don’t stalk my voicemail

In a comment on a recent post about employers who don’t return phone calls, one commenter suggested not leaving voicemail when you call and an employer doesn’t answer, so that you can then call repeatedly, until you get a live person.

Shawn took issue with this, responding:

it isn’t uncommon for me to be at my desk between phone screens or meetings, talking with a coworker, or just plain busy, and to just let a call go to voice mail. we are a non-profit but can afford phones with caller id. i’ve had candidates call every 15 minutes. it’s obvious when the same number keeps calling. this looks extremely needy, besides flat out annoying me.

find an email address and use it.

I agree wholeheartedly with Shawn. Most people have Caller ID these days. I frequently let calls go to voicemail when I’m in the midst of something else and not at a good stopping point, and I’ve seen candidates call over and over without leaving a message. You may think you’re being strategic, but if the person is sitting right there, it’s annoying. And you look a little stalker-ish.

I used to have a coworker who bragged about using this technique (not in a job-searching context; in a business context). He seemed to think he was being crafty, but in reality I’m sure he was annoying the crap out of the person sitting there seeing his number pop up over and over again.

Leave a message. And like Shawn says, email is better.

{ 28 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    If you dial *67 before dialing the phone number, doesn't that make your phone number on the caller ID not show up (or make it show up as "anonymous")?

    Perhaps using this technique will enable someone to be a stalker w/o the risk of being identified.

    Not that I am recommending stalking…

  2. Evil HR Lady*

    This is not a job candidate story, but it's about voicemail. I worked exclusively at home after the birth of my 2nd child. However, I had an office. I did not hand out my cell phone number to the entire world.

    If you called my office phone and left a message, that phone would immediately call my cell phone and I would know you left a message.

    This worked very well until I got a phone call from my boss's boss. He was very angry because some super-de-duper sr. VP was upset because I was not answering his questions!

    Well, he had sent me no e-mails and I had no voicemails from him. Turns out he was just repeatedly dialing my office and not leaving a message.

    Fortunately, my boss's boss was okay with it once I explained that all that needed to happen was for a message to be left, then I would return the call.

  3. Anonymous*

    I wholeheartedly agree! I also work at a non-profit and am often in my office with clients. I mute my phone and don't answer if someone is with me, and it's supremely aggravating for someone to just keep calling without leaving a message. It never fails that they're next calling my supervisor complaining that nobody will call them back.

  4. Interviewer*

    Anon at 4:31 PM – Despite heavy call volume in a recruiting environment, I rarely get any private calls these days – maybe one every couple of months, if any. So if I get 2 private calls on my call log in one day, I'll assume it's the same person trying to get me both times. Next time my phone rings with a "private" number, just remember you're a lot less anonymous than you think.

  5. Anonymous*

    Same topic, slight twist:

    We all know (at least think) that finding a non-HR in to a company is a much better way of getting noticed by a company, and gives you a contact that is more likely to follow up with you if need be. But don't take advantage of it, 'cause that contact doesn't know everything about your status every minute.

    I sent some job announcements to my alma mater, and had two people follow up with me. One of the respondents had some potential, but his follow-ups crossed the line from "interested" to "pushy". (I was out of the office for two days, and forgot to change my message. In my position, that's no biggy.) When I got back, there were 11 missed calls and 1 voicemail. Um…

    And daily follow-ups are too much. Yes, we know you're still interested. Once a week is a pleasant reminder. When we have something to tell you, we'll call you.

    Oh, and one reason we may not call you back for a follow up right away is because we may have nothing to tell you, and don't want to waste the time to do it. Call me once a week when there's no concrete follow up time line, and we'll chat, but every day? Uh…

  6. The *commenter* that started it..*

    Heh- I was the one who commented that you should not leave a voice message.

    I wanted to clarify that I am no proponent of calling every 15 minutes. That would be indeed be super annoying and very ineffective. I was thinking more along the lines of once a day for maybe 2 days,and if HR/interviewer don't respond, try again a week later. Seeing a missed call beats seeing a missed call + *another voice message from that annoying person who already left a voice message a day ago*

    I do pose a question to an interviewer/HR rep.. would you really email back? Sometimes when handed an email, it's easier and convenient to ignore or file it under the *trash* folder.

