should you call when a job posting says “no calls”?

In a comment on a recent post, Abby wrote:

How do you feel about a job posting that specifically states “no phone calls”? Does it show blatant disregard if a candidate calls or is that person one step ahead of the rest because he/she is the only one calling?

I feel it’s important to follow the guidelines given on a job posting because it shows attention to detail, but I’ve read blog posts where people argue that you should call anyway.

Ugh, personally I hate it. If I say “no calls,” I mean no calls. I’m not just testing applicants to see who will take the initiative to call anyway.

But on the other hand, there are employers where calling actually can help move your application forward, and candidates have no way of knowing from the outside which type of employer they’re dealing with.

I don’t want any phone calls because:

1. Being interrupted by an unnecessary phone call annoys me. I never want job applicants to contact me by phone; I much prefer email, as it allows me to respond when it’s convenient, rather than having to stop whatever I’m doing to take a call.

2. I’m organized. I don’t need to be reminded of your application because it’s not going to slip through the cracks, and I don’t need to be asked for a status update because I keep candidates posted about their status.

3. I mean what I say. If I clearly say “no calls,” I’m going to wonder why you didn’t think it applied to you.

But, on the other hand, many employers are unorganized, don’t necessarily mean what they say, and are more likely to answer their phone than return an email. (Of course, you could argue that those employers might suck and therefore following instructions is a good way to screen out employers who don’t have their act together — but that’s a hard argument to make when you really need a job.)

I’ve heard from plenty of people who called an employer to follow up on their application and had an interview scheduled on the spot. These employers are reinforcing bad behavior and ruining it for the rest of us, and I wish we could fine them or something, but it doesn’t change the fact that it happens.

So I’m hesitant to tell people that they shouldn’t do this just because it annoys me. The best I can say is to pay attention to all the signals you’re getting about how this employer operates and make your decision accordingly.

What do others think?

{ 17 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I've heard that "no calls please" sometimes means "we've already filled the position and this posting is just a technicality." This is really helpful to hear from an employer's perspective, and I never would have considered most of what you say.

    I have called if I didn't know to whom at the organization to address my cover letter (hearing that "To Whom It May Concern" is taboo), if there was no deadline and I wanted to know if they were still accepting applications, or something like a month went by and I didn't hear back. I can see now that most of these questions could have been addressed via e-mail, although I think in those cases I was hesitant to email anything but an application to an address like ""

  2. Celeste Wroblewski*

    This is very tough. Some ideas:

    –Do you know anyone or does anyone in your network know anyone at the org who could advise on how a call would be received or on who the hiring decision maker is."

    –Send a follow up email rather than a call to the hiring decision maker, e.g., "I am sure you are very busy, but I wanted to share that I am still very interested in the job and would be delighted to meet with you. I have some ideas for how X company would (insert goals of company or the position).

    Otherwise, you just have to assess how much you have to lose with a call. If it's nothing, call. If you want to lower your risk a bit, you could call in the evening or very early morning and leave a respectful message along the lines of the suggested email above.

  3. Celeste Wroblewski*

    P.S. Please forgive my misplaced quotation mark above :) Found you via One Day One Job. Agree that that article perpetuated some stereotypes but thought other points were good. Your blog is terrific and I'm now following you on Twitter.

  4. Jennifer*

    I strongly prefer emails, though I haven't taken anyone out of the running in the past for calling (we don't say 'no calls', either.)

    However, I do sometimes wonder what people are thinking. I'm a school librarian. It probably shouldn't take a genius to realise that if you call during the school day, you're probably interrupting work with actual students, and that this is not perhaps ideal.

    This certainly doesn't apply to all kinds of jobs – but for anything with a heavy customer service aspect, I do tend to favor people who think this through. Emailing is great. Calling at a point less likely to be busy (for example, afternoon rather than the morning). Calling in the evening (or another time when the call will almost certainly go to voicemail) would be great, since I could return the call at my convenience. (Calling and saying "Please feel free to reply by email" and giving the address clearly would be even better: I rarely have much time for phone calls during the work day.)

    Our ads generally include the email address of the hiring supervisor (and it's easy to identify it as such: it lists the supervisor name/position at the top, and the email at the end, so some very quick research would piece it together if it weren't obvious.)

  5. Charles*

    " . . . candidates have no way of knowing from the outside which type of employer they're dealing with."

    So true! So true! So true!

    And not just about phone calls.

    This, I find, to be the most frustrating aspect of job searching. Some how or other job seekers are suppose to be mind readers with most hiring folks.

    For example:

    You've used the wrong font, wrong paper, wrong file format. We can read it; but we don't like Times New Roman font as it shows you lack imagination. You've used Courier or Palatino font – are you trying to stir things up, you trouble-maker you!? You printed your resume on light, cream-colored paper, that's not professional. Oh, wow, you've printed your resume on a light grey paper, it stands out in the crowd and still looks professional. You sent us a PDF file – how on earth are we suppose to read that?!

    Call; No don't call. Why didn't you call? We assumed you weren't interested because you didn't call. No, calling annoyed us even though we didn't say don't call. You've returned our call too late; in the 45 minutes since we called you we have already lined up enough interviews; you snooze you lose!

