rejected because I reached out directly to the hiring manager

A reader writes:

I found a job online that looked like it was with a company I worked with before. The recruiter confirmed this.

I asked the recruiter to send in my resume. I also asked if he could give me the name of the hiring manager. He did so.

I sent the hiring manager a note, asking her what I could do to help convince her that I’m a great candidate for this job.

I got a note from the recruiter to say: “<Company> is passing. Regardless of your having worked there before, reaching out directly to the managers is NEVER good. Please keep this in mind for future reference … I should have been more clear when I gave you the name. I thought you just wanted to see if it was someone you knew. Didn’t think you’d be contacting them. That’s pretty much immediate disqualification with <Company> and most clients for that matter.”

I’m dumbfounded.

Why would reaching out to the manager be “NEVER good”? I thought it was always good if you knew them.

Well, there are companies that use recruiters specifically because they want to minimize interaction with potential candidates before they’ve been screened. But reaching out to a company you used to work with is different, so I don’t know what this recruiter’s problem is.

I suppose if it’s a huge company with thousands of former employees, and you’d had no previous contact with the hiring manager, that might cancel out the “former employee” exception that you’d normally have … but your recruiter’s take on this is so ridiculously rigid that I doubt it.

One thing I’ll say, though, is that when you reached out to the hiring manager, you did give her a hard sell (“asking her what I could do to help convince her that I’m a great candidate for this job”), which most hiring managers hate and which isn’t the same as “Hey, not sure if you remember me, but I used to work in Accounting and would love to re-join you guys. I’ll be applying though regular channels, but just wanted to give you a heads-up.” (Which is what I would have recommended.)

So it’s possible that the hiring manager was reacting to the hard sell rather than the contact itself. Always avoid the hard sell.*

* Unless you are in fact in sales.

{ 82 comments… read them below }

  1. Karen*

    This seems like it falls in the same category as calling to follow up on sending a resume. Pushy and redundant, even if well-intentioned.

  2. Indie_Rachael*

    Large companies have a very formal bureaucracy and want everything to go through the correct channels. Example: I was in the process of getting hired on at a company and the department VP had to have HR set up a phone interview with me just so he could discuss some new details with me, but he couldn’t just call me himself to discuss it. The HR rep sent me a very formal email, informing me that I was scheduled for an hour-long interview. The reality was a 7-minute conversation where the VP said they were very impressed with me and wanted to know if I’d be interested in expanding the scope of my duties to make better use of my skills. All that nervousness and preparation on my part for what was really the company trying to convince me to take the job. :-)

    1. Indie_Rachael*

      My point being, I thought they were doing more interviews to further narrow a broader field, but they’d already settled on me and just wanted more feedback and this was how they had to go about it.

      It’s unfortunate that the recruiter didn’t foresee this possibility and warn OP, but then I would never have contacted anyone in that manner myself either. Live and learn, OP — don’t go outside the official chain of communication. Sorry you had to learn the hard way.

      1. Harlow*

        I don’t like sarcasm at all. I feel it is very aggressive. However, the first thing that came to mind in reading Indie_Rachael’s post about never going outside the chain of command in pursuit of a job was, “Yeah, take Indie_Rachael’s advise and blend in like sheep. That is always what I want when I hire people! NOT! I want someone driven enough to go the extra mile, jump out of the norm, stand out, not stay in the “official chain of communication.” The only way this advise is applicable is in IT or the military. No top producer, creative problem solver, or passionate leader EVER submitted their application online, hoped a human randomly picked their resume out and was impressed or prayed a computer would match enough key words to select them for a phone interview. No thank you. As the VP of Sales and Operations for a large national retailer, I can tell you to NOT listen to Indie_Rachael. Do whatever you can to speak with someone. Call daily. Leave a message “promising” to call tomorrow at X:XX if you don’t hear from them, then follow through. See if you have any friends of friends that know someone that can get your info looked at. Be original. Stand out. That’s business in America. Always has been, always will be!

  3. Carl*

    Something here bothers the living daylights out of me. It used to be that people welcomed initiative, someone who actually showed they _wanted_ to work for company ABC. Now, it’s, “Shut up and let us tell you if we want you to work for us.” What the hell happened? I know, it’s technology; so easy for people to send in a resume it’s like no effort at all, so almost anyone applies thinking they’ll get their “dream job,” one they aren’t technically qualified for.

    So, when I read about this type of stuff, I see two things.

    1) It’s not unprofessional to contact the hiring manager; it can be bothersome to them, though, as they are usually busy. Maybe next time call the front desk and ask them to pass along a note — they’re more likely to know the manager’s schedule, and it does send things through the proper channels.

    2) Recruiters tick me off the most. Their sole interest is their customer, not the employee; I know this from experience that my previous staffing agency decided to tell me, “Just do what they want,” when I told them the company was violating their contract. (Supposedly, the contract was re-written without my knowledge, another shady tactic I despise recruiters for.) She likely told you it was a bad thing because _she_ was communicating with the hiring manager, and that’s her turf. Considering she might be your boss, this would be overreaching your professional position.

    Still, I despise that people seem to think people with initiative, and who are qualified for work, are somehow pushy, and that being pushy is always a terrible, horrible, fire-and-brimstone kind of thing. It’s not. If I were hiring someone, I’d likely pick the person most willing to do the job. The saying is: persistence trumps talent.

    1. Indie_Rachael*

      I think right now there are so many applicants for every job that hiring managers could quickly be overwhelmed by the flood of initiative, so many companies have built a buffer zone (HR or the online application process or what have you). If you have a great resume/cover letter you can stand out without bothering the hiring manager in the process.

