how to tell a rude job candidate that I don’t want to interview him after all

A reader writes:

I called a candidate for an interview and left a detailed message of when and where to call me back. When this person called back, he was very rude with our front desk clerks and stated he was not sure who called.

What can I say to this candidate? I don’t want to schedule him for an interview based on the complaints I received back about his actions. I had initially contacted him for a position where the customer service is very important, and if he couldn’t even be nice over the phone it makes me not want to waste my time. What can I say when this person calls back?

Well, you have two choices: Tell him the truth, or be vague.

If you’d rather be vague, you can simply say, “We’ve since moved forward with other candidates, but I appreciate your time.” (And if you go this route, you could simply send him an email right now saying this, rather than waiting to see if he calls back.)

If you want to tell him the real reason, you could say, “To be honest, customer service is very important for this role, and we’re assessing those skills in every contact with candidates. The person who took your earlier call had concerns about the way you handled the call, and so I don’t think the position is the right fit.”

The arguments in favor of giving him candid feedback are (1) you’d be doing him a service by letting him know the impact of his phone manner, and (2) the principle of the thing — someone who was rude to the receptionist should hear that it’s not okay.

The arguments against giving him candid feedback are (1) you’re opening yourself up to a potentially rude or hostile reaction, (2) you have no obligation to coach this guy on his job search skills, let alone to open yourself up to potential hostility as a result, and (3) one could argue there’s no point; you know you’re not going to hire this guy, so you might as well just move on.

Which way to go is really up to you. I’m a fan of giving candidates feedback when it’s not awkward and is easily delivered. But you certainly don’t need to, and could go the easier (and vaguer) route instead.

{ 222 comments… read them below }

  1. Anne*

    Good post.

    Personally, I would tell him why you’re not progressing his application. He might not take the hint, but if he does, it’ll be really helpful. You’re not the only employer who takes the receptionist’s views on candidates into account. (And as a sometimes-receptionist, thank you for doing that!)

    1. Jessa*

      Yes I agree, and especially with the part Alison said in that it’s not right to let someone get away with being rude to your staff.

      I do think if you don’t mind telling someone, in this case it’s a really good idea.

      And yes, as a former receptionist, thank you so much for giving a darn as to how we’re treated by people.

      1. Ruffingit*

        It is so bizarre to me that someone would treat the call staff/receptionists/etc. poorly or rudely. That is just completely stupid. First of all, everyone deserves to be treated with respect regardless of job title or position in a company.

        That said, it’s especially important to do this when you’re a job candidate. You never know what kind of influence the support staff have over hiring. I know people who run businesses where the input of support staff is taken into account because that staff has been there a long time and their opinions are valued. OR, the support staff person may in fact be related to the company owner, etc.

        You just never know. It’s better to just be polite and respectful when interacting with anyone in a business environment especially when interviewing. I’ve always looked at it like this – when I’m interviewing for a job, I’m walking into the “home” of the people who already work there. I am an outsider at that point so being respectful of everyone is just the smart thing to do. I wouldn’t be rude to someone if I went to their home for dinner so I won’t do it in a business context when I walk into their “home” either.

        1. Anne*

          Or it might be a small company, where the person who happens to be answering the phones also has influence over other areas.

          1. KaseyMack*

            Exactly! I work in a tiny law firm of four people. None of us are a receptionist or admin assistant, but we all take turns answering the phone. I actually tend to grab it the fastest since I’m the paralegal and sit at the front desk because we are in a really small office space at the moment, but both the attorney and firm administrator answer the phones fairly often. Any job candidate being a jerk just because they thought they were speaking to “only” a receptionist would be in for a rude awakening.

            Of course, as a former admin who HAS answered the phones to cover for receptionists before, I completely agree that it is asinine to be rude to any person in a professional environment and that support staff members are awesome and deserve to be just as appreciated as anyone else.

        2. Mel*

          I know this is way late, but I had to share. For a short time I was both the receptionist and the HR Manager at my company. One day a lady called up and immediately started yelling at me for not hearing back on an application she put in 6 months prior to me even starting at the company. She didn’t ask who I was or if I even had anything to do with the process. She just rudely complained and never gave me a chance to even apologize. She started going on and on that we couldn’t possibly have hired someone more qualified than her. At that point, I raised my voice and very politely said “Ma’am, I’m sorry to hear you are so upset, however I think it’s safe to say that you would not be a good fit with our organization or for this position as it’s largely customer service. Best of luck in your job search.” and hung up.

          Some people!

          **For the record, I also pulled up her application and made a note in the system about how rude she was so we would know to never hire her.**

  2. Elliot*

    Had a candidate go through the interview process, which in his mind did not go as well as he had hoped. That night, as he slowly increased his “lubrication”, he filled the voice mailbox of two recruiters, a vice-president, and about 3 or 4 other people whose numbers he dialed at random. Needless to say, we went no further with him. Since some of the messages he left could have been construed as threats, the friendly neighborhood sheriff’s deputy paid him a visit as well.

      1. Jessa*

        Because also showing you cannot hold your liquor will also totally make them hire you. /sarcasm

  3. some1*

    As a former receptionist, I agree with Allison’s response wholeheartedly.

    Also, when I was a receptionist, dealing with high-maintenance or demanding people was part and parcel of my position, and I knew that. As a job candidate, you basically had to use profanity, personally insult me, yell, or something equally egregious on the phone before I would have gone to the Hiring Manager with my concerns.

    1. Ash*

      So someone could have verbally abused you as long as they didn’t swear, insult you personally and raise their voice, and you wouldn’t have said anything whatsoever to anyone about their behavior?

      1. some1*

        You didn’t read the whole post. Verbal abuse would fall under “equally egregious”. But if I had reported every slightly rude (i.e. interrupting) or impatient caller about a job prospect to a higher-up, that’s all I would have been doing all day.

        In other words, if I said to a co-worker, “Someone named Ash called for you and she was very rude to me”, you can bet it was because the caller was very, very rude, otherwise I would not have mentioned it.

        1. Christy*

          I second this! I’m a former receptionist also, and the sad reality is that a lot, a LOT of people are brusque to the point of rudeness with the person who answers the phone. In their minds, they’re busy and don’t have time for niceties. As a seasoned receptionist, you learn to brush it off. As some1 said, if you complained about every “rude” caller, you’d never get anything else done and would probably be looking for a new job yourself. Her point is correct – for the front desk clerk to have mentioned it all mostly likely means that the caller was exceptionally rude.

      2. Cathi*

        I think some1’s point was that receptionists probably have a really high verbal abuse tolerance, and if a receptionist actually took the time to say something, the candidate in question must have been REALLY bad.

        1. some1*

          This. It would be like if a bartender serving 50+ people remembered how drunk one person in particular got.

        2. Jessa*

          Exactly. Receptionists get annoyed people, people in a hurry, scared people, upset people, people who think that not getting directly through to big name manager, CEO etc. is nasty and rude and how dare they put a gatekeeper between them.

          If I went to the bosses and said x person was rude. They knew darned well that x person was beyond the pale. Customers and employees got FIRED for being so rude to us that we complained to the bosses.

      3. JW*

        Hey Ash, she actually said:
        “use profanity, personally insult me, yell, or something equally egregious”.
        So no, they couldn’t have insulted her personally without some1 reporting it.

      4. tcookson*

        I think the spirit of the sort of thing “up with which she will not put” to quote (allegedly) Winston Churchill is indicated here . . . no need for an entire treatise in legalese to line it all out.

        1. Jessa*

          Exactly and good bosses know that truly good front of office people are worth their weight in gold for being able to manage things, keep people calm, know precisely when it’s okay to walk into the meeting of the board and interrupt them, etc.

          If someone stands out that way. It’s a “thing.”

  4. W.W.A.*

    I am always in favor of being candid to people whose are actively hurting their own chances. Also of telling people when they’ve done something that’s not okay. You probably have nothing to worry about just because he may be hostile toward you on the phone.

    I think people in professional situations too often shy away from this sort of conflict when often it is appropriate to tell someone they are being inappropriate!

    1. fposte*

      Sure, but I think it’s fair to avoid a situation where somebody will be hostile to you on the phone–that can be very unpleasant, and there’s no need for the OP to be exposed to that unpleasantness of it’s not his/her choice.

      1. fposte*

        To be clear, I’m not saying that you get to avoid all telephone hostility in life. But this would be a situation where you’re doing somebody a favor, and I’d be a lot less inclined to do that favor if I thought the person was going to be an ass about it.

        1. Jessa*

          I might too except in this case there’s an element of “you cannot treat my people like that.” If they bothered me personally not so much. But as a boss I have an obligation to protect my people from being treated poorly.

