when a job applicant shows up at your office without an appointment

A reader writes:

I’m currently hiring for a position and the period for accepting applications is now closed. I am in the process of interviews. I had someone apply for the job that was just not quite right for it (we had a lot of great applicants, and this person did not make it to the interview stage). Things are extremely hectic in our organization at present. Yesterday, I was in a meeting and was notified about half way through that the applicant had shown up to talk to me. She didn’t specify why, but I’m guessing it was about the job. I couldn’t leave the meeting and was slightly annoyed that she had come without attempting to arrange a visit (which I wouldn’t have been a fan of either really), and it doesn’t help that we’re so busy these days. The applicant said that she would just wait for me. Well, the meeting I was in went on for another hour, so the applicant left. 

Later, I was talking to other hiring managers who were in the meeting who mentioned that they thought it was a poor tactic for the applicant to show up unexpectedly. At the same time, there was one or two people who thought it was nice that she came to talk. I think it really depends on the person doing the hiring, and works for some applicants, but is the “kiss of death” for others, depending on who they’re dealing with. I don’t think you’re an advocate of this tactic either. I’d like to know what other hiring managers’ thoughts are on this.

Well, you’re asking for other people’s thoughts, but I’m going to give you my own:

1. It’s a terrible, terrible idea. It’s annoying, it’s disrespectful of other people’s time, it displays a lack of understanding of how hiring works (because candidates can’t decide on their own that they’re getting an interview, regardless of the employer’s decision), and it also shows a lack of understanding of how most offices work (because in most industries, people are busy and you make an appointment to talk to someone — with their agreement — rather than just showing up at their office).

2. You can always find someone who likes something that most other people dislike. You can find hiring managers who like 5-page resumes, or cover letters written in purple Comic Sans, or yes, the random drop-by without an invitation. It’s just the reality of hiring being done by humans rather than machines: Name a terrible job-searching practice, no matter how awful, and you can find an employer out there who likes it. But that fact doesn’t make those bad practices something that people should use, because in general, with most employers (and I’d argue with good employers), these things are a bad idea.

3. Those one or two people in your meeting who thought it was “nice” that an applicant showed up at your office without an appointment? I’d bet money that they’re new to hiring or don’t have to do a lot of it, and/or don’t put a high premium on getting a ton of work done, since people who do aren’t generally fans of random job applicants stopping by to meet with them without an appointment.

4. Your receptionist needs better direction on how to handle visitors without appointments who won’t leave, because that applicant should not have been allowed to wait for an hour. She should have been told, “I’m sorry, but she has a busy schedule. You should contact her directly about making an appointment.” (Which, by the way, doesn’t imply that you should then agree to a meeting if she did then contact you directly; this statement is only about explaining that “no, waiting in our reception area isn’t a possibility.”)

5. And last, I am writing this from right here:

{ 104 comments… read them below }

    1. Jamie*

      You sure know how to make a girl resent her immediate surroundings. :)

      This inspired me to get outside this weekend, though.

  1. Anonymous*

    What about if you are told that you will be called back for an interview, but then the recruiter disappears and you never hear from him again?

    I had this happen to me. I was referred to a recruiter of a large company who was helping to put together a job, the recruiter was extremely enthusiastic and told me he would call me in a week once the position was finalized. He never did. An e-mail and phone call three and a half weeks later did not generate anything, and it’s been a total of five weeks. Does that warrant an in-person visit?

      1. Anonymous*

        Alright, and forgive me if I sound confrontational or even remotely upset, but don’t you consider it rude when you’re promised at least a phone call only to have the person suddenly disappear?

        I know how tough the market is. I know that positions can be canceled and that interviews may fall through. That doesn’t bother me. Rejection also rarely, if ever, bothers me. However, I find this to be very impolite.

        1. Catherine*

          It is very rude that the recruiter has not called when it was promised. But it’s also rude to show up unannounced.

        2. Jamie*

          They were totally rude to not get back to you after telling you to expect a call to schedule an interview.

          They didn’t owe you an interview, but common courtesy dictates they let you know they wouldn’t be proceeding as they have told you.

          It’s still completely wrong to show up unannounced. It won’t help and all it will do is make you even more mad that they wouldn’t even see you when you took the trouble to go down there.

