candidates get snippy when I won’t talk to them before they apply, I found out my employee is job searching, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. Candidates get snippy when I won’t take their calls before they apply

I’m solely responsible for doing all of my organization’s talent acquisition, including building out the processes and systems from the ground up. We have numerous positions open right now and I’m getting bombarded by applicants wanting “just 30 minutes” to talk more about the position and their qualifications. On average, I get about 20-25 of these requests a day. Since we’re a small nonprofit organization (roughly 85 people), I feel compelled to respond because our organization does value each staff member and I want candidates to have a positive experience regardless if they get the job or not.

However, a simple “thanks for your interest in joining our team, please apply online, here’s the link” results in negative reviews online and snippy emails in response. I’ve even had one applicant email our CEO to complain that I couldn’t spare 15 minutes out of my day to call them and another email everyone from our marketing director to our IT help desk to complain about my lack of professionalism.

How can I build a good employer brand but not get sucked into 10 hours of informational phone calls and emails a day? What’s the best way to respond?

Yeah, this is annoying. The vast majority of the time, these are people who want a chance to pitch themselves to you on the phone, thinking it will give them a leg up, and aren’t actually looking to get specific questions answered before applying. It’s reasonable to direct them back to your application process, and it’s weird that people are being so snippy about it — but it might be that you just need to modify your wording a little.

When people ask to talk before applying, I usually say something like this: “Thanks so much for your interest! As a first step, I’d encourage you to use the application process described in the posting (here’s the link). Because we get such a high volume of interest for our openings and many requests for these calls, we’ve found that the best way to get to know people is to steer them to the process we’ve created. But if I’m off on what you’re asking about, please let me know.” (I add that last part because sometimes it turns out that there’s really just a single question that want answered before they spend time applying, and so then they’ll put it in an email, and that saves both of us a lot of time.) Sometimes I also add something like, “In part, this answer is a result of needing to ruthlessly triage my calendar right now.”

People respond to this well — I think because it gives them some context to understand why I’m saying no, and also reminds them that there are a bunch of other people asking for this too.

One thing that’s important here: make sure that your application process is streamlined and not time-intensive, so just like a resume and a cover letter. If you’re requesting more time investment than that, it’s harder to justify refusing to answer any questions first.

Also, you don’t need to treat all candidates the same.If someone appears to be a very strong candidate, it might make sense to schedule a short call with them (like 15 minutes, not 30) to tell them more about the job and get them interested. That’s the recruiting part of hiring. But you don’t need to do that with everyone.

2. My employee is job hunting — but I didn’t hear it from her

I ran into a former office intern, Cindy, at an association event for my field. Cindy casually mentioned that she is in a job hunting group with Jane, the woman I manage. Apparently it is a very active group — they meet weekly, set goals for numbers of jobs researched and applied to, etc.

My direct report is not a perfect fit for her role, though she does some pieces of it extremely well. It would certainly be a loss if she left. I would be happy to give her a good reference, and it would be better for us to know sooner than later if she is going to leave. We aren’t going to push her out any sooner than she’s ready to go. But what if it takes her a long time to find a job?

Complicating things, I previously saw Cindy at a job-hunting event where I was participating. So I can’t help but wonder if Cindy spilled the beans in both directions, and Jane is aware that I am also job hunting. Do I say anything to Jane about her job hunt? What if she brings up my own? And, do I let my own supervisor know that Jane is preparing to leave?

No, don’t say anything to her! If she wanted you to know, she would tell you — and she hasn’t, so you can reasonable conclude she doesn’t want you to know. And really, you are better off not knowing, so that this kind of thing doesn’t happen (which is exactly in line with your “what if it takes her a long time to find a new job?” question).

You’re of course right that it would be better for you to know sooner than later if she’s going to leave — but that’s the case with nearly every resignation, and employers still get by with the standard two or three week notice, because that’s what we’ve all agreed to find acceptable. So yes, it would be nice to know — but you don’t actually get to know, unless she decides to tell you. That’s just how it works, and she’s entitled to privacy. (Plus, maybe she’s not even going to end up leaving. Maybe she’s seeing what’s out there and what her options are, but isn’t committed to definitely leaving. We can’t know.)

It’s pretty unlikely that she’s going to bring up your own job search; that would be a weird thing for her to do with her manager, and that’s doubly so if she knows she has a search going on that she wouldn’t want anyone asking her about.

Overall, though, assume that any of your employees might be job searching and might move on! It’s a normal thing to happen, and you will deal with it if/when it does, just like you would have if you’d never heard this.

3. What do I write/say when I was referred by my late friend?

A year or so ago, a good friend, Leia, encouraged me to apply at her employer, Teaching Hospital, for positions similar to hers, and to look into other similar jobs as well. She knew I was good in customer-facing jobs and had some health-related experience. Leia was emphatic that this would be a good move for me — fit, state government benefits, etc. — so I took her advice. She also told me that applying repeatedly for similar positions was okay, and even encouraged, something that the hiring managers and HR people I later interviewed with also told me to do , without me bringing it up.

Then Leia was diagnosed with cancer. She might have had years, but didn’t and passed away this summer. During this time, with all the other serious things she had going on, she kept at me about Teaching Hospital jobs. When I messaged her that I had my first interview, she didn’t just reply “Great!” — she prepped me for it right then and there. I didn’t ask her to do that — never crossed my mind because she was so sick!

I am about to apply for some of the new positions and I would, as I did before, mention Leia referring me in the cover letter (which is uploaded to the online application system, so there is little ability to customize). If this is appropriate, what do I say? The same thing I wrote before? “Leia Organa, Job Title, suggested I apply for ABC openings. She has spoken highly of Teaching Hospital, both as a provider and an employer. [Why I will be good in these positions]”? Do I change it to “The late Leia Organa” or something similar?

And what about in interviews when I am asked why I want to work for them? I want to answer, “My friend worked here before her death, and she encouraged me to apply, and the way she talked about Teaching Hospital made me think, ‘I want to work there!'” It’s still true — I hadn’t thought about applying there until Leia suggested it. But I know that I am going to tear up and choke up. (There are tears on my face as I type.)

I’m so sorry about your friend.

One way way to word it is this: “Before she passed away last summer, Leia Organa said wonderful things to me about working at Teaching Hospital and encouraged me to apply.”

But that said, I don’t know that you have to mention this at all — and I’d say that if Leia were alive too. If it’s a large employer, and it sounds like it is, it’s unlikely to carry a ton of weight unless she was very high up. So it might be that you don’t really need to navigate this at all — you can just apply and explain why you would be good at the job, like you would if she hadn’t been involved.

The same goes for the interview. Your interviewers don’t really want to know what first put the thought in your head; they want to why you think it’s the right fit for you now that you’ve given it some thought.

To be clear, this isn’t about erasing Leia. Leia is very much present in this — she’s the reason you’re applying, and if you end up working there, she’ll be part of the reason why. It’s just about honing in on the information that will be most relevant to your interviewers in this particular context.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Contacting fellow alumni for advice about job searching in their city

I’m currently living in Midwest City and have plans to move to West Coast City this fall to be with my partner. I graduated from a large state university two years ago that has a very large, active alumni network. As I don’t have any contacts in the area, I plan on seeing if I can make connections from this group. I found the Facebook page for the alumni group in West Coast City and messaged them asking if they had any members in my industry that would be willing to connect with me. They responded enthusiastically and gave me the names and emails of two people related to the field I’m looking to pursue.

I don’t plan to ask if they know of open positions, but I was hoping more to get advice about job searching. Obviously I would be grateful if they let me know of positions, but I’m more interested in getting advice about the job market out there, especially since applying from out of state will be a huge challenge.

Is it acceptable to reach out to someone to ask for advice on this out of the blue? If so, would it be better to reach out via email or LinkedIn? Since they’re involved with the alumni association, I’m assuming they’re receptive to this kind of connection, although I’m still not totally familiar with the specifics of networking. I welcome any other advice you have about networking in this type of situation!

Yes, you can indeed contact people out of the blue to ask for this kind of advice, especially when you’ve made the connection through an alumni group. Explain how you found them, and explain the sort of thing you’re hoping to ask about (give an example of a couple of the questions you’re hoping to ask). That will help them figure out if they’re able to be useful to you and decide if they want to do a call with you, and it will also demonstrate that you plan to make good use of their time (you have questions prepared! they’re not going to have to drag out of you what you want, which is a thing that sometimes happens), and it will demonstrate that this isn’t “I’m hoping you’ll find me a job but I don’t want to say that so I’m pretending I’m asking for advice instead” (which is super common).

I would use email for this, not LinkedIn. Not everyone checks their LinkedIn messages regularly, and email is more direct.

{ 294 comments… read them below }

  1. azvlr*

    #1 Would it make sense to hold a job fair? Two-fold benefit of getting your organization visible in the community while making yourselves available for a limited time for questions.

    1. Sylvan*

      Does that cut down on people basically inviting themselves for phone interviews?

      (Seriously, I used to be an administrative assistant and received emails and calls like that all the time. So did a bunch of people I worked with. Anything to calm it down would have been great.)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think so — and it’s a lot of work for not a ton of pay-off. A different option: A client of mine does monthly conference calls where anyone can join the call and hear about their open positions. When people contact them wanting to talk before applying, they’re able to steer them to that monthly call.

        But really, I think as long as you’re polite about it and give some context (like my example in the post), reasonable people will understand why you’re saying no to a call at that stage.

