are job seekers who call to ask for “more information” annoying?

A reader writes:

How do you feel about job seekers who call a company regarding a specific opening, asking for “more information”? This happens to us fairly frequently. We try to be as specific as possible in our postings, but we’ll still get this type of voicemail: “Hi, I saw your opening for a [position title]. I’d like some more information about it. I can be reached at [phone number].”

I don’t know what this person’s question is; it might be something simple or time-consuming. It might be a question that’s answered in the posting, for all I know. Am I justified in feeling annoyed by these voicemails?

Hell yes, you’re justified. These calls are annoying.

Yes, it’s possible that they truly have a question that should be answered before they spend the time applying, but in my experience, that’s about 1% of these calls. Most of the time they’re either (a) questions about something that’s in the job posting, (b) utterly unfocused, without specific questions, or (c) most commonly, an disguised attempt to sell you on their candidacy before they apply.

Besides, if they have a specific question, they should simply email you the question, not leave you a vague voicemail to call them back without being extremely specific about what they’re hoping to find out.

I can also say that as far back as I can remember, I’ve never had someone do this who turned out to be an excellent candidate. It’s nearly uniformly candidates who aren’t going to be strong, so now when I get one of these messages, I’m already poised to be skeptical. Which I feel certain isn’t their goal.

I know there are some people out there advising this tactic — “if you can get the ear of the hiring manager, you can show them why you’re the right candidate!” — but this isn’t the way to do it.

If anyone out there is doing this, stop!

{ 149 comments… read them below }

  1. Just a Reader*

    I don’t get why people do this. Just apply if you’re interested. What’s the big deal?

    1. Yup*

      I get it if the question is real deal-breaker inquiry, like whether the job is a permanent full-time versus one-year grant-funded, or salaried versus commission, or if the geographic location of the job is unclear. It’s a PITA to go through the whole cover letter/application cycle when there’s a major no-go element that you find out in the first 2 minutes of the phone screen.

      But I imagine that these kind of scenarios fall into the 1% that Alison mentioned, and aren’t what the OP is facing if their postings are pretty clear. So yeah, if I’m interested with a couple pending questions, I just apply.

      1. Nikki T*

        But if you have a specific question, first, send an email, if you do call, SAY THE QUESTION IN THE MESSAGE!

        At least you might get a call back….

        1. SevenSixOne*

          I’ll cop to asking for info about a handful of job postings, but my message is always something like “Does this job require any type of license or certification? (because I have an XYZ license, but some jobs like this require an ABC certification instead/also, and others don’t require either)” or “Which location is this position (because the company has 50+ offices in City and many of them are too far for me to consider)?”, never some vague time-wasting “more information” nonsense.

        2. Brett*

          The huge problem I have with that is most people have no idea how much email gets screened. We have IPv6 email here, which means if you are using IPv4 email, odds are my email back to you will never make it to you and I will never know if it made it.
          Meanwhile, if you email me back with a greylisted email to my private email address, I will not see that email for days, if at all.

          Around 60% of your email never makes it to your inbox. Email should never ever be used as a critical communication method no matter how convenient it is.

          1. fposte*

            Around here we’d say the opposite–don’t use the phone unless you really can’t use email (and then the phone message goes to email anyway). I definitely don’t lose 60% of my real email–in fact, there are probably fewer than a dozen emails over the last twenty years that I’ve lost without knowing why–while the phone is both more inconvenient and unreliable.

            Which is why I put my email in our job ads and will answer email questions, and fortunately everybody seems to get that point. (Or my phone system is eating their calls, underscoring the fact that they should have emailed.)

          2. Anonymous*

            It’s the opposite here. I get all emails, but most of the phone calls that I get were supposed to reach somebody else. Every day, I come to work and check my messages, and they’re all from people I don’t know who are angry about problems in a department that I don’t work in. Then, during the work day, people call and yell at me for things that the other department did. If these were emails I could forward them to the appropriate people or filter them out of my inbox.

            My point was that “email is okay too” but it turned into “call the right number please.”

        3. Jessa*

          Exactly, if the question is totally critical, ask it in the message, or better yet email. But to make a call that doesn’t actually ASK? why would you expect anyone to call you back.

      2. Shoshie*

        This is unrelated, but I have encountered so many job ads that are advertised for one location and then do a bait and switch later in the ad! I just end up confused– which location is the job in?

        1. SevenSixOne*

          … or they’ll advertise it as full time but then tell you in the phone screen it’s part time. I suspect what happens in cases like this is existing employee Wakeen accepted the position I applied for after I applied for it, so the phone screen ends up being for the one Wakeen left.

          And even though I understand that’s just business, it’s still frustrating.

          1. Lindsay J*

            Or sometimes I think places copy and paste from existing job postings without changing the information.

            So they go to post the ad and go, “Hey Wakeen, we have the job posting for the Chocolate Teapot Maker position saved on the drive from when we posted it in February, right? Go ahead and post it to Craigslist and” However, in February they were looking for a full-time person in office A, and this time they’re looking for a part-time person in office B, but Wakeen just skims the description before she reposts it and doesn’t catch the differences.

    2. BCW*

      I’ve never done it, but in fairness, with some of these online application systems, its too time consuming to apply for a job you have questions about.

      1. OliviaNOPE*

        I totally agree! I have seen ads that are not clear about the location of the position or the educational requirements, and then the online app takes 30 or 40 minutes to complete. Also, if you don’t want people calling or emailing, state that in the ad and have applications come to an anonymous email address. If you put your name and phone number and instruct people to call with questions, chances are they will.

