until the back end, anyway, once a candidate was already chosen). I didn’t add him back.

    1. AndersonDarling

      I know there was a topic on this one a while back, but you don’t need a name to address your cover letter. There is no way for you to find it unless you go overboard snooping and stalking, so no hiring manager is expecting a personally addressed letter. “Dear Hiring Manager” is expected.

      1. Chris

        Yes! This! I don’t know if other people feel this, but as a hiring manager, I also find it super annoying when people address their cover letter to someone else in the organization – someone they know (who often has nothing to do w/ the position) or our executive director. If our first interaction is you trying to go above my head, that sets the wrong tone for me.

    2. INTP

      Not at all appropriate. If they cared about candidates addressing the letter with a name, they’d include it in the post. They don’t, and “To whom it may concern:” is fine.

      Calling about it comes across like you’re willing to waste other people’s time to make your application stand out, which I know is not how it’s intended much of the time, but it’s not a good impression.

  19. Chaordic One

    OTOH, there really are some badly written job advertisements for open positions that do leave out critical information. They waste the time of both the employer looking to hire, and of job seekers.

    Rarely, employers will actively mislead job applicants. Sometimes the employer is only marginally competent at attracting new talent. Other times employers have gotten lazy, since there still seem to be large numbers of jobseekers, and they don’t make much of an effort to attract applicants.

    I don’t know what else to say about it.

    1. Elizabeth West

      Yeah, I hate that. And I won’t typically answer blind ads, either. Once I did that out of desperation, and they called me and it turned out to be a place I had gotten fired from, which they could have seen if they had looked at the second page of my resume! That was all kinds of awkward!

  20. Patrick

    Calling for more info has always struck me as being similar to informational interviews – there’s occasionally a valid reason behind it, but 9 out of 10 (at least) are people trying to sidestep the hiring process.

  21. PDowling

    My dad always tells me to not only do this, but actually call to arrange a visit to have a look round before even applying. Of course I always said what, no, clearly that would look like you’re trying to circumvent the process, but apparently it is A Thing in the NHS (British National Health Service). So maybe you’re friends were generalising something that’s industry-specific.

    1. Clare

      It is a thing in parts of the NHS (and some other industries in the UK). 12 years ago when I was newly qualified I applied for an entry level allied health professional role. I was interviewed but didn’t get the job and I was told that one of the main reasons why I didn’t get a job was because I hadn’t phoned up to find out more about the role in advance. I no longer work in the NHS but I know that nothing much has changed in my profession. I saw an NHS job last year that I wondered briefly about, and I know someone who did phone up to discuss the role. There was never any suggestion that this was the wrong thing to do and she decided not to apply partly because of the discussion. Seems like the key thing is to know the cultural norms and hiring practices for your field.

      1. Ponytail

        I am reading through this entire thread looking for someone from the UK because yes, I have this experience in my field too – it’s very common for candidates to ring up and ask more questions about the role. And certainly I’ve seen jobs advertised where it’s obvious they are offering to give a tour of the location for applicants, though not in as many words – usually they talk about it being in a beautiful building, easily accessible to the public etc etc.
        However, as many jobs as I’ve seen that offer this option, I wouldn’t do it for a job where the contact details weren’t given up front. The only times I’ve subverted this is where the ad makes no sense – the closing date is in the past, the wrong job description is linked, that sort of thing.

    2. Miaw

      What. This is very interesting. I am geniunely curious why it is a norm for a company to accept visits from strangers who may not even be qualified for the role. If they have been shortlisted I’d understand, but the candidates have not even applied for the job yet!

      1. PDowling

        Yeah it does sound strange, though maybe people use enough discretion and you don’t just get people who aren’t a qualified nurse enquiring about a nursing job etc. I suppose with health care, it is often more black and white, you either have this specific qualification that allows you to practice or you don’t, there’s less likely to be people saying ‘I’m not really qualified but no harm in giving it a go” in that sort of job. So then, if everyone is qualified, enthusiasm and character maybe matter even more beyond that, hence this norm?

  22. Allisonthe5th

    Oh, Alison, you are wonderful. You put my thoughts into words far more eloquently than I ever do! This happened to me today with a candidate whom, of course, hadn’t even applied for the role. I hate that! If you are selected to interview, that’s the time to get all your questions answered. When I block time in my day to speak to someone, I will give the courtesy of my full attention, but I don’t have the ability to stop everything to answer questions from the general public…who haven’t even applied for a role!

