how to tell applicants “don’t call us, we’ll call you”

A reader writes:

I’m an HR Director for a manufacturing company. We see a lot of turnover, and I have an open job listing with the Employment Commission in our state. We take applications at our office, as well as a separate location in our city, but have pre-set days that prospective employees can drop off completed applications. Our employment ad states that we will not do interviews when people drop off their apps, and that we will not take any phone calls about job openings.

That being said, I still get a lot of phone calls every day from people just wanting to know the status of their application. We probably take in over 100 applications each month, so it’s just not reasonable for me to take or return these calls.

Would it be rude to include in my voicemail something to the effect of “If you are calling to check the status of an employment application, we do not give out status updates. If you are selected for an interview, you will be contacted directly by the manager hiring for that position”?  I just get tired of the constant interruptions.

Not rude at all. It’s actually helpful to provide that information. I’d make the language friendlier though, in recognition of the fact that these are people who are really anxious for the opportunity to work for you, and it doesn’t take much to make it a little warmer. I’d record a message like this: “If you’re calling to the status of your employment application, thank you so much for your interest in working with us. Unfortunately, because of the volume of applications we receive, we aren’t able to give status updates, but if you are invited for an interview, you will be contacted directly by the manager for that position.”

Even better, if you know that anyone you’re moving forward will be contacted within X weeks, change that last sentence to this:  “Unfortunately, because of the volume of applications we receive, we aren’t able to give status updates, but if you are invited for an interview, you will generally be contacted within X weeks of submitting your application.”

Also:  Send these people rejection notices. They are taking the trouble to apply — i.e., expressing interest in helping your company — and it takes only seconds to let someone know that you are no longer considering them.  100 applications a month is actually a very low number, so we’re talking about five minutes a month to make sure people know when they’re no longer in the running.

{ 26 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    I wish more companies would use application systems which alert candidates if they’ve advanced or are no longer under consideration. My current employer does this and it’s really nice just being able to check rather than having everything hidden.

    1. Anonymous*

      To be completely serious, there are application systems that have alerts? I’d really love to see those! But even if a company does have it, I’d hope they use it properly, if at all. The online application system my company has just says “application in progress” even after you have the job! It never changes once you hit the submit button!

      To the OP: Don’t be surprised if people still push through, ignoring your message. Some may just tune it out because all they hear is blah blah blah. Trust me, having worked in retail, it’s purely amazing what people don’t read or listen to.

      To AAM: Right on about the rejection notifications. While it’s polite in any economic status, it’s a definitely necessity in this day in age.

      1. Malissa*

        Yes there are! I ran into one of these a couple of weeks ago. Two automated emails thanking me for submitting an application. Then a third email saying thanks for applying but you don’t meet qualifications. –I was aware of this and had actually tried cancelling the application.
        Then there was a fourth email telling me that my resume is now under review. –Figure that one out!
        What ever happens I will remember this company as having the best applicant alert system.

        1. Anonymous*

          The fourth email could me someone else at the company found your resume and is looking at you for another opening. My company’s system does that.

        2. Kat*

          A couple of the big corporations do that here, and it’s so much appreciated. In fact, one company’s softwaredoes all that and THEN updates you periodically on jobs that could match your resume.


  2. Christy*

    I’d like to hear a message like that, warm or not. That way I don’t feel pressured to follow up or worry that other candidates are “showing me up” by checking in. Some companies do want you to call as it supposedly shows you want the job more. I never have as I can’t stand calling people who aren’t expecting a call from me. A have a bit of a phone phobia….

  3. Anonymous*

    This would be great! Although I agree with AAM, please send rejection notices. When I was applying for jobs it was frustrating because you could never tell if they were just taking a long time to get the process going or if you had been rejected.

    1. Anonymous*

      I had a phone interview with Zipcar’s corporate headquarters for an admin position. Not only did they not send a rejection notice, the phone call was 20 minutes late when the recruiter KNEW I had a 30-minute lunch and we had planned to do the phone interview during that time.

      Once the phone call came in that late, and the recruiter just sounded like she was reading her questions off of a list, I knew I didn’t want the job and didn’t really look for a rejection notice of any kind. I did, however, find it extremely unprofessional for the recruiter to be late in calling me when I was crystal clear about my scheduling constraints.