        1. Artemesia*

          When I had this issue, I had the AA screen out these calls. Fewer managed to track me down specifically.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Could she just add something (I’ve often seen) to their job postings thay says “please no calls” or something like that?

        3. Teal*

          What do you think of requesting the questions via email? When I mostly worked remote, I’d simply send back: “I’m not often in office, so I’d appreciate if you could email me any specific questions.” – as part of a longer message of course.

          If they refuse to reveal questions via email & keep insisting you call them, IMO it becomes a “we both know what’s going on” situation and I felt fine with not replying.

    2. Antilles*

      I don’t think so.
      1.) Job fairs are a lot more effort to set up than they seem. You need to have a venue (if you’re really getting 20-25 different people emailing per day, attendance is almost certainly going to be more than a ‘small nonprofit’ could handle in-office). You need to take time to craft a small presentation. You need to set up on the day of the job fair. If you’re running it yourself and not part of a bigger job fair, you’d need to answer all sorts of questions beforehand from candidates.
      2.) If you’re responding before even sorting through resumes (which apparently is happening), then OP is probably going to end up spending a lot of time with candidates who aren’t viable. I have no data on this, but in my experience, the candidates who push hardest on the “let’s chat so I can explain my qualifications” tend to be the ones who are most borderline for the job, because they’re aware that might not quite stack up experience wise and are hoping that they can talk their way around not meeting some of the needs.
      3.) This might actually make the problem worse. The candidates who can’t attend will (reasonably) feel like they missed an opportunity to chat with OP in person, so they’ll be even *more* persistent in trying to set up phone chats.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        in my experience, the candidates who push hardest on the “let’s chat so I can explain my qualifications” tend to be the ones who are most borderline for the job, because they’re aware that might not quite stack up experience wise and are hoping that they can talk their way around not meeting some of the needs.

        That’s my experience too! I think it’s less that they know they’re less qualified, and more that their lack of understanding of how this works is a symptom of their lack of qualifications, if that makes sense. (Like the people who are qualified wouldn’t ask for this, not because they know they don’t need to but because they have better judgment.)

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          That’s been my experience too, but in the spirit of generosity, I think there’s also a good chunk of people who express themselves and their ideas much, much better in person than they do in writing, and many of them know that. The general format of resume + cover letter really prizes the opposite: people who express themselves and their ideas better in writing than they do in person.

          I 100% tend to think job fairs are not worthwhile for the vast majority of people participating in them. But, I won’t lie; I have had a couple rare experiences where I talk to a person about their background and think “oh, wow, this person could be really great for X,” but when I look at their resume later, I’m like “huh, I don’t see a ton of that reflected in here.” Sometimes its because they’re good bullshitters and able to convince people that they are qualified for a job they’re not, but sometimes people are just really bad at putting together an application that accurately reflects their qualifications.

        2. Non of This*

          This makes me think of the “gumption” argument, in that yes, I think being pushy is NOT the way to go about, but at the same time, if the candidate knows they are borderline, they’re most likely feeling desperate to get into a role where they can build more skills.

          You need experience but need a job to get experience but need experience to get a job so that you can get experience in order to get the job…and on and on.

          I don’t support the applicants being rude or pushy, but I do sympathize with people job hunting.

        3. oranges & lemons*

          Sounds like there could be some Dunning-Kruger in there too. The less qualified people are less aware of how they measure up, and probably less aware of hiring norms generally, so they assume they are at the top of the hiring manager’s priority list.

      2. Artemesia*

        ‘Job fairs’ are also really low rent for want of a better term. Most non entry level people or professionals are not going to want to go to one of them. Suggesting that they attend one (unless it is a very entry level position) is likely to turn off serious applicants.

        1. Anna*

          As someone who goes to a LOT for work reasons, that’s not entirely true. A lot of professionals attend them in my area. But it’s not a good place to go to avoid people contacting you; it’s really only worthwhile if you’re looking for a broad cross-section of applicants and once those applicants connect with you, they’re going to want to follow up. So I would say it will increase the number of people contacting you, not decrease it.

      3. AKchic*

        All of Antilles points are on-point.

        When I was with non-profit, I got stuck as the “face” at a lot of promotional things because I knew all of the programs. Not because I was HR, but because I knew the programs because I had my hand in all of the programs. I had so many marginal and terrible people coming to me with resumes to talk themselves up to try to get *me* to put a “word in” for them. Dude, just met you, you have *just* admitted that you’re a felon and have only been out of jail for a year, why on earth would we let you work with *that* population in particular? There are actual guidelines for that, plus you don’t have any of the qualifications necessary to work in the field. Sweet-talking won’t get you anywhere. Flirting with the presenter won’t get you anywhere and talking to the HR director “man-to-man” certainly won’t get you anywhere.

        The actual job fairs were worse for the HR staff. Very rarely were qualified people looking for positions.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Agreed! In the 90s I was part of a team that ‘worked the booth’ at tech job fairs, and can recall only a small number of hires. We collected literally hundreds of resumes at these events from people who came by our booth, and also the scanned resumes from the job fair company. Plain and simple, most of the attendees didn’t have tech experience of any sort, let alone what we were looking for. These events were a drain on budget, energy, goodwill, and success.

          However, I did come away with some good stories. I remember a fellow walking by our booth until he saw our large defense contractor name. He loudly raged for a few minutes – we were part of the war machine that dropped bombs on innocents, our founder was an evil man, we were run by former military men full of bloodlust, and so on. He finished with, ‘Well, here’s my resume. I’m looking for work in shipping and receiving, are you hiring?’ With mouths agape, we stared at him until he left…which he did, but not before grabbing a handful of our pens. Good times.

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            I have had positive experiences representing my company at job fairs, but we went to targeted career expos – like at colleges and universities we had relationships with or tech conferences (with registration fees for entry).

        2. Anna*

          I think you were probably not at the good job fairs. I’ve been to a lot of them. I do it for a living. You were attending crappy job fairs.

          1. AKchic*

            I did actually specify I *wasn’t* at job fairs. The HR staff went to every job fair held in our city (the largest in our state), not that there are many around here.

    3. Hobgoblin*

      We have a recruiting email and I handle it. Most questions are cut and paste answers, so that’s pretty easy. We also hold an information session once a month for applicants (not people thinking of applying but people who’ve already applied). Granted, I’m hiring cops so it’s a little different than many jobs but it’s still helpful in cutting down on the phone calls and drop ins.

  2. Tuesday Next*

    OP1, if this is happening to you a lot (and it sounds as though it is), make sure that your communications around job requirements, process, etc are very clear. Possibly people are not getting enough information from the material you’re making available and that’s why they want to speak to you. Otherwise though, people who are rude, post negative reviews, or email your CEO to complain, are providing you with a useful way to filter them out of the candidate pool. You might also want to manage this internally by letting your management team know what’s going on and how you are dealing with it.

    1. Willis*

      Adding on to your comment about managing the calls internally, it might be helpful to have a stock response for other folks in the org that are also getting emails about jobs, maybe just thanking the writer for their interest and directing them to the application instructions or something (or a policy to ignore people who are rude or send multiple emails to everyone in the company).

    2. LBK*

      I was wondering about the internal support here as well; even if the OP is a one-person department, she must report to someone who could a) sign off on the approach the OP is taking and b) play defense if these crazies are contacting other people to complain about the OP.

      I’m also curious if the OP is worried that this is hurting her reputation or if everyone internally understands what’s going on and isn’t taking the candidates seriously – it’s hard to gauge from the letter if this is just an annoyance or if she’s genuinely concerned about it reflecting badly on her job performance.

      1. amaybe*

        It’s both. It’s overwhelming and annoying to have my inbox and LinkedIn account blown up and our company’s central email address to be blasted. And while folks are generally very understanding and good-spirited about it, it never feels good to have your CEO being told that you’re unprofessional or to get a Glassdoor review that says, “I contacted this organization for the opportunity to discuss the position and they couldn’t even make the time! This must be an awful place to work!”

        1. LBK*

          Makes sense – and I can certainly appreciate that people only have so much patience for random angry strangers contacting them, even if they’re understanding of what’s driving it.

        2. ExcelJedi*

          I don’t think any serious candidate would take this kind of Glassdoor review seriously…If I saw it, I’d discount it immediately and maybe even think that a lower numerical score for the company was unwarrented. I know it sucks to see, but I couldn’t see it impacting recruitment in any serious way.

          1. Michaela T*

            That type of review is exactly why I don’t really take Glassdoor seriously. It’s nothing but complaining, a lot of it without any kind of reasonable context.

          2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

            Yeah – agreeing with this. As someone who’s currently job searching and looking at a lot of glassdoor reviews (and I’d say well versed in application/interview etiquette) I would not even take this review into consideration.

            Totally understand that it stings to see this sort of thing, but I really believe that any strong/professional potential candidates would understand how unreasonable the reviewer is and would not be swayed by this sort of review.

          3. myswtghst*

            Agreed. I treat Glassdoor similar to looking at reviews on Amazon – meaning that I don’t take numerical ratings at face value, and really take the negativity with a grain of salt, knowing that people are more likely to post when they are upset. If I saw those reviews, I’d be judging the candidate, not the company.

            1. TardyTardis*

              I imagine it would depend on the kind of review. If there are a *lot* of reviews saying that the wages are low and the hours are long (and they are clearly from different people), then the employer might actually pay attention to them. Or not. If a company’s reviews were in the hundreds, and then suddenly dropped below one hundred, people might notice and wonder if a) the company had been botted for some reason, or if they indeed tried hard to clear out every negative review. I suspect Glassdoor has heard from both kinds and knows the difference.

