job searching: when does persistence become stalking?

A reader writes:

Let’s do a mirrored image of your posting on an applicant missing a phone interview. Let’s say the prospective employer called me and wanted to set up an interview for either that day or a couple of days down the road. Then they explained that they needed to make sure the hiring manager was going to be available and would contact me when they had more info.

Great! However, since that point this prospective employer has disappeared! NO return phone calls, no letters, nothing. I have called back 3 times now. Once to find out if anything had been set up (got voicemail), next to leave cell number (was not sure if I had the first time) and the next scheduled day to meet this person to once again express my interest and ask them to call to schedule a time stating that I was once again dedicating my whole day to wait for a call from them.

Is this “pushing the envelope” and am I coming off desperate or pushy? I am stating things like, “I have researched your company and feel that I would be a good fit for the position.”

I simply want to know do I dare call again? Or would it be out of line for me to drive to the company and do a personal introduction and ask if they have the time to see me now? (The company is less than 2 miles from my house.)

I have heard wonderful things about this company and would just like a shot at proving myself. I have had a few bad years with employment but have stayed constantly employed and am hoping that that is not one of the reasons they are not contacting me.

Do not drive to the company.

This company is being rude. If you call a candidate to propose an interview and say you’ll get back to them about scheduling, you get back to them. Period. Even if it’s to say, “I’m sorry, but we’ve just filled the position” or “the hiring manager didn’t feel your experience was the right match,” or whatever. You do not leave the person hanging. And for the love of god, if the candidate is calling and asking what’s going on, you don’t ignore them.

But of course companies do.

I know I like to rant about interviewing and hiring being like dating, but this is another example of it. It’s rude to tell a date you’ll call and then not, and it’s rude (actually much ruder) to blow off a job candidate like that.

However. Just like if you were calling a prospective date and leaving messages expressing interest but getting no return call, you need to take silence as lack of interest. Just like you wouldn’t drive over to a girl’s house and ask her out in person if you couldn’t get her to call you back, you can’t show up at this company’s office in person.

Either there is a reason they haven’t contacted you yet or they are blowing you off. (There is a small chance they will contact you in the future. They said they’d contact you when they had more info, so maybe they don’t have that info yet.) Do not stalk them.

And do not tell them you’re devoting your whole day to waiting for their call! Not to be all “The Rules” on you (do people still know that horrible book?), but that’s way too available — it’s unreasonable to spend your whole day waiting for the call of anyone, unless the call relates to the health of a friend or family member, and certainly not in a situation where you don’t even know if they’re available or interested in calling you that day. (If I’m in meetings all day and it’s impossible for me to call someone back — or if I were on vacation or something — I would be annoyed and a little taken aback to find a message telling me the person was building their entire day around the expectation of my phone call, which I never promised to make that day.)

The important point is this: You have expressed interest. They know how to reach you. Now there’s nothing more you should do other than sitting back and seeing what, if anything, happens. Remember: As with dating, you do not want someone who does not want you.

{ 8 comments… read them below }

  1. HR Godess*

    Great post! In this job market, you want to tailor your resume to showcase your strengths. I receive close to 500 resume’s each time I post a job. I read through them all. I also get calls when the ad specifically says do not call.

    Recruiting is only one of the many functions I perform. I’m a department of one. I don’t have time to talk to all 500 applicants. I do talk to the ones that call, thank them for their resume and let them know that we will be in touch if we are interested in them. You’d be surprised at the responses I’ve heard to this!

    Sometimes an applicant is hostile, sometimes they plead, other times they simply hang up on me. The ones that are gracious and polite always get a second look from me. The ones that stalk me, do not. Why? Because do I want this person calling me every hour if they work here like they do now? Absolutely not. I am, however, the person that will call you back in an hour if I say I’m going to. If I tell you I won’t contact you until tomorrow, give me until tomorrow before you chase me down. Nothing grates on my nerves more than stalking without reason!

    Times are tough so do whatever you can to put yourself in a good light. You’ve called several times with no luck. It’s time to move on and maybe, they will still call. Just don’t put all your eggs in one basket (as my Grandma likes to say!). Good luck in your job search.

  2. almostgotit*

    And for heaven’s sake, keep working on other job prospects while you’re waiting. And durirg the waking hours when you’re not actively job hunting, read a book or go for a walk or out to a movie.

  3. Just another HR lady...*

    HR Goddess…I sympathize and know exactly what you are going through. I am also an HR department of one, of which Recruiting is probably only 20% of my job. The “inquiry” calls take up a huge amount of my time, with very little value to our company. I can guarantee to all of the candidates out there, if we are considering you for a position, please don’t worry, WE WILL CALL YOU.

    Following the “recruiting is like a date” theory, common questions that may cause a negative “first date” impression:

    1. Calling to confirm that I received your resume. Um…did you not notice the automatic message that you received confirming that we received your resume and that we’d be in contact if you were being considered? We are telling the truth, we have your resume, you can rest easy. Who is advising candidates to make this call? Please stop.