    3. nyxalinth*

      I don’t call, but I do email. having been burned by ‘fake’ customer service jobs (were really sales, work at home scams, etc.) and wanting to ensure I can actually get to the place on the bus, and so on, I might email and ask specific questions. That way I don’t get all excited when someone calls, only to find out it’s really outside sales (with the occasional phone query from existing customers, somehow in their minds this equaled a full inbound customer service job–and they STILL INSIST on posting their as as a csr position!) or if it is sales–which I don’t mind–is it telesales or outside sales, because I’m much better on the phones, and sometimes they can be vague.

      I’ve had a lot of bitter experiences this year alone, and if I can filter out a few more, I’ll be happy.

    4. Chloe*

      Just to offer an alternative view point…I work in a very niche area, in a small country. Not many people have the skill set I have, so if I apply for a job, I will pretty much always get an interview. That gives me the freedom to be a bit fussy, and I would never apply for a job without first ringing the recruiter and discussing it with them. I’d like to know exactly who I would be working with (the market is small enough that I’d know who they are 9 times out of 10), the reason for the vacancy, the structure of the team, etc. That stuff won’t be in the job ad, and I’m not going to leave a 5 minute voicemail asking all those questions, or send an epically long email either. I have always just left a voicemail saying I want to discuss the vacancy, and have never had a problem.

      I’m not saying that is the right approach in many cases, but it can be in some.

    5. Kelly O*

      This is kind of my thought process too. I mean, I understand feeling like you’re “wasting your time” but applying for ANYTHING is a crapshoot. It might not pay enough. It might be a location you don’t like. There are umpteen hundred reasons they might not pick you, or that you might not pick them. But for goodness’ sake, just apply and see what happens.

      If you find out two minutes into a phone screen that they need a Chocolate Teapot Masters Certification and you don’t have that, you could always find a way to politely wrap it up. And you never know that a month down the line, they might not have another position that doesn’t require that, and the hiring manager might think of you.

    6. Brton3*

      There are job postings that are exceedingly vague or exceedingly time consuming. If I have to get letters of recommendation, answer essay questions, and fill out an endless application form, AND there is basic information absent from the posting, I would contact someone for clarification. We all know that applying for a job can be a lot more than just shooting off a resume to an email address and I don’t want to invest hours of my time into something if I’m not clear about big things.

  2. Lily in NYC*

    Just do what everyone else does: no phone number in the posting, and put a line saying something like “no phone calls; we will contact you if we decide to interview you.” People will still find you but there will be fewer of them.
    I just got one of those calls this morning from a guy I have already told twice that he does not have the necessary background for the position. He demanded to talk to the person making the final decision because he thinks his skills are transferable. I finally got fed up and told him in no uncertain terms that we are not going to hire him when we already have tons of excellent resumes from people with the exact experience we need. I felt bad, but jeez, take a hint already. I should have just told him the salary range – that makes 90% of our candidates run away screaming.

      1. Soni*

        When you’ve got over a thousand resumes coming in for one position, being “warm and welcoming” to callers can become seriously sanity-threatening.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Except you want to be warm and welcoming to the great candidates in the mix, which means finding more targeted ways to minimize the interruptions from the non-great ones.

        2. Felicia*

          The vast majority of job adds I see say no phone calls and don’t provide a phone number – actually I can’t think of the last one I”ve seen that wasnt like that. So I don’t read any tone into it because they’re all like that. I could find a phone number and call if I really wanted, but they all say not to.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I have to say that I don’t love the “no phone calls” statement because it doesn’t make a great impression on your strongest candidates (who are unlikely to call anyway), and because you do want people to be able to call if it’s truly needed (like your system won’t accept their application for some reason).

        1. CoffeeLover*

          If you avoid the phone number, but put an email would that negate the issue? You still appear warm while also avoiding phone calls. If they ask a broad “can we talk” question, then you can ask for specifics before calling them.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes — that can definitely work and it’s what I do now. Some people will still call though — they think they’ll make a better impression that way.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Oh hell no. Try being the receptionist who has to answer all those freaking calls.

        Believe me, it’s better to say “no phone calls.” That way you can screen out people who can’t follow directions.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m more willing to ask the receptionist to instruct callers to email than to send an impression to good candidates that I don’t want to send :)

          1. SB*

            Having been a receptionist at an office where any questions or issues the general public had could not be answered by phone, it is very frustrating to have to tell that to people over and over and over 100’s of times a day, and have people get upset and yell and curse at you over something you can not control.
            Also, most receptionists do more than answer phones and greet people. Even if answering phones is a part of your duty, if you’re working on something that needs concentration, stopping to answer a phone call every few minutes can drive you batty.

            1. Joey*

              Hello? That’s like me saying “I wish all these damn people would stop applying for this job. Only the people I’m going to hire should be applying.”

              1. AnotherAlison*

                Don’t people say that all the time, though? I’m sure there’s some stat about for every X number of qualified job seekers, X+3 unqualified job seekers apply. Wouldn’t it be better if you only got the qualified people’s resumes to review?

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  The way people apply now, sure, you’re stuck with the unqualified resumes, but I don’t think that the hiring process inherently has to work that way to the end of civilization.

                  It’s reasonable to apply for the senior teapot auditor job if you have 3 years of experience auditing teapots and 7 years auditing carafes, but for Pete’s sake don’t apply if you’ve never had any pitcher-related auditing experience.

                  I’m not talking about getting only the 4 resumes of the people you will call for interviews but there’s a big gap for improvement between 4 to interview, 40 close-but-not-quite-a-fits, and 200 oh-hell-nos.