        3. Cat Lady*

          Do you have a general disclaimer on the job description along the lines of “No phone calls or emails, please; qualified candidates will be contacted after the application process is complete.”?

          LinkedIn sometimes has this “contact the job poster” directly feature. If it can be disabled, disable it.

          1. No Mas Pantalones*

            I always put that on job descriptions when I posted them. “No phone calls, emails, or outside recruiters, please. Candidates must go through X process in order to be considered.”

        4. Natalie*

          I suspect you might be taking these unreasonable reactions more personally than is warranted. If your CEO is a person with regular expectations, they are definitely not thinking poorly of you about this! They know typical interview standards and they probably wouldn’t talk to prospective applicants for 5 minutes, much less 30. You could always have a quick chat with them to clear the air if you’re really worried. And only other ridiculous people are going to read that kind of Glassdoor review and think the writer has a point.

          I know it’s easier said than done, but if I were you I’d devote your energy to figuring out how to keep these kinds of oddball reactions from getting under your skin rather than trying to prevent them from ever happening. The latter seems like a futile exercise.

        5. JGray*

          I work in HR so can fully sympathize. First remember that no matter the organization you can’t keep everyone happy. Second not sure if this helps but in addition to the wording that Alison gave have you been providing the job description? This might help but might not. I one time had a guy get mad at me when I didn’t want to provide information a second time to him (I forwarded him the original emails with the answers) and he was all bent out of shape that the CEO of the organization hadn’t closed the job when he said he was going to. This previous position was at a private company so the CEO just did what he wanted which I had no control over and had told the guy that. The guy also didn’t even apply for the job so he was just being a jerk. Remember this happens and tell the your coworkers that you are going your best but HR best practices don’t usually require you listening to 100 30 minute pitches from candidates. This is what interviews are for.

        6. Artemesia*

          It is weird that this is happening repeatedly so I would be looking at the job ad information and anything else in the system that might be eliciting so much of this. Is there any suggestion in the ad to ‘contact Amaybe’? Is there anything in the ad or website to discourage direct contact? Is the ad itself unclear so that people naturally have basic questions? When you get a lot of something like this, the process needs a close look.

          And is there any way you can screen calls like this. If they are coming directly to you and that is mostly what you are getting, perhaps an outgoing message with directions to the ad and process. If they are coming by email/linked in then perhaps a standard message of what to do instead. And confer with your own boss about this and anyone who makes a nuisance of themselves should go in the ‘no pile’ straight off. Not those who call, but anyone who whines or goes over your head.

        7. Ted Mosby*

          “I contacted this organization for the opportunity to discuss the position and they couldn’t even make the time! ”

          Lmao, that is literally what a job interview is, and not everyone gets them. Most sane people understand this. I always ignore this kind of review. Hopefully they’re not actually rating the company as if they worked there!

    3. irritable vowel*

      I’m going to go way out on a limb here and assume that OP is a woman, perhaps even with a name that conveys to these potential applicants that she is likely a young woman, or a woman from an ethnic group different from their own. To me, the problem is more about these applicants feeling like they’re not being taken seriously or treated with the proper level of respect by someone they’re perceiving as lesser than themselves, and feeling that they need to report that behavior by making others in the organization aware of it. This happens *all the time* in online environments. I just find it much more difficult to picture people doing this as often if the person they’re getting this email from had a male name. And to be honest, I thought Alison’s advice went too far in “softening” the message being delivered to applicants, in a way that is more frequently associated with women. OP, I think what you are telling these people is fine, as is.

        1. Tuesday Next*

          Way, way, way out on a limb, and even if that is the case, what would OP do about it? She’s hardly going to change her name over it.

      1. amaybe*

        Ironically enough, my name is gender neutral, probably with a nod towards an older generation, and my family name is ambiguous enough but it’s clear I’m from a European background.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Um, no. Speculation like this is not helpful, and it’s not fair or kind to the OP. This happens to people with ‘male’ and ‘female’ names, because job seekers sometimes have a very out of date view of staffing and expect interviews on demand.

      3. Artemesia*

        It may be speculative but there is plenty of research to show that yes this is pretty much what happens. The OP might want to experiment with that. It is common for men in positions like this to be treated much better than women by applicants.

    4. Fluffer Nutter*

      Totally agree. I would never, ever DREAM of trying to back door the process but it is very frustrating when you have applications that say “no calls or emails” (which OP’s absolutely should) but then have technical problems or confusing/misworded directions, invasive assessments, or require 4-10 hours of my time. I usually just skip those, and my city has 2% unemployment, so I can. I was looking at a very low paying job with a mid rate non-profit and one of the VERY SPECIFIC requirements was that your cover letter, resume and references has to be condensed into a single PDF. This was a while back before it was as easy to do this and seriously, for $32k a year (with a master’s) I’m not downloading a special program so I can do your application. OP, I’m sorry you’re running into so many entitled schmucks, but please take a look at your processes as others have suggested.

    5. Former Hoosier*

      I agree with this advice and then I would say, you just have to let the rest go. If nothing else, a person who emails the entire team or does something similar has done you a favor by screening themselves out before you had to spend the time doing it. This is never ever acceptable behavior and while it feels really crummy to have someone do this to you, don’t normalize it by overreacting to it. You can’t possibly respond to that many phone calls. I am fascinated by all of these job applicants with such atrocious behavior.

      And even if your system was crappy and not helpful, this behavior is not ever acceptable. However, you don’t want to turn good applicants off.

  3. AcademiaNut*

    For LW #1 it might help to review what is available for job seekers already. Is there a clear, informative job description so that people know if it’s a job that they want to apply for? Is there information about the organization (size, structure, mission, history)? Is the application process clear and non-painful?

    Once that’s checked – is it really necessary to include your phone number with the job ad, or can the main contact be the submission system?

    1. ProfessorPlum*

      Also do you include a salary range on your job posting? That might reduce questions prior to applying and help filter the applications you do get.

      1. Cat H (UK)*

        I can’t imagine asking for 30 minutes of someones time – you could spend that time filling in the application.
        However, I have been known to give a call when they don’t include the salary. I want to know if it’s worth my time or theirs!
        I did have one occasion when I applied for a job with no salary range because it sounded like a good company to work for. They arranged a telephone interview with me and then in the interview they spoke about wanting to be open and upfront. They then told me the salary and it was so prohibitively low, we ended the call there. It was pretty ridiculous that they would say they want to be open but not list salary in the job ad.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They probably aren’t including a phone number — but people can easily look up the organization online and there’s the number.

      In my experience, the vast, vast majority of these calls aren’t because people legitimately need/want more info before they apply. It’s because they see it as a chance to pitch themselves for the job and make a connection with you that they think will give their application a boost. (That’s true even when they claim the call is because they have questions.) There’s even advice out there telling people to do this as a leg up.

      1. Willis*

        Especially if they’re asking for a half hour of your time. It seems like if candidates had a legitimate question or two about the job or how to apply, they could just write it in the email. I would think that would have a lot higher likelihood of getting an answer vs a request for a half hour discussion.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I was thinking that. “just half an hour” is already entitled in and of itself (like seriously, you think OP has nothing else to do but chat with random old you for one sixteenth of her workday?). But also, OP says right in her letter that these are requests “to talk more about the position and [the candidates’] qualifications” – these aren’t people asking for clarification on one aspect of the job ad.

          1. Snark*

            “Just 30 minutes” jumped out at me too. In what universe is 30 minutes “just” 30 minutes? I consider it a success if I wrap up an actual, in person, first-round interview in just 30 minutes. I scheduled 30 minutes today for a technical review of a colleague’s 20-page biological assessment. A busy, slammed person gets a lot done in 30 minutes. 30 minutes is a LOT OF TIME. That’s a BIG ask.

            1. Artemesia*

              It does invite the response: ‘we will be doing phone interviews for this position in late March; if you are selected for a phone interview we will contact you by email.’ They are trying to schedule an interview; let them know that you will be scheduling your own interviews.

          2. The Other Dawn*

            Yes, 30 minutes is A LOT. I don’t give that to a relative, I’m certainly not giving it to a stranger who wants to get a leg up and not really have actual questions.

          3. Cat Lady*


            “Just” thirty minutes is rude. I assume that someone out there is telling people to do this and to basically get an entire informal interview, but it’s disrespectful of the person’s time (and right to not interview candidates).

          4. CoveredInBees*

            Seriously! I’m currently contacting a number of former work contacts in trying to do some career changes. People whom I already know and already like me. I am asking for 10-15 minutes on specific things. I couldn’t imagine asking them for 30 minutes, even if the conversations last that long because we already know and like each other. It is disrespectful of the fact that people (especially at a non-profit) tend to have more to do than hours in the day.

        2. Blue*

          My situation isn’t quite analogous, because my issue is people trying to physically show up in my office at the last minute, but my standard response is something like, “My schedule is pretty tight [today/this week/etc]. Why don’t you send me an email with your specific questions and I’ll see if I can address them that way? If I find that it’d be easier to answer those questions in person, we can set something up, but I’ll probably be able to get you an answer more quickly over email.” That usually works and it saves me a lot of time!

        3. Antilles*

          Exactly. If you were really looking for information, then your email wouldn’t be “can I chat with you for 30 minutes?”, it would be the actual question. We don’t need a phone call for me to tell you that “yes, the job does involve travel” (as stated in the ad!), an exchange of two-sentence emails is plenty sufficient.