    2. Inquiring to find out if we have “any” jobs available. Again, did you not notice my voicemail message that directed you to our website to check out available opportunities? Hearing this message, and then leaving me a voicemail asking me to please call you with a list of available jobs will not endear you to me as a candidate. In addition, if you are not already searching online for jobs, then you likely don’t have the computer skills that I require to hire you.

    3. Calling to find out if you, your son/daughter, your mother, your friend, or your dog would qualify for “any” jobs that we have available now or anytime in the future. Or, along the same lines, to inquire if I know of any other opportunities anywhere else that you might qualify for. Please note that I am a career counsellor at times, but I only provide this service to my employees, friends, and family members at no charge. There are many free career counselling services that have the time and motivation to assist you in finding a job, please don’t call HR at a private company and ask for career advice. As a special note… parents, PLEASE do not call for your child who is job hunting, we will assume your child is not mature or interested enough to conduct their own job search.

    4. Calling to “convince” me why you are the perfect candidate for a job. If I didn’t already select you for the interview process, I don’t think you are the perfect candidate for the job, sorry, this call is just reminding why I did not select you.

    5. Calling to ask if you can come in and meet with me to talk about your qualifications and “any” possible jobs you might be a fit for. It’s sometimes hard enough to take time out of my day for actual interviews…now I have to take time out of my day to meet with someone that I am not currently, or may never be considering for employment? (Note: This one does not apply to candidates with skills that are in demand and who actually want to talk about specific jobs I have open, I am willing to make time for you as I consider that part of the recruiting process)

    6. Calling when my ad says “No calls please”. Interesting how many people choose to ignore this request. What other rules are you willing to ignore?

    HR Goddess and others, I’m sure you could add to my ranting list…

  4. Anonymous*

    JAHR Lady: yes, yes, YES! All points are valid, and agreed with by me.

    To the candidate: there are some crappy recruiters but there are also circumstances that might come up. Like food poisening, a death in the family, a sudden resignation of a staffer. In only one of those would a phone call even be possible. Since you don’t mention the time frame of your calls, I’m going to give some general advice. Calling more than once a day is not appropriate unless you’re playing phone tag with an HR person. I once told a candidate that the manager was out of town, but that I would be in touch in one week to reschedule, but that my hands were tied until then. In that one week time frame, the candidate called me seven times in a 24 hour period. They went from being a final candidate to being rejected. Why? It’s unprofessional. To show up at the company shows poor judgement and desperation. (but to ask AAM about it first, shows good judgement so high five). While it’s inappropriate to drop someone and be non-communicative, it’s entirely inappropriate to call again, to show up, or to contact their supervisor about this. Relax and hope there’s a reasonable explanation for this, or move on.

  5. HR Godess*

    Just another HR Lady – It’s like we’re the same person! I couldn’t agree more with your list. I think along the same lines as you as well. If you can’t take direction now, why would I want to hire you?!?

    I think you’ve covered the majority of the list!

    At my current company, we do pre employment testing. Those testing results help assess skill levels (Microsoft Office, etc) and that does factor into my decision. (i.e. if the applicant would need additional training vs. one that would not) Overall, personality, relevant work experience, and attitude are the biggest attributes for me.

    And, like JAHRL, I don’t have extra time to talk to those that I’m not interested in. I’m already working 12 hours a day so I have to use my hours wisely and to the company’s benefit. Talking to people who can’t follow the directions on the ad and think that calling will make me see how great they are, rarely works.

    I did take a call once preparing to be annoyed but was pleasantly surprised and ended up scheduling an interview. It was, however, the exception to the rule!

  6. Ask a Manager*

    hr godess, just another hr lady, and anonymous: I feel like you are all in my head. It’s uncanny.

    almostgotit: Yes! If you are unhealthily focused on something to the extent of all else (getting a date, getting a job, whatever), it has a way of showing. And not being good for either your prospects or yourself.

  7. Sodexo Careers*

    I liked this post for two reasons -first, I have been in touch with a few candidate recently through our blog and Facebook page who are wondering what their status is and I have been able to help with them with their unanswered questions and second because I am on an internal candidate experience team where the goal is to make sure we are not leaving our candidates wondering. A couple of the candidates whom I have been in recent contact with have posted to multiple positions, which explains for a small portion of the lack of communication but still it is our goal to keep them posted so they have a positive experience with us. It is definitely a priority for us!

  8. Kim*

    I feel like I just read my life story (at least the last 2 months of it.
    I actually had three interviews with a rather large corporation. After the first interview, it was recommended that I attend the following Tuesday's job fair for management positions. After that interview, I was asked to schedule for my third interview (in front of a panel).
    Basically one interview a week for an entire month.
    Now its been two weeks without even a whisper. I have called twice now to just try to ensure that I did not get lost in the shuffle. The advice sadened me. I was told today, during my second phone call, that she believes that they are working on an offer. I still hold hope.

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