      But man, if they’re going to change the rules it sure would be nice if they’d let everyone know first.

      1. Carl*

        I ended up designing a physical product they later had patented, and this was the main thing that threw up a flag to me. I should’ve never worked for that company afterward, and wrote a formal letter about it; but I was young, needed the money, all that jazz.

    2. just another hiring manager...*

      persistence trumps talent? Willing to do the job and QUALIFIED to do the job are two different things. I want to hire the best available candidate who can meet my company’s needs, not the pushiest.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I’ve never heard that saying either and certainly wouldn’t agree with it! Passion is nice, but ability to do the job is what matters most. (And passion/persistence can cross the line into annoying, as well.)

      2. Carl*

        I suppose the person who invented the wheel had the qualifications to invent the wheel. Had he given up, I don’t know where we would be.

        The saying is that, yes, talent and skill are helpful, but people can learn to do something they haven’t done before by learning as they go along. Mistakes? Sure, but they can be great mistakes. Newton sat under a tree, not to discover gravity, but it worked. However, keep going, and learning, you’ll get there, and it will be more embedded in your faith and skill.

        Sadly, employers want to assume you have to have done something before in order to be able to do it. If that were true, then nobody would have ever been a farmer, agriculture wouldn’t exist, and we’d all be hunting/gathering still.

        You can be the most talented person in the world, but if you give up, or just don’t push yourself to keep on keepin’ on, you’ll never get the job done.

        Sure, there’s a line that can be crossed to annoying, but someone that shows me they’re willing to do the job will likely be happier at the job, more willing to learn as they go, and that makes for a far better employee. I know this, because I’ve been on the opposite end a long time; I have a lot of skill, and at times little persistence with those things. However, it seems that when I persist in learning something by doing (and making mistakes) I get better at it, and feel a greater sense of pride in the process.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Most employers aren’t looking for Newton or inventing agriculture. They’re looking for people with a track record of doing what they need someone to do, because that’s what they need someone to do. And when those people are available, hiring them makes more sense than hiring someone untested.

          Persistance matters. But it can’t be the main thing you bring to the table.

          1. Leah*

            i definitely agree! I am looking for a tried & tested employee who can complete the tasks i put in front of them. I am willing to train but it is always easier for me to select someone with some sort of background in the business I’m in or the skills needed to succeed in it.

            1. Harlow*

              With all due respect, I’m sure you deserve, if you are looking for a “tried & tested employee who can complete the tasks i put in front of them” you must be looking for an administrative assistant. Why would you not invest a little time to find out if someone with initiative and creativity could elevate the position you are looking for even higher than you thought? But given you are looking for someone to “complete the tasks i put in front of them,” you very likely would never listen to someone you feel is beneth you, thus, creativity wasted. Yeah, Leah, you need a robot. I want creativity, passion, persistence, someone that can develop a unique thought and, just maybe, contribute to the team more than just doing MY BIDDING. Good luck with your dictatorial leadership style. Doesn’t sound like a place too many talented people would want to be.

        2. Kimber*

          Carl, I absolutely agree with you! And I love what you wrote about learning new things, so true. I have always said, I can’t gain the skills if someone is not willing to give me a chance to gain the skills. We are not born with skills we are born with talent! It is our talent and abilities that gain us skills. And I wish people (particularly managers and hiring managers) would see that. Sometimes hiring someone with the least experience but most passion, does a better job than the person with the most expereince but has the least passion.

          I personally am on both ends, I am currently in the process of applying for positions, that I know I am qualified for, and if by me calling to say “hey, I am interested in working for you and would love to sit face to face with you to discuss my qualifications” is annoying and or comes across as pushy and loses me the opportunity, than maybe that isn’t the company for me, because if on the job I had an idea I would be pushed aside and told to just do my job! On the other end of that I also own my own business and if someone applied for a position and they called to follow up, I would most definately give them a chance to interview because they have now shown me initiative that they care to be at my company and not just randomly sending out resumes just hoping to get a JOB that if something better came along they would jump ship and go to, rather than a career at my company that they are passioante about, which is why so many companies have such high turn over. I am very selective with whom I want to work with, and if it is a company that, through my research and the grapevine, that I know I would love to work for, you better believe that I am going to follow up and make sure I get in front of the hiring manager!

          It is time we put the RELATIONSHIP back in the hiring and management process. I think we would have a far more productive workforce and people with talent and a willingness to go the distance wouldn’t drop off managements radar and left behind.

      3. Vicki*

        I’m both willing and qualified.
        When I asked “what else can I do to convince you” I offered references from others within the company, people that both the hiring manager and I know.

        I (perhaps mistakenly) thought that a personal connection between myself and the hiring manager allowed some flexibility to the “hard sell”, i.e. my resume is already in the system, is there anything else I can supply that will help…

        I agree that my wording could seem pushy to someone who had never met me, but this was someone who had seen my name and my work on and off for the past 5 years in a slightly different capacity than the one I was applying for.

        So difficult to find the line between meek mouse and hard sell, between “let the resume speak for itself” and “get out there and be assertive” Especially beginning month 10 of an out-of-work job search.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think with someone you know, it’s even more important to soft-pedal it, because they do know you already and they’re going to feel awkward if they feel like you’re pushing yourself on them.