      2. Wintermute*

        I think you’re right, and that this is quite probably another entry in the annals of “Bad advice from career centers”, with a dash of “if that ever worked, the last time it did was 1948, so stop advising people to do it today”, and maybe even a touch of “but mom said I have to show ‘gumption'”.

        1. Database Geek*

          It’s not just from career centers – I’m hearing it from my networking groups… and they’re saying it has worked for some former group members.

      3. Cheesesticks and Pretzels*

        This has probably already been covered but would putting “No calls” in the ad help?

        1. amaybe*

          I’ve tried this before (I’m OP1) and either applicants don’t read through the job description or think it doesn’t apply to them. I’ve even added a bold “Only applications submitted through our online portal will be considered. Here’s the link to apply” at the top of the job posting on external sites like Indeed and I still get people who follow up several months later annoyed that they never heard back from us. After a little digging, they didn’t submit an application, they just sent a resume through Indeed.

          1. MuseumChick*

            Could you add a line that says something like “Qualified applicants will be contact in X – Y weeks.”

          2. Teapot librarian*

            I think that if you put “no calls” in the ad and then someone calls you, that’s a clear way to weed them out, rather than “they were pushy and entitled when they called,” which has room for unconscious bias to wheedle its way in. When I hire, I include questions in our online system (bureaucracy, having extra questions is required) that require customized answers. If someone doesn’t answer the question (say, they cut and paste lines from their resume), that applicant goes in the “no” pile. Can’t follow instructions? I don’t want to hire you.

          3. ExcelJedi*

            I may be misreading this but:
            If there’s an option to send a resume through Indeed, I think even savvy job seekers may think that’s all that’s needed to apply (because for a lot of places it is). If you have a job available on Indeed and people can send their resume & cover letter through it, are you just not looking at those applications?

            Also, if people are following up months afterwards, are you sending rejection notices? You won’t get rid of them completely, but you may cut down on these calls if you make sure that you do.

          4. Natalie*

            Perhaps this is an obvious question, but can you turn off the “submit resume” thing on Indeed? In general, when you don’t want people to do something the easiest way is to make it literally impossible.

            It sounds like you’ll still get plenty of calls, this would just eliminate a portion of them.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think at least when you’re hiring for more senior level positions, “no calls” can give the wrong feel. Most good senior candidates won’t call, but the message has a kind of “unskilled cattle call” feel to it. (That said, if the OP is getting this many calls, these probably aren’t senior level positions?)

          But even for more junior positions, I do want someone to call if, for example, the system won’t accept their application because of a technical glitch or they’re having another issue that I actually want to know about.

          I think you’re better off skipping that and just taking the information that people are conveniently giving you about their judgment.

          1. Erin*

            I’ve called ahead before I applied to a position and I actually scored an interview and the job. Two caveats though: The date in job posting was from two months earlier and I didn’t want to waste time applying to a position that was already filled. And it was in retail.

            1. TootsNYC*

              ah, but I bet you called and said, “Is that job still open? I know it’s an older listing.”

              And so, you gave them information about your judgment.

              (a “no calls” policy might have meant you wouldn’t have called, and they’d have missed out on you.)

      4. amaybe*

        Thanks, Alison. This is my question and I agree with what you’ve written here. The majority of the calls and emails I get are people wanting to pitch themselves (either a straight up sales pitch or to justify why I should consider them even though they aren’t qualified). People who have actual questions usually just send them.

      5. INTP*

        When I received these calls as a recruiter, they weren’t even looking to pitch themselves, they just wanted to get all the details about the job that would typically be discussed in an interview to decide whether it was even worth their time to email us a resume (the salary range, who the client was – it was in house positions but I worked for a consulting company where some people did work at client sites, etc). I found it very entitled because they were basically saying that it should be worth my time to answer all their questions without any way of knowing they’re a viable candidate (most applicants weren’t) but it wasn’t worth their time to fill out an application without knowing whether every detail of the job aligned with what they wanted. (FWIW, this was a field where very little importance is placed on cover letters so while you may tweak your resume a little for a new position, it shouldn’t take hours to put together an application unless you’re trying to misrepresent your experience.)

        Anyways, I wonder if whoever is answering the phones and forwarding them to OP can just start screening them better? Refer them to an email address, maybe? If they’re calling OP directly maybe her number can be taken off the site or her name removed from the job listings. They’re already leaving bad reviews so I don’t know if there’s much risk to that. 20 requests a day is excessive and calls for making the OP a bit less accessible to the public.

          1. the gold digger*

            I agree with JB (not in Houston). I have never called someone to ask questions about a job before applying, but even if it takes no more than 30 minutes to apply, it’s still a waste of my time if I wouldn’t want the job because of the pay.

          2. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Yeah, about posting salary ranges or targets. I think it’s a given that poorly qualified candidates apply to even the most specific, clear, and definitive job postings. Posting salary targets or ranges does little to improve the quality of applicant, and won’t reduce the calls or emails demanding an audience. Been there, folks.

            If you think people are pushy about selling themselves without a salary range or target, just wait till you post a job with one. Applicants complain that our range or target won’t work for them, making me wonder why they applied. Well, they have experience and skills and interests we should be willing to pay for, even if these are not required for the role in question. Quite often, candidates who barely meet the minimum qualifications insist they should be paid at the top of the range: we’re willing to pay it, so why not to them? They still call or email, demanding to know what kind of bonus program we have, what our benefits are, what kind of sign on bonus they can expect, all before they even apply to the job. And so on.

            Before anything thinks I’m just a big old scold, let me assure you that I’m known for being a candidate advocate. I regularly irritate my hiring partners by pushing back on their decisions regarding candidate selection. When I feel they are being unfair or making assumptions, I step in. Regardless of what people (like to) think, HR does and should own this process. In the for-profit world, they usually do. If hiring managers make poor decisions regarding solid candidates, or ignore our structured candidate evaluation process, I don’t sit back and let them do it.

            So, no. As a best practice, I can’t get behind posting salary targets or ranges. In my experience, it solved nothing.

            1. medium of ballpoint*

              My industry often doesn’t post salary ranges, and I’ve done plenty of phone interviews that were a waste of everyone’s time because the salary didn’t work for me. I think that most companies would rather use their interview time for candidates who would actually consider the job.

              1. INTP*

                From the corporate perspective, it’s better to waste a recruiting assistant’s time on phone interviews than have to pay someone $100k that would have settled for $50k because you published the salary budget in the ad. I was supposed to just ask them their range and then tell them if it was in range or not. I’m not saying it’s fair or not annoying but that’s how it was done and I didn’t have the authority to change it because I wanted to look out for the general publics welfare instead of my employer’s.

                However, this was all 100% typical of the industry so it’s not like my company’s ads were more confusing than average.

            2. Perse's Mom*

              But it sounds like these are people who will apply and probably take issue with some part of the job ad and/or requirements of the position anyway. At least including the salary range would allow *reasonable* candidates to self select out. The people who push beyond that are telling you a lot about how they’re *not* good candidates.

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                My point was and still is: for every applicant that self selects, there are dozens who do not. I know it sounds like a great idea, but posting salary info doesn’t help the hiring process from the employer perspective.

                1. Airy*

                  If it didn’t actually make more unsuitable people apply, it’s still information worth providing for the benefit of reasonable human beings.

                2. the gold digger*

                  I am not trying to be rude, but honestly? I don’t care about helping the process from the employer side. The employer already holds all the cards. It would be nice if employers would think about the candidate and how not to waste her times.

              2. SheLooksFamiliar*

                ‘At least including the salary range would allow *reasonable* candidates to self select out.’
                Except it doesn’t. I’m not trying to be argumentative, I promise. I’ve spent the past 30 years doing this for a living, and my employers and I have tried every possible way to make this process smoother and more effective – yes, by including salary targets or ranges, depending. My first responsibility is to my employer, but we also want a good experience for applicants/candidates. Salary info didn’t help. I swear, it didn’t. If it did, we’d post it.

                ‘I don’t care about helping the process from the employer side.’
                This comment really proves my point, whether or not gold digger meant to. My company has anywhere from 1000-1500 openings at any given time. My recruiters need to manage their time efficiently and to find great talent using any means available. Our postings get 100 applications PER DAY on average from applicants who are wasting our time and theirs by applying to jobs they are not qualified to do. When we posted salary ranges, we got even more applications from people asking for the top of the salary range – and they didn’t possess even a quarter of the required experience or skills.

                I can’t say this any more plainly: posting salary information does not produce timely interviews with happier, better-qualified applicants. If it did, employers would post salary info as a best practice.

          3. INTP*

            That’s not really done in the private sector in this industry, and I wasn’t supposed to include it. You can argue why the industry should change, but we were putting all the typical information in the posting.

        1. Specialk9*

          I think that your take of this situation is off. You think they’re “entitled” for wanting to know pay range and company? Those aren’t crazy things to want to know before applying. It sounds like you are very aware of the fact that you have something of value in your hands (a job) and aren’t considering that they have something of value in their hands (qualified applicants) and that it’s a two-way street.

          I have a friend who almost didn’t bother to go to an interview because the recruiter had major attitude. The hiring manager was very enthusiastic about her, and annoyed at the recruiter for almost scuppering the deal.

          1. INTP*

            They knew the company. In the private sector, at least in this industry, pay range isn’t in ads, nor is a list of every client you’ll be working with when you apply to a consulting job. (For one, that could change easily, and we don’t want people that only apply because they want to get a foot in at Big Client and will quit if they have to work somewhere else because needs change. If you’re not interested in the job in the description enough to spend 15 minutes making sure the keywords on your resume are right and emailing to to us, you’re not going to take the job when it’s offered to you, ime.