                2. AnotherAlison*

                  Also – just one example of how the junk can be limited. . .

                  I know of at least 1 big local company that only lets individuals apply 1 time every 6 months. You probably don’t want to waste that single opportunity on something that isn’t a clear fit. I realize that does potentially block out great candidates who were rejected from one dept. but a fit for another, but when they get 1000s of resumes, it doesn’t seem to matter to them.

              2. SB*

                No, it’s more like me saying that everyone’s job has frustrations. Even when it may seem like something minor or obvious to you, unless you’ve walked that path, it may be difficult for you to comprehend someone else’s point of view.

                1. Joey*

                  Remaining frustrated with an inherent part of the job is a problem. If you’re going to be a receptionist you have to accept that a large majority of the phone calls you receive are going to be things that really didnt require a phone call in the first place.

                2. Joey*

                  I err on the side of casting as wide a net as possible. The more barriers or qualifications you put up the fewer qualified people will apply. I won’t ever outright prevent someone from applying. I might screen them out, but I’m always willing to give it a chance if the person believes he has a chance.

                3. AnotherAlison*

                  Joey – TBH, I think that approach is sort of the complement to candidates having dream jobs. I’m not a dream job/soul mate type person myself. You don’t need to cast as wide of net as possible, unless you have some ridiculous executive of purple unicorns position to fill. You need a handful of good people who can get the job done.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’m 100% with Joey on casting as wide a net as possible, and not putting up barriers to applying. If you’re very selective in your hiring (and you should be), you might end up with only 1 or 2 people you want to hire out of a pool of 200. You want to make build that pool as much as possible, so your chances of having great people in it goes up. And the difference between having someone good and having someone great can be so huge — you really want to work to find the great ones.

                  Plus, the best candidates are the ones who won’t be inclined to jump through hoops at the early stages and will just not bother to apply if you make it difficult for them.

                5. Joey*

                  Difference of philosphies maybe? I just think its good PR and I like to leave no stone unturned because you never know. But, of course I have tools and methods that let me drill down.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            Phone operator is not their only duty. Considering all our employees have direct lines, I wouldn’t consider our receptionist’s main job to be answering the phone.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Sure, but your ability to structure your hiring process as effectively as possible is generally going to trump your receptionist’s need/desire to minimize phone calls.

            2. Joey*

              But the problem has to come before the solution. Its a little pointless for the receptionist to say people need to stop calling. If the volume of calls is negatively impacting other parts of the job that’s one thing, but just stating that people need to stop calling makes it sound like you just don’t want to answer the phone.

              1. Mishsmom*

                I’m with SB. One is allowed to be frustrated with certain parts of their job. When I was a receptionist, I loved the job, but when we were hiring, getting 100 phone calls a day instead of the usual 20-30 was frustrating and annoying because there is other work to do AND it was mostly people wanting to stand out to the hiring manager (who would not accept calls.) Joey, it’s not for you to judge others’ frustrations.

                1. Joey*

                  I’m not judging. I’m just saying that solutions with a purely selfish purpose aren’t viable work solutions.

    1. Ruffingit*

      That is very frustrating and it says something very bad about his character that he would continue to harass you after being told that he does not have the background for the job. That guy clearly needs a shirt from AAM that says “MOVE ON MENTALLY.”

      1. T-riffic*

        It also says something bad about his character that he “demanded” to speak to the person who was making the final decision. Dude. No. Just no.

    2. Anonymously Anonymous*

      Agreeing. I respect employers when the list says “no phone calls”. I understand, no hard feelings. When the ad say ‘call if you have questions’, then employers shouldn’t get upset when candidate call with questions–because obviously and usually they didn’t disclose all relevant information for the job in the ad. If all pertinent information is in the ad, then I have no use to call. *I only call if the ad is vague and they invite the candidate to call* I’m not going to email because heaven forbids if the candidate can’t follow simple instructions…..

      I’m with others–too many times you spend all this time prepping for a chance at a job, to only to get to the interview and realize the location is too far, the pay isn’t worth it and a host of other things.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I really wish employers would put relevant information in their ads: where the job is located exactly, salary range, etc. It would make things a lot easier on both applicants and the employer.

  3. Victoria Nonprofit*

    Alison, what do you recommend hiring managers do in this situation? Just ignore the voicemail? Send an email saying that you’re not accepting phone calls?

    1. Sophia*

      Perhaps one tactic – aside from including a “no phone calls, if you have questions, please email” in the job ad – perhaps one way is to leave a message on your voicemail? Something like “if you are calling regarding a job posting, we will be in touch with you if we are interested in moving forward with your applications. If you have any pressing questions, please email me”

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      What Sophia says! When I used to receive lots of unsolicited hiring calls, I added a line to my outgoing voicemail message saying something like, “If you’re calling to inquire about a job opening, please email your question to XYZ.”

  4. Anonymous*

    I post jobs on Reddit, and I used to invite people to message me if they had any questions. I stopped after I realized that people were either asking questions I wasn’t at liberty to answer (my old client wouldn’t let me disclose salary ranges, people would get mad at me, I would get frustrated, it was a mess) or they just wanted to make themselves more visible. They seemed to think that asking questions or trying to get more information would show enthusiasn and thus make them more desirable as candidates, which wasn’t the case since I wasn’t the one who decided who got a call and who didn’t. Or maybe they thought that asking me for “more information” would prompt me to send them straight to the hiring manager or something, letting them bypass the formal application system.