      2. W.W.A.*

        My personal opinion is just that I would not be so demure about telling someone they need to shape up their bad behavior. I don’t invite conflict, but if someone is being a jerk I would rather tell them so, knowing that they probably won’t react well to it, then just “let it go.”

        1. fposte*

          It’s definitely a personal call–I just don’t think it’s a letting it go/being demure thing so much as figuring out what you have time and emotional energy for in a day and prioritizing something else over doing a favor for a jackass. But you’re probably nicer than me :-).

          1. Nichole*

            Agreed-emotional energy is at a premium for me most days (I’m an introvert who works in a customer facing position), so doing a favor for someone who is being a jerk requires a special kind of motivation.

  5. Kou*

    I wonder if he just called back the number he saw he had a missed call from rather than listening to the voicemail. Then of course the receptionist didn’t know who he was or why someone had called him, so he got snippy with her. Not a smart move regardless of whether or not you’re job hunting.

    1. Chelsea B.*

      I’d agree with Kou – I sit near our office manager at work ( I work at a staffing agency) and this happens to us all the time. People call back and say they missed a call from this number – who called them? The office manager of course has no idea – and asks if the individual left a voicemail – for in order for her to pass the phone call along, she needs the name of the individual that called them. It baffles me that people do this! I generally DON’T call phone numbers back the don’t leave me a voicemail – otherwise it couldn’t have been that important!

      1. Christy*

        Second this too! I don’t understand it either. At least research the number online without expecting someone else to save you the work. This was a pet peeve of mine as a receptionist – especially since I worked at companies where any one of thirty people could have made the call. 25% of the time, callers would just be disappointed/perplexed but still polite. The other 75% would become belligerent and continue asking question after question to try to track down who called them.

        1. -X-*

          ” People call back and say they missed a call from this number – who called them? The office manager of course has no idea – and asks if the individual left a voicemail – for in order for her to pass the phone call along, she needs the name of the individual that called them. It baffles me that people do this!”

          No, it’s totally normal. Don’t give me grief I ask you to help me figure out who made the call (politely). I don’t know your phone system. I got a call from XXX-XXX-XXXX and called it back. Why is that weird?

          1. Jamie*

            I think it’s too common to be “weird” but the point is people who are calling from a business know how their system works, even if you don’t. If they didn’t leave a message then maybe they will call back or email or whatever…but their intent isn’t to have the receptionist chase down who called whom.

            If they didn’t leave a message it’s not that important.

            1. -X-*

              If I don’t know who called, how do I know it’s a from a business with multiple people?

              And if I’m job hunting I should assume every strange call is from a job? And be sure to be near a computer or have a smart phone so I can Google the number before calling it back? Or wait till I can do that.

              Rather than calling and asking “Hi, I got a call from this number, who is this?” and then hearing it’s “The Cup Cake Factory” saying either “Oh, I got a call from someone there but no message – I’d applied to be a Cup Cake Froster — could you transfer me to the person involved in hiring for that, or perhaps you would know who called?” or whatever will help find the right person. Or even saying “Oh, the Cup Cake Factory. Thanks – I’ll send an email to my contact at your company” and then hanging up to do that.

              What’s so offensive about that?

              1. Lily in NYC*

                Former receptionist here. I would have no problem with a call like what you wrote above, nor would most receptionists. But sadly, those nice calls are rare. You would not believe how many rude calls I used to get from people who just wouldn’t listen when I tried to explain that they called a very large company and would ask for more info and that I’d try to find out who called. People would get all huffy and act like I was a complete idiot for not knowing who called them just because they gave me their name.

                1. A*

                  A thousand times this. I also got a lot of ‘cant you just look it up?’. No, no I can’t. Because most companies don’t have a tracking system for all incoming and outgoing call archives at the reception desk.

                  It was always frustrating trying to get them to stop being rude for long enough to listen that I wanted to help but needed more info.

              2. Mimi*

                It’s not offensive, but it’s really annoying. Especially in the case of a company with multiple phone lines.

                Put it this way: if it’s about a job, and they want to speak to you, they’ll leave a message. No message? Not that important.

                1. Jamie*

                  That’s the thing – it’s one call to the person tracking it down but it can be tons of these calls per day (of varying shades of politeness) for the receptionist who is busy trying to route real calls.

                  Just an FYI I’ve found when you tell people you are IT they don’t ask you for anything. After hours I’ll pick up the calls on night ring and callers will badger about names for this or that or who is your purchasing or shipping manager and do they have voice mail. “Actually I’m IT…” and they automatically offer to call back in the morning.

                  There is some weird reputation we have for being unhelpful on the phone so sales callers just avoid us. Comes in handy.

                2. -X-*

                  I don’t have a separate phone number for job searches. I can’t know if the call was about a job or something else.

                1. The Other Dawn*

                  Thank you! I’ve been wondering the same thing. If I got a call from a business and no message was left I would assume either it wasn’t important or they dialed the wrong number. I wouldn’t call back and grill the receptionist. We get a lot of those calls and it’s so annoying. Can’t someone misdial??

                2. crookedfinger*

                  I have never understood that, either. I’ve never felt compelled to call back every missed call I get. People misdial ALL the time.

                3. Natalie*

                  IME a good number of those missed calls with no message are scam calls anyway (SEO, cruises, Rachel from credit card services) so I’m especially not motivated to call them back.

              3. Frieda*

                I know this “do you call the number back” thing is off topic and seems a little heated, but as a person who has never done this (and honestly, had never even considered): calling back an unknown-number missed call that did not leave a voice mail, what is your reason for calling back? I mean that 100% sincerely–I’m genuinely curious.

                My thought process is that if it was important they would have left a voicemail; if I was job searching, I would be sure to leave my voicemail activated and cleared out; if someone called and didn’t leave a voicemail, 9 times out of 10 it was a wrong number. Or maybe they decided to send me an email/text instead. So why do you NEED to know who called? Why do you NEED to know where they got your number? Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I don’t think of phone numbers as super private pieces of data.

                1. Kou*

                  I think this is also a generational thing, though, to not leave a message because you know the number and time of the call are on their phone already so you don’t need to leave a message. They just assume you’ll see they called and call them back whenever.

                  Of course I don’t call back every missed call I get, but for me 99% of the time it’s from my doctor/vet/apartment manager/whathaveyou, or occasionally a friend who got my number from someone else.

                2. Emily*

                  Or, for heaven’s sakes, a sales or political robocall! I swear, 40% of my incoming calls are these unsolicited types. That’s part of the reason I don’t give hang-ups a second thought.

              4. A*

                Those comments wouldn’t be offensive at all – however expecting the receptionist to be able to ‘help you figure out who called’ as you stated in your original comment, can be. Just because they are the receptionist doesn’t mean they have time for that or that it is in their job description.

                When I was a receptionist I worked in an extremely fast paced industry and would not have had the time to spare to chase down a mystery caller. However if someone called, stated they had applied here, and asked for my help on who to contact – I absolutely would. However there is a big difference between providing information off the bat (“I applied for a job with you recently – maybe that’s where it came from?”) is a lot different than ‘I got a call from XYZ. Help me.’

                1. Kou*

                  Of course I wouldn’t expect them to magic it out for me or get impatient if they didn’t, but it certainly can’t hurt to ask if they know where they might need to send me. I didn’t call expecting to get someone other than the person who called me, either, it’s not like I’d call a receptionist on purpose to make them hunt some unknown caller down for me.

                  That said, I think this has only happened to me like twice ever.

          2. Chelsea B.*

            The thing is we don’t have a dial phone system. When you call us – you get our front desk. Our recruiters call a lot of candidates in a day – and we have 10 or so recruiters. They leave voicemails to call them back giving their name and usually the reason they’re calling – it’s just difficult to ask the office manager to figure out who called you from little to no information. Even just the name of recruiter is all she needs to pass on the call – but without that – the best she could do is to call each recruiter to find out if they called this particular individual – which is not the best use of her time.

          3. Elise*

            It’s very weird when job hunting because most people know how to check their voice mail. If they don’t know how and can’t figure out how to learn this valuable skill on their own, then they will not be a good fit for most jobs.

            On most phones there should even be an indicator that tells you when you get a new message.

            1. VictoriaHR*

              I staff a call center with high school and college students. That age demographic in particular tends to not check their voicemails and they just call back my number and say, “yeah I just got a call from this number” and then when I say, “yes, I left you a voicemail…” they say “oh” and sit there. Very frustrating.

          4. some1*

            I don’t understand why the people on the thread who *must* know who called but didn’t leave a voice mail don’t at least try to Google the number first, instead of the expecting the receptionist to track down a call that was obviously low priority (hence no voice mail).

            1. -X-*

              Maybe they don’t have a smart phone, are not always near a computer, and sometimes get calls from strangers or acquaintances that are useful to them w/o the other party leaving a message.