    3. Espeon*

      Yes OP1 – Are the adverts as thorough and clear as they could be? Do they make the role seem like an unusual amount of work compared to similar roles with other companies? Do people just have to provide a CV or do you expect them to jump through hoops at stage one (ie; filling out a long application).

      In addition, other things that help me decide if I’m going to apply for a job are – listing the pay/salary, hours of work (and days, if weekend work is included), location, and any other employee benefits. Ie; things that will actually impact their *life* if they work for your company.

      I’ve never called a company to quiz them before applying, but I’ve automatically not bothered applying to many, many jobs because they want too much of my time (applications) before giving me enough detail to know if working for them would meet my requirements as an actual human being. I see it as a bit of a warning sign tbh, that they’ll be all take and no give.

      1. Snark*

        This isn’t wrong, but she specifically said the applicants were wanting to also talk about their qualifications. That’s a clear indication it’s not just because the adverts are unclear.

        1. fposte*

          Right, and you don’t request 30 minutes for job requirements. These people are trying to pitch.

            1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

              Could be that they are offering a higher salary than similar positions or the org has a great reputation. Desirable jobs get more pitches than most

            2. Triumphant Fox*

              Does anyone know if this is more common with non-profits? People want to sell not only their qualifications, but also their alignment with the mission outside of a cover letter?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’ve always gotten a ton of it hiring for nonprofits (although not as much as the OP!). I think part of it is that at nonprofits, you get people who are really excited about working for your organization in particular, and so there’s more “I really want this job” going on than there might otherwise be. It’s less that they want to sell you on their interest in your mission, though, and more than they want to sell you on them as a candidate in general.

                1. Natalie*

                  Might just be my area, but the field also seems to be exceptionally competitive, particularly given the lower than average salaries, burnout, and other detriments. My personal theory is that a lot of people want a job that Means Something and they sort of unthinking assume that non profit work is the only way to do that.

              2. AKchic*

                In my experience (working HR for an oil-field based company, and later working in the non-profit sector) non-profits get it more. Both are equally unqualified, but in the non-profit world, people assume that the non-profits are so desperate for cheap labor that the enthusiasm and willingness to work cheaply because they are unqualified will outweigh the fact that they are both unqualified and unskilled, but hey – they “really are passionate about the cause!”

                1. AKchic*

                  The non-profit I worked for actually paid decent wages. It was just the assumption that we were automatically paying less than anyone else (we paid the most in the industry for non-profits in the area) and that they were willing to work for even less because they weren’t qualified, and that we should be grateful and jump at the chance because hey – they are volunteering to take so little pay and we can “train them the right way!” (oh, and pay for those certifications they need to actually be legally able to do the job they want to do)

      2. LBK*

        I still don’t buy that asking for a 30 minute call is a reasonable expectation – you have to realize how insane that would make a recruiter’s calendar if they agreed to it for every applicant. Being angry that they won’t talk to you when you haven’t even given them a reason to think you’re worth their time (ie submitted an application) is frankly pretty self-centered.

        If the process seems too arduous for the job as represented in the ad, just don’t apply and move on. If you’re so desperate for a job that that’s not an option, suck it up.

    4. amaybe*

      Thanks for responding to my question, I appreciate it. We’ve definitely made a lot of progress over the past year ensuring that our job descriptions provide all of the relevant information (except salary) upfront. I work with hiring managers to include a high-level overview of what the job entails followed up by a section focused on the nuts and bolts of the role, so that applicants can get a rough idea of what they are investing their time into before reading through the entire job description. We also include a pretty thorough section about our organization – mission, values, history, and strategic priorities as well as a link to learn more.

      And our application process is as straight forward as possible – resume, cover letter, and 1-2 relevant knock out questions (do you have a bachelor’s degree, do you have x years experience doing y). The knock out questions are something I really push back on my HM – do candidates truly need experience picking apples or are you actually just looking for someone with a working knowledge of agricultural best practices? I try to minimize any and all barriers (although as a side – I have found that an alarming number of people take these questions as an opportunity to get creative. Ex: Do you have professional experience managing a team to outcomes? Applicant responds yes and then during a phone screen it’s revealed that they actually don’t have any experience managing, but they do provide their kids’ soccer team with orange slices which helps them win….).

      1. Gem*

        I think I’d ditch the knock out questions. They clearly aren’t helpful if people are answering creatively and it sounds like you should be able to tell the answer from their cover letter/resume.

        I’d also start listing the salary range. Is there any reason you don’t provide that information?

        1. LBK*

          I don’t think she has the authority to drop the knock out questions – she pretty clearly says she tried to push back on them already and the hiring managers said no.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It sounds like she doesn’t have the authority to. I agree that employers should do this (and have ranted about that for years, and love that Vu Le piece linked to above), but let’s not pretend that it’s not still very much the convention not to. It also doesn’t sound like that will solve her problem, which is people wanting to pitch themselves.

        2. Myrin*

          OP says above (at 9:45) that she’s trying to convince others in a position of authority to do just that at the moment.

        3. NaoNao*

          I think it could be because of the following reason:

          Let’s say they post a “range” of 65-75,00. The 65 is for junior candidates with minimum experience. The 75 is for lateral moves or that great candidate. However, the candidates that get offered 65 will feel stung. Everyone will ask for 75 and if offered 65, a perfectly good candidate will possibly drop out.
          On the other hand, if you post 65-75, but you’re willing to actually go to 90 for that unicorn, again, every applicant will expect the 90, and if you don’t post “up to 90k” then unicorns won’t even apply.

          I believe that’s the thinking.

          1. StarHunter*

            And again, if poor OP#1 is getting that many calls a day, I don’t think salary range is going to help either. If career advice out there is to be aggressive – that’s hard to fix and hopefully some of these suggestions can help, even if it’s just a bit. We had a candidate once send a nasty email to the hiring manager because she didn’t respond fast enough to the candidate’s application. It was maybe 1 week. The manager didn’t get back right away because her uncle had died and she had to attend an out of town funeral. Her lovely email back to the candidate explained that nicely. And yes, threw that resume out. (On a side note, I like to push the salary range issue whenever possible because I feel bad when unicorns lose their wings.)

          2. Mindy*

            I work in a field where the same job title can command 25,000-80,000. I would find salary range helpful because even though all of the fancy descriptions of the job all sound the same, the salary tells you a bunch more. So I look at Glassdoor to see if I can get any salary insight before I spend the time applying for a job that isn’t anywhere near the ballpark I expect. I also saw a posting in my field that would post and drop then post and drop and then finally posted the per hour salary (it was PRN). The pay was ridiculously low and I am sure posting it prevented the employer getting lots of rejections from applicants.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Yeah, ditto on the salary thing. I really do not understand why so many companies refuse to give a general range. Seriously, it wastes *everyone’s* time (yours and the applicants’). And there are some people who won’t apply to begin with if there is no hint of salary information – solid people with experience who are not looking for entry level work often have a need for, you know, a particular salary range.

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          Some of this might be so that current employees don’t have visibility into their coworkers’ salaries. If it’s only mentioned in person and employees don’t share compensation details with one another, it’s easier to keep that person who’s been there 4 years but started at a low salary at roughly the same level as a new hire.

  4. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 Please don’t tell your supervisor. You have secondhand information from someone who deemed this an appropriate thing to say to Cindy’s boss – that was a massive breach of trust and who’s to say your supervisor will be as cool about it as you’ve been? She’s not necessarily preparing to leave and I’m sure you wouldn’t want your job hunt spread around either.

    You might say something to Jane as a kindness though – if someone I trusted went behind my back and told my boss I was job hunting, I would be upset but would prefer to know. I wouldn’t ask her about her job hunt as part of that – you could let her know about the gossip and say that as far as you’re concerned you didn’t hear anything, then go back to talking about work in a way that conveys it’s business as usual.

    Cindy needs to learn to button it!

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Dear #2:

      I know a few people who are always job hunting, even though they like their current job just fine. They get a new job and get the itch immediately. It’s not about their employer; it’s that they always want to know what else is “out there.” (note: these same people sometimes leave their current spouses for the same reason.)

      I also really encourage you to be aware that, unless they are about to retire, *no one* is in their last job. Everyone will leave eventually. It might be 8 months or 8 years, but the fact is that nothing and no one is forever. The fact that someone is starting to look for a job, or is continuing to look for a job, doesn’t mean that anything that you can fix is wrong. I like my job, but I’ve been there 10 years, and I keep thinking it’s time for me to start looking around … not because I don’t like my job, but exclusively because it’s been 10 years, and I feel like that means it’s time to start looking around.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        P.S.. I liken these people to the ladies on Say Yes To The Dress who have already bought a dress, but are at a massive wedding dress store, shopping for dresses (on TV, no less), because they want to be absolutely certain that their dress is the best one in existence. No one can be sure of that until they’ve seen every dress in existence, which is impossible … but they’re trying.

      2. Triangle Pose*

        “It’s not about their employer; it’s that they always want to know what else is “out there.” (note: these same people sometimes leave their current spouses for the same reason.)”

        This is a very bizarre jump to make. I am always open to new and better job opportunities and have a lot of ambition to ascend in my career. That means even though my current role is actually better than “just fine” I’m still open to opportunities. This does not say anything about how I behave in romantic relationships or leaving your spouse.

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          Don’t mean to put words in Jen S. 2.0’s mouth, but I interpreted her comment a bit differently. I think it’s completely reasonable to be open to (even very open to/enthusiastic about) new opportunities that organically arise – that’s how I am too.