  5. Niki*

    Typically if I need more information, I email. They can see the question and get to it when they prefer. And my question is typically if they would consider exceptionally strong candidates from other countries. Some types of jobs hire exclusively those with citizenship, or don’t want to sponsor your visa application. I’d rather know this before I put a lot of effort into my coverletter/resume/full application package.

  6. Sabrina*

    I did this once at my company for an internal position. I wanted to know what it paid before I applied. Or at least a range. I figured it wasn’t worth wasting my time & HR’s to interview me and all that if I wasn’t interested in the pay. However, I was under the impression that you could only apply for one job at a time here, which isn’t the case. And I was concerned that I’d tie up my one application with something that would drag out for months and I’d never hear about. That’s not the case, but I didn’t know it at the time. Also, HR never responded and I applied for something else.

    1. the gold digger*

      Wouldn’t everyone’s lives be easier if we knew up front what the range was? Who wants to put an hour into a cover letter and the stupid application system (I am looking at you Taleo, who always imports my name as “Gold D Igger”) if the pay is less than what you are willing to accept?

      1. Manda*

        I wish they would all do that. Maybe they have reasons for not wanting the public to know what they pay, but what I really hate is when they ask for salary expectations in the application. They obviously have a range budgeted for the position when they post it. It can be hard to guess what the job is worth sometimes. Even if you can figure out a likely range, you could still be way off.

        1. Felicia*

          I hate that too! When they ask my salary expectation I always want to say “Well you tell me what you’re willing to play, even just a range, and if that doesn’t meet my salary expectations I won’t waste both our times by applying.” I’ve never said that but I wish I did. They already know the range they intend to pay I shouldn’t need to guess. And I hate when they act all offended when I ask about the salary range.

          The only time I contacted someone before applying I emailed and it was at a company that two offices, and only one of those locations worked for me so I just asked what office the position would be based in.

      2. Lily*

        For government jobs in X, candidates can look up the pay grade and thus the salary in the Internet. Unfortunately, I don’t think most make the effort.

  7. Katie the Fed*

    Any message of “please call me so I can ask you a question” irritates me. Just ask the damned question in the message.

      1. J*

        What about a voice message asking the dreaded “Do you mind if I ask you a question? Call me!”

        And that’s when you call back and say “Hi, I got your message and I do mind if you ask me a question.” Then hang up.

    1. ChristineSW*

      I’m guilty of doing that. My defense to that is that I find it’s easier to ask it during the actual conversation because brevity is not my one of my strengths. However, I do try to say something like, “I have a question about X.”, then go into the specific question when the person calls me back.

      1. ChristineSW*

        To clarify – if it’s a simple question like wanting to confirm an address or an office’s hours, then I’ll certainly leave that in a voice mail.

        FTR – If a job ad states “no calls”, I absolutely follow that. It may seem unwelcoming, but employers get TONS of resumes and applications these days, and I know better to just wait until an appropriate time in the process to ask.

        1. A Bug!*

          Hello fellow struggler-with-brevity!

          For voicemails, I’ve found a workaround that helps me a lot, and I hope it might help you, too. If I’m at a computer I’ll open up a Notepad and actually type out my message before I call, so I’m ready with a script if I get a machine.

          It has the added bonus of giving me a guide to keep me on track if I get a live person, as well.

          (And the added added bonus of giving me practice leaving shorter messages so I’m able to do it off-the-cuff more easily when I need to.)

          1. ChristineSW*

            Hi! So glad I’m not the only one :)

            Great tip – I’ll definitely try that. Thank you!!

    2. P*

      It reminds me of those people who will go “ugh, I’ve had SUCH a bad day…” and then the pregnant pause, forcing you to go “oh, what happened?” whether or not you care. Just tell me, don’t make me ask!

      1. Bonnie*

        I used to work with someone like that. Don’t buy in.

        Co-worker: “Ugh, I’ve had SUCH a bad day…”

        Listener 1: “I’m sorry to hear that.”
        Listener 2: “Maybe tomorrow will be better.”
        Listener 3: “It’s the end of the day so at least you get to go home soon.”

        We got to be masters of not taking the bait and it would drive her crazy because all she really wanted was to be the center of attention and we wouldn’t give it to her.

        1. FD*

          My strategy is a vague “Mm.” Not an interrogatory “Mm,” just one with a statement inflection. It gives an acknowledgement of the statement without encouraging to continue.

        2. Anne*

          My husband does this to me. It bugs the crap out of me.

          Me: “Ugh, I’ve had the worst day…”
          Him: *hugs* *goes off to play Gnomoria*
          Me: *drinks*

            1. Anne*

              True! It could be worse. He could write to my manager and quit for me.

              I can’t decide whether that would be made better or worse by the fact that he used to work here too. Probably worse.

              1. Just another Reader*

                If he writes to the manager to quit for you, blame it on your dog and then shame it on Facebook. ;)

        3. Ellie H.*

          Yes! I have developed many strategies for non-responses to conversational forays. Like FD I really favor the “Mm.” Some people are really determined to talk to you regardless of how much attention you are paying, though.

    3. KarenT*

      Just ask the damned question in the message.

      I was going to write this also. If you leave the question in the voicemail you have a lot better chance of getting a response. And if the hiring manager thinks the question doesn’t merit a response, they don’t have to call back.

    4. Kelly O*

      At least say “Hi, I’m Kelly and I have a question about the certification requirements for your Chocolate Teapot Engineer position, posted on Indeed. I have a Tempering Certification and your ad listed the Finishing Certification issued by a different group. ”

      I mean, something. Clearly you don’t want to get too detailed, but a simple question might even prompt someone to realize they need to clarify the ad.