      4. Rachel*

        With all due respect, if I had a company I would be more interested in hiring people who are passionate about their work. Yes, they have to be qualified to actually ‘do’ the job, but if I had to pick between a slightly under-qualified candidate with passion and drive vs. a qualified or over-qualified candidate with little passion or drive? I would pick the one who has potential. Who has something to prove. Who’s looking for a career, not just a job.

        I have met many people who are ‘qualified’ to do their jobs and lack passion. The result? They may be qualified, even overly so, but they don’t push. They don’t work has hard as they can. In fact, they tend to fall into a limbo of producing the bare minimum. Don’t get me wrong, they certainly get the job done. But I want someone who will do more than the bare minimum of ‘getting the job done’. I want someone who will go above and beyond.

    3. Vicki*

      I used email. I never call anyone because I of the schedule thing. But email is non-interruptive. And I had her address in my address book. We’ve communicated before this. It wasn’t a “who the hell is that? out-of-the-blue message in her In box”. My From adress should have been recognizable.

      Re; recruiters. Me too. They are a necessary evil, especially for “contract” jobs which are never posted on Company websites as far as I can tell. But each one I interact with makes me twitchy in some new way.

  4. kristinyc*

    Or maybe the recruiter was worrying that you were trying to go behind his/her back (so that there wouldn’t be a commission), and when the recruiter found out about it, said something bad about you to the hiring manager?

          1. Anonymous*

            Me. It may not just be the recruiter concerned. My understanding is that companies will drop candidates like hot potatoes if they apply through multiple channels. The last thing a company wants is a legal fight over who should be paid a commission.

            If you’re going through a recruiter, go through the recruiter.

            If you’re apply directly, go for that.

            Don’t mix the two.

            1. Anon*

              And if you CAN go direct to a company, versus through a recruiter, you may find yourself with a better compensation package. Recruiter-candidates cost employers more because of the fees. Direct candidates often get the benefit of those funds in compensation. (in a similar situation as the OP, on the hiring side – a hire worked with people at my company, but placed through a recruiter. Would have been better for her if she’d just sent over a resume directly to her contacts).

    1. Hari*

      Agreed as well. I work with a recruiter and was told even for future jobs, up until a year, to go through them rather than the regular channels. Something I’m usually happy to do since being with a recruiter I’ve never had to go through the screening phone interviews and straight to in-person ones.

      However, if that’s not the case I probably think it was either the hiring manger did not know OP (but it seems to me that they probably did if OP had their email, although it just says “note” and hopefully it was an email and not a note via Linked-In) or it was the nature of the note itself coming off as too pushy.

      1. Vicki*

        The hiring manager knows me.

        In my note, I made it very clear that the resume had been submitted by a recruiter, and which one. I was very above board.

        If the recruiter was worried about me “going around” that recruiter is paranoid.

        This (the “going around the recruiter” idea0 Is logical, but I fear the actual reason for the recruiter jumping down my throat is less logical.

        1. Harlow*

          I know you posted this 2 years ago, but I feel it’s important to share with whomever may read this…that “recruiter” was likely protecting some contractual wording that stated if a former employee was hired, the commission was lowered or cut all together. Make no mistake “recruiters, headhunters, executive placement professionals, etc” do not work for candidates. Even good ones do not often really look out for the best interest of the company by providing the most dynamic and talented candidate. Recruiters work for themselves and their own firms! They are only going to provide a client what they feel is safe in the way the client will look at them. Example, I was attempting to utilize an executive search firm to hire a Director of Sales and Marketing. We went through all of the “ideal characteristics” and “experience” our team felt would be good for the role. After being underwhelmed by the charisma and personality of the candidates presented, our receptionist informed me I had received a personally delivered envelope with my name hand written on it, I opened it figuring it could potentially be from a friend or acquaintance. FORTUNATELY, IT WAS NOT. Someone that had attempted to go through the “recruiter” but did not get through because the industry they had been in was somewhat different, yet in looking at the information provided, I felt maybe close enough. I placed the information on the corner of my desk and went on to a meeting. Upon returning that afternoon, I received a call from the applicant who provided the info. He was extremely charismatic over the phone and I felt like I owed it to myself and the company to meet him in person. Really, what is 45 min – 1 hr of my time versus tens of thousands lost in hiring the wrong person? Longer story short…I hired him and he his Region has produced 20% YOY growth the past 3 years and his employees love him (8% annual employee turnover). This candidate could have been presented 2 weeks earlier (and $35k commission received) if the recruiter had only thought, and asked me to think, outside the box. But their desire to only provide the exact description of what I stated prior held them back from presenting me with a passionate leader with incredible mentoring skills. Sure, I wanted candidates that fit my perfect description, but only an idiot would believe that they always know what is best. An open mind and heart is the way to success in business and life.

      2. mh_76*

        If you have worked for Chocolate Teapot Mfg. Co. through Acme Recruiter, that would be the case: only go through the recruiter for the next year (or 6 mos for some agencies…best to confirm). However, if you have -not- worked for a company through a recruiter, that is not the case at all and you can apply however you wish, so long as you don’t apply for the same job through more than one channel. Recruiters who tell you otherwise aren’t worth your time. My last through-a-recruiter position was at a company that I’d applied to in the past via their “Black Hole” system to no avail and, if I recall correctly, another recruiter had put me in for a position that didn’t pan out. A recruiter/agency doesn’t “own” you until you’ve actually worked through them and then only for a year or so.

  5. EJ*

    I’m willing to bet that the recruiter was not supposed to divulge the name of the hiring manager, and got in trouble – then transfered that frustration to the OP.

    The recruiter also may have felt like the OP was trying to go around them by contacting the company directly?