          1. Anonymous*

            Exactly. I would have no problem if he were to call me and say, “Listen, I know I said that I would schedule you for an interview, but things came up and I am unable to do that, sorry.” Like I said, things happen, and some of those things are beyond anyone’s control. But this just irritates me, and I feel so powerless and frustrated that I can’t do anything about it.

            You’re right; an in-person visit would be a waste of time and gas.

            1. fposte*

              And remember, the way to make them feel guilty is to be cheerful and lovely. If you do anything grumpy or out of line, they’ll use it to excuse their own bad behavior. So enjoy the fantasy of confrontation isn’t just cheaper than the reality but more effective.

              1. Anonymous*

                That’s true. Actually, I am going to go to my boxing gym tonight to take out my frustration on the heavy bags (and maybe my sparring partner, JK!) I’ve been fighting a minor cold for the past week and am finally better, so I can’t wait!

            2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

              It’s also important to note that radio silence could just mean it’s taking longer to finalize the position than they thought.

              They still should have followed up with you, but that’s no reason to unnecessarily burn a bridge.

        3. fposte*

          It is definitely rude for them not to call. But if you turn up without appointment it will make them feel okay about having been rude, which I suspect is the opposite of your goal.

        4. -X-*

          “Alright, and forgive me if I sound confrontational or even remotely upset, but don’t you consider it rude when you’re promised at least a phone call only to have the person suddenly disappear?”

          How is this relevant to the question of whether or not you should show up in person?

    1. The IT Manager*

      No. It sucks. It is very impolite and is why people complain about employers, but two wrongs do not make a right.

      If the recruiter is too busy to return your email or call he’s not going to want to talk to you in person. And for you there’s still hope that the position has yet to be finalized and you still might get that call when he ready. Don’t burn the bridge.

    2. Anonymous*

      I had a recruiter tell me he recommended me to the client, followed up promising an interview with the client would still be forthcoming, and then I never heard from him again (and it’s been months). I still didn’t show up somewhere uninvited.

    3. sab*

      No. People dropping off the face of the earth is unfortunately, normal. Yes, it’s rude, but you don’t need to return it by being rude back. You would only be hurting yourself.

    4. Just Me*

      This just happened to me. I got called for an interview. We played a little phone tag that day and got a hold of me later in the afternoon.
      He wanted to know my $$ range and we were good with that. We talked about my availabilty to interview and he said he’d call back.
      I got a call the the next day and he said it did not remember if he had scheduled an interview or not and had written himself a note but couldn’t read it. OK I have done the same thing, written myself a note and then can’t figure out what I meant. I get that.

      He again said he’d call me.

      Where I think I went wrong was after 3 days I called just to make sure I didn’t mess anything up in the previous conversations. I didn’t say that of course. Did I understand where we stood kind of thing. He again at that point didn’t know if he had even set an appointment yet. I said no.

      He said he has not yet gotten a hold of the manager, he was out of the office a half a day and so on and that he would call.

      I have yet to hear from him and it has been now well over a week and I don’t think I will be hearing from him. It has been over 2 weeks from the inital contact .

      I get stuff happens and people get busy. I just don’t get why he’d call unless they were ready to interview.
      I think it was my fault for calling to follow up and he tossed my resume in the recycle. He probably thought I was annoying.
      And no, I will not be showing up in their building… !

      1. fposte*

        I really don’t think your followup call had anything to do with this. There were already signs of organizational delay/flakiness before you called–hence your needing to call. If you do eventually get an interview time, scrutizine the reliability of the organization carefully–he may be an outlier, but you really don’t want this kind of thing to happen with paychecks.

        But really, don’t blame yourself–calling was completely appropriate and really shouldn’t have bothered anybody.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        I agree that the recruiter sounds unorganized, but if it’s only been two weeks since the initial contact, that’s really not that long in hiring land. I think a week is super short to be assuming that you won’t be hearing from them.

      3. Katie*

        For funsies, I pretended like this was someone trying to get a date, instead of trying to get an interview. I think it puts a good perspective on the whole situation.

        I get stuff happens and people get busy. I just don’t get why he’d call unless [he was ready to date].
        I think it was my fault for calling to follow up and he
        [deleted my number from his phone].

