my mother says I should call employers daily for an interview

A reader writes:

I am at my second semester of graduate school. In order to get an internship for next semester, I’ve been really working 24/7 for the past month. However, I still haven’t heard anything from employers yet and of course feel frustrated, as the deadline for join my school’s internship program is in three weeks.

My mother, who is staying with me now, has strong opinions and thinks I should call employers much more often than I am doing now. (I normally only call them before submitting the application to ask for more details and when the time they promised to come back to me has passed.) However, my mother believes that employers are rather busy and don’t have so much time to go through every resume, and since I have a not-that-outstanding resume, I should call them more often. Maybe if the person has so much to do and doesn’t want to bother with boring recruitment, they will just pick the one who always calls them. Therefore, I should lobby by phone more often (“every day” is what she thinks is a decent frequency).

I don’t think my mother knows so much about the job market, but I do think it makes sense that all applicants are somewhat similarly qualified with promising cover letters, so maybe it is one way to stand out, as it could impress HR more than a plain letter. What do you think? What would be a nice frequency to call up the companies, and what should I say? (Especially if I really am going to call every day, I wonder what to say.) Is it a good idea to be more private and ask the person about their own positions or background on the phone? Or will this backfire on me if the company gets irritated or annoyed?

You are hereby forbidden to take advice from your mother on anything job-related.

  • The correct frequency for calling to check on your application: zero
  • The correct frequency for calling before you submit an application: zero
  • The correct frequency for taking advice to annoy hiring managers with daily (!) phone calls: zero
  • The correct frequently for calling employers and asking about their own backgrounds, when they haven’t even expressed interest in interviewing you: zero

The vast, vast majority of employers do not want to receive phone calls from applicants. If they’re interested in interviewing you, they will contact you. If you call, you will annoy them. If you call more than once, you will really annoy them and risk having your application thrown out or at least marked as “pushy/annoying.” And if you call daily, you will be told to stop and will probably never get a job there, ever.

After all, most employers get hundreds of applications for every open position. Imagine if all those people called them, even just once. (To say nothing of every day.) By demanding their attention, you’re going to come across as naive at best and and rude at worst.

They know you’re interested. The act of applying conveyed that to them. They will get in touch if they want to talk to you. But you can’t force your way in the door, and they are not going to be impressed by you continually knocking on it.

Now, yes, there are some employers who are so disorganized that calling them can be enough to get them to look at your application when they otherwise would not have. But these employers are the minority, so while there’s the chance that you could hit on the random luck to help yourself with one of them, you will harm yourself with everyone else (and everyone else is in the vast majority). So the overwhelming odds are that this behavior will hurt your chances. (Plus, those disorganized employers who respond to random phone calls? You don’t want to work for them. They’re disorganized and chaotic and don’t know how to hire.)

If you want to stand out, you stand by being a highly qualified candidate with a compelling cover letter and a resume that shows a track record of achievement. That’s it.

I know that it’s tempting to want to find some other way of standing out, especially when you feel you have a “not that outstanding resume.” But employers are looking for the most qualified candidate who’s the best fit. They’re not looking for the loudest.

{ 127 comments… read them below }

  1. Andie

    Please listen to all of AAM’s advice! Just remember when you ask someone how they got their job they are probably not going to say they called the place they wanted to work every single day until they got the job. That only works on TV not the real world!

    1. Sascha

      I know one person for whom this method worked. And he got the job in 1970. He was convinced this method would work for the present day. He was also somewhat of a pushy person in general. Don’t be that person!

        1. AnotherAlison

          Groovy!

          So glad I was just a child then, although I did buy some of that crap at the salvation army in the grungy 90s AND I WORE IT IN PUBLIC.

          1. tcookson

            I want one of those toilet seats SO BAD!! Like the one with the owl on it . . . or maybe the dragon . . . just wasted 30 good minutes at work looking at that stuff!

        2. jubileejones

          OMG! The exercise garb…full on spandex with footed tights. It’s like the spandex version of a baby’s onesie.

      1. Liz

        I do know someone who called every Tuesday till he got hired, but that only worked because of the specific manager he was calling. It wouldn’t have helped with the manager he has now!

  2. Jamie

    (Plus, those disorganized employers who respond to random phone calls? You don’t want to work for them. They’re disorganized and chaotic and don’t know how to hire.)

    And trust me, if they are this disorganized it’s not limited to hiring and they are running around like chickens with their heads cut off as their normal MO. Calling someone daily in the midst of chronic chaos could send them over the edge.

    I really prefer when horrible advice comes from people who are irrelevant in your life so you can thank them for their interest and then pretend the conversation never happened. I HATE bad advice from people who love you, mean well, want the absolutely best for you and are dead wrong.

    You have my sympathies.

    1. Ariana

      Agreed. Years ago, I applied to work at a bagel shop that my family went to fairly regularly, and whenever I went in with them, the managers came over to me with this “oh no, we haven’t looked at your application yet, can you give us your phone number again because we’re not quite sure where it is,” and eventually on one of these family brunches (this was over a period of a few months), I was told to come in the next day for an interview. Since I was 17, I did not take this for the huge warning sign it was and accepted their offer. It took them over a month to schedule me, and they had a tendency to severely understaff shifts, resulting in me being called in first thing in the morning on almost every day I had off, as well as regularly being asked to stay longer on regular shifts. I lasted close to a year before grabbing the excuse of college to quit.

  3. Anon

    I wish I had taped our HR staff complaining about people calling repeatedly to ask if someone had received their resume. I would send it in to Ask a Manager, post it on You Tube, etc. Then maybe people will understand it is not a good idea to do this once and for all.

    I know it is frustrating to send out resumes and not hear anything or get a nibble. But this won’t help at all. Yes they are busy, but they are setting aside time to review cover letters and resumes, and will call the folks they are interested in. Calling them repeatedly won’t help – but a great resume and cover letter will. Working on making both great!