    1. NewReader*

      I think you are right, EJ.

      Waaaay too much reaction from recruiter. I bet that recruiter got reamed for something.
      I had a boss who was fond of saying “stuff rolls downhill.”

      If the recruiter wanted to prevent that situation, s/he should have said so on the first meeting with OP. “This is our SOP- do not contact hiring managers.”
      Pretty simple.

    2. V*

      Oooooh, that seems likely.

      “I thought you just wanted to see if it was someone you knew. Didn’t think you’d be contacting them.”

      Kind of sounds like the recruiter was on the defensive.

  6. Doug*

    I agree with Alison. I think the recruiter reacted way too strongly in the negative towards the applicant’s note to the Hiring Manager. Perhaps the recruiter either got explicit instructions not to forward any names to applicants or he feared he was going to lose commission.

    On the other hands, the applicant should not have delivered the hard sell. That note sounded way too pushy and would put any hiring manager in a bad spot. For some applicants, there is nothing that can be done if the other candidates have more experience or better qualifications (unless they fail the drug test.) It would have been better if the note was written to simply inform the hiring manager that the applicant was looking into getting another position at that company.

  7. Charlotte*

    Recruiters have it beaten into their heads to control the process. In these circumstances, I’d say the recruiter overreacted.

  8. Revanche*

    Agreed with Alison that there are two different things going on here and as a hiring manager, I would be annoyed about the hard sell, not the fact that I was contacted, specifically.

    With the latter case, I would have been distracted by the extra draw on my time in having to redirect the person back to the recruiter if I didn’t have time to talk to the candidate at that stage because they might not have progressed to that point of screening and in our case, I would also have an obligation to check and see if they needed that screening etc. But I wouldn’t reject them on that basis alone. The candidate would have had to be insufferably rude in the hard sell or something like that. But I didn’t see that in the OP’s letter.

    If they were already screened to the point that I would have been talking to them anyway, then fine, I’d deal with that. But the point stands that the hard sell wouldn’t have been endearing. :)

    The comments above indicate a move toward an incredibly bureaucratic sensibility in hiring and in some places, I have seen the same when I was interviewing as well.

    In our place of hire, that’s something I hate seeing and fight against but you can see it developing where it’s a power struggle between HR, the recruiter and the hiring manager.

    I insist on being kept in the loop because HR has begun to try to control more of the process than is appropriate, and if a candidate feels the need to reach me directly when the process has gone slightly haywire or complicated, then by all means, call or email me directly! There’s absolutely no reason that every single dratted thing must go through the recruiter or HR who don’t know the job intimately like the hiring manager. And if a conversation directly with the hiring manager is what it takes to clarifies matters and leads directly to the hire, then just get it done. As far as I’m concerned, it shouldn’t lead to the recruiter losing a commission, everyone did some part of a job to get the most suitable hire in the door. File this under Things I am Exasperated By.

  9. ChristineH*

    I also concur with Alison’s answer.

    As an aside – Alison, the script that you suggested the OP could have used would’ve helped me when I recently applied for a position at my university’s school of social work. I know the hiring manager from one of my internships and recently connected with him on LinkedIn. I was going to give him a heads up that I was applying but wasn’t sure what to say so I decided against it.

  10. mh_76*

    There is a lot of job-search advice out there that says that applicants should reach out to the hiring managers directly, either via LinkedIn or other professional avenues (not FB, Twitter is debatable). I’m skeptical about that advice…especially in light of this post (but even before).

  11. Vicki*

    OP here.
    It’s not just that I used to work for the company. I actually know that hiring manager. I never worked with her directly, but we had had email conversations, I worked with some of her team members directly, I was in some meetings with her. I had her email address in my address book (didn’t come in blind through LinkedIn or anything). So, I thought we had a relationship.

    In fact, she was one of the managers I contacted back last Fall when I was reorged into a “wrong” team and was looking around for ways to stay with the company then.

    So, while I get what your saying about the “hard sell” I just didn’t think it applied when you already had a (albeit not terribly close) relationship with the manager.

    re: “going around the recruiter”, that’s the suggestion many people have given me. But I was very up-front with the hiring manager that I was being represented by the recruiter… and HM had to tell R about the contact (because I didn’t).

    The cynical low-self-esteem inner critic in my head is lamenting that the hiring manager just didn’t like me for some reason “back then”.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm. The hard sell is actually even more uncomfortable when it’s coming from someone you know, so I can see how this might have created awkwardness, even though inadvertently.

  12. David Lowe*

    Regardless how we feel about the HR and recruitment practices these days, there is a proper protocol to follow when it comes to working with external recruiters. When the candidate hands over the resume to the recruiter and gives him the permission to share the resume with his client company, the recruiter is now representing the candidate. Communication after this point should be coordinated with the recruiter as a professional courtesy. If the candidate wants to reach out to the employer directly, it should be done so with the recruiter’s knowledge and permission, out of the respect for the recruiter’s place in this process.

    In this case, whether the employer or the recruiter over-reacted, we will probably never know. Doing something without the recruiter’s knowledge when he is representing you, the candidate, is just taking on way too much risk that can be easily avoided.

    1. Vicki*

      > Communication after this point should be coordinated with the recruiter as a professional courtesy.

      Please keep in mind that I asked the recruited “Can you give me the name of the hiring manager” and he did give me that name, with no strings attached (with an unwritten assumption that I wouldn’t use it). She was someone I knew. Her address was already in my address book. I had had email interactions with her before.