      1. Anonymous*

        To answer your question: Honestly, I just wanted an answer as to if the position is still on hold or if it has been eliminated. I kind of figured that it would have been much harder for him to “avoid” me if I made an in-person visit. I also kind of want to know why he never called me in the timeframe he gave me even though he promised that he would.

        1. Patti*

          You’re right — it is rude, inconsiderate, and even short-sighted, but it does happen. Unfortunately, there is very little we can do to change behavior in others, and trying to force the issue is likely to hurt your chances more than it will help them. Good luck to you!

        2. -X-*

          ” I just wanted an answer ”

          If your objective is to get answers, then yes, maybe you should go to the office.

          But I would have assumed your objective was to get an interview and then a job. If that’s your objective, then showing up unannounced is more likely to help than hurt.

  2. Jamie*

    #4 – yes. As I was reading this I was thinking how waiting for me and deciding when to leave wouldn’t be an option.

    Otherwise all jobs would go to the most stubborn with the stamina to wait it out. Persistence in the face of reason isn’t a trait most employers are looking for.

    1. Patti*

      Exactly. For me, this would only result in digging my heels in even more (but I may be a bit spiteful and stubborn at times). Any chance they may have had at the job would likely be over. I can’t see where anyone would think that showing up in person will change a hiring manager’s mind, or hurry up the process, or have any positive impact whatsoever.

  3. Carl*

    This situation reminds me of when you put a customer on hold for a long time. It’s rude, inconsiderate, and outright annoying. I suppose the OP is equating themselves as a customer being put on hold, thrusting themselves into a victim role. I find it pretty despicable when people turn someone’s request into something they’re being hurt for.

    The person did nothing wrong. The OP should have told the secretary to tell the person exactly what she should have: “You’re not getting the job.” What’s with this B.S. going around that people can’t be direct anymore? Don’t tell me you’re afraid to offend someone.

    Next time, don’t turn this into something about you being a victim; nobody deliberately targeted you to cause harm. You finished the meeting, so what do you have to complain about?

    1. Jamie*

      The only thing the OP said about her feelings was that she was “slightly annoyed.” She was just asking what other hiring managers thought about this practice of showing up without an appointment.

      I didn’t see any play for victimhood in the letter.

    2. fposte*

      Wow, I don’t hear a victim tone in the OP’s letter. I think she’s just startled by the applicant’s behavior and more so by the diversity of responses to it.

      I also think we disagree about the event–I really can’t see the OP as being rude for continuing with a planned meeting rather than leaving it to talk to an unannounced visitor. I think you’re deciding that the applicants have been inappropriately strung along in this situation, but we actually have no knowledge at all about how long ago this person submitted her application. I personally don’t think it matters, because I don’t think she’s entitled to a meeting regardless, but it seems like your justification for this behavior depends on your belief that this applicant is overdue for a response.

    3. PJ*

      Did you read the letter from the OP? Perhaps you’re confusing it with something else. There was no victimhood expressed, nor blame either. Annoyance, yes. Victimhood, no.

    4. EngineerGirl*

      Carl, it wasn’t a request. It was a demand. The applicant showed up, expecting to have a conversation. At that point, the ability to say yes or no was much more limited. The OP had to deal with it right then and there.

      The applicant absolutely did something wrong. She interrupted the OPs meeting.

    5. Anon*

      I would think you the hiring manager/receptionist was wise not to tell the person to his face that he wasn’t getting the job. He had already shown unusual kind of crazy behavior by showing up there in person, and it isn’t an unfounded concern that he could become violent with that kind of news.

  4. Cruella DaBoss*

    Well, whatever you do, don’t ever tell someone that’s not a good fit to feel free to check back at a later date, because that later date will be in a week, and they will pester you for a year. =/

  5. Anonymous*

    When I was a hiring manager, all resumes went to a mail room, but occasionally candidates who had interviewed at our offices would then try showing up at other times. This was not a case where they had not been given feedback–they were always told exactly where things stood and when decisions would be made during the interview, and I always called candidates up after we made decisions to share whatever insight I had in terms of what they could do to strengthen their application or whether they were in the running for future openings. Even doing all of that, some candidates thought that showing up would “foster a relationship” with me. Nope. All it did was push them into the “NOT A CHANCE IN HELL” pile.