  4. Jamie

    Oh and this stood out to me, from the OP…

    but I do think it makes sense that all applicants are somewhat similarly qualified with promising cover letters

    I don’t have the width and breadth of hiring experience that some here have, but I’ve seen thousands of submissions in my day for everything from entry level unskilled labor to upper level engineering (and stuff in between) and I’ve never seen the case where even close to half of the applicants had promising cover letters.

    Some have none, many have poorly written perfunctory form letters which are not at all tailored to the specific job. The person with a well written cover letter that explains why they are interested in this specific job and is not just a regurgitation of the resume is a rare animal.

    They may be more common in academia or other fields – but I’m telling you I’ve seen resumes by some people who are very impressive on paper, with cover letters not worth the font they’re printed with. Including myself the last time I was on the market until I changed my tactic and started applying to jobs where I actually was excited about the opportunity so I wrote custom cover letters…and it was only after that I started getting responses. Not a coincidence.

    1. Emily K

      Yes x 100. I used to hire for a nonprofit and I was astounded how few people had a “well written cover letter that explains why they are interested in this specific job.” I mean, you’re taking a big paycut vis a vis your skills to work for a nonprofit rather than a for-profit. Please convince me you care about this job and won’t burn out from disinterest and feel underpaid six months later.

      Having previously been a job applicant who did write custom cover letters, I assumed when I started screening resumes it’d be at least half the applicants who did so. Nope. It was maybe 10-15%.

      1. Jamie

        I think 10-15% sounds about right for what I’ve seen for the managerial or non-entry level engineering jobs. For entry level (engineering and regular labor) it’s MUCH less than that. Maybe 1-5%.

        For non AAM readers (and who are those people anyway?!) it’s the thing that costs nothing and can really set you apart.

        1. Katie in Ed

          Well, I wouldn’t go so far to say that it costs nothing: writing custom cover letters costs a lot of time. And I could see how an applicant might be discouraged to put forth that kind of effort to not even get a perfunctory rejection in return. It’s demoralizing. Plus, it’s unlikely that someone with an awesome cover letter will be chosen over someone with a better resume sans cover letter (though I’m willing to be proven wrong on that one).

          Even though it may cost an applicant time, it’s probably time well spent.If you’re qualified for the job, a good cover letter can move you to the top of the heap right quick.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yeah, it’s more that it’ll take you more time but get you more responses … or you can save time and not do good cover letters and get zero or few responses. There should be no question that the first one makes more sense.

          2. Jamie

            I just meant there are no financial costs. Getting a newer suit, traveling to an interview, going back for certifications…you need cash for all that. Effort is free…but yes, does take some time.

        2. Rosalita

          Agreed. I get so many bad, generic cover letters. It really does set candidates apart when they spend a little time customizing their letters. What surprises me the most is when communications or marketing candidates send me generic cover letters – isn’t that part of your skill set, figuring out how to deliver the right message to an audience?

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yep — it’s why I’m always harping on cover letters. So few people do them well that if you do, you’ll instantly skyrocket to the top of the pile. It’s so weird that people are always looking for ways to “stand out,” and they don’t do the one that actually works.

      1. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise

        Right. Get the basics down pat first and the rest will take care of its self. Resume + customized cover letter should be the norm. I was helping my sister with her job hunt and told her she needs to get into the habit of writing good cover letters. She said she didn’t want to b/c they take too much time. I told her it won’t take long if you’re not resume blasting. I also asked her to stop saying xxx position at abc co was her “dream position.” You don’t know what your dream position is from the outside or when you’re a junior in your career.

    3. myswtghst

      Completely agreed! A well written cover letter and a good resume do stand out, and it isn’t just about having the “right” qualifications, but in how you present them.

      In the relatively minimal amount of hiring I’ve been involved in, I’ve seen many more generic or flat out bad cover letters than I have seen good, specific to the job cover letters which piqued my interest in a candidate. And that isn’t even getting into the number of resumes I’ve seen which were too long, disorganized, completely lacking in related experience / transferable skills (it’s lovely you worked for a lawn care company, but what does that have to do with this corporate position?), and included extracurricular activities which meant nothing to me (I shouldn’t have to Google anything on your resume to understand why it is beneficial in this role).

  5. Sascha

    “The person with a well written cover letter that explains why they are interested in this specific job and is not just a regurgitation of the resume is a rare animal.”

    YES. I’m in academia (support staff, not faculty) and it’s the same. My coworkers and I vet candidates, and I have found the cover letter more informative than the resume at times. It really lets me know if the candidate read the job description and understands what the job is about (per the description).

    1. Sascha

      That was a reply to Jamie. Either I’m hopeless at internetting today as well, or something is wonky with the comment system…I’m going to bet I’m just bad at internetting. :)

  6. AdAgencyChick

    Oh my god. No. Don’t call.

    Tell your mom you’re calling, if that gets her to shut up about it. (Better: Show her this post.) But for heaven’s sake don’t call.

    Hiring managers are real people with real work to do on top of hiring. An applicant who interrupts that work in order to tug on the hiring manager’s sleeve and go “Me! Me! What about me?” is going to be branded annoying and probably sent to the Deleted Items folder.

  7. Bess

    Where is this “call every day” advice from the older generations coming from? My parents are in — I presume, if the OP is in graduate school — the same generation as the OP’s parents, and when I asked them whether “call every day” was the norm back when they were job searching (after a previous, similar letter), they reacted with about as much horror as I originally did. Who did this used to be normal for?

    1. Long Time Admin

      “Call every week” was the norm back in the olden days. I didn’t know what I was supposed to say, but I was hired 11 days after graduation, so I didn’t ever have to do that.

  8. VictoriaHR

    Thank you! People apply for the job here and then call me same-day to just make sure that I got it. Yes, I did. I am currently calling people who applied 3 days ago. I will get to your application when I am done with the last 3 days’ worth. Please do not call again. Feh.

    1. Rose

      I am sorry, I just had to comment because this happens to me all of the time!! I am not going to stop what I am doing (Hello, I am busy) and go through our database to see if I have your resume. If you sent it properly, I have it, and in a few days, provided you have the qualifications needed, I will contact you…

  9. Christine

    Hey OP, I bet your mom is an acquaintance of mine who swears up and down that this technique works! And this woman is probably in her 50s. No, she is not a hiring manager, so I was basically like “Mmm, you don’t say!” and tossed the advice out of my brain. lol.