                1. Amy*

                  Internet access on phones is wickedly expensive, not everyone is willing to pay that kind of monthly expense (cheapest I can find online is $60/month for a plan that includes internet)…people have told me its irresponsible not to have internet on my phone (aka no access to emails, etc) and to them I have replied, “are you offering to pay for it?”…that usually shuts them up.

                2. Jamie*

                  Data plans can be expensive but there are a lot of really great Android phones out there where you don’t need a data plan – so you can get the internet/email where ever you have wi-fi.

              1. A*

                There is nothing wrong with calling the number back to find out who it was from. But in this example the candidate should have stopped once he found out the company name.

                “Good afternoon – Chocolate Teapot Company. How may I direct your call?”
                “Oh! Chocolate Teapot Company! I had received a call from this number and wasn’t sure who it was from, but I recently applied for a position with you so it most likely was the recruiter/HR/hiring manager. Could you please connect me to the individual handling the hiring for XYZ, or the relevant department? Thank you!”

                Easy. Everyone wins.

                1. Mimi*

                  Fair enough. But I have to say, I’ve never had a recruiter call me about a job and NOT leave a voicemail.

            2. Kou*

              I have yet to ever google a phone number I have no idea about and have it actually bring up the business it’s from, oddly enough.

            3. Emily*

              And *must* know *immediately* instead of reverse searching the number later, or just assuming (probably accurately!) that a caller who didn’t leave a voicemail doesn’t need or even expect to hear back from you. It wasn’t all *that* long ago that if someone called you at home and you weren’t there to answer, not only would you not get to look at caller ID or listen to a message later, you wouldn’t even know that someone had called at all.

              1. Anonymus*

                It’s still like that in my country! Voice mail is rare and expensive, even most businesses don’t have it. No caller ID, not even on my android phone unless you’re in my address book. If you call my home phone and I’m not in, I have no idea you called. If you call my mobile and I don’t recognise the number I’ll assume if it was important you would have sent an sms or an e-mail because I’m not returning your call.

            4. VictoriaHR*

              Whenever I’ve tried to Google a phone number, it just gives me all of the websites that will charge me a fee to look it up. Never gives me the company name or person’s name who owns the number.

          5. Tina*

            I know that’s more and more common behavior on a social level these days, but doesn’t always work well on a professional level. From the perspective of an employer in the process of filling a position, if they leave you a message which you then ignore and just call back the number, you may seem a)like you can’t follow directions, b) like you’re unprepared or lazy, c) you put in no effort of your own before asking someone else and asking someone else to do your work for you or d) all of the above. Those assumptions may or may not be true, but when job hunting, it’s probably not the best way to kick off an interaction with an employer.

          6. Kelly O*

            What if I were just a person who misdialed a number?

            I work in an office with quite a few lines out, but they all ring back in to the same number. So if Jane in AP dials a vendor number, misdials, and realizes it when she hears your voice message, she hangs up.

            No big deal, right? I mean, it shouldn’t be a big deal.

            Ever see the Dave Chappell bit about “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong” about the girl who got all mad about “people playing on my phone”? – That’s what I think about when people start getting upset when they have a missed call and no voice mail.

            1. VictoriaHR*

              I misdialed my husband’s number once and hung up as soon as I realized it, and the guy called me back and was all like “WHY DID YOU CALL ME RAWR.”

              Personally I’d rather see I had a missed call and no voicemail than have to call my voicemail, go through all of the prompts (that the cell phone company drags out so to cost you more minutes) only to hear “sorry this was a wrong number.”

              1. Laura L*

                This is what I don’t get. So, someone realized they called a wrong number and hung up right away. No big deal, it’s been happening since phones were invented (or shortly thereafter). Why be angry about it?

          7. A*

            I don’t think weird is ther term I would use but I will say that when I worked as a temp receptionist at a company where I was passing hundreds of calls out a day to about 2 dozen individuals – it was unrealistic for customers to call saying they had no idea who contacted them and expect me to be able to figure it out.

            If they spoke with someone I would always try – what did they sound like? Man or woman? Etc. but if it was just. A missed call – forget about it. I’m not going to contact every single person to see who may have called someone. Just because they are the receptionist or in CS doesn’t mean they have time for tasks like that.

            This happened a handful of times – and I always tried, but if the answer wasn’t obvious (I.e. I already knew that someone at my company had been trying to reach so and so) I simply could not put in the time it would take. Not to mention that 9 times out of 10 the callers were rude, even more so when I explained that I wasn’t able to just ‘look it up in the system’ etc.

          8. Jessa*

            I think it’s one thing to get a call from x number and no message. But in a lot of cases there are people who DO leave messages that are just not listened to.

            Also a lot of people, enough to be noticeable (not you of course) are A: rude about it B: don’t want to answer a raft of questions to find out which person in a 500 person company where only the main trunk line shows on caller ID, might have had business with them.

            You sound like one of the rational ones. However, there also needs to be an understanding that it is possible that you won’t find out the information you want.

            If they say “Well you’ve reached x insurance co,” you can probably guess if it’s your medical insurance or your car insurance and they can look you up and hopefully the file will have a note on it as to who called.

            But some businesses (banks, credit card companies, credit collection people, etc.) zillions of people and no way whatsoever to figure out who sometimes.

            I guess this is harsh, but yes you have a right to google the number and figure out who called you. But if they didn’t leave a message (for all you know it was a wrong number even.) you may not actually have a right to call them back. Back in the pre caller ID days you would only know you’d been called if they leave a message.

            Obviously if you keep getting calls from the same unknown number this is different…YMMV.

            1. Tinker*

              So… your company has the right to call my number for what may be basically no reason, but I have no right to call your company’s number because… I received a call from you?

              Sorry, no.

              Seems to me that if y’all really don’t want to be called back at all by people who, I emphasize, Y’ALL ARE CALLING, then the thing to do is to block caller ID on outgoing calls and take your place with the bill collectors and robocalls.

              1. Anne*

                I think the point here is not that you have no right to call the number back, but that you have no right to be rude to the person who answers if they can’t be sure who called you.

              2. Mimi*

                Maybe the caller ID is reflecting a different number than the number of the person who is calling you. It’s happened to me. But the bottom line still is: if it was important, that person would have left a message.

        2. BCW*

          Well, in people’s defense, there are times when I’ll have a miss call, but a voice mail doesn’t actually register for a while. If I just missed it, then yes, it is possible that I’ll just call right back.

          1. Chinook*

            “If I just missed it, then yes, it is possible that I’ll just call right back.”

            But there is a world of difference between being nice to the receptionist who doesn’t know who called you and being beligerent and expecting said receptionist to track them down for you.

          2. Kou*

            Yes, this drives me INSANE. For some reason on my phone, the missed call and voicemail notifications don’t match up a lot of the time. So I’ll frequently get a voicemail with no missed call notice, or a missed call and then the voicemail pops up like a freakin’ day later.

      2. the gold digger*

        Oh man! If I don’t leave a message, it’s because it wasn’t urgent that I speak with you.

        If I did leave a message, I told you what I wanted. So don’t call me back and ask why I called. I told you why I called in the message.

        This is why I prefer email to talking to people. I would be very happy never to talk on the phone again as long as I live.

        1. Jamie*

          And if you ever run for office on the Anti Phone Call platform I will quit my job to run your local campaign in my area.

        2. Anonymous*

          I set up a Google Voice number to handle my voicemail. Now I get a text message of the transcribed message. Granted, the results are far from perfect, but you can get the gist of the message well enough.

        3. -X-*

          Then don’t makes calls if you’re not at least willing to say “No need to call me back.”

          Then you won’t have this problem. The solution is in your hands.

          1. some1*

            But the point is that the person you are getting on the phone is not the one you called you. & It’s not her job to track down who it was.

            1. -X-*

              But the point is how am I supposed to know that when the only info I have is a phone number? Are you saying I shouldn’t call back anyone who I don’t recognize and doesn’t leave a message?

              I’m not saying it’s the job of the person I get to track down someone. I’m saying a person answering a phone shouldn’t be annoyed to get a call saying “I got a call from this number, who is this?” and then “Oh, I applied for a job in X department, do you have an idea of who might have called me?” Calling and then asking for help.

              1. some1*

                “I’m not saying it’s the job of the person I get to track down someone. ”

                If you say: “Oh, I applied for a job in X department, do you have an idea of who might have called me?”

                you ARE asking the receptionist to track the person down for you.

                1. -X-*

                  No, you are asking the receptionist to share information he/she may have or can think of or look up in a directory they have – a normal part of answering phones. And if they can’t figure it out, so be it.

                  If that standard of performance is too much, perhaps the organization should not have a receptionist and just use voice mail/phone trees. If all they do is transfer people to callers they know by name, their job isn’t adding much value.