    That's why I thought calling would be the optimum choice, bc the interviewer/HR rep isn't burdened with having to 'email' back, and they can provide a quick answer.

  7. Cassie*

    I don't like leaving voicemails – a lot of people never check them – and the problem with emails is that you aren't sure if people read them. Though I guess I could use "return receipt" for that purpose.

    If I'm trying to get in touch with someone (not in a job searching context – just regular business calls), I might make 2 phone calls within 15 minutes. The person may have stepped out the first time. But if there is still no answer, I'll try again in the afternoon.

    That said, I highly prefer email so if it's likely the person will respond to email, that's definitely the method I'd use. Unless I need the info right away (because my boss needs to know, or something).

    Personally, I can't let my phone ring without answering it (well, my work phone, that is – if it's my cell, I have no problems) so if I'm at my desk, I'll answer my phone. Even if I'm busy. Because I don't want to take 5 minutes later on to check my voicemail, for a 20 second question.

  8. This Gruntled CoWorker*

    Does anyone else see the irony in all of this? We have modes of communication (email & voicemail) that are supposed to make it easier for people to reach each other, but it is an accepted fact that people don't/won't get back to you.

    If someone sends you an email, read it, and reply. It could be as simple as "No news yet." If someone calls, pick up the phone. If they leave a voicemail, LISTEN to it and call them back. Have some courtesy.

    If your excuse for not getting back to someone is "I'm too busy!", find another job.

    And don't get me started on co-workers who tell people "Oh, I never check my voicemail or email. If it's important enough they'll come and find me."

  9. Anonymous*

    Cassie above mentioned using return receipts on emails. Is that okay to do when you email a resume and cover letter to an employer? For some reason I always thought it was rude. My college's email had that (either a receipt on read or a receipt on arrival), and I thought that some people who used it on every email was being quite rude. What are other people's takes on that?

    I don't know on MS Outlook, but on my college's site, there was a way to bypass it by just x-ing out on the little box that popped up.

    I do believe people are getting ruder as time goes on. I agree with This Gruntled Worker (see above). People's manners and respect are going right down the sewer these days. Sure, I understand that sometimes you are too busy to get that phone right then and there, but if someone leaves a message, have the courtesy to answer them. Sadly, this rudeness isn't just in the workplace; it's getting to be everywhere.

  10. Tempie*

    I work for a temp agency. We talk to unemployed people all day, every day. I promise – PROMISE – that the repeat call without leaving a message is a great way to get yourself removed from consideration post haste. I can't tell you how many times I've spoken to infuriated candidates who claim they've "nevereverever gotten a call back," only to find out that they just called 5 times that same day and didn't leave a message.

    Give people a minute. Even if you ARE desperate, make the effort to appear as if you aren't. Don't be annoying. E-mail is good, because a lot of people multi-task and reply to it while they're stuck on conference calls, or traveling, or doing something else where they can't answer your call, but can reply to a quick note.

    Patience, people. It's a virtue for a reason.

  11. fposte*

    Sorry, Gruntled Worker, I can't entirely agree. I absolutely believe that prospective employers have an obligation to contact applicants for rejection as well as acceptance, and to offer a clear timetable. But there's nothing inherent about email/phone/whatever that obliges the recipient to respond to every piece of communication. There's an element of "by God, I'll *make* them answer" in the calling-and-recalling approach that's pretty counterproductive.

    I'd offer a compromise position: prospective employers should be responsible and humane in notification, and hopeful employees should limit their inquiries to the AAM-recommended once a week. If somebody's inquiring more often than that, or in the face of a clear timetable that's still running, don't get bent out of shape if people don't respond to you and don't be surprised if your resume gets kicked out of the pile early if another position's open.

  12. Anonymous*

    I make heavy use of my business phone's temporary message feature. I use it to say if I am out of the office but on the job, and when and how to reach me. Nothing is more frustrating in a business setting than our default message "person is unavailable, please leave a message"

  13. fposte*

    I can't entirely agree, Gruntled Worker. Communications aren't inherently entitled to responses just by existing. If you're sticking to the AAM-recommended once a week or so, sure (though really the company should have been responsible enough to be clear on the timetable anyway, so you shouldn't need to–ah, pipe dreams!), somebody should get back to you. But this calling-and-recalling business smacks of "I'll *make* them answer, by God." You can't insist that you become somebody else's priority over the rest of their work queue just because technology allows you to make that request; trying to do that is only burning a bridge that you may actually have had a chance to walk over.