    1. EngineerGirl

      As someone in their 50s, I’m pretty horrified at this. Lets get something straight – this behavior was unacceptable even back on the 80s.

  10. Rose

    As an HR professional, I completely agree that this is great advice. Your intent doesn’t matter; it is the way that the hiring manager or HR person perceives your actions that matters. Occasionally I get candidates who will call me on a daily basis and yes it is annoying, but more importantly, it makes the candidate stand out in a bad way as I perceive them to be a little off. I received an e-mail today from a candidate who said “It has been 10 days since I submitted my resume and I have yet to hear from someone with your organization. Please give me an update”. I found it to be kind of rude and given the fact that I had more than enough qualified (and not rude) candidates, I promptly sent this candidate a polite decline letter. I don’t mind when candidates follow up with me in a polite manner, but I don’t care much for rudeness… after all, a rude applicant would make a rude co-worker and I certainly don’t want any of those around my office.

    1. Tasha

      A student applicant once sent a letter to the department administrative assistant demanding an update “within 24 hours” on his/her application status. The form was forwarded to me along with the note because I was in charge of selecting students for the position in question. As a freshman with no work experience, perhaps he/she was just clueless, but I briefly considered waiting *25* hours before sending a response just to see what would happen. (Immature, I know, but I was also writing a journal article and had a couple midterms that week.)

    2. Tania

      I do not consider that this approach was rude, I refer to : “It has been 10 days since I submitted my resume and I have yet to hear from someone with your organization. Please give me an update”.
      The sender even used an expression of politeness: “please…”.
      My opinion is that a HR professional should be employee oriented just as a doctor is patient oriented. Treat them with respect, judge the possible future employee only after reading his CV.
      Most of all, a HR professional should guide the employees. I think that it is your job to inform and guide them, so I find his request fair and your action an abuse.

    3. Melissa

      Seriously, people are insane. Like I know the job market is awful right now, but some people literally call so often that I have their name memorized from the caller ID. Even after I politely told them to please stop calling daily to check on the status.
      We had people who had interviewed but who were not hired calling me daily to harass me about why they didn’t get the job, and they interviewed before I was ever hired! It’s awful.
      Or people will submit an application and then call to check on it. I politely and firmly tell them we will contact them and to please only call us if their contact information changes so we can update it. So someone out there is STILL giving this god awful advice about calling.

  11. Job seeker

    I am sorry to say your mother’s advice sounds like I use to think except I did not think calling daily was a good idea. That advice stinks. My husband is in management and had to interview someone for a position last Friday. This was for a professional position in a large company. I can imagine how annoyed he would be if someone called him back today. He is so busy at work, long-hours and meetings. I do understand your mother though. There was a time when everyone got an interview when you submitted a resume and a application in person. Please do not listen to her, like me her intentions are good but you will burn your bridge. You will embarrass yourself so much. Good luck on your job search.

  12. tangoecho5

    Maybe the mother who wants you to call every day can get together with the guy who wants to write his wifes boss a letter asking her to be promoted. Between both of them, they could really piss off some managers!

  13. Job seeker

    On a side note, I realize your generation is learning the workplace too. My oldest son is a recent graduate and a chemical engineer and was hired in as a manager. Today, he had to fire someone and that was so hard for him. It was a matter of safety and this person has a family. My son has a sweet heart and is so kind and this was one of the hardest things for him to do. But, he knew this was a company safety issue and he had no choice. Job-searching or actually learning the workplace is a hard learning experience.

  14. Just a Reader

    I don’t think it’s possible to annoy a company into giving you a job!

    During a hiring round a couple of years ago one candidate was calling repeatedly and leaving me voicemails. Annoying, but fine. Then she told the receptionist she was returning my call and it was important, and the receptionist pulled me out of the meeting.

    Her resume went into the circular file and on a permanent blacklist.

    I love the awesome cover letter advice–too many people treat these like form letters instead of opportunities to really get noticed.

    1. A Bug!

      Just to clarify, the applicant lied to the receptionist about returning your call and the importance, right? Like all that stupid advice on how to bypass the normal process to get your name right in front of the hiring manager, like marking the envelope “Confidential” and “Urgent”, or telling the receptionist you’re a personal friend on a personal call and implying that the manager will be choked right to heck if you aren’t put through?

      (Unless you’re applying for some super sketchy sales job I can’t see how “misleads others indiscriminately in order to achieve short-term goals” is a plus.)

      1. Kelly O

        Ooh, can I use “misleads others indiscriminately in order to achieve short-term goals” as an “endorsement” on LinkedIn?

        Because I know a few people for whom that is a totally accurate statement.

      2. Just a Reader

        Correct. She had had an interview, we gave her the decision timeline (far away) and she started calling the next day. I hadn’t spoken to her since the interview and neither had anyone at the company.

        Maybe someone told her to “be persistent.” Who knows.

  15. Elle D.

    OP, as everyone has already mentioned your mom’s advice is going to do more harm than good. I’m sure her heart is in the right place and she just wants to make sure you are doing everything you can – unfortunately, submitting your application is the only part of the process you have any control over.

    Since the clock is ticking, you may want to reach out to the internship program coordinator or your college’s career center if you haven’t done so already. They may be able to provide you with some assistance or resources, whether it be non-advertised internship postings reserved for students at your school, advice , or alumni connections. Also be sure you’re using your own network – make sure all of your friends and relatives know you are looking for an internship (just remember to be polite, not pushy when letting people know about your search). Good luck!

  16. BCranston

    I only once did this – my first job out of school. Talk about naive! I really wanted the job, was in a foreign place, and had no clue. I called and left a message for the hiring manager every day, but didn’t know that she was on vacation – for two weeks. I can only imagine what her voice mail must have sounded like when she got back.

    Actually it paid off for me because the job required that I was tenacious at tracking down people on the phone for their opinions. But good lord I think back to what I did and its absolutely cringeworthy!

