is my parents’ advice destroying my job search?

A reader writes:

Since I came home from my first year of college in May, I’ve been looking for a new job to no success. I haven’t even gotten so far as to be interviewed, despite having been on a job hunt since May. Finally, in mid-July, I’m getting a glimmer of hope! The bakery department at the supermarket where I’ve been a part-time cashier/bagger for over two years now is seeking help. Not only would I enjoy working at the bakery, but I would receive more hours. I’m very hopeful that I will get this job, because I have always “exceeded expectations” in every performance review, and am overall a very good employee.

However, I worry that the advice my parents are giving me might screw up my chances of getting this job. My parents, who have both not had to worry about getting a job since the earlier 90s, tell me to visit the manager and check in on the application at least once a day, or call to check in on it. I feel like this would be very annoying for the manager, and I don’t want to come off as annoying.

Earlier this summer, I was applying to a coffee shop and took their advice. I went in every day, asked for the manager and explained who I was, that I had applied and that I just wanted to check in on the application. My parents even told me to call later in the day too, which I refused to do, thinking it would just be nagging. I apparently made an impact there, because the third time I came into the coffee shop, the head barista looked at me, sighed very loudly and said, “I’ll go get him.” Five minutes later, I was being interviewed by the manager… For one minute, literally. I was asked three questions, which were just to verify information on the application, and then told to stop calling them.

They never called back. (My parents still tell me to call them… I feel like it’s beating a dead horse at this point…)

I’m worried that the advice my parents are giving me is one of the reasons why I seem to struggle to get a job. They tell me that nothing has changed in the almost twenty years since they’ve gotten their jobs, and that what worked for them will work for me.

I really want to get this position in the bakery. What advice would you give me, or are my parents’ strategy correct?

Stop listening to your parents on any matter related to job searching (and maybe your career in general) right now.

Check on your application in person once a day? And then call too? And keep calling that coffee shop after they directly told you to stop calling and indirectly told you that you were being a pain in the ass? And nothing has changed in 20 years?

Frankly, I highly doubt that these tactics were effective 20 years ago since most people don’t want to work with people who are inappropriately aggressive and annoying. And moreover, plenty has changed about job-searching in the last 20 years. Conventions are different (see: objectives and one-page resumes, among many other things), the job market is different, and the Internet has changed everything.

Your parents are hereby barred from giving you any job search advice, and — more importantly — you are barred from listening to them. They are destroying your job search efforts.

Read the following:

Calling to follow up after applying for a job
(Note that in food service and retail, you can tone this advice down a bit. While for office jobs you shouldn’t call to follow up on your application more than once — and preferably not at all — in food service and retail you can do it a couple of times. But certainly not daily. Please also read Kerry Scott’s advice on this.)

Should you show up without an appointment?
Again, food service and retail are different and unscheduled visits aren’t seen as crazy there, but I want you to read this so that you’re armed against your parents’ advice if they tell you to do this when you’re applying for other jobs — where it absolutely will be seen as crazy.

When does persistence becoming stalking?
Read this.

Don’t stalk the hiring manager
And this.

10 outdated pieces of job advice
Consider  printing this out and handing it to your parents. Actually, don’t, because I don’t even want you engaging in a dialogue with them on this because there’s no point. Just ignore them and do your own research about how this stuff works today.

I’m sure your parents give good advice on some topics … but job searching is officially not one of them. The good news, though, is that your own instincts seem pretty sound. Trust your gut, and supplement it with a little online research (from good sources, not inexperienced/outdated ones), and you’ll do fine.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 39 comments… read them below }

  1. Savvy Working Gal*

    Great advice. I have had applicants talk their way past my company’s receptionist both in person and via the phone. I consider this an intrusive annoyance and a waste of my time. A face to face unscheduled meeting or phone call is not going to make a difference if the applicant is unqualified for the position. And if they are qualified I am most likely going to consider them a poor personality fit.

  2. Joanna Reichert*

    Oh dear. I sincerely hope she takes your advice to heart and only lends her parents her ears concerning cooking or car repairs or whatever avenue in which they actually have a clue. I didn’t know harassment was acceptable a few decades ago. ; )

  3. Jennifer*

    I love you.