  6. anon o*

    Regarding point 4, the letter does say that the applicant said she’d wait for the OP. It sounds like the receptionist did try to tell them to leave – are you saying he/she should have called security or something? Honestly, if I’d been the receptionist and I’d said the OP was in a meeting and unavailable to speak and the person still wanted to stay, my response would basically be, “She’s not available today but knock yourself out.” I think the applicant was trying to demonstrate her eagerness and physically kicking her out might have been a bit excessive. But maybe I’m just being too passive.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wouldn’t want this person hanging out in reception, because (a) it implies that maybe if she waits long enough, she’ll get the meeting after all (what other reason is there to wait?), and (b) I wouldn’t want the hiring manager to feel like she couldn’t walk through that area without getting buttonholed by the applicant, if the applicant recognized her.

      So I’d want the receptionist to make it clear that waiting wasn’t an option. You can do that without being rude — for instance, “I’ll take down your information and pass it on to her when she’s available” or walking her to the door (which generally makes it clear the person is then expected to go through it), etc. And frankly, if that didn’t work, I’d want the receptionist to notify me, at which point I would personally come out and make it Very Clear myself.

      1. V*

        Totally agree. The receptionist should be a better gate-keeper, and if the person refused to leave at that point, it would absolutely warrant bringing Boss out of the meeting (to kick this person out). The receptionist should take ownership of that front area, and not allow unwelcome visitors to spend an hour there.

    2. Mishsmom*

      when my supervisor was interviewing for IT people it was my job to tell those who just showed up that they can’t just meet her, she’s very busy, and thank you for applying but we will call when we have an answer. some people were insistent, but when you repeat it with a smile 4 or 5 times, they get it. ultimately, this is OUR office, we get to set the rules. i think it is the receptionist’s job to filter, and i’m surprised she didn’t.

  7. Amanda B*

    Am I the only one who thinks that people need to lighten up about what they consider to be “rude”? I understand that the applicant shouldn’t just have shown up unannounced, but I think it’s a bit harsh to consider her action rude, inconsiderate, disrespectful, annoying, offensive, etc. It didn’t cost the OP any time out of her day and even if she hadn’t been unavailable when the applicant arrived, she didn’t have to take a meeting with someone who didn’t have an appointment. I guess I just see getting annoyed about something like this as a waste of energy.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not really disrespectful to the OP herself, but it’s disrespectful of her time. It says, “I don’t care that you’re probably busy and have other things planned for today; I’ve decided that I want to speak to you right now, regardless.” And that is indeed rude and annoying.

    2. Colette*

      Personally, I find it rude for someone to set my priorities for me (you *must* stop what you’re doing and deal with me right now) without even knowing what else I have to do.

      1. JT*

        There is “obnoxious” rude and actions that seem rude but grow out of desperation or ignorance. Showing up unannounced could be any of those.

        Where I work we had someone show up unannounced who was very polite, saying he was in the area and asking if anyone had time to speak with him. I think just showing up like that shows poor judgement, but he’s wasn’t very pushy and in return my boss, who was doing the hiring and had some free time, met with him for a brief while. Perhaps she shouldn’t have encouraged this by seeing him, but his soft ask for a few minutes made the request not that rude.

        1. Colette*

          I agree that showing up shows poor judgement (but may not be more than that), but announcing you’ll wait, so that not only have you interrupted the meeting, but now the manager knows that she may have to deal with you when she’s out of her meeting is pretty demanding – and yes, rude.

          I don’t think the applicant intended to be rude, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t.

  8. Eric*

    Since this is common to do in retail and food service, I wonder if this is for an entry level position, where that is the only experience this candidate had. Rather than thinking of her as rude or pushy, it might just be that she doesn’t know the conventions of other industries.

    1. mh_76*

      It is also one of the many outdated old-school techniques. It used to be advised to show up in a suit, resume in hand, and apply for a job in person. In the Long Long Ago, it sometimes happened that those candidates were interviewed, even hired, on the spot. I’d guess that this candidate asked her parents and (gasp) took their advice…see previous posts about not taking parents’ advice [or screen it very very carefully because they still do have the occasional gem up their sleeves].

      It is still mostly the way to apply for retail positions, though…show up, ask for an application, and turn that in (resume optional) as soon as you’ve finished filling it out.