      And personally I would rather email. I think it feels less “pressured” for a response.

  8. Stanley*

    No matter what the circumstances, it drives me insane to have someone leave a voicemail saying “call me, I need to talk to you.” TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT! Any time I can get away with it, I call back to get info and them tell them I’ll have to let them know when I find something out – even if I know the answer. (Of course you can’t always do this if the caller requires a heightened level of respect like a boss or respected client, but even then, when the moon’s just right ….)

    1. Jessa*

      Exactly. Especially when you do call the person back and whatever they want you have to look it up and call them back AGAIN because you don’t have the information right at hand. Seriously. What a pain.

  9. long-time lurker!*

    When I was hiring, I was always happy to answer specific questions, but anyone who emailed me and said “I have some questions about the position. Please email me back at [x]” got ignored. It just demonstrated that they weren’t an effective communicator.

  10. Wendy*

    I usually put a specific number in some postings that go directly to a line (something where the receptionist doesn’t answer) which has a message specifying to review the online job description and I reiterate that we only accept U.S. Citizens. In the message it also states that phone calls will not be returned. My days would be tied up answering questions that can be answered by reading the job description. Whenever I post a position, I have to field calls from headhunters, job boards and other entities. That’s enough.

    1. Anonymously Anonymous*

      Why don’t you just ‘not list the number’? I don’t understand this. It just seems like you’re asking for unnecessary phone calls. I could care less if there is a phone number or not in the ad. I just need clear instruction on applying and an ad without vague language. If something is vague, I may call if I’m invited to call to ask a question or I may decide to just cross that company off and move on to the next ad.
      As a applicant, I don’t go searching for employers phone numbers that aren’t listed. If the application process is clear (fax, email, mail cover letter and resume to ….) I follow those instructions and cross my fingers for a phone call back.

      This is what I look for in a job ad that makes me decide whether or not I will apply.

      1) Legitimate company ( sometimes there are dummy ads -especially on some of websites that populate jobs after you search a few times) I google the company to find their website and see if they have the job listed there. If the site is legit then I’ll apply. If I see the same job posted in every state across America,– not wasting my time. If the job is not listed on the companies website, sometimes I take the gamble and not apply. I know that some companies uses other website to list jobs and not list on their own (esp when they don’t necessarily want internal inquiries or they are looking to replace someone).

      2) Is there some type of contact information (person name so I can address my cover letter to that person directly..if not I just use hiring manager)

        1. Anonymously Anonymous*

          yeah, I know there will still be those that will look it up call but you probably won’t get as many.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It actually didn’t occur to me that anyone complaining about this would have been listing the number in the ad in the first place! If they are, then yes, I agree — that’s the first thing to change.

    2. EE*

      You invite people to call a fake phone number? I’m surprised that’s the impression you want to give. It must be infuriating to have wasted time and money calling that fake phoneline.

      1. tcookson*

        I don’t understand whether telling callers to the “fake” phone number to “review the online job description” is giving them any more information than they had before they called.

        If I had read the online job description and had a question, being supplied with a phone number that only unhelpfully directed me back to the online job description would be more frustrating than not having been provided a phone number at all. I would rather have no help than fake “help.”

        May I misunderstood, though, and the directions to the online job description will tell the caller more than they had gleaned from elsewhere?

  11. FormerManager*

    I really wish job hunting “experts” would stop encouraging this. And I really wonder about the companies that would hire someone “because they took the initiative to cyberstalk the hiring manager and called them with an ‘elevator speech.'”

  12. Kay*

    I had someone call me on my direct line and said “I have questions about this job posting”. When I said “How can I help you?” He ended up being completely caught off guard. He hemmed and hawed for a while before saying “Is the job still open?” It was super awkward and a bit of a waste of time.

  13. Anonymous*

    I would only call/e-mail if I had a specific question, if something critical was grossly unclear or incorrect. For example, if the e-mail listed is incorrect (typo) then I will call to get the correct one. A specific message is also ok with me from job seekers – if it’s along those lines. Short & sweet – basically I am OK with calls where the question helps prevent other calls!

    1. Joey*

      I once had a guy call about a job and ask me why he should leave his current job for this job. Weird!

      1. Maureen*

        Badly phrased, I grant you, but isn’t it part of your job to sell the company to great candidates? It’s certainly the unspoken bottom line in any interview I’ve ever done. I convince you that I’m the best candidate; you convince me that I should leave my present employer for you.

        1. Joey*

          Initially I wasn’t sure if he intended to quit his job and apply to mine with the expectation that he’d be hired or if he just wanted me to sell him to apply. I don’t have time to sell people individually to just apply unless I have a pretty good idea they’ll be good candidates.

          1. tcookson*

            Yes, selling candidates individually on a job is energy that one expends on people whose reputation in the industry is know to be impressive . . . not on just anybody who happens to call up with a question.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I feel the same way about company site postings that are months old. My company has some from April up, and I wonder if they are “evergreen” type openings where they could always add someone spectacular, or if they are in the final hiring stages for that position but it hasn’t officially been filled yet.

      I never have called about something like that, but it seems like a valid reason to call.

  14. Brandy*

    I actually called once for a job that stated “no phone calls, please”. It was an ad for a position marked as hiring PT & FT positions. At the time I was working full-time and looking for something around 15-20 hours a week that would be evenings/weekends. I couldn’t tell if that was even remotely possible from the ad so I decided to call anyway. I was extremely polite and basically told the woman answering that I was very interested in a PT position but wanted to know if my limitations would make it even worth my applying (I tried to make it clear I had no desire to waste their time if those parameters didn’t even come close to what they were looking for). She was as friendly as could be and said she thought it was something they could work with and to please fax my resume. A couple of days later I was called for an interview and about two weeks following that I was offered the position. Luckily for me this worked out very well but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it regularly.