    Honestly? I manage a restaurant, and while I wouldn’t be completely exasperated with someone who called once to check on their app…it just isn’t going to change anything. I get hundreds of them a month and we’ve never even advertised (in recent memory) for help. If every one of those people called me even once, I’d spend more time fielding the calls than doing my real job. There is just nothing useful I can tell you over the phone. I could possibly pull your app and confirm it didn’t get lost between the hostess and my office, but that’s it. There’s nothing useful I can tell you if you show up, either. Unless I’m calling you to schedule an interview, nothing is happening.

    I had one girl come in, thankfully during a really slow time, and basically admit that her father said she should always stop by so the place could meet her and see if they’d like to work with her. Every manager is different; I’m not saying that in some rare instance someone might get hired on the spot this way, just that most take hiring more seriously than just picking the first person who shows up. I look to see if your app is legible and well written (we’re actually not online with our applications yet), your availability, and your experience. If you get an interview, that’s when I see whether you’ll fit in with the group, and you wait (supervised) on one table so I can at least get an inkling of how well you’d handle customers. I couldn’t hire you on the spot if I wanted to–we have to do a background check.

    If someone keeps calling or ‘visiting,’ what that says to me is that that person considers his time more important than mine or the company’s. I have to worry because, once hired, will he follow procedure when he needs time off (fill out the request form as early as possible, accept it if I can’t approve it because others got there first), or will he tell me after the schedule’s in place for that week and then nag me until I drop everything to find someone else to cover? How about raises? Will she actually be the best she can be in order to qualify for one after a reasonable time, or will I just have to listen to her ask for one twice a week all year long? And the funny thing is, these are the people who would be most likely to complain if anyone else got something they wanted by being annoying instead of following the rules.

    I know it’s tempting to try to stand out, and it’s hard to tell the self-styled job-seeking experts in your life that they’re idiots (and even harder to convince them), but honestly, take the time you’d normally spend chasing managers and use it to apply at more places. Sadly, it is a numbers game right now, and the more apps you have out there, the more likely it is you’ll get called. Someday things will get better, but it will never be acceptable to be a nuisance.

    1. Dawn*

      I completely agree with all of this.

      I once had a person who called everyday to check on her application. Everyday. All it did was make me NOT want to answer my phone. I let all my calls go to voicemail. She then proceeded to call the main number in the office and start asking for me, as well as anyone else who might remotely be connected to the hiring process. It didn’t matter that I told her we were still in the process of receiving applications and had just started the hiring process. Did I interview this person eventually? Nope. If she won’t listen when I say I’ll get back to her when it’s time to start the interviews, then what will she be like to work with?

  4. Belle-Lettrist*

    My sympathies to both the letter write receiving outdated and inappropriate job-search advice as well as to those on the hiring side who must endure the annoying and time-consuming “visits” and phone check-ins about applications.

    I’ve gotten some fairly bad job search advice, particularly from older workers who don’t understand the role the Internet and social media play in job hunting and networking in 2011. In fact, I’ve been advised to erase my entire online profile, even for jobs requiring knowledge of Twitter, Facebook and blogging.

    It truly boggles my mind how frequently useless, contradictory and ultimately damaging career advice is dispensed to young, inexperienced and vulnerable job seekers. Sometimes you wish people would just confess to being out of the loop and encourage people looking for work to use all the tools — online and off– at their disposal to secure a position. And also to trust their own instincts.

    I hope more of AAM’s readers will post their stories from both sides of this scenario. We could all benefit from learning more about the real world outcomes of inaccurate and detrimental job-hunting advice.

  5. Jessica*

    Your need for a job is not their problem. These people have a job and it most likely entails more than just immediately calling back anyone who put in a resume. Interrupting their work is more likely to put you on their bad side. Stand out with an awesome cover letter and resume instead of being persistent and annoying.

  6. Jennifer*

    I’d like to add to the dissertation I posted above: You don’t have to be the absolute best candidate in my pile to get a call. Managers aren’t robots; little things can make a difference. One person’s well-written application could easily trump another’s experience, since everyone needs to be trained anyway. It’s only the cooks where I really care how long they’ve worked, since I can’t train someone to cook. I can’t even train myself to cook.