  17. Lils

    I love these out-of-touch-parental-advice letters. Makes me what kind of crappy advice I’ll give to my kids in a couple of decades.

    But sometimes I wonder if it’s cultural…do some of these parents not only come from a different generation, but also another country? Commenters often point out the difference in hiring practices around the world–is there any place where really aggressive tactics like this would be a selling point?

    Good luck with your search, OP!

    1. Anonymous

      Ha ha, New York City- “Be aggressive”. “Don’t let that other guy take what’s owed to you.” “You gotta get in there.”

      These are, verbatim, things my parents used to say to me in the early 90’s when I started out.

    2. Kou

      I tend to get this same advice from people I know who are from more rural areas and have farming/factory/manual labor backgrounds. I think that has a lot to do with it– there are rather different standards, or were at one time.

      1. Jill

        Yep. It used to be that you called or stopped in to “check on my application” under the theory that they would pull your application and now it would be on the top of the pile. Did it work that way? I don’t know, but that’s what everyone did – at least weekly – when looking for a job.

      2. Laura L

        I wonder if it works in more rural areas because people tend to know each other? Not that people don’t know each other in other places, but it’s more likely that someone at the place you want to work will have some sort of personal connection to you than it would be in a suburban/urban area.

        My only experience of small town living was during college and I got the impression that everyone in the town knew everyone else. Kind of the way everyone at my school knew everyone else (sort of).

    3. tcookson

      Advice from my grandparents who raised me (we’re from the South): “The early bird gets the worm.” “If you’re not going to get out there before noon you may as well not go until tomorrow.” “You’ve gotta show them you’ve got some lead in your pencil . . . if you show up late, it just looks lazy.”

      It was all based on looking eager and on-the-ball by getting out there before 9am — otherwise, the manager would think you were lazy and no-good.

      1. Laura L

        “If you’re not going to get out there before noon you may as well not go until tomorrow.”

        This is horrible advice to give to a procrastinator. :-) They might take it literally.

  18. FormerManager

    Also, any company that only hires candidates who call repeatedly must be avoided. Once you’re in, you’re going to have to keep up being flashy to get promotions, raises, bonuses, etc. Not worth it.

    (I once worked for a senior manager who loved it when candidates would even drop by in person to apply for a position. “It shows persistence,” I was told. Not surprisingly, when I interviewed and hired someone who’d done this, that person floundered. It was a case of flashiness over substance. I found it hard to not say “I told you so” to my boss.)

  19. Seal

    As others have said, if you want to stand out in the applicant pool, submit a well-written, flawless resume and cover letter and THAT’S IT. Based on the crap people submit for open positions here, I guarantee that will get the right kind of attention. Calling, stopping by in person, and/or sending in anything other than a well-written, flawless resume and cover letter (framed picture, anyone?) will result in a one-way trip to my reject pile. However, I might be grateful to you for helping me winnow down the candidate pool – please note that this is NOT a good thing!

  20. khilde

    I think I have recently said this in the comments on another post, but I searched and couldn’t find it. So sorry, but I’m repeating myself here: Lately, after reading the headline and skimming the question, I go straight to the first thing that AAM says in response. The way you respond in that first sentence sets the tone for how deliciously crazy the entire post is gonna be.

      1. Jessa

        You’re so experienced at doing this, you don’t need to consciously go “okay I’m going to set x tone on this post.” You just jump right into the awesomesauce. Oh and silly question of the day: do chocolate teapots make chocolate tea?

    1. Ornery PR

      Yes! I was going to point out the same thing the other day! If I skim down and the first line is, “Ack! Do not do this!” I know I’m in for some great, straightforward advice and some entertaining, opinionated comments

  21. TheSnarkyB

    AAM, I have a clarifying question – do you really mean your 2nd bullet point? If there’s a great (likely small in my case) organization you’d like to work with, it’s not ok to call and see if they offer internships?
    Would you mind responding for both general fields and then also, I’m a counselor(therapist)-in-training. Do you know if it’s different in healthcare/social work fields? I’ve been led to believe that if no email contact info is available, cold calls are ok here – especially to hospitals and the like.
    Thanks :)

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I meant that if a job is advertised, you shouldn’t call and ask questions about it before applying. (If it’s truly important, you could email a question — but I wouldn’t call in most cases, and I definitely wouldn’t enquire just to “learn more” about the job, like some people do. You can learn more about the job once they get in touch with you, but they’re not going to want to spend time talking to you about it before they’ve even decided you’re a strong candidate.)

      But you’re talking about asking if an opening even exists, and that’s different, and fine to do.

  22. Rob Bird

    So what would you tell them if you called them? Probably a lot of the same stuff on your resume. Employers are rather busy and if they don’t have much time to go through every resume, they certainly aren’t going to have time (or make the time) to talk to every applicant that calls.

    That is a really good way to get yourself blacklisted from that employer. Repeat after me: Listen to AAM….Listen to AAM….Listen to AAM….now, read every other post on her site. To me, that is much better preperation for the world then a college degree!

    1. Jessa

      Seriously. This column should be required reading for job hunters, managers, and parents/significant others of job hunters.

  23. Kayla

    I remember when I was looking for a job, my dad told me to call everyday as well! Thankfully I didn’t because I thought that was a bad idea, even as a teenager. I think the reason so many parents tell their kids to do this is because they’re worried and will feel like they failed as parents if their kid doesn’t get the job. So they panic and tell the kid to essentially be more agressive.

    1. fposte

      I think this is true–it’s not anything they did themselves or even necessarily know anyone who did, but it looks like doing *something* and they’re worried.

    2. Jamie

      I don’t think it’s so much failing as parents as just desperately wanting something for your kid that they want to badly…and it’s something you can’t get for them or give to them, so some people flail and give bad advice.

      I have a son in this situation right now and I don’t feel like a failure…like him getting a job would validate me…he’s great person so I know I didn’t totally fail as a mom – but it breaks my heart to see the discouragement and yeah, you just want to fix it and make it all better.

      And some people feel more action = less helplessness…but they don’t get that the proposed action will only shoot their kid in the foot.