      > If the candidate wants to reach out to the employer directly, it should be done so with the recruiter’s knowledge and permission,

      He gave me her name. That, to me, provided tacet knowledge and permission. The recruiter wants to claim ignorance of what I was going to do with that name… well, I won’t be working with that recruiter again.

      1. Hari*

        >He gave me her name. That, to me, provided tacet knowledge and permission. The recruiter wants to claim ignorance of what I was going to do with that name… well, I won’t be working with that recruiter again.

        It’s very common that when applying for a position the recruiter will give you the name of the HR Manager, your potential boss, or any other information about team members, etc. they have. It’s not so you can reach out to them, it so you can google them or look them up on Linked-In as well so you will know their background or any other nuances about them you could pick up that could help you during your interviews. This holds true even when you don’t go through a recruiter and you are dealing with HR directly.

        I don’t think its fair to assume you had permission just because you asked for the name. Especially since recruiters, if not only for professional reasons, always stress not to make direct contact with the company of interest. Did you tell the recruiter you knew the HR manager? Not that it would matter extremely but if I were the recruiter and I knew this I would have probably mentioned the obvious again of no direct contact. I think your situation is extra tricky too since you were employed by them in the past and a case could be made, especially because of your direct contact, them not getting paid.

        Most likely though, and I’m not saying this to be rude, but due to your responses here of being a bit overly defensive, I think it was a mix of things but probably had more to do with the “hard sell” nature of your email (like others seem to think). You, although unintentionally, most likely came off a little too entitled or pushy. The hiring manager probably felt awkward (as they were most likely going to put you through the regular process but now your email is like asking for special consideration), the recruiter probably felt like their toes got stepped on, and to not have to deal with the situation (or the possibility of not paying the recruiter) they just decided to cut losses when it came to your app. Now I’m not saying they were in the right and what happened wasn’t crappy, but you did take a chance emailing the hiring manager when you were working with a recruiter. Normal rules of job hunting tend not to apply as much when a recruiter is involved, both pros and cons.

        I really think this is a lesson learned, be more cautious/vocal about future intentions and move on situation.

        1. Zed*

          “It’s not so you can reach out to them, it so you can google them or look them up on Linked-In as well so you will know their background or any other nuances about them you could pick up that could help you during your interviews.”

          Yes! My understanding is that it is also fairly common to ask the name of the hiring manager so that you can properly address your cover letter and other application materials.

          1. Vicki*

            > so you can google them or look them up on Linked-In as well so you will know their background or any other nuances about them

            People do that?!
            Wouldn’t that sort of research make it easier to do a “hard sell” at the interview? (Not trying to be snippy here; I honestly don’t understand “hard sell” vs promoting yourself and honestly think that researching the hiring team this way would be… creepy.)

            > so that you can properly address your cover letter

            This was way too late for that. The cover letter went to the recruiter, remember.

            1. Hari*

              No, no. It would be super forward and kind of creepy if you were to list off stuff you found about them online, however you can use that information to get an impression of them. I’ll give you a couple examples:

              #1, they used to work for “Company A” but now work for the company you are interviewing for, “Company B.” You knowing their previous involvement with “Company A” could come as an advantage if you also researched that company and knew their previous role (as you are often asked about industry competitors in interviews and it could spark conversation that could lead them thinking of you as extra insightful).

              #2 You find their facebook, personal blog, linkedin, they have an interest in “X”, you also have an interest in “X” (or you don’t but you sure as hell research and learn enough to pass a brief questioning about it). If brought up nonchalantly in interview your interest in “X” they have automatically, at least subconsciously made special note of you. It might not be enough notice if someone else is more qualified but if it comes down to you and someone else, both equally qualified, then they are going to want to hire the person they could relate to more.

              #3 Anything personal you find could give you insight into this person’s personality and how to approach conversation with them during an interview. What does their online presence, if any, tell you about them?

              I’m not saying to straight up stalk them. Or be obvious in the interview that you did and mention something that would give you away. However, most employers these days do a social network scan of employees so its not scandalous for us wanting to do the same.

              1. Jamie*

                2 You find their facebook, personal blog, linkedin, they have an interest in “X”, you also have an interest in “X” (or you don’t but you sure as hell research and learn enough to pass a brief questioning about it).

                To me that is creepy. If I had a Facebook it would likely have several hundred Van Halen references – because I’m secretly still a 12 year old girl. Researching them before an interview with me so you can drop a reference into conservation Definately crosses the line into creepy.

                1. Hari*

                  LOL. That’s why I said “don’t be obvious”. Often employers (those who care about culture and employees on a more personal level) will ask about your interests. If I knew you liked Van Halen I wouldn’t drop a direct reference to let you know I saw your facebook. Instead, if you asked my interests I would mention that I am an avid music lover and I love 80s hard rock bands like, AC/DC, Def Leppard and especially Van Halen.

              2. Life Is Weird*

                It pays to be careful with assuming that someone’s online presence says about them. Looking up their specific role on LinkedIn-maybe, so if you get an interview you have titles/names straight, although if working with a recruiter they will make sure you know this anyway.

                You also can’t be sure that ‘who’ you find by a name through a Ggogle search (or in Facebook) is the same person as the hiring manager. Multiple results for any name is common and if a Facebook account is used for personal use only it may not look anything like the professional LinkedIn information. I would stay clear of using any social network that isn’t focussed for professional use and even whenprofessional use, be really, really sure you have the right person before you start name dropping, or hint dropping. Hiring managers are impressed when you take the time to do real research about the company but many will find researching them (especially on Facebook) a little on the ick side. Unless you are applying for work in a business that uses Facebook for business purposes, AND includes a lot of information about the management team (which is usually pretty standard stuff) leave it out of your interview plans. If the hiring manager wants to share personal details with you let em do it face to face and on their own initiative.