    So, someone reading the advice to be the best candidate might say, “I’m not the best candidate and I know it, but I know I could learn waitressing/bussing/cashiering, so shouldn’t I push to get in the door?” I get that. But it really is a bad idea to bug the manager, and if your application is neat and complete and you do a good job describing what you have done, even if it’s just babysitting or volunteering so far, someone will be impressed with that. I hire young kids, moms coming back to work, and other people with lack of experience or employment gaps all the time. I was that kid once. I might be that mom someday. This isn’t Chez Expensive in NYC where you need a degree in hospitality just to host. Just…please don’t call me when I’m doing payroll. :-P

    1. Naama*

      Thank you SO much for this. I’m in career services at a culinary school and I have been telling my students this for aaaaages…but now I get to quote you :)

      Seriously, a few (very few, thank goodness) of my new students who are career changes/former stay-at-home-parents/just-out-of-high-schoolers think there’s a magic way to get hired without experience. And there might be, but it’s describing your background in a relevant and professional way, not following up every day. Or, worse, stalking the kitchen manager on Facebook. Or, even worse, sitting on the doorstep of the restaurant every day. Every. Day. During service. Creeeeeeeepy.

      (We stopped those last two before they happened. Whew.)

  7. Henning Makholm*

    So, to those unfortunate hirers who have been on the receiving end of this, do you just drop the stalker from consideration silently, or does he get told what it was that did him in? Not for their sake, of course, but as a favor to the next hiring manager he applies to.

    1. GeekChic*

      When I hired I usually just dropped them from consideration. However, if it was a younger person or a person that seemed to be clueless about the effect they were having (as opposed to deliberately pushy and obnoxious) I would mention that not following instructions and interrupting my work (and that of my staff) cost them any chance at an interview – let alone the job itself.

      I have also said as much to several parents who were either pressuring their children to act obnoxious or who were following up themselves. The job seekers usually appreciated the feedback while the parents usually got belligerent.

    2. Anonymous*

      I just drop, too. I was hiring for an IT position once, and one guy drove me insane calling every day and showing up at my office even after I told him the position had been filled.

      Fortunately, the security guard took his crazy temperature the first time he showed up for an interview and told me later that there was something wrong with that guy, so when he showed up without an appointment, the guard told him I was out of the office without even wasting time checking with me. It was an absolutely true statement since the guard had seen me leave for lunch. If crazy guy got the impression it was going to be days before I would be back, that was his own delusional problem. I loved that security guard. He set aside a parking spot for me within his sight line for a few weeks after that until we were sure crazy guy had moved on.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree with GeekChic — if it’s someone young/inexperienced, I might explain to them what they’re doing wrong. Otherwise though, I just drop them from consideration.

    4. Dawn*

      I would, and have, dropped the person; however, if the person asked me I would tell them point blank, especially a young and/or inexperienced person.

    5. Natalie*

      I’m not the hiring manager, but I am their gatekeeper. The last time we were hiring, we had a couple of people who followed up way too often and I didn’t say anything to them. One was quite young, and the other was obviously someone changing fields who hadn’t been in the job market recently.

      Since then, I’ve been practicing my professional “please stop calling” discussion with sales people, so the next time we hire I may give it a shot on any annoying applicants.

  8. Betty*

    I absolutely agree with all of this, but on the other hand, for the bakery job, you already work for the company, so I do think it would be appropriate to approach the hiring manager for that position. Particularly if the application process for the position is very casual or basic, you may not even have gotten the chance to submit a cover letter, so I would stop by the bakery at some point to talk to the manager and just let her know how excited you are about the opportunity, and why you’d like to work there. After that though, definitely leave her alone until she contacts you.

  9. Melissa*

    Fabulous advice! What a great read this was today — thanks! I agree with everything. Only once in my life did I get interviewed and hired on the spot because I happened to “drop by” the office — it was a total fluke. Back in the days when you found job announcements in the paper, I spotted the announcement in the paper for the first time (on a Sunday), but knew that Monday was a holiday (MLK day) and there would be no mail delivered that day. But I also suspected that a small office like this one would be open on MLK day. So I updated my resume Sunday night and on Monday, when my hubby and I went out to lunch together, I asked him if he would swing by this office so I could run in and drop off the resume (and yes, they were open). The hiring guy just happened to be standing at the receptionist’s desk when I walked in. He opened the resume, scanned over it and asked if I could sit for an interview at that moment. I ran out to the car and told my hubby that I was going to need a few minutes. 45 minutes later, they hired me on the spot. It was crazy! But that almost never happens! And I would never “stalk” anyone who might possibly be my boss in the future!