  14. KellyK*

    I'd agree with Anonymous at 8:54 that using a read receipt is rude in that situation. It carries the implication that you don't expect them to follow up with you. (When people I work with use it with every message, I find it less rude than annoying.)

    I like the original suggestion of not leaving a voicemail every time you call. I *would* leave a voicemail the first time, because a missed call with no message is irritating. A couple missed calls from the same number with one message, that makes perfect sense.

    How often to keep calling also depends on whether you were asked to call back or are returing a call, or it's a generic follow-up. If someone called me first, calling every hour or half hour to try to get back to them just seems polite; for a general follow-up, it seems stalkerish.

  15. Charles*

    The real problem here is not that job-seekers are being "pushy" or trying to "outsmart" the system. People are trying ANYTHING to get a job.

    As far as I am concerned, HR/Recruiters you can either blame yourself or your collegues – as you are the ones who have set the tone for this "communication issue."

    When you call me or any other job seeker chances are we will return your call or respond to your email. Can you be sure that recruiters are returning calls or responding to emails? Chances are more likely that the answer is NO!

    And, Anon at 6:07 tells us all we really need to know:

    "Oh, and one reason we may not call you back for a follow up right away is because we may have nothing to tell you, and don't want to waste the time to do it."

    You see, fellow job seekers, we are a "waste of time." Calling to tell us that you haven't heard back from the client in a week is "nothing to tell."

  16. shawn*

    yes, i actually do respond to all emailed questions. email makes it very easy and convenient to do so. i can do it when i have time and it ensures, at least initially, that i won't have to spend a ton of time doing it.

    on the flip side, i don't always return every voice mail. yeah, i said it. i honestly don't always have time, and that doesn't mean i need a new job.

    i work for my company, not for job seekers. yes, i want to paint our brand in a positive light, be professional, hire quality staff, etc, and i think i do that. but that doesn't mean i need to sit around waiting for your phone calls like a call center help desk. candidates need to be reasonable in their expectations too.

    if you leave a message without explaining why you are calling, sound ignorant, or are just annoying, you probably won't get a call back. also, i flat out can't spend time talking with every interested person about all of our job openings who just want "more information". it just isn't possible.

    however, i do return all calls to candidates who are in the selection process and of course try to remain proactive by keeping to the deadlines/timelines i've already relayed to candidates. no one will interview with us and just never hear what happened.

  17. GC {God's Child}*

    re Cassie's statement "I don't like leaving voicemails – a lot of people never check them – "

    I'm not in a hiring position but I have to say, for the success of our business, I HAVE to check and reply to voicemail.
    I can't be at my desk every moment of every day and I do HATE checking voicemail but it is essential for me to check it and so I do.

    Maybe some people don't but anyone worth their salt does.

  18. The Commenter that started it...*

    Me again.

    @shawn – You are one of the rare interviewers that return emails I think.

    I have a question- one of my friends had an interview with some company, and she called him a week later to ask about the status. Now, he picked up and told her they haven't decided and to call in 2 weeks. So she calls in 2 weeks and asks, and he says the same thing and to call in two weeks. This cycle has been going on for 3-4 months. Should she keep calling? I feel like if she is out of the running, he would have told her the position is filled or no longer exists. I told her to keep calling but wow, how confusing.

  19. Cassie*

    Just thought I'd clarify some of my points (as others have commented)-

    Return receipts – I never use these. I'm not even entirely sure how to set it up. I'll come across one every so often, and my sister (at her work) has her email set up by default to send those requests. Is it typical? (Not for job applications, but just normal business).

    Checking voicemails – I hate checking voicemails, but I do. Now, it's a hassle so I might not do it first thing, but I do check regularly. Some people (ahem, like my boss) never ever check. At least our phones now have a little indicator light so we know when there is a message (on our old phones, you had to pick up the phone and listen to the ringtone – which meant you were more apt to forget to check).

    I think most of our phones are "blocked" or show the main switchboard line – so technically I don't know if someone would be able to tell that I (for example) called 5 times in a row.