                2. Jamie*

                  That’s pretty harsh – I think a receptionist adds a lot of value in many businesses. For me it would be a flip of a switch to go voice mail prompt but when a customer can’t get a hold of their rep the receptionist can track down the PM or look up a shipment or whatever. And having someone as gatekeeper at the front door so people are bothered by cold calling sales people all day long.

                  I don’t even know how a receptionist could use a directory to track down who called you. Should she read off a list of names until you recognize one?

                  And your method of calling back missed calls who didn’t leave a message – that means everyone who dialed you accidentally either wrong numbers or the wrong person in their contacts. It happens all the time – not to mention telemarketers. If you want to waste your time tracking down every call that wasn’t worth leaving a message it’s your prerogative – but that doesn’t mean it’s a worthwhile use of the receptionists time.

                3. KellyK*

                  I think it’s totally reasonable to ask the person who answers the phone to try to put you in touch with the person who called you, assuming you do it politely and with as much info as you can give them. I don’t think “Would you happen to know…” is at all like “Drop what you’re doing and find this out for me.”

                  As long as you understand that it might not be a feasible request, it’s a perfectly reasonable one to make.

                  However, it’s also worth remembering that not everyone who answers a business phone is a dedicated receptionist, especially if you call after hours or it’s a small organization.

                4. some1*

                  “No, you are asking the receptionist to share information he/she may have or can think of or look up in a directory they have – a normal part of answering phones. And if they can’t figure it out, so be it.

                  If that standard of performance is too much, perhaps the organization should not have a receptionist and just use voice mail/phone trees. If all they do is transfer people to callers they know by name, their job isn’t adding much value.”

                  I have never worked somewhere that people buzz the receptionist and say, “Receptionist, just to let you know I’m calling -X- right now to set up a job interview. Then I’m calling my barber to get my nose hair trimmed. Then I’m calling my kid’s science teacher. Then I’m calling Clients A, B, & C. ”

                  That’s not how businesses work.

                5. -X-*

                  This is to Jamie @3:38

                  “I don’t even know how a receptionist could use a directory to track down who called you. Should she read off a list of names until you recognize one?”

                  Presumably a company directory with responsibilities.

                  “I applied for a job in your frosting department, could you put me through to someone there?”

                  It’s not that complicated. She might even say, “Oh, let me put you through to HR instead.”

                  I answered phones in my organization part time way back in the day. Part of the job is making a some effort to help. “Oh, you’re selling widgets? Let me take you number and I’ll pass it to the right person” or “Oh, you want our PR person – I’ll transfer you?” or whatever.

                  That’s part of the job. If someone gives you some info, you think about it and try to transfer the call (or perhaps take a message). It’s not always possible, but that’s part of answering phones.

                  And to someone1 3:40pm – if you have an employee making calls and leaving hangups like that so repeatedly, tell them to stop and instead leave messages with a direct # instead to avoid many calls going to the main line.

                6. Emily*

                  For -X- @ 3:52

                  The receptionist’s job is to answer calls, look up and distribute information, and take messages as it benefits the employer, not necessarily every caller. I’m not sure it’s reasonable to expect whoever answers the phone when you call to make it their job to help you.

              2. Laura L*

                “Are you saying I shouldn’t call back anyone who I don’t recognize and doesn’t leave a message?”

                I never do that. So, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. And if someone is trying to hire me, why wouldn’t they leave a message? Or send an email?

              3. saf*

                ” Are you saying I shouldn’t call back anyone who I don’t recognize and doesn’t leave a message?”

                I think you shouldn’t. Maybe they called a wrong number, realized it, and hung up. Maybe if they couldn’t talk to you right then, it wasn’t important.

                And maybe it wasn’t them who called you. Once a friend of mine called his sister-in-law from my home phone. He was at my house and leaving to go to her house, so he called her to tell her he was on his way. He spoke to her. Later that night, she called our house. She had been going through her caller id, seen our number, didn’t recognize it, and called to berate us for calling her. We had NO idea who she was or what she was talking about. She kept insisting on knowing who we were and why we had called her. We eventually hung up on her, and she kept calling back. Took us several days to figure out what had happened. We told the friend to call her, tell her what happened and tell her to stop harassing us.

                It was a bit frightening,

                1. 22dncr*

                  What is it about people that they feel like they OWN their phone number? Don’t they realize they just “rent” them? That it will, and can, be given to someone else? (I am assuming this is why people are this way?) People make mistakes – like they’ve never called a wrong number? As long as it’s not in the middle of the night get over yourself!

              4. Jamie*

                I’m not saying it’s the job of the person I get to track down someone. I’m saying a person answering a phone shouldn’t be annoyed to get a call saying “I got a call from this number, who is this?” and then “Oh, I applied for a job in X department, do you have an idea of who might have called me?”

                This isn’t rude, as long as you aren’t asking them to spend time tracking anyone (which is why your directory comment is confusing me) but it’s not likely to get you a name in a lot of places, either.

                I don’t know if you’ve ever done time on the phones, but one of the things that elevates a truly good receptionist is the ability to screen. Cold calling vendors use every trick in the book to get the name of the department head they are trying to reach – and then they call back and ask for them by name or are “returning a call.” Every company I’ve worked at will not give out names of hiring managers (or anyone) to random callers.

                Being a good gatekeeper is an immensely important skill – and under-rated because it’s hard to screen out the sales without alienating the potential customer calls.

                I won’t belabor the point any more, I guess I just don’t understand what could be gained out tracing of a call which wasn’t even important enough to leave a message.

              5. The IT Manager*

                Are you saying I shouldn’t call back anyone who I don’t recognize and doesn’t leave a message?

                Yes. If it was important to provide you information or call you back they would have left a message. Not leaving a message means they DO NOT want you to call them back.

              6. SerfinUSA*

                >Are you saying I shouldn’t call back anyone who I don’t recognize and doesn’t leave a message?<

                Pretty much. Or at very least that the person who called and didn't leave a message isn't obligated to accept your return call. A mis-dial or not wanting to leave a message shouldn't result in a back-stalk unless it happens multiple times, i.e. harassment.

              7. Mimi*

                Yes. I firmly believe that if you don’t recognize the phone number, and the caller doesn’t leave a voicemail, you should feel free to continue living your life.

              8. Kelly O*


                I am saying exactly if someone calls you, you miss the call, you don’t recognize the number, and they don’t leave a message, then NO you do not call them back.

                It may not have a blessed thing to do with you. It might be my Aunt Martha who wanted to call and tell me happy birthday, but misdialed my office number and got your cell. It could be my daughter’s daycare trying to call me, and someone misdials a number.

                I mean, I realize I am getting a little riled about this, but honestly. The world does not revolve around you, and there are perfectly innocent reasons why someone would call and not leave a message. IF IT IS IMPORTANT THEY WILL LEAVE YOU A MESSAGE OR CALL YOU BACK LATER OR POSSIBLY EMAIL YOU.

                (Yes, I am going the full Kanye on this one. It is that big an issue for me. It’s impolite, it’s arrogant, and it makes it sound like you expect people to behave the way YOU want them to behave, rather than the way a good portion of rational, polite, well-behaved people would respond.)

                1. Layla*

                  Not from the US; we don’t use voice mail here.
                  I occasionally call back unknown numbers –
                  Sometimes it’s from a direct line from a client ,
                  Sometimes it’s a general line from my bank or Telemarketeer. I’m not job hunting so I never ask to be put thru to the person trying to contact me. If it’s important to them they will call me back.
                  Sometimes it’s a wrong number and the call will be over in 20s

                  Why do I not have a right to call back any number I deem fit ?

              9. Lindsay J*

                Why should you call back anyone who you don’t recognize and who doesn’t leave a message?

                1. -X-*

                  It might be a friend of mine in need for whom I don’t recognize the number or who has borrowed a phone. It might be a business opportunity. Maybe the message got cut off.

                  But I don’t feel my main point is about why I should call back. It’s why it’s rude, or not, to call back. I find it bizarre that so many people here think it’s rude to return a phone call if no message was left. It it bother them, leave messages.

                2. Kathryn T.*

                  Because you never actually know if they didn’t leave a message. Sometimes the voicemail flag doesn’t show up until hours — or days — later. Sometimes you pick up the phone on the fourth ring just as it clicks over, and you call back immediately instead, too.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            Actually, the solution is in the call recipient’s hands. In this case, he lost out on a job opportunity because he failed to follow basic directions.

            It makes no sense to return a missed call if they didn’t leave a message.

            1. -X-*

              “It makes no sense to return a missed call if they didn’t leave a message.”

              You’re wrong.

              It sometimes makes sense to do so. We can’t predict when. That’s part of why so many people do it.

              1. fposte*

                However, if you’re in the process of job-hunting, it makes utterly no sense to be rude to anybody when you’re calling people. It’s really not going to harm anything if you find out you were polite to a telemarketer.