          However, I think Jen was referencing specific people who have an almost pathological itch to be constantly (and most importantly actively) seeking “the next best thing”.

          I also get the relationship parallel. I have a friend who absolutely refuses to commit to a relationship (well he’s willing to do everything people in committed relationships do, except say the words out loud “we are in a committed relationship”). His reasoning – well what if Anne Hathaway (or whoever his current crush/idealized woman is) is right around the corner. Then he’d be closed off to that “opportunity”.

    2. Stormy*

      Yes, Cindy is a gossiping jerk. If you cross paths with her again, I’d have a hard time refraining from telling her how unprofessional I find her to be, though I know that is a terrible idea.

      1. essEss*

        That was what I was coming to say…. next time you run into Cindy you need to tell her in no uncertain terms that job searches are confidential and that you NEVER share that information with a person’s coworkers or boss without permission because you put their job in jeopardy.
        AND if Cindy had shared enough info about that job hunting group that you could find them, I’d contact the coordinator of that group that some participants are divulging names and that there should be some warnings sent out to all participants about proper confidentiality.

        1. ALH*

          LW here – Thank you for this idea. I will certainly see Cindy again, and am sure I can find a way to let her know how important confidentiality is in job hunting. From everything I’m reading, it seems far more appropriate to use this as a teachable moment for Cindy than to say anything to anyone else.

          I’m not sure that the job hunting group has an official coordinator/leader, but I’ll try to get more information to be sure.

          1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

            I would definitely use this as a teachable moment for Cindy if you can, but maybe go forward with kindness/not assuming malicious intent on her part – particularly if she’s fairly young/new to the working world (not sure how long ago she was your office intern).

            Only because I committed a similar faux pas once (and I was definitely old enough/had enough working world experience that I should have known better). It was slightly different (not a direct boss, but it was someone who provided steady freelance/artistic work for the Job Seeker but the Job Seeker had decided to obtain a perm 9-5 type of role which would would not work for the freelance relationship). All three of us were personal friends (I actually lived with the person who provided the work) – I got home, wasn’t thinking and just blurted out “Today was fun! Got to see Job Seeker – she came in for an interview”. Immediately the roommate/job provider got it and said “oh I’ll have to speak to Job Seeker about our arrangements, we won’t be able to provide her work if she has a 9-5”.

            I felt absolutely terrible and immediately messaged Job Seeker to let her know what I had said. I just honestly was not thinking in the moment – like I also would have said “oh today was fun, saw Job Seeker at the smoothie shop this afternoon”.

            Anyway – maybe Cindy is a gossiping jerk! It’s just also possible she just wasn’t thinking/unaware of these types of norms/had a momentary brain fart. You probably have a better idea because you know exactly how this info was shared. Just keep an open mind if you didn’t get a definitive gossipy vibe when she shared the info. Also, her response will probably give you an idea of how worried you should be about her sharing your own job searching

          2. AKchic*

            That would probably be the best option. Cindy is her own worst enemy right now. She is showing a complete lack of discretion and her gossiping could very well lead to people passing her over for positions later on because she can’t keep things confidential.

    3. MashaKasha*

      In my field, I just assume that everyone is lowkey looking, unless they don’t believe themselves to be marketable anymore. Even if people are not looking, they can get a call any day from a former coworker, or a former manager, who has started a new company and is hiring. (Happened to me.) Basically, anyone is likely to leave at any given minute. That said, what are these job-hunting groups that people who work together, attend together? That seems so odd to me. I prefer not to wave my job search in my coworkers’ faces when I’m looking. Are the benefits from these groups worth exposing yourself like that?

    4. FYI*

      “And, do I let my own supervisor know that Jane is preparing to leave?”

      Well, did you tell your own supervisor that YOU are preparing to leave? If not, why would you say it about Jane?

  5. Tuesday Next*

    OP2, in addition to Alison’s feedback, I’d recommend that you let Cindy know that it’s not appropriate to share this type of information. If she’s a recent intern she may not have figured this out yet. On the other hand it’s not exactly rocket science – perhaps she’s just enjoying having information to share, as a way to bolster her status. Either way, she needs to know that she should stop doing it.

  6. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 You asked for people willing to connect so it’s not completely out of the blue. If this works anything like my alumni network, you got those emails either because those two people were asked and agreed for them to be shared with you, or they’ve included themselves in a list or directory of people who are willing to be contacted. You could perhaps ask the people who sent you the emails if they’re already expecting to hear from you.

    It would really help if you include specifics – what did you study, what job have you been doing, what sort of roles might you want to look for – even if you’re open to anything you can find, include some particular interests.

  7. Wintermute*

    I feel kind of conflicted about #1– because I haven’t heard too many stories of candidates going to such lengths to contact a company to complain about the hiring process. On the other hand we’ve had some people write in letters from the perspective they can force a company to interview them too, plus there’s the sad fact that into each life some loons must fall. So I’m going to be charitable and assume that this is through no fault of the LW at all.

    However, it’s hard to tell what’s in these candidate’s mind. It might be the super-entitled and completely unrealistic “I’m going to e-mail the CEO and MAKE them interview me! They owe it to me!” OR if they’re going into this with the full awareness they are blowing their application up entirely, saying “okay, I know that they can never hire me after I jump the chain like this, but this interviewer is so egregious that I can’t in good conscience stay silent.”

    My money is on a heavy dose of A and none of B.

    It still might be a sign of bad processes though, that ask too much, that ask for too much personal information or otherwise breach norms, that make the candidates feel as if they have no real way to control the impression they make, that (as Alison mentioned quite astutely) takes up so much time that they’re feeling hesitant to invest the time required if they’re not 110% sure they really want this job and would be successful in it. It is very hard from the outside to tell if this is a case of “the career advice center said you have to talk to a real person to make an impression, so I’m going impersonate a deliveryman and make SURE I talk to someone!” or a case of “I am not a number! I am a human being!” levels of frustration with your application system.

    That said the little labor agitator in me is happy to see some candidates with the gumption to actually go and complain, and take some shots at the “our time is super valuable, your time is worthless” norm in hiring these days. They’re asking for your time, personal information, references, sometimes highly personal information like personality assessments and detailed biographical data– they owe you at least some communication about the position! Of course that’s not the way the world works, and you’re hurting your chances of getting hired, but shine on, you letter writing loons, the CEO won’t ever read your e-mail, IT will mock you and the purchasing department will just be confused, but they can’t keep you down.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      “That said the little labor agitator in me is happy to see some candidates with the gumption to actually go and complain, and take some shots at the “our time is super valuable, your time is worthless” norm in hiring these days”

      They’re a non-profit. Their time is funded by grants and donations. It’s not egregious to use it carefully.

      I’m not sure why you think it’s helpful to encourage the letter-writing loons.

      1. Wintermute*

        I suppose that was a little deadpan, I had hoped that the subsequent statements that it did no good, got you mocked, and wasn’t the way the world works in reality would make it clear that part was slightly tongue-in-cheek.

        I’d be happy to see people pushing back against that being a norm, and reducing depersonalization and dehumanization in labor in general and hiring especially, but obviously that’s not the right way. There may not BE a right way, because of the power differentials involved in that situation. But I can sympathize with the frustration at being unable to talk to a human being when asked to fill out pages of forms, and it would make me want to complain too.

        1. Confuddled*

          I’m confused. Where does the OP says their hiring process requires you to “fill out pages of forms”? What does any of this have to do with the question?

          1. TL -*

            I think it’s more rage against the machine than anything specific.

            Which – a lot of these candidates are probably frustrated with the hiring process in general, so I think it’s more or a less a fair thought to add to the conversation.

        2. Colette*

          I mean … I suppose it would be nice to think that hiring should be more personal, but I don’t really see any benefits to either side. If I’m job hunting, I don’t want a 5 (or 15 or 30) minute conversation with someone who has decided not to interview me – I’ve got other stuff to do. A quick email would be nice, but that’s the most I’d want.

          And on the other side, I recently applied for a job along with 350 other people. How many people would the employer have to hire to provide a personal response to each one? Given that a percentage of people who got a response would argue or be abusive, who’d want that job? What other more important functions would the employer need to cut to fund that position?

        3. Temperance*

          Yeah, I’m really not with you on that. I’ve done hiring, and blacklisted anyone who called. They were wasting my time and the company’s time. The ads specified not to call, by the way.

        4. amaybe*

          Hi Wintermute, thanks for responding to my question. I definitely appreciate the perspective of a candidate (we’ve all been there) which is why I’ve made our process very candidate-focused. Job description is clean, straight-forward, and provides everything someone would need to know to assess if this is the right fit for them. Application process includes submitting a cover letter and resume and potentially answering 1-2 yes / no questions – not pages of forms. Applicants who meet the qualifications and submit a compelling cover letter get invited to a phone screen / informational call where I give applicants half of our time together to ask questions and get more information. I always let applicants know that it’s important to me and our organization that they have all of the information they need, as well, so that they too can determine if this is the right next step for them. Hiring is a two-way street of selling and providing information – but the emails I get are never actually requests for more information (people with actual questions just send them) – it’s applicants wanting to pitch themselves and / or explain why they should be considered despite not meeting the basic qualifications.