      End rant

  4. Joey*

    There are some unique challenges that come with a manufacturing environment and this is one of them. In my experience labor candidates make these kinds of follow up calls far more frequently than technical or professional candidates. One of the other big challenges (that I suspect the op also faces) is that labor candidates frequently don’t have email so it becomes more challenging to reject them. And there are a large number of maybes depending on your vacancies because let’s face it sometimes, especially for high turnover jobs you just need a warm body to show up and you don’t really care about much else (except whether or not they’re an ax murderer). In manufacturing you frequently don’t have the luxury of taking the time to find a great candidate or production doesn’t continue.

    That said I don’t think there’s a lot you can do besides acknowledge an app has been received and reassure people that there’s no need to call for updates.

  5. Anonymous*

    I used to be in the same boat. We get approximately 65-75 applications every month, and I am the one and only person in Personnel. I changed my outgiong voicemail message to ask applicants please not to call. I made sure I said it as politely as possible, and so far I have not had any complaints. I also changed our web site to say the same thing. I know some may think that comes across as harsh, but it’s the truth. If I am on the telephone all day there is no way I will get anything done, which, in turn, would frustrate applicants even more. I really wish I could give everyone one-on-one personal attention, but unless they get me some help I can’t.

    Every now and then someone will say “I know your message says not to call, but…………..”, and then proceed to ask, but since the phone isn’t ringing off the hook anymore I don’t get frustrated.

  6. Anon.*

    Would you recommend that a person leave this in their voicemail if they already have a ton of other information in it? I realize I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth but I was dealing with a recruiter recently who invited me for an interview but constantly let her phone calls go to voice mail and her message was easily 2-3 minutes long. It included this basic “don’t call us, we’ll call you” message, but it also had a long spiel for vendors listing who their actual vendor was and giving a web address. Then it included information on what to do in an emergency situation (she worked for a hospital), then more information for doctors if they were calling about specific applications.

    It’s probably stupid but it annoyed me to no end to have to sit there listening to that 3 minute message just to say “Hi! I’m still interested! I definitely would love to come in for an interview!” And then the logistics phone calls made it even worse because we were playing phone tag to lock down an interview date. I could probably repeat her message verbatim I heard it so much.

    I guess my real question is, how much is appropriate to say in a voicemail message? Mine currently just says who I am, my position and if it is urgent to please call my coworker. But there are obviously others who overload callers with information. What’s the happy medium?

    1. A Bug!*

      For long voicemail instructions, it can be considerate to start off with something like “Please listen for instructions and then press # if you still want to leave me a message”, where # is whatever key skips the message and goes straight to the voicemail. Most systems have such an ‘escape’ option, usually * or #.

      The problem that arises there is that you’ll get people who refuse to listen to the information as soon as they’re given the chance to opt out, and will leave you a message that would have been unnecessary if they’d listened a little longer.

      (As a general aside, on a lot of mobile carriers nowadays, the carrier adds a recorded message on top of whatever you personally record, so a caller has to wait a long time before leaving you a message. It’s a transparent effort to pad airtime. If your carrier does this, you can find out what your carrier’s ‘escape’ key is, and make your recording ‘You’ve reached so-and-so, please press # to leave me a message.’ )

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is a good point. Keep the info to a minimum. But as long as she doesn’t have other info in there too, this should work.

      This raise a question though: How are they getting your number? Would it be possible to head it off on the front end by having these calls directed to another number that’s used solely this this type of thing?

      1. Anon.*

        That was my question too! Why wouldn’t you want the line that your preferred candidates called to be a clean, consistent message that didn’t make them sift through information on vendors, emergency procedures and doctors questions? If you’ve called me to tell me you want to schedule an interview and to please call you back at your direct number, I’m obviously not a vendor, patient in need of emergency assistant or a doctor.

        Also, why are people who are in the middle of a medical emergency taking the time to dial 7 digit numbers to potentially even reach this recruiter’s voicemail? Shouldn’t the be dialing 911?

        1. Evan the College Student*

          I can answer that last question: Someone might not call 911 because he thinks his specific problem can be dealt with elsewhere. For instance, if he’s been seen by that particular doctor before about the same or a related condition, he might think she could deal with him a lot better than the 911 operator or an ambulance crew. And he’s probably right – the difficulty he doesn’t realize is that the specific doctor probably won’t be available right away.