                1. -X-*

                  Do you think I’m suggesting being rude? I don’t think that’s what I’m saying but if you get that impression, sorry.

                  All I’m saying is it is understandable to call back a number that you don’t recognize and ask who it is. Lot’s of people do it.

                2. LPBB*

                  -X-, I think the reason people are pushing back so hard on you in this thread, is because you are responding to a story about a rude job applicant. *You* may not be rude in this situation, but *this person* was.

                  Also, the intial comment was about people who do not listen to the voicemail before calling the number and demanding to know who called them and why. An action that I personally find, if not rude, massively irritating. And, as someone who has been on the receiving end of these calls, I can say that people who do this are generally not patient and polite and reasonable.

                  As someone who worked in retail customer service 10+ years, I can also tell you that a lot of people assume that because *they* are always polite to CS workers, that means everybody elese is. Sorry, but that’s not how it works. I think this may be the source of some of the disconnect in this conversation.

                3. -X-*

                  LPBB –

                  “*You* may not be rude in this situation, but *this person* was.”

                  That actually STRENGTHENS my point. The problem is the rudeness, not the calling back. I’ve never defended the OP’s applicant – I’ve simply said it’s OK to call back. So stop people here should stop saying it’s wrong in general. It’s not. It’s wrong when it’s done rudely.

              2. some1*

                The only reason to do so is because you apparently refuse to wait to A) look up the number on the internet B) check the phone numbers of orgs where you have applied or C) you assume that you know better than the person who called you and didn’t wish to leave a message.

                Just because your curiosity needs to be instantly gratified doesn’t mean the Earth needs to stop turning to accommodate it.

                1. -X-*

                  “Just because your curiosity needs to be instantly gratified doesn’t mean the Earth needs to stop turning to accommodate it.

                  Oh come on. Calling back someone who called me (or thinking I am calling a person, since I don’t know it’s a company) and saying “I got a call from this number, who is this?” is about uncontrolled desire for instant gratification and thinking I’m the center of the world? Really?

                2. Katie the Fed*


                  The only reason to do it is to satisfy your own curiosity. If I didn’t leave a VM, it’s because I don’t need to talk to you that much. By the time you’ve called me back to ask why I’ve called, I’ve probably gotten the answer I needed from someone else and you’re just annoying me.

                  I can’t think of a single reason to ever call a number back if they didn’t leave a message. If you know it’s a friend, that’s different. But for a stranger? No way.

                3. KellyK*

                  I can think of lots of reasons you’d return a call when someone didn’t leave voicemail.

                  -Your voicemail box is full, or having issues, or you don’t have voicemail enabled.
                  -You’re expecting an important call from someone who might not leave a message. (Or you have family or friends who are in the habit of never leaving messages.)
                  -You can’t tell from the lack of a message if the caller chose not to leave one or got cut off.

                  I do generally assume that if someone wanted a call back, they would have left a message, but I can’t wrap my head around how returning a call is being viewed as rude.

                4. -X-*

                  Katie – I don’t know the number of many many people who I might like to talk with, friends included.

                  “By the time you’ve called me back to ask why I’ve called, I’ve probably gotten the answer I needed from someone else and you’re just annoying me.”

                  If it’s annoying you to have people call you back when you don’t leave a message, then leave a message. Or don’t call at all. Email from the get-go.

                5. Kelly O*

                  – X –

                  You are really going an irrational route with this one.

                  Yes, it makes you look like you think you are the center of the universe.

                  Yes, it makes you look impatient and unable to wait to double-check phone numbers to see if it’s even remotely close to someone you may have contact with (so that you could say “Hi this is X, may I speak with Jane please? Jane, sorry I think I may have missed a call.”)

                  (Which, by the way I again do not endorse as a strategy at all. If Jane needs to leave you a message, she will. If not, she will contact you another way.)

                6. -X-*

                  So Kelly, people can call me, put information on my phone (their number) and not bother to tell me who they are or why they called or even not to call back. They can do all this and it’s fine.

                  But I’m self-centered for calling them? Bizarre.

                7. Kelly O*

                  X, I’m not sure if you are aware of this, and another person mentioned it, but it may have gotten skimmed over.

                  You do not own your telephone number. You’re basically renting that number from your provider. If something happens and you move to another city and get a new phone number there, after a certain time that old number will be reassigned. Someone may have had the number you have before you, and when you eventually stop using that number, someone will have it after you.

                  I simply cannot believe the “putting their information on my phone makes them suddenly bound to me” argument you’re making. And it’s not helping the point that for many of us, someone calling and wanting to know who called from a number feels rude and intrusive.

                  It’s perpetuating an arrogant, self-centric perception – because I dial your number and don’t leave you a message (using none of your phone minutes, if that’s the problem, nor requiring you to listen to a voice mail) then I have an obligation to explain myself to you, or to notify my receptionist that I misdialed a number, so please let the person know that it was a mistake. Because clearly you’ve never worked in a busy office, where dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people may work. It’s impractical.

                  And, in larger companies, there may be quite a few people involved in hiring. So even if it was related to you and your application, it might have been an HR person. It could have been the manager interviewing. It could have been one of those people’s administrative assistants. And that person could either be following up with an email (thinking that, if you didn’t pick up your phone, perhaps it was an inconvenient time and email would be better) or that person could have left a message and your voice mail system didn’t pick it up yet.

                  While I recognize there may be cultural differences for some readers, I am just absolutely flummoxed by someone in the States who feels entitled to “an answer” because they think what may very simply be a wrong number allows them to continue behave in a certain way.

                  As others have pointed out, what if you call back, and that person doesn’t recognize the number (because they misdialed or whatever) and ignores the call, or misses the call because they walked away, or they called the person they intended to call and are speaking with them? You’re setting up a potentially long-lasting cycle of calling back and forth, all because someone got upset about “putting your information” out.

                  Seriously? We are having this detailed a discussion about THIS? Blows my mind.

                8. Anonymous*

                  You do not own your telephone number. You’re basically renting that number from your provider. If something happens and you move to another city and get a new phone number there, after a certain time that old number will be reassigned.

                  Just out of curiosity am I the only one still regularly (several per week) getting calls for the people who used to have my cell #? I’ve had the same number for over three years and this still happens a lot.

                  And I don’t appreciate bill collectors chasing down people I’ve never met getting snidey with me as if I’m ducking them…and they don’t believe me that I’m not Tammy or Myrna or Patrick.

              3. The IT Manager*

                Why does it make sense? If they wanted you to call back, they would have left a message asking you to do so. It doesn’t make sense to me.

          3. Jazzy Red*

            No kidding. It’s SO rude to hang up without leaving a vm, then getting all pissy because the person called you back to find out what you wanted.


            How hard is that?

            1. Nodumbunny*

              To be blunt, it depends on who is the need-er and who is the need-ee. If I’m calling you and you need me more than I need you (you’re a vendor or a job-seeker), I’m not going to listen to your v/message about the ten different ways I can track you down if I have a bunch of other calls to make and/or too complicated a message to lealve and/or will catch you again later. If I’m calling you and I need you more than you need me (you’re a customer), then I’ll do whatever it takes.

            2. Jamie*

              So if you dial incorrectly and realize right away that you have a wrong number, do you think there is an obligation to let it ring until it’s picked up or you can leave voice mail?

              “Hi – you don’t know me, but I dialed incorrectly and called you by mistake. I’m leaving this message so you don’t call me back demanding to know who I am and why I’m calling you.”

              And if I don’t and they call me back and get my voice mail – because I’m not picking up if I don’t recognize the number – and they leave a message asking why I called them. Do I need to call them back and tell them it was an accidental missdial?

              At what point does a wrong number become a relationship? I’ve dated people with less communication.

              1. Kelly O*

                No kidding.

                I have had people dial my cell, and out of habit I answer. Then they’ll get all pissy because I didn’t call them, but “I have a call from this number!!!” No, sorry, I did not call you. I can check my call log if you want, but geez.

                And as a receptionist? Guys seriously, people can go off the deep end about calls. I did not realize we took our phones so seriously until I got reamed out by a few rather irate individuals.

            3. Lindsay J*

              How is it rude? What harm is a listing of a missed call on your phone doing to you?

              1. Mimi*

                I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m too busy to redial missed calls. I’ve never missed out on a job opportunity; I’ve always gotten a voicemail. Friends and family? Voicemail. My dentist and doctors? Voicemail.

                If your voicemail is full, clear it out. Your voicemail doesn’t always work? Get a new phone. Live your life and stop worrying about this stuff. Trust me, it’ll save you time and aggravation.