  23. stevenz

    This is an interesting post. I see a lot of job announcements that say “for more information, call Mary at 222-2222”. I have wondered what kind of information they are going to share and why it isn’t already in the ad. And is it a good idea to call in case you’re missing something that other applicants are learning?

    1. Cas

      My work does that and expects that some people will call to find out more about maybe day-to-day work or strategic direction or relationships with other agencies/branches (since we’re a large government org so it’s not always clear from an ad especially since we’re moving to more generic ads- argh! Also, it does take longer to apply here than for a private sector job)

      However, I think the key is that the ad gives a name and number to contact about ‘role inquiries’ or ‘more specifics about the position’, etc. This person is always either the person currently in the position or the manager of that position so it is someone who will be able to answer questions.

  24. C Average

    I think the job-search advice you see everywhere that tells you that you simply MUST find out the name of the hiring manager (because starting a cover letter with “Dear Hiring Manager” is the kiss of death, apparently) has the downstream effect of making it an easier thing for people to bug hiring managers. As long as you have the name, why not call or email them with some questions or comments?

    I wish this advice would go away, because it encourages people to snoop around until they find a name. And when they find a name, they often find an email address or phone number, too. And when they find an email address or phone number, they often use it to ask questions that really don’t need to be asked or could be asked in an interview.

    And also, I could focus on applying for jobs rather than creeping on people’s LinkedIn profiles and feeling vaguely scummy about it, even though I’m definitely NOT going to call or email the hiring manager when I’ve successfully identified him or her.

    1. MissDisplaced

      My name and contact info go on lots of things at my work. Sometimes this means I get job seekers, and believe me, I have nothing to do with the hiring!

  25. Stellaaaaa

    Ah, my mom would be so happy that someone finally followed her job-seeking advice. Is this “person you trust” a parent? A professor? Someone else who hasn’t applied for a job since the ’80s?

    If a job ad seems vague and/or sketchy, that’s a cue to skip it, not to call them and “express interest.”

  26. MissDisplaced

    Yeah, calling was a bit much.
    People aren’t prepared, especially if they’re not in HR.

    I do kind of see why you had questions, especially if it wasn’t clear where the position was located, but sending email would’ve been a better inquiry method.

  27. L

    As a rule, I do not contact the hiring manager in advance, but the one situation that tempts me is ambiguous Yes/No prescreen questions in the applicant tracking system. If you hire in a field where it’s common for applicants to have very specific types of “related experience” or part-time rather than full-time experience, at least respect my time enough to be clear about what counts and what doesn’t.

  28. JC

    I hire, and I do generally get annoyed when candidates contact me to ask questions. Sometimes they are legit questions, which is fine, but most of the time they are inane questions that suck up my time and make the candidate seem needy. Hiring is something that I am doing in addition to my regular job duties, and having to deal with 30 people asking me questions–when most of them are not people I would ever consider hiring–really takes a lot of additional time.

    That said, though, the most recent person I hired did email me after her application was submitted to reiterate her interest. We called her for an interview and hired her not because of that, but in spite of it.

  29. Rika

    This is interesting, because in the Netherlands I think we’re right at the beginning of the shift from “always do a follow-up call after sending an application” to “don’t call them, they will contact you if they’re interested”. I’ve been unemployed for half a year now (yeah, it’s not going well…) and doing a follow-up call is still in the top five of tips you get from job agencies and just about everyone else. To be clear: the object of doing this is not to circumvent the hiring process, but to put yourself on the hiring manager’s radar as being especially keen and seriously interested. And the reason this actually works is because a lot of people don’t bother or are too shy to do this, so the chances of you standing out if you call a prospective employer are actually quite good. I have to disagree with Alison that the interest is already implied in the application even though that sounds logical. The fact is anyone on benefits can send applications (which often only takes a few minutes of your time) to simply tick boxes, or (and I have no idea if this is customary in the US as well) if they already have a job they may just be doing some casual shopping around by sending applications. I think that follow-up calls on applications are still good advice in general around these parts. Nevertheless, I think a shift might be happening. Even though most employers seemed to appreciate the extra effort (because that is how follow-up calls are regarded here) I have so far encountered one prospective employer who wouldn’t even speak to me and one who seemed genuinely annoyed and confused as to why I called. I might need to start taking this into account.