  7. Anonymous*

    Thank you for adding that last bit about sending rejection notices! I have been looking for work in my field for nearly two years and have received less than 10 rejection letters out of the dozens and dozens of positions that I’ve applied to. It’s far better than waiting and wondering.

  8. Charles*

    Yes, include such info in your voice mail; but keep it short (as anon @2:24 said – it is annoying to listen to a LONG message before leaving your own).

    And, you know what? The reason job seekers are doing this (and not just in mfg) is because recruiters and hiring managers often don’t follow up.

    For the most part, it is employers that hold the power and have set the stage, so to speak, for how things are done in hiring. When so many employers do not follow up (resumes and letters just go into that black hole in cyberspace to never be seen or heard from again) a lot of job seekers feel the need to do more than just apply – and there is a lot of advice out there telling folks to do more, such as follow up with a phone call. (I’m not saying it is good advice, Just saying that it is out there)

  9. ThatHRGirl*

    I totally agree with sending applicants rejections and other such notifications, but I got the sense from the OP’s post that she is dealing with all paper applications, and not an applicant tracking system. I certainly have a love/hate relationship with my applicant tracking system, but it makes it very convenient to send these notifications.

  10. ChristineH*

    AAM – I’m curious what you think about job ads that have such blurbs as, “No phone calls” or “only those selected for an interview will be contacted”? It’s still a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” deal, but at least it heads off a lot of the follow-up calls the OP is talking about.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t know that I’d put it in the ad, but I’d definitely put it in an auto-reply after an application is submitted. (That assumes that most people are applying online, of course.) I think “no phone calls” is a fairly abrupt phrase, but I’d say something like “unfortunately we’re not able to take phone calls about your application status” or something.

  11. anon-2*

    I don’t know if people have short memories.

    There were postings on here about one (now demised) computer company, that ran their HR process like a three-ring circus.

    It seemed like the HR department derived amusement from toying with both applicants and hiring managers, sending people to interviews for jobs they didn’t apply for, and laughing about it all the time.

    I was telling my wife today that I ran out of that place holding my nose, and going home and taking a bath — and in a late night phone call, asked them to purge my resume from their files.

    And years later, people from that sorry firm were looking for work, and I was now at the door….

    DO WHAT EVERYONE SAYS … treat applicants with RESPECT, even if you won’t hire them. Reply with polite rejections. If someone isn’t being advanced in the process, then let him/her know. It’s the PROFESSIONAL thing to do. And if you don’t do it, it could come back to haunt YOU some day.

  12. Jaime*

    Would it be feasible to put this kind of thing on the application itself? A blurb at the beginning and/or end of a paper application could set the expectations for applicants and if you have a set time frame for responses, you could include that as well. I don’t know that I’d include a timeframe on a paper app though, unless it’s set in stone. Otherwise it could be a HUGE pain to keep track when it changes and make sure all of your paperwork reflects any changes.

  13. Anonymous*

    Please look at the situation from the applicant’s point of view. More than likely, these people really want/need this job. So they’re calling in to confirm that this application that they dropped off in a black box actually got to the hiring manager/recruiter that was supposed to get it. They have no way of knowing if the thing got lost, or mis-filed, or routed to the wrong person, or whatever; so their only recourse is to call you.

    My proposed solution is to use a preemptive strike. Why not spend 10 minutes every couple of days sending an email to everyone who has applied and letting them know that they’re under consideration and that they’ll be contacted in XX days if they are selected for an interview?

    This will meet their needs and save you the truble of having to answer umpteen phone calls.

  14. Anon*

    My voicemail says, “Hello, you have reached XXX, HR Manager for XXX. I’m sorry I can’t take your call at this time. Please leave a message and I will return your call as soon as possible. If you recently applied for a XXX position, and you are calling to check the status of your application, please be advised that your application will be considered active for thirty days. If, during that time, a position becomes available that matches your qualifications and availability, **I** will contact ***YOU***. Thank you.

  15. Anonymous*

    As an applicant, one thing I find particularly frustrating is ads that tell you not to call or otherwise make it impossible to contact them to follow up, that then do not give complete instructions or sufficient information. The more clear you are in your ad, the fewer people will feel the need to call you and, yes, it is a huge help to let folks know (through an automated system) that their application has been successfully received. On a related note, please, PLEASE take down the job ad once the job has been filled! Especially if you do not list a closing date!

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