          1. Wintermute*

            Well, it sounds like you’ve done everything right, you don’t require 20 pages of re-entering things already on the uploaded resume, or require a personality test or do any of the other onerous things that would make it make sense for someone to try to do an end-run around the process. And you’ve done an admirable amount of thinking about your processes from a candidate-centered point of view to make sure you’re not driving them to try to contact you by virtue of an arcane application. More companies should take your lead!
            Honestly I didn’t know there was such a thing as a job that required only a cover letter and a few questions with your resume. Maybe it’s my industry (Ma Bell’s infamous black binders of policy directives still hang heavy over her children), maybe it’s IT in general, or maybe it’s just my own misfortune, but I didn’t realize such a thing still existed! At the very least I’ve always had to upload a resume then re-enter all the information on it, then answer demographics questions and diversity preference questions.

            In fact you sound like an ideal workplace from a candidate perspective of the hiring process! Something you should take pride in.

            If they’re not actually assessing fit or attempting to call to explain themselves (as in having to explain things like why the only way they could enter their two college degrees was by listing their dual-major as a major and graduate degree, a bug I’ve seen before in online applications) then it seems they’re just following that horrific “gumption” advice that career advisers love to peddle, and you’re a perfect case example for why it’s terrible: there’s selling yourself and then there’s annoying people to the point that they wonder about your ability to comprehend boundaries, understand workplace norms, or and generally know when enough is enough. And then even beyond that is the level of unmitigated chutzpah that drives you to try to talk your way past hard qualifications requirements…

            Since you’ve already done everything you can, I’d say that Alison’s advice would be all that there is left.

            1. amaybe*

              Thanks, Wintermute. I appreciate it.

              I spent nine months living on my parents’ couch after completing my Peace Corps service as I applied to hundreds of jobs across the country. I’ll never forget how de-humanizing it felt to spend so much time submitting my application to never hear back. I then ended up taking a job with an organization and found that everything I had been told about their values and culture was essentially a lie. That year has always stuck with me and is why I feel so strongly that the hiring process should be equitable, and that applicants should know where they stand and should be well-informed so they too can decide if the role is the right fit.

              I’ve learned a lot over the years, especially from this site and the advice and best practices from its readers. When I took over TA at our organization, it was a mess. I’m proud of where we’ve gotten it but recognize that we still have a long way to go – things can always be improved, especially when we start digging into the data to see if there are things we are doing unitentionally. I think organizations really miss out on a prime opportunity to cultivate applicants by not treating them well and not utilizing the process as the first step in employee retention. We’ve had several candidates who weren’t the right fit for a particular role at that time, but later ended up being a phenomenal fit for another role we opened up down the line. Same goes for candidates. While this role might be not the best fit, by burning this bridge, you’re excluding yourself from other opportunities for which you might be an excellent fit. It also does no one any good to not be transparent and honest throughout the hiring process. I want each candidate to know exactly what they are getting themselves into – both the benefits and the things we’re working on improving (or maybe haven’t yet had an opportunity to tackle). Otherwise, I’m just wasting everyone’s time and will likely have a vacancy in a couple of months or a truly miserable employee – both of which don’t do anything for maintaining our culture.

              Lastly, I wish these candidate who spent so much time and energy tracking down email addresses invested those same efforts in their cover letters. I automatically reject candidates who don’t submit a CL because our application explicitly says it’s a requirement, so by choosing not to, you’re showing me you can’t follow instructions. It’s also a phenomenal opportunity to bring your resume to life. Why did you leave your last two jobs after six months? Why is there a gap in employment? Why is this role an actual fit and how have the key responsibilities aligned with things you’ve done successfully in the past? Don’t just regurgitate your resume, I’ve already read that.

              1. serenity*

                You sound like an exceptionally thoughtful person who has made the process as transparent and clear as you can for applicants. I really can’t see what you can do more, but it sounds like these rogue applicants who want to pitch themselves will probably still track you down regardless.

          2. eplawyer*

            These people have gotten bad advice from somewhere that they should just call and pitch themselves. Gumption you know. Shows you really want the job.

            If they can’t follow simple directions — and think this is an effective strategy — do you really want to hire them? I might still consider them. But if they got snippy at my please follow directions response, then they would be taken out of the running. Can’t follow directions, poor judgment and don’t respond well to feedback. Not a good fit for the organization.

          3. teclatrans*

            I do wonder if it might be that those knockout questions are things that people want a chance to explain or figure out if they can stretch their experience to justify a yes. Those are the sort of question that phone screenings usually cover, aren’t they? I guess having a bachelor’s is usually a yes/no question, but maybe they have a weird situation they want to run by you, something that you would tentatively accept if it was otherwise a great interview. I know that standardized questions/answers have always made me very anxious because I always end up thinking of scenarios that don’t fit the 2-4 answer options available to me or which could conceivably have more than one answer.

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        I totally understand why a lot of people say “screw this, how do I talk to a real person” when faced with all the glitchy, time-consuming, overly-complicated web portals and applicant tracking systems out there.

        Also, a lot of people have personality traits or preferences in which they strongly prefer face-to-face communication. The commentariat here skews heavily against that, due to the nature of internet commenting. But it’s important to remember these people exist.

        I totally understand why giving everyone 15 minutes can’t happen. But I understand why some applicants try.

        1. Wintermute*

          This is a far more eloquent way to say what I was getting at in the second half of my post. Along with “make sure that your system isn’t driving people to feel they have to talk to you to explain themselves”, but it sounds like the LW did that in spades with an admirably minimalist application process that gives them ample chance to sell themselves in a cover letter.

          1. teclatrans*

            I wonder if it’s the knockout questions, especially if they are told they have to answer Y/N. That’s high stakes without the opportunity to explain or even just figure out whether their experience is applicable. For the example OP provides above, what if someone was a team lead, or stepped in and project managed for a team — is that “managed a team”? There is no room to ask for context. Some people will blithely answer yes just in case, but plenty won’t.

            OP, one thing occurs to me. Given what people are saying about the volume of applicants for non-profit jobs, is it possible you have more than one category of applicants that calls you, but you end up aggregating them all into one mass? Do you have a smaller subset that is calling to ask questions and not acting entitled to 30 minutes, but getting all rolled together in your frustration over why so many applicants insist on calling?

        2. Snark*

          “But I understand why some applicants try.”

          I understand why some applicants would strongly prefer that. I don’t understand why they try, because it’s pretty well-known these days that it’s not an effective tactic and is a great way to blacklist yourself.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Exactly. Either these people are reading much on job search advice and their only source of info is someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, or they think they know better despite what they’ve read/heard.

          2. Trout 'Waver*

            You don’t understand why people don’t do cost-benefit analysis on every decision but rather go with their own strong preferences?

        3. Elizabeth H.*

          I have some similar problems where we get a (comparatively) huge volume of calls and emails trying to get a real person on the phone to just talk for a few minutes and answer questions, even when I can’t give them any more information than what is on the website, it is just stated differently and in the context of either an interactive phone conversation or a directly communicated paragraph. People seem really happy with this type of communication. I am a friendly person, a very social introvert, and really enjoy talking to customers when that is the main object of my job (I worked in a bookstore for 8 years and it was terrific) but I simply have so much work overall, especially back-end systems stuff, that the calls & emails slightly drive me crazy because people just want to get a real person on the other end to make them feel better. (We are not able to hire someone to JUST answer phone calls/simple questions or effectively outsource these to the central student services help desk – we have a hiring freeze and the student services desk forwards all calls related to my office to me) I totally understand why they want to talk to me or get a personal email, but it takes SO much time and energy.

          1. Kiki*

            I get people calling me pretty often who say, “I wanted to talk to a real person rather than read the website.”

            Spoilers: I get all my information from the website

    2. Espeon*

      Just a note to say, I’ve seen a few comments from you, Wintermute, and it’s so refreshing to have another person with some socialist leanings around here. Remember you’re not alone when the pile-ons (unfortunately, inevitably) happen, comrade!

      1. Nox*

        Agreed with Espeon and wintermute, very refreshing POV indeed.

        My thoughts are that while I get not wanting to talk to people prior to application, cause I totally get not wanting to deal with desperate applicants or sales pitchrd I gotta say if you are getting complaints from multiple people about how you’re handling it it might be time to switch the approach with the advice provided. I know for me if I’m job hunting and I see commentary on glass door that indicates the recruiter is not transparent or communicates poorly throughout the process even though its for the reasons stated in the letter I would avoid applying there.

        I am glad to see more job applicants pushing back and speaking up with feedback. I think it keeps everyone on their toes to ensure they are providing a fair experience to everyone.

        1. amaybe*

          Thanks, Nox, for your post. Quick question for you – how is asking everyone to submit very basic contact information, a resume, and cover letter not fair to everyone? Wouldn’t it be unfair if I did spend 30 minutes with person X when another 10 candidates didn’t ask for that phone call and followed the process as it was laid out. Isn’t it unfair to me to spend 30 minutes listening to someone justify why they are a good fit even though they aren’t qualified for the role? Isn’t my organization’s time just as valuable?

          1. Wintermute*

            That is very true. And it gets into the nasty catch-22 of hiring too– if you talk too much to candidates you risk bad hiring processes. Unconscious bias, perceptions of unconscious bias or accusations of the same, bias towards more verbally gregarious candidates even for positions where verbal communication and eloquence is is not a prime requirement.

            And if they’re trying to meet face-to-face you add a whole host of other issues on top of that– bias towards taller people for management roles, and our inherent preference for attractive features, for instance.