  10. curious*

    Thanks for this Ms Green. My well meaning friends and relatives are always on at me to call after every application. And I smile and nod whilst thinking, Uhm, no, I am not going to call and check if it got there. I got an auto-reply, it got there. If I’m in the running, they’ll let me know, if I am not, I am not.

    If you’re biting your fingernails wondering if you’re going to get a call, channel your energy into writing another application/read some career advice/read your industry related press at the library/go for a walk/connect with people and let them know how you are doing and that you’re available.

  11. Annr*

    As someone who is so old they remember the 1990s I’d add that in parts of that decade there was a lot of hiring going on. When managers are hiring all the time they may respond better to unsolicited calls — they’ve got slots to fill and need warm bodies!

    With the considerably slower job market we have now that’s not the case. Employers are cautious. They all want to hire the perfect person who is referred by someone they know and trust.

    It sounds like you actually do have a job, it’s just not full-time. Tell your parents you’re darn lucky to have any job, citing other friends who’re at home watching TV all the time, and that you’ll handle things from there.

  12. OP leave balance*

    My dad had the same job from 1985 until his retirement a couple years ago. When I started looking for jobs last year, he said that whenever he needed to apply for jobs, he would get out an atlas, take a compass (the kind you use in geometry class), and draw a circle with a radius of 150 miles around the city where he really wanted to live. Then he would send out (identical) resumes and (nearly identical) cover letters to 200 companies with offices within that circle.
    Apparently this method worked back then, but it’s my brothers I go to for application advice now.

  13. The Retail Raptor*

    As a retail manager, I strongly, strongly, strongly recommend *against* calling more than once every two weeks. We are *BUSY*. Not only are we hiring and training new staff members, we also have an entire business to run. We have to do everything. And the last thing we want to have to deal with, on top of managing our people, taking care of customers, and making sure all of those little bits of everything are taken care of, is someone calling about their application for the eighth time.

    And it’s not just annoying to us, and it doesn’t just take over our extremely limited time, but it also communicates a sort of neediness and high-maintenance attitude, or a naivete about how the working world works, and someone that’s persistent to the point of violating social norms isn’t necessarily someone I’d want to hire. It makes me concerned about how you will either act towards coworkers, or how you’re going to be dealing with customers, so however stellar your application may be, and however sterling your references, I’d be much more inclined to look elsewhere.

  14. fposte*

    I think the OP should ask her parents if they can hire her. And then ask them again tomorrow. And then the next day. And then the day after that.

    (Okay, not really, because you have to get along with these people, but it’s funny that the parents who would have flipped at a repeated “Are we there yet?” are essentially suggesting their offspring do just that to a far sterner judge than they.)

  15. Anonymous*

    This sounds like my dad..
    I’m 33 and still get crazy unsolicited advice on occasion. Put your foot down, keep quiet about new opportunities and “do your thing”.. no need to get your parents involved. It’s hard to do at first but you will get the hang of it. My dad was giving my younger sister advice like this. After I stepped in she got a job in a week! Do your own research.

    fposte- LMAO

  16. Ray*

    Great advice!
    I was always told to “hound” employers, and I’ve seen it work both ways. A friend of mine was told specifically NOT to call the employer post-interview, but she did anyway and landed the job out of 30 people.
    My philosophy has always been to call to “see if they received my resume,” and the rest is up to them. If they feel I’m qualified for an interview, they will call. If not, I’m not going to press the issue.
    And post-interview, I go with the thank-you card.

  17. Pamela D'Luhy*

    I think my story beats this person’s. When I got out of college my parents who hadn’t applied to a job for pretty much their entire life and definitely hadn’t gone on any form of a job search in 30 years, decided I needed to, “Pound the Pavement.” This included dressing up in a skirt suit and visiting the reception of companies I was interested in with copies of my resume (no suggestion to tailor it of course) on high quality paper in a portfolio.

    I humored their tactic with temp agencies, but beyond that I refused. I wish more parents could realize advice is only helpful when solicited.

    1. Anonymous*

      “I wish more parents could realize advice is only helpful when solicited.”