    1. T-riffic*

      Nice. That’s the way to do it: be clear that you wish not to waste anyone’s time and have an actual question.

  15. Citizen of Metropolis*

    While I see why those calls can be annoying, it’s also entirely possible that the job posting isn’t as clear as it might be. I read a ton of job postings every day, and well over 90% of them are either so generic that you could use them for any of that type job at any company, or there is no way to identify exactly what company you are applying to, and thus no way to draft more than an equally generic cover letter. It’s also possible that the applicant wants to make sure that there is in fact a job available, and the posting is not just a resume harvest for future use or to gather some market data. I’ve gotten to the point that without an identified employer and a published salary range, I seldom bother to apply.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Good points, Citizen.
      Identified employer. I have wondered about those ads. Is it really advantageous NOT to identify the place of employment?

      Salary range. Sometimes the range is so broad I wonder why bother mentioning it? Of course everyone who applies is hoping for the top end of the range. But I very seldom hear of someone getting anything above mid-range.

      I won’t apply for the job if both pieces of info are missing basically because I don’t understand the need for secrecy.

      1. Lynn*

        If it’s going through a recruiting agency, they get paid when they place someone. So they don’t want people to be able to go around them and apply to the company directly. That’s why they don’t list the company name.

        I don’t think the cover letter has to be generic, though. As long as they describe the position and requirements, you can write just as good a letter about why your skills and experience will make you successful without knowing the actual company. It *does* mean you can’t determine how bad your commute will be without applying, so that’s kind of a drag.

        1. Citizen of Metropolis*

          I see your point that the cover letter can still be effective, but only if the posting gives enough information about the job; solid details, lots of them. Way too many postings are three lines long and filled with buzzwords.

          And if it’s a recruiter, I want their name – they should be checked out just as much as a direct hire company.

      2. Citizen of Metropolis*

        I don’t see any need whatsoever for blind job postings. If the point is to keep the hiring manager from being deluged with applications, well, that’s going to happen anyway these days with unemployment being what it is. An identified employer allows the candidate to do their due diligence, and write a cover letter and craft a resume that truly speaks to the employer’s needs. A published salary range lets the applicant select out of applying if the bottom of the range is totally inadequate for their needs. (If you can’t get the level of applicants you want at the salary you’re willing to pay, the problem is with the salary, not the applicants.) It’s just efficient- fewer but better candidates, and less time spent screening out the people who will never be called for an interview. You might miss out on a surprise stellar candidate, but you risk that every time you put a resume in the “no interview” stack.

        There’s also the fact that there’s a scammer born every minute, ready and willing to take advantage of the personal information on your resume, if you send it to who knows where….

        1. Marie*

          I will sometimes post adds without our company name of as confidential if I’m planning to replace someone who’s not gone yet

    2. FarFromBreton*

      I’ve run into that a lot on Craigslist lately. (At least in my city, Craigslist has a fair amount of legit job postings from reputable places.) Often, I’ll be able to guess the place based on location, but don’t want to assume anything, and the places are often too small to likely have a dedicated HR person or hiring manager. When I looked online for a better way of generically addressing cover letters than “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom it May Concern,” most of the results basically said that anyone with that problem just isn’t looking hard enough at the company’s website.

      For the last two, I just went with Dear Hiring Manager and Dear Hiring Committee, and I got interviews, so I guess those worked okay. It still feels awkward, though.

        1. tcookson*

          Dear Hiring Manager is totally fine. No one minds, I promise you!

          Absolutely, no one minds. We get “Dear Search Committee Chair”, “Dear Hiring Manager”, and other such variations. We don’t care that the applicant (shock!) doesn’t know the search committee chair’s or the hiring manager’s name. We care that we get enough strong candidates to make a good (hopefully great) hire for the advertised position.

    3. Manda*

      Blind ads annoy me too. The issue I have is that a poor location is a deal breaker for me. If I can’t get there by bus with relative ease then I don’t want to waste my time applying. Staffing agencies normally don’t tell you where the job is although I’ve seen a few postings that at least state what part of the city it’s in. But often those ads also say to call or email RecruiterX for more information. I would think that’s a legitimate reason to contact them. I realize they probably can’t give out the company name, but all I want to know is the approximate location (street name, within a few blocks) so I can check out the bus schedules first.

  16. shawn*

    I’ve been in positions that do/facilitate hiring for a while now. Although our receptionist does a decent job of filtering these sorts of calls out (by directing people to apply through the website), some do sneak through. Yes, it’s annoying. No, I don’t call them back if it hits voice mail. Our application process is super simple. Leaving that voice mail took as much time as applying would have (and actually some people call AFTER they apply with the same schtick, which is baffling to me).

    I’ve never had a candidate who managed to catch me at my desk ask a truly pertinent question. Most times they don’t actually have any questions at all. They just say they are looking for more information. Then they stammer around for a bit and sometimes ask about our selection process and timeframes or try to sell me on their quals. These calls are usually awkward/poorly done and don’t help their candidacy in the least. Some of the calls downright remove the applicant from consideration.

  17. PJ*

    My second favorite phone call: “I’m just calling to find out if you got my application.”

    I’m sorry, but when I receive 150 apps for each open job, and I have several open reqs going, I am unable to sort through them to find the one you’re calling about! I tell these folks that if they are concerned that their application might not have been received they should resubmit it.