    You've added a useless career objective to your resume; You're not professional enough because you didn't include a career objective on your resume.

    You've used WordPerfect and we want someone with Word experience.

    We want someone who can get the job done; No, wait, we want some one who will make a good drinking buddy. No, we don't discriminate; but we want someone who "fits in." Of course, your age doesn't matter; but we are all young and like to drink after work and you're not a team player if you don't join us.

    We said the dress code was "business casual" and you wore a dress suit or nice skirt (or for guys a dress shirt, tie, and sports jacket); So, I guess you cannot "follow directions." Even though we told you the dress code was "business casual" we didn't mean that you should dress that way for an interview; so, I guess that you are not serious about this job.

    For woman candidates, you wore a skirt – trying to get the job by showing leg, huh? You wore a pants-suit; what, are you ashamed of showing your legs? She wore too much make-up! No, let's not hire her she didn't even bother to wear any make-up! Did you she her hair; gawd, that was awful, how could she leave the house like that? Let's not hire her, she so beautiful that she could be a model; so she's probably stuck-up or something.

    And him, doesn't he know about the hair club for men. Or, get a load of his "rug," Who does he think he is kidding? Well, there's one candidate who doesn't even try to cover his/her grey hair.

    Yes, taking a temp job shows that you have a good work ethic, even if it is not what you have done in the past – anything to pay the bills, right? Well, yes, you have 20+ years experience doing X, but your most recent experience was as a temporary administrative assitant, so tell me why you can't get a job in your field? Are you incompetent or something?

    You showed up way too early for your interview, I'm not ready to see you; Oh, by the way, why haven't you finished filling out the dozen forms in triplicate (and, yes, I do need your mother's maiden name) using a tiny writing board balanced on your knee while sitting on a sofa that sinks almost to the floor in our dimly light, yet cozy, reception area?

    Jeez, sorry, I didn't mean to rant so long.

  6. Rebecca*

    Charles has pretty much summed up everything about job hunting. Nowadays it feels like lottery tickets are more fair and less arbitrary than job applications.

  7. Anonymous*

    Don't forget that the age thing cuts the other way, too: Of course, your age doesn't matter; but we're all middle-aged and married with kids and you're young and single, so you're clearly not a responsible adult like us.

    Similarly, wedding ring politics:
    Man with ring = some husband he is, he needs a job so he can't be that good of a provider now can he.
    Man without ring = ugh, he's not even married yet, he must want to be an irresponsible little boy forever!
    Woman with ring = all married women have kids, and all mothers are obsessed with their kids to the exclusion of all else, so she's going to be coming in late and leaving early all the time, and taking a day off every time the widdle wuns have snotty noses, and then bringing the kids' nasty diseases into the office.
    Woman without ring = she's going to get married, then she's going to get pregnant immediately and make us pay for the baby, then once her paid leave is up she's going to quit.

    you absolutely can't win no matter what you do, it's all luck

  8. Erin*

    I don't like phone calls, I prefer emails – it allows me to respond when it's most convenient for me.

    I WILL give people a pass on the first phone call because I realize that there is so much conflicting information out there. I WILL NOT give people a pass on the second and third phone call because when they called the first time I outlined the process for them. I let them know I was still accepting applications and that I would begin reviewing them on X date and would notify candidates about their application status by X time after that. If you call again, before X date, then you either weren't listening, or you were listening and you just think you're special and don't need to follow instructions.

  9. Abby*

    Thanks, Ask A Manager, for answering my question. I share your thoughts and usually choose e-mail as my method of following up.

    Charles, your comment is humorous yet so true. I feel like job searching is a game where nobody says what they mean and, exactly like you said, the job hunter is expected to be a mind reader. Just tell me exactly what you want. Ah, but then the majority of candidates would give them what they want, and they'd have to start judging candidates based on things that actually matter to the position.

  10. Anonymous*

    Another Anonymous writes: "you absolutely can't win no matter what you do, it's all luck"

    I think another way of looking at this is the issue addressed in another post — technical qualifications aren't enough, there also needs to be a good fit. If you're not the right fit, that doesn't mean you're worthless, or that you can't win. It means you wouldn't have been happy there anyway, and soon would have been looking for a new job. That may not sound comforting when you're out of work and feeling desperate, but it's true that it works out best for everyone when everyone gets along and feels like a team.

  11. Jane | Dubai Jobs*

    It is always advisable that it appears �no calls� for a job posting; one can mail the CV & cover letter. May be the recruiter may contact.

  12. Lyn*

    What do you think of someone who “saves postage” and comes into the office to hand deliver the resume? Does that count as “calling”? I’m one who respects what an employer requests and this particular one takes phone calls from clients all day long. They don’t need me tying up a phone line. But how bad is it if I hand deliver the envelope so they can meet me and be swooned by my charming personality and interpersonal skills? =)

      1. Lyn*

        Thanks. I wouldn’t really have used the “save the stamp” line… it’s transparently cheesy.

        No e-mail address or fax number was given with this ad, though. Just the name and mailing address for the company with the note, “No calls please.”

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