  9. EngineerGirl*

    Yesterday, I was in a meeting and was notified about half way through that …

    The OP had her meeting interrupted by the applicant. It is rude.

    People are busy, and to show up unannounced says “I don’t care about your time – my needs are more important”.

  10. Anon*

    This is perfect timing. I’m a receptionist at a company and HR has the policy that they don’t get back to candidates unless they are scheduled for an interview. They do at least send a computer generated response to let you know they’ve received your application.

    This leads to many awkward situations of people showing up or calling repeatedly asking about their application – including today when someone wanted me to call HR even though I knew full well HR would not want to see them. Luckily HR didn’t answer which gave me an easy out instead of having to delicately explain that HR was busy. I wish people who didn’t want to have unexpected drop-ins would let me know exactly what to do in situations like this.

    Anyway, the ONE and only time a drop by worked for a candidate was this. They walked in and said something like this:

    “I never heard back about my application. I know your policy on getting back to candidates but I wanted to insure that my application was received. We know how some times computers lose things. If you could leave this with someone in HR that would be great. By the way do you have the business card of the hiring manager?”

    He was very polite and friendly. I do keep a stock of business cards of higher ups up front and gave him one.

    Later, he sent ME (the receptionist) a personalized thank you card in the mail.

    I was impressed enough by his behavior, that I let the hiring manager know – who contacted him personally. The candidate never got an interview, but he was able to make a valuable connection because he wasn’t pushy and he was VERY polite.

    1. Natalie*

      As a former receptionist I’d like to make a suggestion – don’t be quite so gentle with people who call or come in to check on the status of their application. You don’t need to lie – just say exactly what you said here, “our HR department will get in touch with you if they wish to schedule an interview.” If they still want to be transferred/meet with HR, just say something short and sweet like “I’m afraid that won’t be possible.”

      1. Anon*

        Thanks for the advice. It’s a little different at our company because we’re in the fundraising business. We have to be very careful to never burn any bridges.

        Later today I asked HR exactly what they would like me to do, and they said just to call them as I did.

        1. Diane*

          Oy. You may want to give HR some feedback, given they’re also supporting or hindering your fundraising efforts by the way they treat candidates. It’s not hard, as AAM has said, to respond to applicants with “We have received your application. We will contact you if we choose to move you forward to interview.” It’s even more helpful to let candidates know that they have or have not been selected.

          My current employer did this throughout my application process to let me know my application was received, that I’d met basic criteria and was under review, that I’d been selected to interview, that the timeline had changed, etc. I deeply appreciated the simple updates and felt that even if I didn’t get the job, I’d be happy to work with them again, either as an applicant or a consumer/donor.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Also, it’s nice if HR makes that policy known, and sticks to it. I’ve had HR come out and talk to someone anyway, or walk by in an open office, and step up and talk to them while I’m in the midst of explaining that HR won’t see people without an appointment. Gah! I hate that because it makes me look like A) the bad guy, and B) like I don’t know what I’m doing.


    2. Lisa*

      My stock reply is “All applications/resumes are reviewed in the order in which they are received. If the manager/HR wants to meet with you, they will be touch with you directly”.

    3. mh_76*

      I worked briefly at a reception desk and when people would call inquiring about jobs / application status, I would transfer them straight to the HR Department Assistant and let her handle it. The building was a secure building, so nobody could walk in and drop off a resume but had that happened, I probably would have said that I would forward it to HR and given them the main HR department email (if HR had a generic one…I don’t remember). When I worked as an Assistant-to, I did receive resumes sent to my email address (and forwarded by my boss, that were sent to his email)…but that’s a comment for a different post.

  11. Anonymous*

    I run an art gallery, and I have run into this more often. We have it very clearly posted on our website that no walk-ins are accepted, and we direct anyone who asks there for information on submission. Still we do occasionally get individuals who try to force the issue. I’ll never understand. Gun meet foot!