        2. Vicki*

          > It’s very common that when applying for a position the recruiter will give you the name of the HR Manager, your potential boss, or any other information about team members, etc. they have.

          I have never had a recruiter give me the name of the hiring manager or the team members before.

          > Especially since recruiters, if not only for professional reasons, always stress not to make direct contact with the company of interest.

          Likewise, I have never had a recruiter stress not to make direct contact with the company.

          And I have dealt with a lot of recruiters. Most of my dealings have been with recruiters.

          OK, yes, I felt somewhat entitled. I was a great fit for the job and already knew the company and the company products. It’s a 1-yr contract. There would be no 3-month ramp-up time. I’m a known quantity.

          I understand the “hard sell” complaint. I may not agree with it, but I get it.

          I don’t get why that would lead to an automatic disqualification. A sensible manager would (in my opinion) respond “Hey, thanks for your note. I knew you did ABC but wasn’t aware that you had experience with XYZ as well. We’ve got some other good candidates in the pipeline, but I’ll be sure to look for your resume.”

          “What can I do to convince you” isn’t the same as “ignore everyone else and hire me.” But then, I am a very literal-minded person.

          1. Zed*

            Just a thought, but could “what can I do to convince you?” have come across as asking for inside information on how to prepare for the interview?

            The phrasing seems odd to me. I mean, what could this person have said? She can’t very well reply with, “Well, here’s a list of things you can do in order to present yourself as a better candidate.” As a candidate, it’s YOUR job to convince her. Not her job to tell you how to convince her.

            1. Vicki*

              > could [you] have come across as asking for inside information on how to prepare for the interview?

              Yeah… I suppose. My literal phrasing was:

              “Please let me know what can I do to convince you that I am the best possible candidate for this position. I can provide many references, some still at [Company] and others previously at [Company], to vouch for my competence, capabilities, and experience.”

              As for coaching, I’ve had quite a few recruiters tell me that I should plan for certain precise questions and things to bring with me. They take the info they get from candidates who they’ve sent in before and use that info to give the next candidate an edge. “Coaching” seems to be the way the game is played.
              My experience with recruiters is that they want me to get the job; after all, they’re competing for it against other recruiters and candidates.

              I’ve also known plenty of situations where managers are perfectly happy to provide “insider” info to former insiders, e.g. “Yes, did you work with Foo when you were here? It’s our curent high priority project.”

              1. Job Seeker*

                I am one person that has done some very stupid things with a recruiter. I really wanted this particular job and had talked with this recruiter a few times before. They had contacted me and I really liked them. I am usually not a very forward or pushy person. I tend to be a little shy and uncomfortable pushing myself on anyone. I feel I pushed myself a lot and embarrassed myself beyond words over a certain job. I am usually a follow the rules person. I learned the hard way.

          2. Hari*

            >I have never had a recruiter give me the name of the hiring manager or the team members before.

            You mean your recruiters blindly sent you into interviews with no clue who you would be meeting with? That’s odd.I’ve never had that happen to me. Who did you know to ask for then when you showed up for interviews?

            >Likewise, I have never had a recruiter stress not to make direct contact with the company.And I have dealt with a lot of recruiters. Most of my dealings have been with recruiters

            Never stress or never tell you not to? Not trying to have attitude here but what industry do you work for? I’m in the creative services (Advertising/Marketing) industry and it’s always been pretty clear with the recruiters I worked for (The resumes I sent they even had me replace my contact info to “represented by” just so the employer would have no other way of contact just in case they did try to not pay them).

            >“What can I do to convince you” isn’t the same as “ignore everyone else and hire me.” But then, I am a very literal-minded person.

            It isn’t technically, but “what can I do to convice you” carries a certain connotation of “No matter what reason you give, I could probably counter that, so even though hiring me is your choice you really don’t have a reason not to if I can answer your concerns.” Personally, even if I did have concerns I would be hesitant to give them as “convice” implies some sort of debate. Remember, its their job to hire someone, you don’t have to do anything other than answer their questions to the best of your abilities to convice them. If they didn’t ask the question in the interview (give them the chance to), its unlikely they will ask it later even if you inquired (if it were a serious concern in need of convincing, they would ask but give them the chance to ask before you start asking!)

  13. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    I think I tend to agree with the first part of Alison’s answer, that companies using a recruiter often do so because they don’t want to deal with the hiring until it’s at interview stage. If I wanted people to email me, selling me on why I should hire them (regardless of how hard or soft the sell is… after all, a soft cell is just a cover letter!), I would just tell people to send the applications to me directly, and save the thousands and thousands of dollars a recruiter costs.

    Now, the case being that the OP previously knew the hiring manager, it is a little different, and it makes me think a little bit that it’s an excuse. The manager didn’t want to hire OP, maybe because she didn’t like OP in their original relationship or something, and if you already generally have a policy of just sending inquiries back to the recruiter, I could see yelling at the recruiter about giving out a name rather than just being honest with the person myself. It’s not the best way to go about it, but I can see it being the case.

    1. Vicki*

      Sadly, Kimberlee, my bet is that you’ve got the right answer. We never worked closely together, but I think that, for her own reasons, the hiring manager doesn’t want me. My contacting her brought me to her attention more obviously than just one resume in a stack that could be easily flipped over.