      I believe most parental crap is done out of love…no matter how ass-backwards or completely and spectacularly wrong it is.

      There are three things a mom should be doing in these circumstances:
      1. Offering to proof resume/cover letter for typos (second set of eyes are always helpful)
      2. Being there to listen if they want to talk, and being there to talk about ANYTHING ELSE if they don’t want to talk about the job hunt thing.
      3. Cupcakes. Or since mine won’t eat cake and hates frosting (yeah, one of these days I need to see some DNA matching on that kid) it’s brownies and banana bread. But if my mom were still here I’d want cupcakes.

      1. TL

        I agree; it may be misguided, but it’s done out of love + lack of experience in hiring and effective job hunting. A relative of mine – who is a smart person, and not pushy; she just wanted me to be able to land a job – heard a story of a friend of a friend who got a job by showing up at the employer’s workplace (retail store, FWIW) every day with a paper bag lunch (thereby indicating that they were ready and willing to go to work that very day). Supposedly, over the course of a couple of weeks, the manager thought that he showed so much dedication, persistence, and willingness to work that he gave him a job.

        The “pounding the pavement”, Depression-era tactics linger long in the public memory, methinks. It’s not stupidity that brings on suggestions like this, but it *is* ignorance of hiring norms.

      2. Natalie

        An acceptable #4 IMO – forwarding a posting that your child might find interesting and worth applying. You never know what you might see that they don’t!

  24. Carl

    I think this is a pathetic way that employers operate. Honestly, if you really want someone to work for you, pick up the damn phone and listen. Any organization that isn’t willing to listen to someone who wants to work for them, likely won’t want to listen to their own customers. Out the window with them.

    So, instead of being a company that respects their fellow man, we have business using the Internet to hide their identity, and receive thousands upon thousands of resumes, most of which go ignored, channeled through some software or “Windows search feature” to scan word documents only, completely eliminating possibly the best candidates for the job.

    Imagine that: using technology to solve a problem created by technology. It’s no wonder people can’t find a job: the majority of jobs out there are veiled in secrecy under email communication that gets blocked, spammed, and thrown away, simply because someone felt “exhausted” by the immense number of messages.

    Pick up the damn phone, make the call, and get the anxiety out of you. What’s the worst they can do, tell you you can’t have the job? Big whoop; keep going, keep trying. The rest of these people sending their resumes online in email attachments and applications are lazier than those willing to — my god — talk to a human being.

    Forget their obsessive compulsive behavior; if they’re that way, imagine what it would be like working for them.

    Now, you may be wondering, where do I get my advice from? From my mother? No! I get my advice from business owners; businesses that have sustained themselves for more than forty years, even through the rough economic times. And these are local, small businesses, in industries hardest hit: construction, real estate, plumbing, and the like.

    Just keep showing initiative and drive to do the work; and if someone can’t hire you as a full-time employee, help out anyone, everywhere. Everyone loves having someone help them with something, and that’s how you need to appeal to them: find out what they need, or want, and find a way to get it to them.

    Screw these employers who think their workflow will be horribly, despicably, violently, forever and ever be damned, interrupted because someone wants to help them be more productive, and solve their problems.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Sorry, but that advice just doesn’t work in the majority of industries. Employers are glad to talk to candidates on the phone or in person — once they’ve determined that they’re interested in that person. But before that? Before that, they have 300+ applicants for every position, and it’s utterly unrealistic to think they can talk to 300 people on the phone for one slot. The current application system exists because employers want it that way, and applicants can’t decide to override it without most employers deciding not to deal with them.

      1. Carl

        Alison, I’ve taken your advice for the past eight months (up until a month ago), and it wasn’t working — at all. Now that I’m not waiting for THEM to take the first step, I’m having far better luck. Your advice sent me through a tailspin of anxiety, stress, and anger; constantly playing by the “rules” got me nowhere.

        Sorry, but sitting by and waiting for someone to choose you, doesn’t cut it. Get out there and work, even if you’re a contracted employee on a one-time thing.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I certainly believe you, but it’s also true that you are literally the first person to tell me that in nearly six years of writing this blog. So it might be your industry or the way you were applying the advice; I don’t know. But I do know that it works for the vast, vast majority of people who use it. In fact, of everyone who has bothered to give me feedback, it has worked for everyone (see https://www.askamanager.org/what-people-say for examples), so while I’m sorry that you were the exception to the rule, it doesn’t change what works for most people.

          1. Haroon

            Well I would totally agree with Carl on this one. I have held 4 jobs in the last 16 years and my personal experience is that it is always a good idea to call and talk with the HR guy and I have always (repeat always) received a good response. Never have I had the slightest hint that I was annoying the person, on the contrary I have always been provided with a solid opportunity to be heard. On one occasion I even managed to convince the HR guy to have a second look at my CV which he did and ended up including me in the shortlisted candidates. I went all the way through 4 stages of interviews but unfortunately lost out to another better guy in the last round. Anyways I am totally convinced that this strategy works if you don’t be too pushy.

        2. Rob Bird

          The first thing that came to me when reading this response was: 8 months is a long time to do anything and not have results of some sort. I wonder if he emailed AAM to get her feedback?

          1. Carl

            I did, eloquently put that I was naive. So I considered her advice, and read dozens of articles, and advice from other managers. Applied it the best I could:

            – Didn’t contact employers directly. Sat around waiting for a response. Had none. Sometimes I’d email them first and inquire about the position, before just sending my resume and cover letter; usually heard no response there, either.

            – Finely crafted cover letters (for every position) that were about helping the employer get what they want, and not talking about myself.

            – Multitude of resumes, each written with the position in mind, without needless details: short, and to the point. And others with more detail because that’s what they’ve asked for.

            – Continued study of my field, continued practice, and getting involved in community efforts, to no avail. I’ve been volunteering for a non-profit in another state for at least two years, but that doesn’t interest anyone, I suppose.

            The fact is: the system of hiring is contrived to weed out people, not to find the best person for the job. The process of elimination is more efficient when there are less targets to destroy; that is, when they narrow the resumes down, for whatever reason.