  12. Hari*

    While covering the front desk at my last job I’ve had an applicants just show up, granted they were just inquiring to future available positions but still it was annoying as our website has a submission system for that. One applicant persisted further when I told him the recruitment coordinator was not available (after I agreed to give him her email too) and proceeded to pester me about anyone else he could speak to. He seem to feel extra entitled to speak to someone since he was taking time out of his vacation visiting friends (he lives across country) to come visit us. Did I mention at this point I was already annoyed because our entry has an intercom system and to gain access into the building he lied and said he had a meeting scheduled? I finally was able to shoo him away after the Managing Director happen to walk by and told him everyone was in meetings (God forbid he believe me?!). He finally left after giving me his business card and portfolio and having me repeatedly reassure him and “pinky promise” to put it on the recruiter’s desk.

    Oh I put it on her desk alright, underneath about 100+ other things which about a week later all got tossed :)

    1. JT*

      “he lied”

      Make him leave. When someone does that they do not deserve politeness or promises of any kinds. If you need to get other people to help eject this person, do so. Or call the police.

      1. JT*

        Here’s a progression I’ve used with a salesman who tricked his way into our apartment building, and also with religious proselytizers who did the same. There is about 10 to 15 seconds between each statement. No response to what they say – only insisting they leave. If someone lied to gain access to my office and I had to get them out, I’d use the same script as soon as I realized they were lying:

        “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

        “I’m asking you to leave.”

        “Leave now.”

        “Leave now.”

        “I’m calling the police/security if you do not leave immediately.” [pick up phone at end of statement]

        [Dial police/security]

        1. Hari*

          That’s a good tactic thanks!

          I would have been a bit more confrontational about getting him to leave but it took me a few minutes to realize he didn’t have an appointment. Because the bottom floor looks so industrial (literally dark concrete walls lots of slate and an elevator) we don’t ever get solicitors so people don’t ring unless they are supposed to be there. Also it took him a while to come out and admit he had no appointment so I had no time to switch from “Helpful stand-in receptionist mode trying not to mess up” to “Get this creep outta here mode” even when he was pushing to speak to other people.

  13. Nat*

    Excellent points all around. I’m the person who wrote in a couple weeks ago about my boyfriend’s mom pushing me to show up in person to deliver my application. Luckily, she hasn’t pushed it anymore, but this post has given me even more fodder in case she brings it up again.

    1. mh_76*

      I’ve heard that advice reently too. I get around it by reminding my dear and well-intentioned parents that I’m in a large city and that the buildings all have security.

  14. Sara*

    So with all said and done, is it still just as bad to go to a recruiting office in person? I had a meeting with a recruiter earlier this year, but he rarely answers my emails; it’s pretty awkward whenever I try to send a new email to him, because I just don’t know what to say that isn’t a copy-paste of what I’ve already emailed him, (I mean the initial “hey how are ya!” email). this is a major recruiting agency wtih an excellent reputation, so I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. at my first meeting with him, I was pretty candid about not knowing how these things work–he said keep in touch, if u find a position on their website, let him know. Well, I met him in May and I’ve sent several emails over the summer, all of which have gone undone. What can I do now?

      1. mouseketeer*

        Thank you Sara. I can so relate to your post of recruiters not getting back to you but I think they have more applicants that jobs? Not sure.

        1. Sara*

          yeah. next time someone tells me to go to a recruiter/temping agency, esp this one, I’ll throw a shoe at them. (not really but I’ll feel justified in feeling like wanting to do that).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      @Sara: Yes, don’t show up in person. It’s rude that the person isn’t getting back to you, but apparently for whatever reason they’re choosing not to — showing up in person to force the issue will hurt, not help.

      1. Sara*

        Yeah I would never really do that…..but I’m not sure how to navigate this now, this is a really popular agency that has great reviews, I don’t know if I might’ve accidentally burned a bridge or something that he’s just being so unresponsive.

  15. danr*

    #5… will there be a picture of the goats? Or is this a different place? Looks very relaxing. I like horses… at a distance.

  16. Blinx*

    The thing is, we’ve all seen this tactic work, but only in the movies. A character shows up, waits for hours to plead their case, and ends up getting the job or making the sale, solely through their charm and charisma. And we cheer for them.

    In real life, and in this economy, if this practice were encouraged you’d have lobbies full of eager applicants waiting for someone to just give them a chance. The gatekeepers of the world need to be firmly instructed that no one gets in without an appointment. Not applicants, not vendors. The old “don’t call us, we’ll call you” adage really applies here.