      The “reason” may be as simple as the fact that I left the company last Winter because my job was eliminated. A lot of people see a laid-off former employee as “damaged goods”. There must have been “some reason why they were let go.

      Oddly, the “manager doesn’t like me” theory makes me happier than the “broken secret rule about contacting managers directly” theory. If she doesn’t like me, she would have passed over my resume anyway. Things would have been less personal but the end result would still be no interview, no job.

      Of course, then we wouldn’t have all had this interesting conversation!

      1. Vicki*

        My personality type really hates it when something just fails to make logical sense.

        “She doesn’t like me” is personal, unavoidable, but explicable.

        “You broke a Secret rule” is nonsensical and just plain weird.

    2. V*

      I also find this theory to be more plausible because Vicki describes her relationship with the manager as not being especially close (emails, meetings, working with team members). This type of relationship sometimes causes people to make judgments about others based on limited information. If the manager didn’t like something Vicki said in a meeting, there might not be enough other interaction to outweigh that.

  14. PuppyKat*

    If I may add a perspective that differs slightly from Vicki’s situation: I am a mid-level manager for a not-for-profit arts organization, and so don’t use recruiters when I’m looking to hire. Plus my industry is small-ish so we all pretty much know everyone else, especially within our regions. My staff and I have a lot of interaction with creative types, people with artistic temperaments, people with huge egos, major donors, etc. So the people I hire have to understand boundaries.

    If someone I’ve worked with in the past—even closely—sent me a note that I considered a “hard sell” type of thing on top of their resume (again, not to say this is what Vicki did), then I would have to conclude that they didn’t have the necessary expertise with boundaries and wouldn’t be a good fit on my staff. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want someone who’s persistent at times; I certainly do. But I need people who have developed the knowledge in our industry about when to be persistent and lead, and when to back off and be led.

    1. Vicki*

      I’m an engineer / nerd. We’re well-known to have “boundary issues”. :-) That’sone of the reasons I’m having trouble with many of the replies here. I truly get that you believe this was a “hard sell” and that a “hard sell” is bad.

      You believe that and I respect your beliefs. I just don’t understand them. I’m not trying to be sarcastic or flippant. That’s just not the way my brain works.

      Hmmm… manager is a project mgr as well as a people manager. Not an engineer. Ya’ll may have a good point.

      (I still think Kimberlee, Esq. has most plausible answer though. I think if the manager had positive memories of me from a year ago, I wouldn’t have been punished for contacting her.)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        For what it’s worth … It’s possible to overly embrace “that’s just not how I work” as a mindset. Marshall Goldsmith has a good article on how this can harm you here:

        If your commitment to “this is just who I am” starts getting in the way of you getting what you want, it’s worth seeing if it’s something you can try to work on. I say this because your responses here have given me the sense that you’re pretty dug in on seeing this a certain way, and also because of our exchange on Twitter (where I pointed out that tweeting publicly about complaints with recruiters might hurt your job search and you explained that you wouldn’t want to work for any employer who had a problem with it). Combined, it makes me wonder if a certain … well, stubbornness about doing things a certain way might be getting in the way of a successful job search.

        Now, if you’re happy with the way things are going, then maybe I’m off-base. But you mentioned that you’ve been job searching for a while, so it might be worth considering.

        1. ANB*


          I’m still seeing the replies from the OP as saying “there is no way I was wrong to do this at all” which isn’t helpful to reality – people will get upset about it and it will curtail your choices. In this economy you really can’t afford that.

  15. Kinrowan*

    I can’t talk about the recruiter portion because I’ve never worked with recruiters but I have hired people and have to say that I was turned off by your email because it seems to imply that because we know each other, you want insider information, information that if I want to be fair to all candidates and hire the best fit, I really can’t give you without putting my own integrity in question. The fact that we know each other actually would make me question you sending me that email even more.

    Alison’s suggested email comes off much less aggressive and doesn’t make me feel like you want something from me.

    It is clear that was not what you meant, but that’s how it came across to me.

  16. Laura L*

    I think this is another way in which job searching is like dating.

    If a man I marginally knew sent me an email or a message on a dating site or called me and said “what can I do to convince you that I am the best person for you to date” I’d say “nothing” because how the hell does he know he’s the best fit for me? He doesn’t know me well enough to know what I’m looking for at that time or who else is in my pool of potential dates.

    Also, it sounds like he’s willing to do anything to prove that he should be my boyfriend which a) sounds desperate and b) won’t work because I want him to be himself, not to put up some sort of front based on what I tell him he wants. How do I know he’s really like that? He’s probably just doing/saying those things so that I’ll date him, which means I don’t have accurate information about him, which means I can’t make the best decision for myself about who to date.

  17. Elizabeth West*

    I have a question about this…..

    If you’re not going through the actual recruiter, and you see the ad posted elsewhere but it’s under the agency, is it still funky to address your email to the hiring manager? When I clicked on an agency posting on our state career board, the application info had the name of the company. I was able to find the name really easily.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s fine. People tend to over-think the question of who to address their cover letter to — employers generally don’t give it any thought at all (unless you address it to someone uninvolved with the position or spell a name wrong).

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Okay, thanks. I like to put someone’s name on it if I can. If there is no information or I can’t find it, I usually just go “Good morning,” or “Good afternoon,” but that seems kind of generic.