            And, I have a sneaking suspicion, there’s some sick idea that if you’re unemployed, you shouldn’t be allowed to be employed. And the longer you’re unemployed, people have this idea that you’re somehow incapable of performing a job — without even asking why you’re unemployed, or what you’ve been doing in the meantime.

            I’ve done what employers want, according to Alison’s advice, and the advice of other “gurus” in the field of management and hiring. None of it matters, because these well-trained individuals will find any reason to eliminate someone. That’s the name of the game: get rid of as many people as possible, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. I mean, if they can’t look at 300+ resumes, they’ll just ignore the rest when they come upon one that makes them feel special.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Hmmm. This doesn’t really sound like my advice. For instance, I don’t think I’ve ever said that cover letters shouldn’t talk about you. They should absolutely talk about you — they have to. And my point about resumes isn’t that they have to get rid of details; it’s that you have to talk about accomplishments and what you’ve achieved. So while I don’t want to debate this back and forth with you, I think that this might a case of misinterpretation/misapplication of the advice, unfortunately.

              And no, the name of the game is not to get rid of as many people as possible. It’s to get the right people in the pool in the first place and hire the strongest person. I’m sorry you’re feeling discouraged, but I think you’re drawing the wrong conclusions.

            2. Jamie

              But in speaking of numbers – you said it yourself, 300+ resumes.

              That’s not unheard of as a response for a lot of jobs out there. If everyone called even if an HR or hiring manager kept each call to 5 minutes they can only speak to 84 per 7 hours day, and that’s with no breaks in between. When would they have time to hire?

              I get that it’s frustrating – and I’m not entirely sure what you’re advocating. Are you suggesting the OPs mom is correct and calling every day is a good idea? Or is it just calling period? Because I can tell you without question anywhere I’ve worked if you call daily or enough to be a pest you will kill your chances of getting called. Maybe it’s different in your industry – but people need to understand there are serious risks to disregarding the conventional methods of the employer’s choice.

              1. Carl

                I wouldn’t call every day; once is enough to inquire about the position. If they say no, then it’s no, and you move on. I’ve never advocated being a pest; I advocate persistence and initiative.

                It doesn’t make sense to sit and wait to be called upon; it doesn’t happen. People like that idea because Hollywood and television has convinced them that it happens, and the dramatic acting makes it seem like something magical, and worth waiting for. Complacency, basically.

                I think, really, I don’t support that way of employing people, and I’ve been subjecting myself to doing things in a way I don’t agree with. Works for others, doesn’t work for everyone.

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Weirdly, I’d say it’s the opposite. Hollywood sends the message that aggressive persistence pays off, when in the real world it usually comes off inappropriately!

            3. fposte

              I’m still not quite clear what you’re saying you’re making happen. Are you calling a lot and thereby making people look at your resume in that pile of 300? Or are you saying if you call enough they’ll make a position for you even if it wasn’t advertised? And when you say “better luck” do you mean this actually got you a job? (Which I do hope you’ve gotten, because it sounds like a long search and I know that’s really tough.)

              1. Carl

                No, no job. I have work here and there that sustains my income.

                I’ve taken plenty of time to hone other skills and knowledge that will serve me far beyond what any employer could have given me. (Writing, stand-up comedy, art – illustration, pro. graphic design, and some fairly advanced low-level and high-level programming.)

                No, I wouldn’t call them incessantly; once is enough. If I’m advertising myself to seek work, once is enough. If they have a position available, I communicate through email first, and if they have a phone number, I give it say, two weeks, before I inquire about it — either by email, or phone.

                I don’t advocate calling on and on and on to the same employer. Once just to inquire isn’t going to kill anyone.

                1. A Bug!

                  I think it presents as an interesting social dilemma.

                  Assumptions: 300 applicants. 1 call from each to confirm receipt of application. 5 minutes each call*.

                  That’s 25 hours of the company’s time, without even getting into time spent on the actual hiring process and narrowing down the candidate pool.

                  So the only way these follow-ups would actually provide any benefit to the people following up, is for only a tiny proportion of the applicants to actually opt for it. That would make it irresponsible to actually advise people to do it, because the more people who take your advice the less effective it becomes.

                  Further, if your resume isn’t enough to make you stand out on its own merits, why should you get to be the one to call in and try to change that rather than someone whose resume is stronger, or someone who’s been unemployed longer, or someone with more mouths to feed, or so on and so forth? “You snooze, you lose, sorry suckers”?

                  *That might actually be pretty conservative, given how much time it can take to refocus on work that’s been interrupted, or to listen to and then return a voicemail.

                2. fposte

                  Your vastly different method actually sounds pretty orthodox, Carl :-). You apply and then you follow up if there’s no response; if there’s no position, you don’t even follow up, you just inquire and let it go. I’d skip the followup (or at least move it to email) unless there’s a deviation from time frame, but it’s not nearly as drastically different an approach as you initially made it sound.

                  But unless those followups have gotten you something (I’d definitely include contract work as “something,” of course), I’m not sure that it counts as “better luck,” either. It does sound like it might make you feel like you have more agency in the process, of course, which can be important in sustaining yourself over the long haul, so that can be an advantage too.

                3. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Was just about to say something similar to fposte.

                  This isn’t radically different from what we talk about here — not the calling, but the emailing. I’ve said over and over that if you absolutely must follow up, wait at least two weeks after applying, and then send a short email. Just don’t call, because it’s annoying. Emails are more considerate because they can be answered at the person’s convenience.

    2. Kou

      “construction, real estate, plumbing, and the like”

      I had *just* commented above about how I think this is more common in these industries than most.

      And, listen, you can say it’s not fair and it’s a bad practice and all that, but the fact is that if she calls them they’re going to be annoyed and the more she does it the more likely they are to fault her for it. There is a difference between how things should work and how they actually do. Sounding the horn of resistance by repeatedly calling these people will do nothing beneficial for her.

      1. Casey C

        You are absolutely right. I have just spent the last couple of days interviewing applicants for two jobs I have open and coming back to my office each evening to all of the messages from applicants who want me to call them back to let them know if I want to interview them is extremely annoying. I am already working overtime to get my regular work done while I am short-staffed and tied up in interviews. I don’t need the extra burden of dealing with pushy applicants. Maybe that is rude of me to say but people need to hear it and understand that they are not the only ones who call. Email if you must but do not call!