          4. Jessa*

            And some companies that you do not want to talk to (whether because they are charities or political or collections or whatever,) do not have the ability to leave messages. There are call centres where the reps are not to do this because of legal reasons or because it wastes talk time etc. It’s up to the caller whether or not they want to leave a message. Feel free to call the number, but if you can’t be put through to someone oh well.

      3. KellyK*

        Yeah, we get this too. Our office manager’s solution to this is generally an email to *everyone* with the person’s name and asking whoever called them to call them back. Which is vaguely irritating, but probably the best way to actually get the message to the right person.

      4. Eva*

        “It baffles me that people do this! I generally DON’T call phone numbers back the don’t leave me a voicemail – otherwise it couldn’t have been that important!”

        Perhaps they don’t have voicemail enabled? I know I don’t, so there are occasions when I’ve been guilty of doing this when I’ve been curious to know whose call I missed and I can’t find out whom the number belongs to by looking it up online. It happens rarely though, because like you said, if it’s important enough, people find another way to contact you (email or text, which is what I prefer).

        I’d probably enable voicemail if I were job searching though – except if I happened to be abroad, because then voicemails can cost serious money.

        1. fposte*

          In the US, the caller doesn’t need to enable voicemail–it’s all up to the recipient.

          1. Eva*

            I believe that’s the case everywhere. :) But I see I did not write very clearly. I wrote my comment because Chelsea B. was baffled that anyone would ever call to say they missed a call from this number and ask who called them. As someone who has done that once or twice, I figured I’d chime in to explain why I have done it. Does my comment make more sense now?

      5. Kou*

        I’ve done it a few times thinking I knew who it was (but was wrong, obviously), then it turns out to map to the main line of somewhere else. Then I get to fumble to the receptionist while trying to quickly determine in my head if I know someone there, why they might have been trying to call me, etc. But if I don’t have any info and the receptionist doesn’t have any ideas, I just say thank you/sorry and let them go.

        Where this guy went wrong was in getting a bad attitude with someone I guess he assumed wasn’t important enough to deserve common courtesy. Which is just a LIFE mistake, really, don’t EVER be snippy with customer service people just because you know they can’t snip back at you. Really, you shouldn’t have to be trying to make a good impression to not behave that way.

    2. EnnVeeEl*

      Right. I could call someone from my desk phone and to an outsider, it looks like our main number. It might have helped the job seeker to actually listen to the voicemail before picking up the phone.

      On top of being rude, he/she doesn’t practice common sense. Next!

      1. Jamie*

        Ugh – I keep having to lecture my own family about this.

        When setting up the phone system I could have had caller ID show the direct dial lines or the main number. We wanted main number – so if I call them from my desk and they hit redial it goes to reception. The receptionist shouldn’t have to forward my personal calls – but no matter how many times I tell them to call my desk they can’t resist the lure of the glowing redial button.

        1. Jessa*

          And it’s worse with people with the wrong number. I’ve been called like 5 times in a row because they keep hitting redial. I’m like HEY people, if you typed it wrong, hitting redial will not change the number. Happens all the time with calls from Florida. My cel has always had a Florida number. Everyone in the universe who knows me has that number including some elderly relatives that would NEVER be able to be trained to remember a new number.

          They swear they dialed right. I tell em they’ve called Ohio check the number again. They just don’t get it. The phone has not been in Florida in 7 years.

    3. Liz in a Library*

      Ugh…I used to work on the switchboard for a large university, and on some phone systems, the switchboard number rather than the direct line would show on caller ID. People never did seem to believe when I’d explain that I had no idea which of our 45,000 students, faculty, and staff just called you…

  6. Lisa*

    As a related note, we would interview receptionists that were fine in the interview, but when they got the job acted entitled and like guests to the office were bothering them. Same thing with answering the phones, no one wants to call a business and feel like your call is frustrating the person answering by its mere existence. Its your job to be ‘on’ in a positive or neutral way, and you should do it well or you won’t get the job / will be fired.

    1. Christy*

      I think this is an illustration of the above point that someone has to be *extremely* rude for the receptionist to mention it to the hiring manager. If the clerk doesn’t have a history of periodic complaining, it’s fair to assume that her concerns are valid. Good receptionists have tough skins, but they are not robots, and should not be expected to take any kind of verbal abuse as a sign of being “on”.

  7. Employment lawyer*

    Sure, tell him if you can. It’s best to be direct.

    “We felt that you were rude to our receptionists when you called. We have decided not to interview you as a result. Thank you for your time. Have a nice day.”

    if he protests:
    “I was willing to give a quick explanation, but I don’t wish to discuss this further. Thank you for your time. Have a nice day. [Hang up.]”

    And finally, you should encourage people to share that kind of information (i.e. thank the front desk for helping you dodge a bullet, and let them know that you didn’t hire the idiot.)

      1. Lucy*

        Leave out the “have a nice day” part. You are fine with ending it with “Thank you for your time.”

        “Have a nice day” is extraneous. In all situations. In this situation, it can also come across as sarcastic or insulting. I know that “have a nice day” is considered a nicety, but it’s a ridiculous one.

        1. Jessa*

          This. When tacked on the end of negative communication it often comes off as condescending, rude or sarcastic. It’s okay to use in pleasant, comfortable conversations, but any time something is not nice or you’re delivering bad or unpleasant news, steer clear.

  8. Amber*

    Another related note, when people are applying for jobs they should be friendlier when answering the phone. Sometimes I call candidates for phone interviews and their manner of answering the phone is quite off-putting. Me: “Hello, can I speak with Pluto,” them: (rudely) “ya, who is this?” Me: “This is Mission Control calling from Mars about your application…” Them: (very nice now) “Yes, this is Pluto, how can I help you?”

    1. BCW*

      Understandable, but at the same time, sometimes companies take so long to call back that you have no idea whether its about a job or a telemarketer. So if I’m getting what I think may be a telemarketing call when I’m in the middle of something, I may not be the nicest person all the time.

      1. Jamie*

        Me too. I mean I’m not answering the phone with a resounding “F**K YOU!” but I tend to be terse until I know who it is.

        Because if it’s a cold sales call I’m going to hang up in a second anyway, so why get your hopes up that I’m a lovely person. And if I am happy to hear from you take it as a compliment that my voice just got a lot sunnier upon knowing it was you.

        Which makes my business calls sound more romantic and more Disney than they actually are – but you know what I mean.

        1. Jamie*

          Speaking of which – anyone know how to get a number off the robo-call lists for politicians? Last election I got literally 8-10 calls a day from one candidate and I wanted to move to her district so I could actively NOT vote for her. My cell phone is in my works area code, so I get calls for elections in which I can’t even vote.

          And does annoying people to the point of rage really get votes? That seems counter intuitive to me.

          1. Malissa*

            Well in my area the day your ballot is registered as turned-in at the election office the calls stop. But I live in a mail-in precinct, so early voting is actively encouraged.

            1. Jessa*

              How can they do that, ballots are secret. They should not have any way to know what ballot is yours.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Voter rolls are generally available to campaigns and journalists in most states, and to the public in some states. (When and whether you voted, not who you voted for.) It’s how campaigns know who they still need to target for Get-Out-the-Vote efforts in states with early voting.

          2. Andrew*

            Political and charitable organizations are specifically exempted from the “do not call” laws for landlines. They are forbidden from calling cell phones, though, unless the number was ported over from a landline, in which case they are free to call as much as they want.

            For all practical purposes, unfortunately, there is probably nothing you can do about it.

          3. Jessa*

            I’ve called the local headquarters of the party and if I wasn’t happy with the result I called the state and then national. I finally explained to the local party that I was going into the election board and changing my affiliation to their worst enemies’ party. And I would never vote for them again if they didn’t quit bothering me. They finally got the message.

            But you’re going to have to track things down.

            Last resort, write the candidate directly and explain in polite but strong language that you’re never going to ever vote for them or anyone they support because they will not leave you alone.

            I think it’s outrageous that the political parties have exempted themselves from the do not call list. Particularly since 99% of the time they are already calling people who are registered in their party and inclined to vote for them.

            The only message I think is maybe a reasonable one is one from the local support group about “if you need help to cast your vote call x local charitable agency or transport group.”

      2. Mimi*

        Right, but until you know for sure that it IS a telemarketer, you wouldn’t be polite to the caller?

        1. Jessa*

          If I were not sure that the caller was someone I wanted to talk to I’d let it go to answering machine, and if they said “This is Alison from AAM Chocolate Teapots LLC,” I could either grab it and sound breathless like I just got to the phone, or let it finish and call back apologising that I was “unavailable,” which can be taken as cant for “in the loo, when you called, sorry.”

          But I can politely screen calls for myself without being “This is Jessa whadda ya want NOW?”

          The fact that it’s not TRUE is not something she would need to know, and if she called back I’d be on notice that number belonged to her and pick it up.