  17. Michelle*

    This reminds me of when I was in university (10yrs ago) and we were instructed to show up at companies and demand to talk to a CEO or President. Apparently this showed initiative, persistence and confidence, and employers (supposedly) loved it. We were told stories of legendary folks who sat in reception areas for longer than people line up for the latest iPhone, and they always left with a job due to the initiative (or because the hiring manager just couldnt say no). At the time I thought this was incredibly stupid and I never tried it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the same advice is still floating around out there…..

    1. Miss Displaced*

      The same advice IS still floating around out there, and it usually comes from well meaning parents or grandparents, etc., who are out of touch with the hiring practices of today.

      1. JT*

        The tactic works for some small businesses, such as some restaurants. I got my first real job in a commercial laundry by just showing up and applying in person.

          1. businesslady*

            but even that makes sense when you consider that restaurants & stores are, by definition, open to the general public. if you’re in that industry but somehow incapable of dealing with a “random” person in the course of your workday, you’re probably not in the right job (&/or are constantly insanely stressed out).

            but in most office environments, it’s very unusual to have visitors who aren’t coworkers, & most people’s schedules aren’t set up to accommodate them unexpectedly.

  18. Cheryl*

    Ok my first thought was why are you writing this from a graveyard, then, I put my glasses on…green with envy!!

  19. Meredith*

    I get people who come in unannounced and lie to my front desk by saying they have an interview. Then I have to drop everything to talk to this person to see why they think they have an interview. Without fail, each time the person states they know they didn’t have an interview or appointment and was just hoping to speak with me. Do they not realize that using a lie in order to speak to someone hurts their chances of getting the job?

  20. LT*

    Long time (well, since the job hunt began) lurker, first time poster here. I see a lot of conflicting advice on this front. I’m in a field where positions are rarely advertised, so the best way for me to find work is to approach a company speculatively. I do this with a short email explaining why I like Company X and what I can offer them. I’ve done the whole rigamorale what, three times in my short career span? I’d say about 25% of recipients are nice enough to respond with a yay or nay. So I’m often encouraged by folks to follow up my e-mail with a phone call. Personally I’d prefer not to phone as I have to do so in my second language which is a hell of a lot more terrifying – but again, folks keep telling me “you can make 100 phone calls and you only need 1 to invite you for an interview!” Phone calling is also exhausting as it is essentially a string of conversations going “we got nothing – but good luck!”

    So my question is – I know you’ve posted a lot about not calling to follow up advertised jobs, but what about spec applications?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nope! Possibly even more “nope” here than in non-spec positions, since they really can’t have a useful conversations with you without looking at your materials. Send them, and trust that they’ll respond if they’re interested.

      1. LT*

        Thanks! This is actually quite reassuring to hear because my experience of the follow-up (in this case: cold) call is that it is VERY RARELY fruitful. It’s unbelievably shattering on the nerves to make a bunch of phone calls and get rejected, even nicely!

        I did get a nice response to my e-mail within 20 minutes last week, actually, and they called me in for a courtesy interview, after which they took my business card and requested I stay in touch so they remember me when they have an opening. Those are the kinds of companies I would be happy working for.

  21. Lily*

    I am a slow learner! I was thinking that it seemed picky to be down on someone who took the initiative to come in, but someone walked in today, wanting an interview tomorrow, and she didn’t even have a resume to give me! I am now thinking that walking in may be a sign of impulsive behavior and display lack of planning!

    I’m also not happy with the entitlement which seems to be behind the expectation that I will schedule an interview with her tomorrow especially since she has NO experience.

    She then sent me an email with her CV and several questions. I do like helping people, but I am stumped when it comes to writing a helpful response, because I dislike the entitlement which I also see in the email. Am I being too harsh? Perhaps some readers who favor giving feedback to unsuccessful candidates can suggest replies to her questions:

    Is there a possibility for me to get this contract?
    When would the contract start?
    How many hours could I work?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, she does sound entitled. It’s totally fine to just reply with something like, “We’re currently interviewing candidates (or reviewing resumes or whatever) and will be in touch within the next few weeks.”

  22. Amelia*

    What strikes me here is how desperate that job seeker sounds, and I don’t mean that in a condescending way.