        1. Tania

          Then hire more people to help you, so that you will be able to provide quality services. If you can not do it, let someone else more capable to :)

    3. Joey

      Hey Carl,
      You’re right. In construction, plumbing, real estate and other small businesses where managers frequently don’t know a whole lot about hiring your practice can work. But it’s not because they have enough respect to talk to people when they call about jobs its because they don’t know any better. They don’t know that there are far better ways to find the best candidate. Hiring someone who reaches out to them makes the job of hiring easier. But that’s part of the reason why they’re hiring. They don’t know that screening each and every résumé (manually or electronically) increases the chance of finding a better candidate. They don’t know that comparing resumes against each other increases your chance of finding a better candidate. They don’t know that interviewing multiple top candidates increases your chances of finding a better candidate. What they do know is this person just made my job of hiring a lot easier. The rest is a huge crapshoot.

    4. Laura L

      “Any organization that isn’t willing to listen to someone who wants to work for them, likely won’t want to listen to their own customers. Out the window with them.”

      I don’t know if anyone has tried to measure this or not, but I highly doubt there’s any correlation. It makes business sense to listen to your customers, it doesn’t make business sense to listen to everyone who applies for a job with you.

      1. Casey C

        I agree, Laura, and would go one one more step and say that if you are too busy listening to applicants, you have no time left over to listen to your customers.

  25. RecentGrad

    It sounds like your mother is being very pushy. I have a mother hen for a mother and she does give me a lot of bad job searching advice. I don’t want you to lie to your mother, but can you give the impression that you did what she asked you to. It may look to her that you are not trying. Try calling the career center in front of her. This might help your relationship with your mom even if your school’s career center is utterly useless the conversations and scheduling of meetings will help. If nothing else you can practice interviewing with them.

    1. Job seeker

      I had to smile when I read your post. You said you have a mother hen for a mother, well from one mother hen to another, yes we do want to help our children. I am not a career person, I chose to be a stay-at-home mom most of my life. I know some of my advice would be wrong in the job market. I don’t think this mom is being pushy though, wait until you have children and I believe your understanding will change. I think this young person should just talk to her mother. Explain how things are different in the workplace and that she really just needs a listening ear and encouragement.:-)

  26. Oy Vey!

    Wow. Please please please listen to AAM on this one. I’ve hired a lot of interns lately and only a tiny fraction of them bothered to write a cover letter that addressed why they were interested in or a good fit for the job. I have been bombarded by hundreds of applicants with no relevant coursework (nowhere near the same field) who are clearly blasting their resume to anything that says “internship”. If you feel your resume is unimpressive, that makes writing a cover letter for each particular position even more important! It doesn’t have to be long.

  27. Lanya

    We had a young college graduate stop by the office the other day to drop off his resume in person. He then proceeded to the office right across the way to do the same thing. I cringed. I am assuming it was bad job-hunting advice he was given by a relative or someone very out of touch with current acceptable job-hunting methods. I felt bad for him, but I hope he stumbles across AAM and learns the error of his ways…

    1. Another Emily

      Exception: it is a good idea to apply in person to restaurant jobs (but not when they’re busy).

  28. TL

    OP, you’ve probably done this already, but in case you haven’t, do reach out to your instructors (past and current), particularly those currently working in your field, and let them know you’re looking for an internship. Maybe they can give you a heads-up on where to look, or suggest a company you haven’t heard of yet; maybe they can recommend you to a contact, or give you feedback on your skills and what you could highlight to make your application more attractive to a hiring manager.

    I’m sure you’ve already done that, but I figured I’d suggest it anyway, in case someone like my younger self reads this later. I was way more clueless when I went to school – I literally had no idea, until a month before my final semester, that the internship class didn’t actually match you up with an internship, or prepare you for how to get one. You were supposed to have netted one already, prior to the class! No one had ever explained that to me, or really discussed how to look for internships. I thought, since they were required for graduation, that the school set them up somehow. I was floored when I found out how wrong I was.

    1. TL

      Just re-read that and realized the connection between the two paragraphs was fuzzy. Basically, the moral of the story is that your instructors can often help you quite a bit, putting you in contact with the right people and giving advice, but you *do* have to ask them. (And, in my case, know *to* ask them…)

  29. Chaucer

    I think the reason that advice like this gets thrown around a lot, and objections to said argument deflected, is that there is an assumption by the defenders of the “keep calling persistently” that there are very few people who bother to call asking for the status of their resume/application. In reality, I think there are more people who do perform “aggressive” practices likes this than what the average job seeker probably realizes. It reminds me of how those at MLM companies try to recruit people; they will emphasize that when you have a bunch of people working under you, you will make big money, but what they don’t tell you is that you yourself are also at the very bottom.

  30. Laurel

    There have been a lot of posts about internships recently. Since I’m looking for one myself I am finding it interesting. Did any of you see the Fox news segment last night asking if interns were being exploited and also taking jobs from other possible employees. I was out eating dinner and that was what was on the tv. I Couldn’t hear it too well.

  31. Liza

    A question about following up on an application: Is it really not OK to email to ask if the application was received? (I submitted a resume & cover letter today for a position that looks like it could be my dream job–and I didn’t get an automated confirmation of receipt, so now I’m nervous about whether or not it did go through. I don’t want to pester them, but I do want to make sure they got the resume!)

  32. Diane

    Yet another way job hunting is like dating . . . if a suitor calls every day, especially when you’re not interested or ready to make a date, then persistence becomes unattractive, even scary.

    I think you can start answering with two scenarios: jobs and dating. You’re welcome.

  33. Jenesse

    This is great advice for the real world, but I am also in my second semester of grad school looking for an internship as part of my program and have found that they do NOT operate like the real world. I don’t know what type of program you’re in, but I’m in a counseling program and the best way to get an internship actually is to call and email the sites a lot more than you would think and than you would for an actual hiring manager. For this field anyway, the people hiring for the internships are very busy clinicians and there aren’t many that have good hiring practices so it seems that they just hire whoever is on their radar ( aka whoever has contacted them last or the most). This isn’t great bit honestly how else would they decide when everyone is pretty much at the same level.