    1. So Very Anonymous*

      I remember being told to do that as a way of following up (see if they can get you to tell anything beyond “yes, we got it.”) The few times I did that felt so, so, so awkward.

      At that time I actually got a job offer based in part on my having made that phone call, because the director who hired me (and who I reported to) thought it showed comfort with cold-calling (which, believe me, I do NOT have, and had had trouble screwing up my courage to make that call). Which, in this case, was a nightmare because, among other things… wait for it… the director made all kinds of major assumptions based on not so very much evidence, and then punished me for not living up to those assumptions. So even though the call got me the job, for my sanity down the road it might have been better had I listened to my gut and NOT made that call.

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        I should add that that particular job cured me, permanently I hope, of the “I’ll do whatever it takes to get this job” mindset and pushed me waaaaay more over to the “interviewing is a two-way street” mentality.

    2. fposte*

      That’s one of the reasons I confirm receipt of applications–it not only seems nice, it wards off these queries.

  18. Rebecca*

    So annoying! Also the people who call to find out “the status of my application.” I can’t tell you how many of those I used to get.

    1. PJ*

      Yeah, this too. Especially when the ad and website clearly state the period of time when we’ll be collecting apps, and the window is still open. Honestly folks, I don’t even look at the stack until I have everybody’s app in hand!

    2. College Career Counselor*

      While that’s undoubtedly annoying (because some people call about .0001 seconds after they hit SEND), I suspect that a good number of those who call are frustrated because they pulled the trigger a week/two weeks/a month ago and haven’t heard anything. As regular readers know, these job seekers should mentally move on, but not everyone follows AAM’s advice. ;-)

      Perhaps there is something the hiring manager/HR could do to “release” those candidates who didn’t make the cut for an interview/2nd interview, etc.? In past searches, I was able to have a (nice) form letter generated for everyone that didn’t meet the requirements to go forward. At least they weren’t hanging on. But I understand there are organizations out there that won’t tell ANYone anything until they’ve got an accepted offer out there. That seems stupid to me because if they don’t make the phone screen cut and/or the in-person interview cut it’s not like you’re magically going to re-consider their candidacy if all your finalist choices turn you down.

      1. SevenSixOne*

        YES. So many application systems will list your status as something vague like “received” or “submitted” forever; a “thanks but no thanks” form letter for someone who’s a definite NO would go a long way.

      2. Marie*

        My personal rule is if I had a conversation with a candidate, they get notified if their candidacy is not longer in the running. Usually by email. For whose I’ve met in person I might do it by phone

    3. Frustrated Job Seeker*

      In defense of those people, a lot of popular job advice dictates calling to check in on your application. Job seekers are frustrated because they spend hours and hours applying for dozens of jobs and typically get no reply. They want to take control of the situation, and the only way they can even feel a semblance of control is by calling in to check on their application and feel like they are speaking with a real human, not an HR computer.

      If you don’t like hiring people, maybe get a job where you don’t have to? I’m sure one of those annoying job seekers would LOVE to fill your position.

  19. Sue*

    Also remember to hiring mangers who hate having to answer any questions about their job posting so they do not put an email or phone number on the posting that some of your online systems are super complicated and error a lot. I have had a few where I am applying and some sort of error happens. Then I go looking around for anyway to get help and there is no phone number or a email to ask for help. So guess what they lost on what could have been a great applicant and I can assume they lose out on many others good applicants because they did not post anyway to contact them.

  20. Brett*

    This whole thread brings me to an issue I have with HR… reliance on email.

    Email is insecure, unreliable, and no where close to timely. Between blacklisting, greylisting, and protocol mismatches, there is no guarantee and no dependable certification that an email was received. Lengthy delays are common. And generally any given email can be read by a wide range of people beyond just the recipient.

    When you say “email only”, that says to me, “Your communication is not critical or important. I do not care about your privacy and have no concern about staying in contact with you.”

    This message is doubled if you use a contact form. This makes it impossible to white list any return message, and essentially is a communication dead end.

    Phone calls do take time compared to email, but email instead of a phone call means you could not care less about my candidacy and goes straight to the trash, if it makes it to my inbox in the first place.

    1. Mimi*

      I don’t know what email you use, but mine is pretty darn timely. There’s no guarantee your email was received, but chances are very good that it was delivered.

      Besides, a paper resume/application can be read by a wide range of individuals beyond the recipient, as well.

      I’m not sure what your preference is to email – snail mail?

      1. College Career Counselor*

        Email is for the convenience of the recipient (hiring manager, etc.), and phone is for the [immediate] gratification of the sender (applicant). I can see not wanting to be bombarded with phone calls about applications (especially with hundreds of applications, even if only five percent of them call, that’s dozens of phone calls and interruptions in a week.

        That said, the experiences I’ve had with employers not getting back to me (including places where I’ve been a finalist interviewee) pushes me to be as prompt and courteous as possible every time I’m filling a position.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Email can be very timely — you’ll usually get a far faster response from me by email (often within a few minutes of when your message was sent) than if I have to return a phone call.

      As College Career Counselor says, email is for the convenience of the recipient, while phone calls are for the convenience of the caller. Most hiring managers can’t accommodate hundreds of phone calls about a job, most of which will be from applicants who aren’t strong candidates to begin with. Email makes far more sense than the phone, if you need to deal with large numbers of people.

  21. KM*

    This is going to sound dumb, but HEAR ME OUT: Does the job posting say “For more information call X?”