    2. Elle-p*

      Agreed. There is nothing more off-putting than calling a candidate who makes you out to be a bad guy before even figuring out who you are. Granted, our company number will show up as “unknown” on a call display but I would expect that if someone is applying for jobs they should expect to receive some calls from unfamiliar/unknown numbers as many businesses are unlisted (especially in my industry). I’m typically hiring for positions that require a lot of telephonic work so if someone demonstrates that they have a hard time answering the phone politely they are going to have a huge black mark against them right at the onset.

    3. Ariancita*

      Maybe I’m weird, but I tend to answer my cell with, “This is Ariancita” so as to avoid the whole “Can I speak with…” and “This is she…” back and forth.

      1. Jamie*

        Me too (although using my own name, no identity theft here).

        Funny, I can’t even recall the last time I answered any phone with, “Hello.”

        1. Tax Nerd*

          I answer “Hello” on my personal cell phone, unless I’m job hunting or something. In those cases, and at work, I just answer with my name.

          [Early in my career, I observed that my (male) bosses always answered the phone with just their name, and I decided to copy it, instead of answering “Hello, this is Tax Nerd, can I help you?”]

        2. Adam V*

          If it’s a number I don’t know, I just answer with “Hello” – of course, I’m paranoid and I don’t want spammers getting additional information about who they called; for the same reason, I still have the default voicemail greeting that just says “please record your message”.

  9. TamiToo*

    Interesting, as we just had a similar situation happen at our office. The candidate, however, was in our office when he was rude to our receptionist. Additionally, we discovered that he called our client, was rude to them, and complained about how were were not moving fast enough in the hiring process, and tried to circumvent the hiring process (we are a staffing agency). The recruiter made a decision not to move forward with his interview, and told the candidate why. The candidate denied it, became angry, and then left. If only that were the end of the story. He then began circling our office in his car. We ended up having to call the police and ask them for extra patrols as a deterrent, and make them aware of the potentially volatile situation. So there you go…that is the argument against being honest with the candidate.

    1. Jamie*

      Best comeuppance ever for something like this…candidate we had flown in at our expense from the east coast was extraordinarily rude to who he thought was the receptionist.

      She was making polite small talk and he basically asked her to hush and called her honey and told her he needed to focus on his next meeting with the higher ups.

      Turns out his next meeting was with her – she kind of owns the company and was just behind the front desk using the copier.

      Oops. I would say the lesson is that you should never assume about positions, but the real lesson is just don’t be a raging jerk and it won’t matter.

      1. Anne*

        Oh my god. What a jerk.

        At that point you just have to hope the floor opens up and swallows him just as some small measure of mercy from the universe.

          1. OK then*

            An *excellent* example of Karma doing what she does best…and much quicker than usual! This is a great story.

          2. LPBB*

            Did she introduce herself on the spot or wait until he was brought in to interview with the “higher ups?”

            1. Jamie*

              She introduced herself immediately and the stammered explanation of not knowing who she was was met with an icy explanation of it shouldn’t matter because she wouldn’t allow any of her staff to be spoken to in that manner.

              He was only out for the day and was probably never so happy as to get on that plane out of here.

              I was glad because on a side note he had called me “chicklet” and made that click click sound with his mouth while pointing his fingers like a gun at me while winking….when told I was the IT and he said “so you’re the one who will be taking care of me.”

              I hadn’t had a chance to weigh in yet when he burned his own bridges.

              Yeah – unsurprisingly he did not get the position. We went with someone with slightly less experience in the niche industry but who had manners.

                1. Jamie*

                  If she were here I’d ask her because I’m curious as to what went on in the meeting. It was super short and he left knowing he didn’t get it so I’m assuming the interview turned into “here’s why this ends here.” There is no way she’d even go through the motions – she’s the embodiment of totally direct and a straight shooter without that being a code for rude… of all the meetings that’s the one I would have loved to have been in.

                2. Jessa*

                  She sounds too polite to call him on his idiocy in the front office. She probably took him back said “Not acceptable, here’s why. Not hired, don’t let the door hit you.”

      2. Canuck*

        Did she even bother interviewing this candidate, or did she let him have it right then and there? I would have loved to have seen the expression on his face when the shoe dropped :)

      3. Another anon*

        OMG, I so want to know the details of this. I makes my heart all warm and fuzzy to hear about this kind of instant Karma.

      4. Tina*

        That story is priceless! Karma at its best.

        It’s not as good as your story, but I was on an interview committee in a situation where the candidate berated the Admin for problems she had with parking. Little did the candidate know, the Admin was also on the search committee, and promptly shared the information with everyone else.

      5. SW*

        That’s a great story! Did the owner still interview him, or did she just tell him to shove it?

        1. Jamie*

          It was the end of a two day interview – I don’t remember if they had the meeting or not…I’m assuming not, but it was a long time ago.

    2. Jamie*

      So there you go…that is the argument against being honest with the candidate.

      there are crazy people out there – wow. And I don’t think the OP owes him any explanation. I doubt it will make him a nicer person, just maybe alert him to cover his tracks a little better on the jerk front. I would just say we went another way and be done with it.

  10. LisaD*

    Everyone should have “be nice to the receptionist” tattooed on the insides of their eyelids during job-hunting. It gets so stressful to feel rejected for jobs over and over that I can understand how someone would be on edge and ready to blow up, but how do people not understand that their behavior WILL likely be reported to the hiring manager?

    Reminds me of the joke about the private who asked his sergeant a complicated moral question. Sarge says, “That’s above my pay grade,” and asks the platoon leader, who asks a corporal, who asks a general, who asks the President, who asks God, and eventually God says, “How should I know?” and asks his secretary.

  11. Job seeker*

    I am one of those people who worries about being nice to everybody. I do however, think maybe just maybe this person has a reason. Maybe, this was out of the ordinary. Depending on what they said, maybe something stressful happened just as they placed the call. I always give someone the benefit of doubt and maybe this individual could be totally different.

    I believe in good customer service but maybe if they gave this person a chance to meet in person their opinion could be different. Like I said, I am someone that worries about being rude to everyone but sometimes things can be explained. Just one of life’s lessons.

    1. excruiter*

      Even if there was a reason, it demonstrates exceedingly poor judgement to treat any employee of a company you wish to join poorly. If this candidate cannot handle this one situation with professionalism, I would seriously question their ability to handle other situations any better.

      1. Job seeker*

        I agree after thinking about this more. I guess this is a very strong example that you better get your act together from the get go. Remember the boy scout motto Be Prepared. Being stressed can sound rude to people. Good lesson to remember.

    2. fposte*

      Even if he did get called in for an interview, it wouldn’t be a second chance–it would be an additional piece of information. Even if he is very pleasant at the interview, he was still obnoxious part of the time. And unless the OP is in an unusually noncompetitive job market, this man is competing with candidates who were obnoxious *none* of the time. Hiring is a zero-sum game, where every chance given is a chance taken away from another applicant–why does he deserve the chance more than the person who was absolutely lovely to deal with throughout? Why should the organization expose its clients, who have their own stresses and strains, to somebody who has already demonstrated that he’s willing to be rude to people when he thinks he can get away with it?

      I love and admire your kindness so much, and I think that your willingness to forgive is a characteristic that can be wonderful in families, and friendships, and even workplaces in the right circumstances. But in hiring, you have to weed people out to get to the one person, and that decision involves looking at everybody’s weaknesses as well as their strengths–if you just forgive everybody’s weaknesses, you might as well just flip a coin. It’s not fair to anybody in the process, including the candidate himself, to ignore information that suggests this is not a good fit. That’s often how you get those horrible people who should never be in customer service–people decided to overlook the warning signs.

  12. Malissa*

    My rule is always be nice to the gatekeepers and anybody who touches your food. Gatekeepers have enough power to help you sink or swim. If after interviews the choice is close we often pull the receptionist into the decision making process to see if one candidate stood above the other in general.
    If at any point during the hiring process the receptionist says no, we go with that.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Ooh, I like the idea of asking the receptionist to chime in during the hiring process.

  13. OK then*

    My boss likes to tell the story of a particular company he had been trying to sell to for years. Every time he would visit, he’d stop to chat with the guard at the gate, always asking how he was doing, etc. Eventually the guard worked his way into the purchasing department…Guess who got his business?

  14. 7*

    Is it a local office/local candidate where he could come by and retaliate against the receptionist? If you say “The receptionist thought you were rude…” or something close to that, couldn’t that put her in a bad situation?

    Not being scary but there are some vindictive people out there. I’m all for honesty but be careful.

    1. Leslie Yep*

      That’s a really good point. Especially if the flag is that the person seemed unusually hostile. Probably best to leave the person who reported the bad behavior out of it.