    As much as I love this blog, I would take this particular answer with a grain of salt. I would find out the norms in your field, especially for internships. Maybe get some advice from your program or second year students? If you also happen to be in counseling, call the internships sites every few days, see if any of your faculty have a connection to help you out, email them, etc. way more than you think you should. That’s just the way to do it for this unfortunately. Good luck!

  34. glennis

    What I have done when motivated to call, is simply to call the main HR office number and inquire what the status of such-and-such a position is. Has it been filled? Has the application deadline been extended? Have they already begun interviews?

    I don’t ever assume that calling will make me as a candidate stand out, but it gives me peace of mind that I can either write that one off or still may expect to hear from them.

  35. jesicka309

    Wow, varied responses!

    OP, I think the problem is not that your mother is out of touch with the working world, but that she is A MOTHER.
    Seriously, my mother emails me at work every day to:
    -remind me to call the insurance people for my car
    -to apply for jobs I mentioned I was interested in yet
    -Have you checked your exam results yet today?
    -Did your bf buy that new car?
    -Did you hear back about that job? You should call them again
    -Ring the insurance people again!
    -Have you heard back about that job? Did you try calling them? You should call again.

    Mothers will not rest until the question they have asked has been solved – and they will suggest the same advice every time – CALL THEM.

    I’m not trying to generalise (I’ve only ever had one mother :P) but just think of your mother as coming from a ‘I-want-the-best-for-my-child-and-I-want-it-now’ angle instead of ‘What-is-the-actual-best-job-hunt-strategy-even-if-it-takes-a-bit-longer’. She’s nagging you to be doing something because that’s what mums do, instead of doing nothing, which may be the best course of action but goes against everything mums stand for.

    1. bearing

      Ugh. I hope I speak for a large number of women reading this blog when I tell you that your generalization about mothers is positively revolting.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Revolting seems pretty strong here. Point taken that you can’t generalize about a huge group of people, but I’m not sure this warrants revulsion…

      2. jesicka309

        I do point out that I’ve only had one mother, as have most people, so at some point, we all end up generalising. Isn’t AAM generalising when she says to take advice from parents with a grain of salt? Isn’t everything a YMMV, but in my experience…?
        Sure, you might find my comment ‘revolting’, but I was only trying to shed a different perspective on parents giving advice. I know it’s difficult sometimes for my parents to quit being ‘parents’ and be ‘objective prospective employer’ when they’re doling out advice.
        I wasn’t talking down to mothers or anything!

        1. Laura L

          Your comment was definitely not revolting, although I do disagree with the generalization. :-)

          Parents definitely do annoying things because they care about you and want you to be happy.

          However, many of them don’t bother their children every day. :-) I love my mom and dad and talk to them at least once a week (sometimes more), but I would be really annoyed if my mom used the “but I’m your mother” excuse to email me every single day!

          But, that’s me. YMMV. :-)

          1. Laura L

            Gah. I normally don’t use that many smiley faces, I just wanted to emphasize that I respectfully disagree and am not trying to pile on you, Jesicka!

  36. Chris Hogg

    OP, you write, “My mother, who is staying with me now, has strong opinions….”

    If this is causing friction between you two, you may find this book helpful: When I say no, I feel guilty by Smith.

  37. Dave33

    I am having such a laugh right now imagining my mother reading this post and saying “well, I don’t know what this ask-a-manager person’s qualifications are, but I just think she’s wrong!”

  38. Kodachi

    I wonder what is the protocol for if the interview person is past due for contacting. I interviewed for a position and the interviewer told me “We will contact you in a week if you got the next interview or if the position is filled.” It’s been two weeks today and I’ve heard nothing. I did send a Thank You letter at the last week mark (when it would be exactly a week from the interview) and passively finished the letter with “I hope to hear a response soon!” I got a basic “We loved talking with you” response back the next day but now that it has been two weeks today, I would like to ask what is the hold up. A friend of mine who works there told me there was a computer problem that was affecting the business and especially HR, thus most likely the delay but I still want to ask the interviewer but don’t know if they would think I were annoying them.

    They did say they I would hear back in a week be it yay or nay, and I want to know what is the delay but I just don’t want to hurt my chances.

      1. Kodachi

        Ah, I did and it helped me decide that I’ll just send a nicely worded email asking about the hold up since they are past their timetable. Thanks!

  39. Hopeful

    I have been unemployed for few months and one week ago I was contacted by the internal recruiter of a company I really would like to work for. They asked for additional information (references, salary history, technical questions etc.) and for the best time to contact me. I gladly replied but still no news. Should I follow up with them?

  40. Z

    I’ve always been told to call to follow up on applications, this is the first site I’ve seen that doesn’t suggest it.

    I’m currently working as the Operator of a major retail store. For awhile, I wondered if all the calls I got for the “hiring manager” were actually useful or not. After a few weeks, I realized how obnoxious they are. I cringe whenever someone asks to talk to our “hiring manager” (no one in our store has that title, only new applicants who are reading off a script use it). Sometimes they get through, and it means a person who’s responding to a request that they come in for an interview has to sit on hold or misses out on the chance to talk to HR for a few hours because HR doesn’t sit around waiting for calls all day. (sometimes HR has to do other jobs, I’ve seen both HR people stuck at the cash register for hours, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a common problem in retail) Sometimes HR doesn’t answer and, when I tell them this and politely let them know what our policy is, I get yelled at. My favorite is when I forget to use the “hiring manager” terminology that we don’t use, telling them that HR isn’t available, and get yelled at because they asked for the non-existent “hiring manager”!

    Pro-tip: Be polite to everyone you talk to in the organization. Do you really think that the person you’re talking to isn’t in a position to let HR know if you were incredibly rude?

    Of course, my favorite was the guy who left a message asking HR to return his call (again: he was just checking his application status). Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t hired.

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