    NO, STOP LAUGHING. Because, when I was sixteen, and looking for a job, I called not one but TWO PLACES because their job ads said “For more information call X.” It didn’t even occur to me that I sould have a specific question — I just thought maybe they couldn’t fit all of the information in the ad (these were ads in the paper) and if you were interested in what you saw, you should call to get the full set of information. I promise I am a smart person — I was just new to looking for jobs.

    I stopped calling because I realised that the people who answered the phone were totally dumbfounded by the question (although I didn’t know why, since they SAID to call), but it wasn’t until many years later that I actually understood what “For more information, call X” meant.

    So, if the ad says “For more information, call X” try changing it to “For questions or clarification, call X.” Take it from someone who asked for more information.

  22. Lynn*

    I wish it wasn’t so hard to find companies’ physical location. A lot of company websites don’t list addresses, and Google often won’t turn up anything either. (I’m a software engineer, so most places I would work don’t have the physical site open to the public, which contributes to the problem. They don’t need to be found very often!)

    I’ve never seen a job posting that listed the address. More than once, I’ve applied to jobs assuming they would be at the South Capital City Corporate HQ, and they turn out to be at the North Capital City Branch. I don’t want to go to the trouble of applying and prepping for a phone screen just to find out two minutes in that the commute would be a deal-breaker.

    1. SevenSixOne*

      Even worse is when it says something like “Capital City Area”– I live in the “Greater City area”, which covers not just City proper but a total of 15 counties in 3 states. It’s 2000-3500 square miles depending on how broadly you define it, so just saying the postion is in “Greater City area” tells me nothing.

      1. Felicia*

        In the city where I live if a job says “Greater City Area” it can mean anywhere from a 5 minute commute to a 1.5 hour commute. I’m ok with that, but some people aren’t willing to do the 1.5 hour commute. I always try to find the company address before aplying but sometimes its not easy.

    2. Yup*

      I feel your pain. For whatever reason, it’s really common in my industry to have Big National Office posting a job for Small Local Branch, of which there are 200. The postings are often written so obtusely so that you honestly can’t figure out on which flipping *coast* the job is located. It’s probably crystal clear to someone inside of the organization, but from the outside it’s like The Da Vinci Code. “So if I go to the main location and hold the posting up to a mirror, the path to secret map will be revealed…”

  23. Teacher Recruiter*

    Oh this one hit a nerve! One solution we came up with is to create a very, very long voicemail with lots of information to try and discourage people from leaving voicemails. The message is about 2 mins. long, and lists the answer to many common questions. I think some people get tired of the message and hang up, while others realize calling was a dumb idea. I’ve even had a number of them leave a message and say they wanted to know about X, but now will go on the website as the message told them to (thank you!).

    For anyone who still leaves a message, we give them a prompt call-back and deal with their questions professionally and politely. It is still awkward when I call someone back and say: “I was just returning your call from earlier today.” And get this response: “Yes?” As if I’m going to magically read their mind and answer their question. I want to scream – You called me!! Spit it out already!

    I really just wish all candidates would read Alison’s post about recruiters poking their eyes out with fork every time someone calls (my all-time favorite blog entry).

      1. Ruffingit*

        Love Kerry Scott’s blog except for one thing. She suggests people send paper resumes/cover letters after applying electronically so they “stand out.” NO. JUST NO.

  24. Limon*

    I am a science teacher, specializing in chemistry and anatomy. Sometimes I see ads for “science teacher” which could really be anything at all from grades 5-9 to AP biology or whatever. So I sometimes email and ask: what subjects and grades are you looking for?

    I am not good at ninth grade general science or junior high stuff (eek!). It wouldn’t be helpful to just go to an interview only to find I am not suited for it and they want someone with different skills. Most HR people are very good about that and will respond to a polite email. But I think this must be field specific, for education.

  25. OliviaNOPE*

    What about emailing someone who works for the company, but is not the hiring manager, that you are connected to on LinkedIn?

      1. OliviaNOPE*

        I see jobs at companies sometimes that I want to apply for but I’d hate to waste my time if say, the salary is going to be way below what I need or if the hours are ridiculous. In my line of work, sometimes the environment is fast-paced and sometimes there are days on end where you literally do nothing. I guess I’d like to have answers to culture questions.

  26. Wren*

    If someone else has mentioned this, then my apologies. I would say, however, that there are countries where calling to inquire further about the job is almost expected of an applicant. I live in such a country now (Denmark). Contact information is put in the job announcement expressly for that reason. If the applicant has any questions or needs clarification on things, then they call. We are told that we should have specific questions in mind, but if we can’t think of anything, we can call and ask for more information, as it shows a level of interest that others might not.

    Being an American here, I tend not to call unless I’m really confused about what a job is looking for, and I am really interested in said position. But it is almost expected here. I do send e-mail enquiries, if an address is provided, but I’m not big on calling people.

    If a company doesn’t want to field a bunch of calls, then they should provide an e-mail, that someone regularly checks, to handle contacts relating to open positions.

  27. anon-2*

    I think everyone’s looking at this from the gatekeeper’s point of view.

    Consider the applicant’s viewpoint –

    1) he/she may be highly motivated to move on from their current situation. The call could be made out of anxiety.

    2) talking to ANYONE – might provide the edge needed to discern him/herself from other candidates in the mix.

    The applicant is trying to attract some positive attention. Some managers might actually see that as a plus.

  28. Long time reader, first time poster*

    What if you are inquiring about a job that was posted by a friend on Facebook, and the only information you have is the title and where to send your resume (yes, only a resume was mentioned) – is it appropriate to ask for more information before formally applying? (and yes, I did try to research the position, but came up empty-handed)

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