awful advice: lie and cold call your way into a job!

A reader writes:

I wanted to know what you think of the advice in this blog post: 3 Steps To Network Your Way Into An Interview.

I find it weird that the writer basically advises cold-calling and calls it “networking.” Then there’s the other suggestion: “Call anyone the hiring authority has recommended.” Wouldn’t you find it creepy if someone you didn’t know called you to congratulate you on receiving a LinkedIn recommendation?

I’d love to know your thoughts, if you’d like to share them.

My thoughts can best be summed up as:  WTF?

Okay, here’s a longer version.

It is terrible advice to call some random person at the company you’re applying to — someone who has nothing to do with hiring for that position — and ask them to “personally refer me to HR.”  People don’t “personally refer” random strangers, particularly ones who resort to overly aggressive tactics like this.

(And note the author’s caveat that this might not work, “but at least you feel you have accomplished something by leaving a message.”  Seriously?)

And the advice to call anyone who the hiring manager has written a LinkedIn recommendation for?  I don’t even know where to begin with this one, so here’s his suggested script for this creepy, inappropriate call:

“John, I see you have been given a glowing recommendation by Mr. Hiring Authority’


“Congratulations! I understand he doesn’t share recommendations lightly, so you must have done a fantastic job with him.”

“Sure…what do you want?”

“I could use your help. I am very interested in working with Mr. Hiring Authority and see he currently needs someone with my skills. I am trying to get to him directly – have been caught up in HR before and wondered if you could help me out?”

The sentence “I understand he doesn’t share recommendations lightly, so you must have done a fantastic job with him” is possibly one of the most transparent, obsequious, ineffective, and obviously false sentences I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading. You don’t know that he doesn’t share recommendations lightly because you don’t know him at all. And the person you’re calling is going to quickly figure that out, because after all, that’s why you’re asking him to connect you.  And now you’re the crazy, lying, inappropriate guy who will never get an interview.

Terrible, terrible advice. And unfortunately, it epitomizes a certain breed of job search advice that’s out there — one that says that you need to become the stereotype of a bad salesman in order to get a job. If you’re applying for a job as a bad salesman, these might be exactly the right tactics for you — but otherwise, if you talk to anyone who recommends this kind of thing, slap them for me.

{ 20 comments… read them below }

  1. Jamie*

    Beyond creepy…and I can’t imaging anyone who would recommend me not being highly po’ed if I would put them in touch with boundary-less crazy people.

  2. Doug*

    I looked up his credentials. Apparently, he is an executive and CEO of a couple recruiting agencies. It sounds like he is speaking like a recruiter in that article, rather than a job seeker. In other words, recruiters can do things and get away with things that would send a regular job seeker’s resume in the shredder and that person’s name blacklisted.

    Allison, if I were you I would seriously send this guy an email letting him know how damaging his “advice” is. Glassdoor is a very popular site for job seekers, and I would hate to see people doing bad things thinking that they are the right things.

  3. Joey*

    Cmon, that crap is so ridiculous I’m surprised you wrote about it. And really I’d be surprised if the op actually considered following it. If you spent your time bashing every piece of stupid advice you come across you wouldn’t have time to do anything else. And you’d be giving it more attention than it deserves.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You would think that, but I periodically hear from people asking about this kind of thing (always from the perspective “do I really have to do this?”).

    2. kristina*

      Maybe the OP wouldn’t actually do it, but I got a call using exactly this tactic last week. It went to voicemail and when I listened to the message, I thought: “I’ll have to remember this guy’s name, so that if he gets called in for an interview, I can veto him for being socially inappropriate.”

  4. Anonymous*

    I instantly thought of the play “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” when I read the title on this post. Thanks for the laugh!

  5. Wige*

    Honestly, I have found the cold calling approach to be effective in only one particular case – staffing agencies. In my industry (I’m a programmer) most of the jobs are either contract or temp-to-hire where you have to go through a recruiting agency and interview with them before you can get to meet with anyone from the hiring company.
    In my case, I found that more than 90% of the jobs posted on job boards were through a specific staffing agency. One that I simply could not get anything more than a “not interested” every time I called them, without ever being able to submit a resume. Frustrated, I finally went to their corporate office in person, fooled my way through security, got to their floor, and managed to finagle my way into a sit down with one of their recruiters. It worked, they finally took my resume, and even had me in a new job in under a month.
    Granted, I seriously doubt an approach like that would have any success if I tried it with a hiring company, but with recruiting firms I think there is a bit of a difference and a more direct, almost in your face approach can sometimes be necessary.