  15. excruiter*

    I once worked for a staffing company that had no receptionist, we all answered the phones. A candidate called and I happened to answer:

    Candidate: yeah, I’m calling to see if *client* has any openings.
    Me: Not at this time, I can record that you ate interested in *client* . May I get your name?
    Candidate: No! Transfer me to someone who actually knows something!
    Me: No one else will tell you differently. Can I get your name?
    Candidate: You don’t know anything! You just answer the phone! Now transfer me to someone who knows what they are talking about!
    Me: I need your name. (I was planning to flag the application as a no go).
    Candidate: it’s *name* . Now transfer me!
    Me: I am the recruiter for *client*. They have no openings. I’ve decided that you will not be a good fit and will not be considering you for any future openings there or with any other clients. Have a nice day. *hang up*

    I never hired anyone that was rude to any person in the office. It was a clear indicator of a lack of judgement and people skills.

    1. Jessa*

      I know every agency I’ve worked for lately has like three recruiters. They do have a receptionist but at any time one of them will answer their own phones. Especially if the receptionist is helping someone fill out paperwork or something. I’d NEVER presume the person answering the phone did not have the authority and information to answer my question unless they TOLD me that.

  16. dejavu2*

    I always go out of my way to be polite and friendly to receptionists and other support staff in general (since it’s common human decency, and also because I used to do admin), but particularly when job hunting. It can pay off beyond not being labeled a jerk, too. A few weeks ago, I was waiting in a reception area for my interviewer to arrive. The receptionist and I got to chatting. The guy I was waiting on was really late, and after almost ten minutes of friendly banter, the receptionist told me that she is miserable working there, they are terrible employers, and I should stay away! I was shocked, to say the least, but definitely appreciated the heads up. Did some digging afterwards, and found some friends of friends who had worked there and had the exact same complaints about management.

    1. 22dncr*

      Yep – I was left waiting an HOUR one time on my LUNCH Hour (and the guy knew it). Seems that Corporate had found out that this office was paying for parking for all it’s employees (which, in that area, was the status quo) and had decreed that that was at an end. Everyone was complaining to the relief receptionist (who was obviously someone) about it. Plus she was very put out with him keeping me waiting (he was from Corp.) so LOTS of red flags. Then he was a total d$%k in the interview. If I hadn’t heard all that info while waiting I would’ve taken it because he was in FL and I was in TX – how much of a problem boss could he be? Tracked the job after that and it was re-posted every 6 months like clockwork!

  17. LM*

    Awesome post! I also worked as a receptionist at multiple places, one specifically with hiring, and it was easy for my boss to cross some people off the list simply because of their attitude when calling.

    My favorite call, though, was when a woman asked for my boss by name, and I gave the standard, “I need to know who’s calling” line. She went back and forth with me three times about how I had no right to ask who she was, she wanted to speak with (Boss) and I better put her on right now. Finally checked with my boss and transferred the call. Turned out it was my boss’s mom! Berating the receptionist simply because she couldn’t bother to say, “I’m her mom.” My boss gave her quite an earful!

  18. HR*

    This comment is for “X”. I’m a Human Resources Receptionist, which means I do office admin and reception for the H R dept, and I also help in recruiting and other fun H R stuff. I had someone call me the other day saying “I got a voice mail and I’m calling you back. I applied to xyz position and haven’t heard back.” Me: was the person calling you about the pposition? Him: I don’t know, I can’t remember what she said. Me: can you tell me the person’s name? Him: I can’t remember her name. Me: can you tell me the position you applied for so that I can try and track you. Him: I don’t remember, I applied to a bunch of them. When I told him I couldn’t help him, he said “thanks for your help” in a really rude way and slammed the phone down. Are you telling me you don’t find this sort of behaviour annoying, and that the receptionist should just suck it up?

      1. Mimi*

        People are trying to explain to you why, from a company’s perspective, this behavior can be interpreted as irritating. You don’t seem to be open to this possibility at all.

        1. HR*

          Thanks Mimi! Honestly, no hard feelings X but you come across as someone who would talk down to a person at the front desk if you didn’t get the answers you wanted right away. I’m sorry but I don’t have to deal with someone demanding that I tell them who called them (while chomping away noisily on something during the conversation may I add) when they’re too lazy to listen to the voicemail again and give me a name.

  19. VictoriaHR*

    Ok so to everyone here – what would you tell a job candidate for whom you set up an interview, and then you got feedback from the hiring manager that she had a body odor problem?

    She’s asked why she didn’t get the job and I haven’t responded because I didn’t want to offend her.

    I’m also with Alison that candidates should get constructive feedback whenever possible. I try to do that but sometimes I’m at a loss for words. Definitely don’t want to open up the company to a charge of discrimination.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      This is unfamiliar territory for me, but I would say you shouldn’t mention body odor. I think that’s something that should come from someone close to her. Maybe just say something like you need more experience with X and another candidate has more experience in that area. Like I said though, this is unfamiliar territory for me so I’m sure someone else has something more appropriate to say.

    2. KellyK*

      It would be a kind thing to tell her so that she knows it’s an issue and it’s not hurting her other places (and if there’s some medical problem behind it, she can get that checked out).

      If she seemed at all pushy or likely to be hostile, I would give the vague “went with other candidates” line, but if not, I’d be up front with her. I’m not sure how you’d phrase it, but I’m sure the AAM archive has wording for how to address it when it’s an employee with the body odor problem, so that would be a place to start.

      Also, I’m not sure there would be any basis for a discrimination charge, unless either she’s a minority and assumes the hiring manager was being racist and she doesn’t really have b.o. (but someone might make that assumption no matter what the reason is), or there’s some religion that forbids showers that I haven’t heard of.

    3. Anonymous*

      I wouldn’t say a word. I talked to someone about this topic exactly one time – in boarding school there was a girl whose mom told her it was dangerous to shower/bathe the week of her period and the sponge baths weren’t helping.

      I was trying to be nice but holy crap the tears, the anger, the accusations…yeah – if it’s a report you have to deal with it but a candidate? That should really come from someone a lot closer to them, imo.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t see potential discrimination issues, unless the person is from a different culture/race and the smell is linked to a different cultural practice (a specific food smell, for instance). But if it’s just B.O. — sweat, etc.? No.

      In any case, I wouldn’t raise this with her. It’s an incredibly awkward conversation even when a friend or a manager raises it, and you’re a stranger with no obligation to her. I absolutely think you should give feedback to job candidates when it’s easily given, but this fails that test. Just tell her that you went with a stronger candidate; this one isn’t your job.

  20. Ursula*

    I realize that I’m a little late to this party, but I am compelled to comment. There are many posts that state that you should always be nice to the receptionist (or whoever answers the phone) or the person who brings you food. What about being nice and polite to pretty much everyone? Is that really so tough?
    Even telemarketers deserve to be spoken to in a polite manner. It’s a crap job, and it doesn’t take much more effort to ask if they could please take you off their call list. It takes so much more energy to be irritated with people!
    Off my soapbox now!

    1. Layla*

      i don’t know, i feel that it is rude to disconnect the call before the other person agrees to it – and this is necessary for most telemarketers as they go on to “but why are you not interested, you haven’t heard me out yet”.

      i always do “i’m not interested”. click.
      and i can still hear them talking on the other end, while i move my phone away from my ear to press “end call”.

    2. KellyK*

      The thing with telemarketers is that they often *aren’t allowed* to end the call until they talk you into buying something. You have to hang up on them, which in every other situation is considered rude. And yes, it’s a crappy job and I have sympathy for people in it.

      1. Jamie*

        I do too – and I’m not overtly rude when they call – I just tell them I’m not interested in a neutral tone and hang up. Which in most other circumstances would be rude, but I think it’s being considerate of their time rather than politely listening to the whole spiel and then saying no. This way they can move on more quickly and no false hope.

        I will say this branch of marketing absolutely fascinates me. Just like spam – there MUST be a payoff or companies wouldn’t keep doing it but it seems like everyone I know either doesn’t answer or hangs up so I wonder what segment of the market is receptive to cold called sales pitches over the phone. Who is their demographic?

  21. CEMgr*

    Could the simple answer just be, different people and different companies have different understandings and expectations about phone calls? Some feel it is only natural to return every hangup call and others think such return calls are pointless. Clearly there are plenty of people in both camps. (I’m uncommitted and in the middle, myself.)

    But the one thing almost nobody tries to defend, or can defend, is rudeness in any permutation of the above.

    I see some are even defending politeness to telemarketers. I guess I am polite if you consider interrupting a sales spiel with a frosty, “Please take me off your list and don’t call me again.” to be polite.

  22. Kyle Jones*

    I think he deserves to know. Yes, it may be uncomfortable but someone applying for a customer service position should NEVER be rude to the receptionist. This is unacceptable and, in doing the candidate a favor, maybe making him see the negative impact his actions had.

Comments are closed.