    Job seekers doing things they know are probably not the most effective strategies (such as showing up someplace without an invitation) to me signifies a problem with the hiring system on a larger scale. It’s an employer’s market, true, but it’s not really okay to hold that over job seekers’ heads. The girl’s actions were rude, yes, but have some mercy on the job seekers and give them some help. When I’ve sought jobs recently, I’ve absolutely struggled to get some help as politely as I can, and not one person will take the time of day to help. I’ve definitely thought about showing up, and if I didn’t think the employer would hate me for it (and put my story on the internet, yikes), I might try it.

    Job seekers definitely need to get with the times, and improve upon their etiquette to better respond to employers. But in turn, employers and hiring managers need to find out what’s going on on their end and work it out so their actions don’t help perpetuate these types of situations.

    …I guess I have a strong opinion on this!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But why she should spend her time helping this job seeker over others, when this one has shown herself to be entitled and fairly rude? There are tons of job seekers who would like help, plenty of them much more polite — but unfortunately, most hiring managers don’t have time to give it (and nor is it what they’re being paid to do).

      And I say this, obviously, as someone who spends a huge amount of my time helping job seekers for free, so it’s not that I don’t think it’s a useful thing to do.

  23. Lily*

    I do inform job seekers about the state of my industry (which would answer most of her questions, if she had meant them in a general way rather than the personal way which I understood). That is, I inform those who call me up or who I invite. I am not willing to write that all down in an email. I just wrote to her and said I would talk to her if she called. Even this could be a lot of work, because people will write back and want this and that and the other.

    Amelie, I feel for you and the other job seeker and you may even be right. What happened may signify a problem with the job market, but even if it does, *I* can’t solve it. MY boss is hardly going to accept that I was solving the problems with the job market instead of doing my job. I am not even an HR person.

    Thank you Alison for giving me the moral support to set limits on my helping her!

  24. Mary*

    Allison, (And Readers),

    I am so confused. I had an interview last week, (one week tomorrow), and with in the hour received an email stating the interview “went very well” & that the back ground check has been started.
    I’m chomping at the bit waiting for next step but everything/one says don’t contact, so I won’t, but then on Friday you posted this reply to #7″

    “Go talk to them and tell them how interested you are in the job. Or, if more appropriate for your workplace, write an email saying that.”

    I know 1 week is too soon, but when is a good time to take this advice?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That was for an internal interview — different than for external ones. However, you can certainly follow up to check on timeline — check the “follow up” category of the archives for tons of advice on this.

    2. The IT Manager*

      The LW in #7 from Friday interviewed for another position within his own company and got very specific feedback on what they were concerned about. It’s very different if you’re interviewing for an internal position because you show up at the office every day just in another part of the building. Do not do it if you don’t work there.

      Also see other AAM posts about timeline where Alison says and everyone agrees that a week is nothing to wait for word back. Two weeks are nothing. And whatever timeline the employer gave you may well be delayed beyond what they told you because those kind of things happen. I had to wait a month and half from my interview until my offer because HR was that slow, and I was the only person interviewing for the position. They selected me after the interview and it took a month and half for me to find out.

      However “went very well and background check started” does not equal job offer. You do not have an offer until you recieved the actual job offer. Another common piece of advice around here is to continue to job hunt even after positive interviews because companies can take so long to hire, they can change their mind even after positive feedback like you received, and many often do not bother telling you you are out of the running (which is just impolite and rude).

      Keep job hunting, don’t assume you have this job. What you can do is email your contact at the company after another week if you haven’t heard anything and ask if they have a timeline for their decision.

  25. JCC*

    Maybe I’m missing something obvious, but wouldn’t all of these problems be solved simply by directly telling the person that they are not getting the job?

    The vague fears of an applicant “doing something violent” seem silly — who would go into an interview carrying anything more deadly than a briefcase? Besides, even the most incompetent security guard can toss someone out of a building; that’s really what day-time security guards are for.

    The HR policy mentioned by one commenter of refusing to send refusal emails seems as though it was designed to create in-person visits; can anyone explain the rationale behind that practice?

  26. Jay*

    Rock up with all the paper you have on you and dump it on the front desk. Tell the receptionist to beat it. Get a soda from the fridge and park up on the couch. And continue to do that until the contrat is out. Flirt with everyone and you’ll be kept around…

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