  6. Anonymous*

    Thanks for posting this. I felt particularly discouraged during my first job hunt after college, due to some similarly bad advice. Our career center (which, btw, was not awful and provided a fair share of great information) also gave out some “bad advice” that basically recommended being too pushy/agressive/used-car-salesman-like. E.g. call when it says not to call, over-emphasizing the name to address the cover letter to, follow up and ask for an interview yourself, visit them in person to show how dedicated and excited you are.

    One time, after I had been at my first job for a few months, a classmate stopped by in person to drop off a resume, just in case we had an opening. I am so happy that I opened the door for him; some of my co-workers may not have been so polite to such a visit. My not-recent grad (early 30s) co-workers near by were completely weirded out by this and thought it was really rude that someone would show up unannounced.

  7. Anon*

    I just relocated to a large west-coast city and have found cold-calling to be surprisingly effective, though not in the ways mentioned by the article linked to by AAM. That seems ridiculously unprofessional, especially the reach-around on LinkedIn.

    Which makes me wonder if some clarification could be provided to jobseekers around cold-calling, since it keeps coming up in negative ways?

    Before moving here, people explicitly told me “Do not cold call anyone, ever, for any reason.” Yet in three cases it worked exceptionally well for me.

    In the first case, I called a well-known freelance grant writer in the area and explained who I was, my areas of expertise and whether they could use any extra help. Though they couldn’t use me, they directed me towards a large and well-established nonprofit, where (by using their agency as a introduction) I interviewed for a contract, temporary grant-writing position. Though I was not selected, the hiring manager went out of her way to tell me she was impressed with my background and asked if she could keep my contact info on hand to pass along.

    In the second and third cases I cold-called two different agencies in two different areas of my expertise/background and asked if they could use my skills. I was called in to interview and immediately placed with a client.

    I was flat-out shocked that this worked at all for me, since so many had gone out of their way to tell me NOT to do this. This has allowed me to cobble together a living while seeking full-time work.

  8. Nathan A.*

    Anything that comes off as forced is going to be creepy.

    Why is advice on trying a more genuine approach not promoted? It could be this simple:

    Find a trade show, forum, website, or group that meets regularly and shoot the breeze with these people. If you fit in, the people of those groups will naturally offer advice and help over time. It’s give and take.

  9. Chris Walker*

    If the only time you call people is when you want something from them, you are not a networker, you’re a leech. Networking is about relationships not contacts.

    Alison, glad you’re back from the sickbed.

  10. Kyle*

    I can see how the cold call is innapropirate. Is it ok to find out who the hiring manger (linkedin) for a position is and send my resume directly to them (before or after) applying for the position with HR. Or is that considered a no no these days.


  11. Anonymous*

    I think “cold calling” is a little different if you are moving or new to an area because whoever you cold call will know that you don’t have a network yet and will be more forgiving. It’s worked for me in the past, but that was before the days of the insidious online application systems. Who know now?

  12. Beth*

    Another way this could backfire on you is: if the person, whom you’ve cold called and gotten to recommend you to HR, has a bad reputation or poor performance in the company. Just today the HR coordinator that reports to me commented on an interviewee who is set to interview later this week. My employee stated “she sent an email to make certain that we were aware she knew Jane Doe who works for us.” I must have made a funny look because my staff member said “Yes, I know. I thought that too.”

  13. Anon*

    Cold calling can be effective if done right, not like how the article said. I would never ask someone to pass my resume onto HR. It makes no sense for someone to pass a strangers resume to them. That said i am a huge proponent of good cold calling esp bc its been effective for me. I’m in the oil&gas industry and I’ve cold called someone for an interview ( though I tailored my cover letter and resume very well as well) and got the interview. I also cold called another person and got a job that wasn’t even posted. I have pretty much been applying cold calling in lots of things I do now, from emailing random ppl in the company for technical advice, emailing random people who write university research reports and more. The thing I always do is quantify how much time or energy I want from them. And I say, I understand I don’t know you, but…

    And they all respond well. I think cold calling is effective, assuming you do it right.

  14. Margaret*

    Cold-calling a business trying to get a job is just dumb. I’m a librarian and a few months ago someone called about a position we were hiring for to tell my manager how much she wanted the job. My manager did not want to speak to her and asked me to take down her name so she could weed her out when they looked through the applications. I tried to tell her that everything was done through HR but she then proceeded to tell ME how much she wanted the job, not knowing that I had applied for it too and could in no way help her. She came off as crazy and naive, definitely inexperienced in how public libraries are run.

  15. JD*

    I was hoping to see advice on how to effectively cold call to build a network and get job offers. The only thing here is a bashing of cold calling. However, it seems to work well when it’s done well.

    Applying to posted positions isn’t working despite my MS degree and two years of intern/temp experience.

Comments are closed.