  30. newlyhr

    Reality: I recruit for a living. I have a position open right now that I have more than 600 resumes for and more flooding in. I have gotten over a 100 phone calls , and NOT ONE OF THEM HAS BEEN FROM A QUALIFIED APPLICANT. They have asked me all kinds of ridiculous questions like “what do you want in an applicant so I can tailor my resume……I have a class I take on Tuesdays, so I would need to come in late that day every week, is that OK?…. I have to ride the bus to work and it wouldn’t get me there until 8:15, is that a problem?…. I don’t really want to get locked in to an 8-5 job every single day, would you be open to flexible hours?……… I’m thinking about applying but I might go back to grad school if i get in, so I don’t know if I should apply or not?…… I don’t want to waste my time filling out this application unless I have a good chance to getting the job–what do you think my chances are?……..My daughter wanted me to call and find out more about the position because she is too busy during the day to call you… I applied on Tuesday and it’s Thursday and I haven’t heard back from anyone”.

    Every caller with these kinds of questions gets an automatic veto from me for moving further in the process. I may get down to 6-8 candidates using just this method if it keeps up!

    DON’T CALL.

    1. Rika

      I think a lot depends on the local culture and the method of selection whether or not calling is a good idea or not, but I can understand how what you describe can get really annoying. And those questions are not only ridiculous but some of them are about issues that are more appropriately brought up when a person has already been hired.

      I’m especially amazed by “I don’t want to waste my time filling out this application unless I have a good chance to getting the job” and “My daughter wanted me to call (…) because she is too busy (…) to call you”.

      1. newlyhr

        oh yeah, I was amazed too. Lest I make it sound like this is the norm, we have a number of highly professional applicants who are a pleasure to work with. I am an internal recruiter at a very desirable employer and this particular job is a rare entry level opportunity here. I think that’s why it’s been particularly crazy.

    2. MissDisplaced

      LOL! That’s almost as bad as when you try to sell your used car on Craigslist.

      I want to buy your car, but only have half the money, will you loan me the rest?
      Will you drive 70 miles to show me your car?
      I’m a single mother with 4 sick kids… would you donate your car to someone needy?
      Is your car a good car?
      Can you hold (not sell) the car for 2 weeks until I can come look at it?
      Can I pay you, like $100 a month for the car?

  31. That Marketing Chick

    I understand wanting to try to determine if you should even apply, but in this scenario, the hiring manager’s time is way more valuable than your time applying for a job. It might not be fair, but that’s the way it is. I get enough sales calls that disrupt my day; I don’t need potential hires calling me, too. The time to ask your questions is during the phone interview.

  32. Tina

    I understand what you were thinking. Perhaps it might be better to email them beforehand (and perhaps there will be a slight chance they would answer).
    I wish I had done that when I was in your position. Last month I saw a job ad (pretty vague and general). I applied to the mid size law firm and was invited for an interview, during which I was asked a lot of questions and they seem pretty annoyed when I asked mine. I just had to limit my questions down to about three.
    They gave me the offer right away and called the day after asking for another online test to be done and further clarify on the job scope. I was surprised as that was not mentioned anywhere in the JD or the interview. I express my concern over my fitting into that role and next thing I know, they withdrew the offer yesterday and said they don’t think I might be right for the role.

    So……..even interview, aptitude test and a resume wont get to know if you are right for the role or not. More information would definitely help to make your decision. Afterall, YOU are the one spending more than 8 hours a day in that position.

  33. Art Anderson

    Certainly there are job postings that leave out things I would consider routine to include, if not essential. Those would be the closing date for applications, the starting date of the position and the term of the position; since many jobs I am interested in would require relocation but they turn out to be temporary contracts or a fill in for an employee’s leave of absence for one year or less. I would inquire by email to clarify those things, phrasing it so I am attempting to make things easier for HR as well as myself.

    One interesting scenario I experienced was on applying to a provincial ministry, where they have things pretty well administered at every step. You can even monitor the progress online from application intake (showing how many received), screening, interview selection (how many will be invited), position offered to an individual and finally position accepted. That can take months. In my case the process seemed to have stalled about 3 weeks past the posted date for things to move on to the interview selection.

    The inquiries phone number got me nowhere for over a week – i.e. literally no one was picking up and not even switching to a message service – at a government office. I tried one last time and bingo, the central human resources lady said she would inquire with the hiring managers involved. Two managers called me back within days and I had their attention for as long as necessary to clear things up. One mentioned that they are required to return calls of this nature. They had made their choice and the job was filled.

    It turned out they likely fast tracked the person (I’m familiar with outside the industry) who got the job, as the website was suddenly showing the process was finished and closed.

    I think if questions to HR are about the process and not about the day to day details of the job, it would be a reasonable request – by email. In my case I used the phone because that is the contact method provided for at the province’s employment website.

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