  18. Carrie*

    Regardless of OP’s tone in her email (separate issue), Recruiter is using HER words to scold OP, not necessarily the company’s. If you go around your recruiter, they don’t get paid. Its all about the money. Recruiter wanted to shame OP into not doing that again. Its considered ‘bad form’ when working with a recruiter to circumvent them, yes, but you only get to hear back from a recruiter’s standpoint. I’ve played this game so many times. Yes, her email may have been pushy, but I’ve had bad luck with recruiters before, and this one sounds like someone not in it for her client.

  19. LuciaK*

    Wow. I’m starting to feel really bad for job seekers in this economy. OP is just another person who has been out of work for an extended period of time who really wants a job. Nowadays every move you make has to be perfectly calculated with no room for mistakes. The wrong wording makes your persistence a little too persistent which turns off hiring managers who are probably looking for any excuse to disqualify someone. It is easy to say at this point that OP could have done x,y, or z differently but the actions she took with this employer might have worked with another. OP just really wants to work and was utilizing every tool she had in her toolbox. OP was unaware of the company policy regarding direct contact with the hiring manager so what is a job-seeker to do?

    1. Leena*

      I could not agree more here. It’s not like the job market is not already tough enough and with so many unemployed for long periods of time one MUST try different approaches. The wait and see thing simply does not work in today’s economy and job market-you have to go after the job. I see nothing wrong with contacting a hiring manager. In this case, the candidate already had some pretty good leverage relative to gettting hired since they were a former employee. Why do candidates get disqualified for simply showing initiative? I see no desperation here-simply the desire to get hired. Both managers and recruiters need to stop punishing people for no reason. This is infuriating!

  20. Blinx*

    OP, I think it’s fine that you contacted the hiring manager directly. However, the phrase “what can I do to convice you…” sounds like a line a used car salesman would say to pressure you into buying a car TODAY! Just a little smarmy, especially since email can’t convey your tone of voice.

    Hypothetically, if the OP was hired by said company, wouldn’t the recruiter get their commission anyway? I’m uncertain with exactly how things work, but if the OP heard about/applied for the job through the recruiter, it seems like that would be the case. If so, the recruiter should welcome whatever it takes to get the OP hired by the client. I can also understand, though, the recruiter not wanting to irritate a valuable client.

    For what it’s worth, I also recently wrote to the hiring manager of a former company, after applying for the job through a placement agency for contractors. The difference here, though, is that the agency would have been my employer regardless of how I got the job. Thought that by writing to the hiring manager (whom I knew through email/team projects) I could have more of an edge and mention all of the projects and people that we had both worked with. I knew that the agency would not have or relay any of this info. As it turns out, the position was put on hold, then closed without filling. *sigh*

  21. Wilton Businessman*

    I didn’t read all 66 comments, so this may have been brought up before.

    I think the recruiter’s problem is two-fold. First, if you contact the hiring manager directly, they are out of the loop. There is legitimate questions as to the source of the candidacy and an unethical company could argue that the direct contact trumps the recruiter submission. Therefore, recruiter doesn’t get paid.

    Secondly, the recruiter is an agent of the company (whether employed by the company or not). They don’t want the reputation of divulging company information to outside sources at inappropriate stages. By giving you the hiring manager’s name, the recruiter is now in a position of having to defend their actions to THEIR client.

    The rule of thumb when dealing with recruiters is EVERYTHING GOES THROUGH THE RECRUITER.

    1. Jamie*

      “By giving you the hiring manager’s name, the recruiter is now in a position of having to defend their actions to THEIR client.”

      That’s on the recruiter then, if they aren’t supposed to be giving out the name then they shouldn’t…the onus is on them to keep that private in the first place.

      Because even though in this case it was someone the OP knew distantly, what if the situation was different. If it were me and the recruiter gave me the name what if it was someone I did know well? Or someone who used to play golf with my dad, or someone in my brother in law’s car club, or whose wife works with my husband?

      The recruiter can’t expect to maintain secrecy once the cat is out of the bag.

  22. Hollis*

    I am in the legal field where this sort of situation is common and there is a LEGAL reason why companies often pass on candidates if they get their resumes from 2 different sources (either directly and with a recruiter or from 2 different recruiters) – in this case, if she was hired, then would the recruiter have to be paid their commission (often 20% or higher) or not?!? If the company says no, the candidate contacted us directly, then the recruiter could legitimately sue the company for breach of contract, especially in this case where the recruiter submitted the resume first. It’s not worth the headache involved. In this economy, where there are so many qualified candidates for every opening, the company is likely to pass on the candidate rather than engage in some kind of feud with the recruiter.

    1. KT*

      Yes but they wouldn’t have to engage in a feud. If they wanted to hire the OP then they would just pay the recruiter. The OP applied through the recruiter.

  23. LLE*

    The Recruiter was wrong to give out any information regarding the employer in the first place.

    The applicant should have known better and not allowed what he/she considered to be “showing interest” but really is “desperation” to get the best of him/her and so violated the relationship between him/herself and the Recruiter and the Recruiter and the employer. That’s all.

  24. Yes-annoying*

    I’m on the hirer’s side and I have to agree. If you have one position and 50 people apply and all ring you it takes a huge chunk out of your day. Also I list on my ads how to apply (send to this email) and if the applicant cant follow this I automatically fail them as “not able to follow specific directions”

  25. NattyJan*

    Personally, I think different stroked for different folks. Not all recruited or Hiring managers are the same…In fact they are all VERY different. You get hiring managers that can be very passionate and proud of their jobs and then you get hiring managers who are just doing their jobs, coming in and doing what is ‘required’. We all have our own opinions and perceptions and I think as an employee or applicant it’s just a matter of whether you align with that person who does the hiring!! Different people seek different qualities :-)

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