    I'm not in HR, but I think emails would probably be easier (more convenient) – because you could just hit reply and type "no news yet" (or something a bit more nicer), instead of hanging up the phone, dialing the call back number, waiting for the person to pick up, just to tell them that there is no news yet.

  20. Anonymous*

    I have never commented on something like this before but this is one thing that drives me crazy! Yes, I can see your number coming up on my phone every 15 minutes. If I don't answer, I'm doing something and I will call you back – if you leave a message. If you call and get my voicemail right away, please don't call back 2 minutes later and 2 minutes later and 2 minutes later… because you think you can catch me when I hang up. Maybe I'm sending it to voicemail because I'm in an interview and my phone starting to ring every 2 minutes is highly distracting. I understand the frustration of jobseekers (I've been one), but sometimes I just don't have an update and I have no good reason for it except that the hiring manager is an idiot. Sometimes if you're the best candidate, I'd rather you think I am terrible at my job, if the alternative is that you realize your prospective boss is not capable of deciding what they want.

  21. Karen F. (The Resume Chick)*

    I know one client who said: "Well, it's really funny because I got a call from this well known financial services company about a branch office administrator position I had applied for through their corporate website. The recruiter asked me if I was interested in the position, and I said I was, but couldn't take her call at the moment because I was engaged with a client. She gave me a number and extension to call back, and honest to God, I called that number and left a message at least 5 different times on 5 different days (some of those calls were a week or 3 weeks apart)…with zero response. She never gave me an e-mail address and I even sought the help from someone in their recruiting desk. All they did was write up a ticket but no one ever called me back. What am I supposed to do then?"

    I thought I would shoot that question off to you for some insights. Thanks!

    Karen, The Resume Chick (on Google or Twitter if you need me)

  22. Anonymous*

    As a recruiter my best friend is voice mail. My target group is very busy and I know when I reach them on the phone I am interrupting something–making it more difficult to get their attention but not impossible. I would much rather leave a voice mail that allows me to get my entire message across and have it delivered when the recipient wishes, not when it was convenient for me. Following it up with an e-mail a day later that repeats the message is both a reminder and a clear contact trail. Ron Peterson

  23. Anonymous*

    What do you do in this situation? You have a phone interview with the hiring manager and he follows up the call the next day with a note giving you their contact info and they say "Talk to you next week." The next week goes by with no contact. I drop an email that Friday and ask how the process is going. Nothing but silence. What do assume at that point? Do you try to calling since they volunteered their phone number or do you let the silence speak for itself?

  24. Anonymous*

    Charles wrote:

    ***You see, fellow job seekers, we are a "waste of time." Calling to tell us that you haven't heard back from the client in a week is "nothing to tell."***

    I'm the anonymous he's referring to. For the record, I'm a grunt, not in a position of any kind of authority. It's not my job to do HR's job for them, even if I turned in the referral.

    This is why email is better. I can take thirty seconds to hit reply and write "Sorry, no news yet." A phone call isn't going to be that quick.

  25. Anonymous*

    From a candidates perspective I am sensitive to the fact that the recruiter is busy and is handling multiple job postings/candidates etc., but seriously how hard is it to type out a simple e-mail providing the status update, rejection etc.? I received an e-mail almost 2 weeks ago from a recruiter stating they were putting an offer together for me and I should receive something in be the beginning of next week. Well the beginning on next week has come and gone and its now the beginning of the following week and still nothing. I left 1 voicemail and 1 e-mail following up and still nothing. As a candidate I feel as though this shines a negative light on the company the recruiter works for and makes me rethink my interest.

  26. Business Voice Mail*

    Unfortunately, some phone system have call logs that can pick-up the information of call. So if you keep bugging them maybe they will screen your call or even blocking it.

  27. Elaine*

    Repeated phone calls in an attempt to make contact are not stalking or even harassment for that matter. Many courts have so held since there exists a legitimate reason for such calls. The fact that the called person doesn’t respond back makes it more acceptable for the caller to call again. Phone calls alone where the person hangs up when reaching voicemail do not fit into stalking statutes. There isn’t always a phone company records of all calls, such as local calls. Blocking does not always work against all phone numbers (even non toll free numbers), especially businesses. The caller can never know for sure if blocking was successful every time. Also, some callers hang up if a secretary asks who is calling.

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