      Solicited or not, bad advice is bad advice, even when their hearts are in the right place.

    2. Henning Makholm*

      “I wish more parents could realize advice is only helpful when solicited.” Unsolicited advice can be helpful, and advice you ask for can be dumb and destructive. There’s no connection there.

      Parents are allowed to give advice; so is anyone else that you choose to tell that you’re looking for a job. The crucial point is that you’re not obliged to take advice that doesn’t convince you, from parents or anyone else.

  18. Cruella*

    Nothing is more annoying (and time sapping) than fielding repeated calls from candidates!

    We now give our candidates specific instructions during interviews regarding follow up. Some think they are being proactive by trying to circumvent the process, when actually they are demonstrating that they can not follow simple directions.

    This turns a potential “yes” into an automatic “no” for me.

  19. anon-2*

    One thing missed in all this — do not confuse a follow-up, post-interview “thank you” note with acting like a pest.

  20. LJL*

    I think the OP is learning an important lesson about life. Your parents love you and want what’s best, but in the end they are not the judge of what is best for your career: you are. OP is learning early that a necessary life skill is listening to parents’ advice and learning when to take it to heart and when to say “thank you very much” and ignore their advice. They mean well, but as you progress in your chosen career, you will know much more about your field than they will. That includes taking career advice. Always consider their advice, but don’t take it as gospel truth and gut-check it with others. The trick is learning what’s good advice and what doesn’t work in today’s market and in your chosen field. Bravo to OP for learning this early.

  21. LJL*

    I have to say that I have found unsolicited advice to be quite helpful. the trick is knowing when to act on it and when to ignore it. (that goes for both solicited and unsolicited advice.) The simple fact that OP is asking Ask a Manager tells me that s/he is well on the way to learning this important lesson.

  22. Jessica*

    Before finding this blog, I followed a lot of crappy advice from outdated resume and cover letter books. That advice is nearly identical to what your parents have been telling you. I applied to a job and then emailed the head of the department to set up an interview (as the books had told me to). I receive a firm response back that basically said “don’t do this.” My field is pretty small, and I ran into this person while at a training session for my current job. It was very embarrassing, to say the least.

  23. Anonymous*

    I completely agree, AAM!

    I’m an HR generalist/recruiter in an industrial setting and generally hire $10/hr light manual labor positions, with the occasional salaried/professional opening.

    I get stalked coooonnnnnstantly! We use an online applicant tracking system, and I screen resumes/apps as they come in on a daily basis. After quickly reading through and looking for job stability (most important), relevant experience (not as important), and attention to detail/actual effort taken to fill out the app, I decide whether to place them in consideration and call them, or not.

    We get so many people calling our front desk, stopping by, or (my personal favorite) calling my direct line because their friend has been called for an interview and now they are passing my extension around to their buddies. I wish I could say something to the people who are doing that. Like the manager of the restaurant said, if I fielded calls all day (or even listened to voicemails) from these folks I would never get anything done.

    I have the general sense that people feel entitled to an interview (especially in our economic situation, with people applying to these jobs that feel “overqualified”), or maybe it’s just the notion that online tracking systems don’t actually put your application in front of someone’s face (I assure you, they do).

    They also don’t realize that I have caller ID which often times even tells me your full name, and I can see when you call me 4 times in 5 minutes, or you call me at 1:32am on a Sunday (WTF??)

    Usually if I do answer the call, I will pull up their app and give them feedback on why I initially passed on them (incomplete application, unstable job history, etc.). If they can give me any sign of hope as to their employability, I will let them edit their app and come in for an interview. But NOT if they stalk uncontrollably.

    I do agree with the poster that mentioned that in the OP’s current situation, an internal position with an (assumedly) casual setting & application process, she should definitely consider approaching the hiring manager and just express interest, get a preview of what the job would be like, etc. but that’s IT.

  24. Tasha*

    Hello-I have been applying for jobs using the company’s website and also mailing my customized cover letter and resume to the supervisor of the position (if I’m able to find out who that person is). Is this ok or does it come off as bothersome to the supervisor? In my cover letter, I end by telling them I’d like to interview and ask them to contact me if they’d like to schedule one. I don’t say that I’ll follow up on a certain date. As advised in the Alison’s e-book, I don’t usually follow up because I have found that it does not work for me. Thanks.

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