            Sticking to letters gives them a chance to sell themselves without risking all these things creeping in unevenly.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              I’m thinking about this because my company recently hired a (very talented) technical writer. He writes excellently and communicates well. He also has a very thick accent and comes from a country where English is not the dominant language. I can’t help but think that had we chatted with him before vetting his cover letter/writing sample, we might have been swayed by unconscious biases in a way that we weren’t when we were just looking at cover letter/resume and then sample. And that would have been both a huge injustice to him and a big loss for us. I wish I could say “no, of course we wouldn’t have done that,” but the whole point of unconscious biases is that they are unconscious.

    3. Snark*

      This isn’t a bad point, in terms of “hey, applicants are people too, make sure you’re not wasting their time, stonewalling them, or otherwise treating them like a disposable commodity you can burn through at will.” And anybody searching for a job can attest that feeling dehumanized and depersonalized is a huge, life-sucking drain.

      That said….in terms of actual value to the organization, in the sense of “what do we get for paying OP1 a salary,” it’s not far off to say that her time is valuable to them and applicants’ time is less so. Not that they should be forced to fill out 10 pages of information, at least 8 pages of which you’d only require from someone you were probably or actually going to hire, but it’s pretty ludicrous to effectively demand an impromptu phone interview of someone who’s hiring, especially when they get 20 calls a day. Talking to a human being is not just something you can just unilaterally demand, even if you reeeaaaaaaalllllly want to and feel depersonalized by your job search. They get a say in how their time is used, too, and talking to someone who hasn’t even applied yet is not a good use of most people’s time. And when you’re told that, you’re banana crackers if you then complain to every public email you can find.

    4. amaybe*

      Thanks for responding to my question! Our application is as straight forward as possible – contact info, resume, cover letter and maybe a knockout question if it’s directly relevant. I also review applications and respond to folks within one week (two weeks max if it’s been crazy) so they know exactly where they stand. If their application looks solid and they get invited to a phone screen, I use that as an opportunity to provide them with a platform to ask questions / learn more about the role, etc. I think hiring is a two way street – yes, we want to make a smart hire that will advance our work and mission, but I also want candidates to feel empowered to determine whether or not this role is the right next step for them.

      The vast majority of emails / calls I get aren’t actually questions about the process or the role – it’s folks wanting to pitch themselves – “I know you said I needed experience owning a cat in the JD, but I watch this show and the girl owns a cat so I’m very aware of the responsibilities and one time I owned a goldfish!”.

        1. Wintermute*

          My childhood goldfish was a temp-to-hire role. Got so big it went full carp, lost its gold coloration even, and it lasted like… five years.

    5. fposte*

      These applicants don’t want a fairer process, though. They just want a better shot than others at getting to the job at the end of it.

      I think postings should be as clear and informative as possible, and job applicants should be treated courteously. But applicants who feel like they want to be personally known are mistaking the economics of the situation–if the process changes so all the 100 applicants are personally known before a decision gets made, it doesn’t increase the chance of the applicant’s getting the job, it just makes the process even longer and, probably, jobs posted more rarely because of the increased expense. I suspect it also makes rejection feel a lot more personal.

      (Same process in many countries, btw, regardless of economic system. This isn’t about disdain for the laborer, just the disparity of scale.)

      1. Turtle Candle*

        There’s also the fact that, even if you put aside the economic element, in order for applicants to feel known, there has to be someone to know them–and that’s pretty exhausting and thankless work. It’s basically textbook emotional labor, in fact. I can’t imagine that someone working in HR would be thrilled to have their job suddenly be 90% performing emotional labor for strangers, with no payoff and a strong likelihood of a high percentage of them not liking them at the end because they can’t all get the job. Honestly, I actually like talking to strangers, and that would still be my nightmare.

        It’s understandable that (some) job applicants want that, want to be seen as a person rather than as a resume, but just because it’s understandable doesn’t make it feasible.

  8. headache on plane*

    #4 – I come from what I suspect could be your university, and I’m always very receptive to other alumni and students contacting me. I imagine those active in the alumni groups (which I am not) would be even more so! I agree that hitting them up via email makes sense, because some people totally ignore their LinkedIn.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      There are inactive members of the Mafia? Whoa, who knew?

      **not the actual Mafia – that’s just the way the alumni of a specific large, state university in the midwest refer to themselves. Or is it that everyone refers to them as that? I can never keep the self-depricating humor on that one straight.

      1. OP4*

        LOL I’ve never heard ourselves (or any other midwest school) referred to as the mafia, so maybe it’s an inside joke amongst everyone who isn’t us?

        My partner has mentioned many times how every alum he’s met from our school is annoyingly enthusiastic about it, including me haha.

    2. Science!*

      My undergrad has a large and supportive alumnae network with multiple Facebook groups. Even one where we can post job openings. If I were the alumna you contacted, I’d probably PM you and email the person of interest with you CC’d so as to put the two of you in contact through me, so the person I’m connecting you with will know who you are and why you are contacting them.

      That said, I come from academia were cold call emails are pretty common.

  9. banana&tanger*

    #1 – stop answering the phone. In your voicemail message, use the suggested text to explain you won’t be returning calls regarding the position, and here’s where to get more info and apply.

    #3 – if you’re applying for clinical jobs in a patient care area, you will be interviewing with people who work that unit. Those people may know your friend and would appreciate you mentioning her. And your ability to talk about her professionally and compassionately will bode well in a hospital setting.

    1. amaybe*

      Thanks for responding (I’m OP1). I don’t provide a phone number with the listing and these requests are coming through email, LinkedIn, our company’s central email, etc.

      1. Natalie*

        It might be less aggravating to you if you craft a couple of boilerplate responses for this. But after that, I think you have to let it go. I know the negative online reviews and such are frustrating, but those people are so far off base that you’re not actually going to be able to prevent their crazy reaction short of hiring them after their amazing 30 minute sales pitch. I just don’t think there’s much you can do here.

      2. Graciosa*

        I would look at what you can do with technology to make responding easier.

        For example, in outlook you could create a signature containing the entire message Alison crafted above and reply with one click. You could also create “rules” to process the email from certain sources. For example, IF [email came from SOURCE] THEN reply with RESPONSE and move email to [probably a candidate query] FOLDER.

        You could also just have the system automatically move those emails to a folder without replying and look at them at designated times, removing anything that you want to handle differently, and then running a rule on what’s left in the folder to send the replies.

        It sounds like you’ve got a lot of incoming email, and anything technology can do to help you deal with it may be worth exploring (and offset some of the work created by the fact that technology made it really easy to have hundreds of total strangers track down your phone number at work!).

        Good luck –

      3. Artemesia*

        That is why you need boilerplate that says “Please refer and follow the instructions at http://WWW.whatever for making application for the Llama grooming position. We will be doing phone interviews with semi finalists for the position and will let you know if you are selected for an interview.”

        You can give a time frame if you have one.

        And you need to let those above you know that 1. you are inundated with applicants trying to jump the queue and schedule their own interviews 2. you are proceeding systematically and letting people know that they will hear (within two weeks) if they are selected for such an interview. CYA but proceed.

    2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      For 1, that might not be realistically possible, particularly if the LW fields internal as well as external calls. Most companies put a phone on your desk because they expect you to answer it.

      1. Temperance*

        Yep. I screen my calls because I get a lot of weirdos calling who want and expect a free lawyer. I can tell most if the time when a call might be important,though.

  10. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    #3 – I’m so sorry about your friend. From what you’ve written here, it sounds like she was a warm and generous person. Good luck with the job, I hope it all goes well.

  11. Nervous Accountant*

    #1–that’s awful!!!! I could tolerate it from clients but not from job candidates! Do they really thjnk they’ll be getting a job from this?!??

    1. amaybe*

      I sometimes wonder the same thing (I’m OP1) – what is their end goal? I’ve had some pretty ridiculous requests / demands from candidates before, but the number of people who have harassed our CEO or my VP has been crazy. I still have one applicant from last fall who signed up for our listserv and every time she gets an informational email, responds back to let whomever know that she didn’t get a chance to talk with someone about her qualifications before being rejected.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        Somebody who couldn’t find my office’s phone number on our website, and who didn’t feel the main student services number was helpful enough (she was calling after hours and got directed to an automated directory, which doesn’t work, because all phone numbers are available online) eventually called the office of the president of the university. The president’s secretary was apparently also unhelpful. I got to hear about this for half an hour when she finally came in in person (we are not allowed to register people in person on our computers because we’re not authorized for CC payment security, so her coming in was pointless). Some people are just really persistent.

        1. Elsajeni*

          To be fair, “after hours this number connects you to an automated directory that doesn’t work” does sound pretty unhelpful.

    2. the gold digger*

      Not to excuse this behavior, but I know a lot of people who have worked at the same place for the past 20 or 30 years. They truly would not know how to look for a new job if they needed to.

      I also have some friends who have been out of work for more than a year. It took me 18 months to find a job after the Peace Corps (waving at fellow RPCV in comments above). No, there is no excuse for rude behavior, but when you cannot find a job, you can get really desperate. It is terrifying not to have an income.

  12. SFsam*

    OP4: I’m active in my undergrad and professional school alumni associations and love helping recent grads with their job search. I know for me, there’s a sense of paying it forward because I had so much help from alums when I was in your shoes. A few tactics to make things more productive:

    -email me at work. I see it as a (very small) part of my job to maintain relationships with my alma matters and you’ll get a much faster response than if you email me personally.

    -send your resume. No, it isn’t job hunting, but it’s a good summary of what you’ve done. It’s always awkward to be giving advice to someone only to realize they’re way further in their career than I’d assumed.

    -do your research. Google me, know where I work, and make sure that I’m the right person for you to talk to. If I decline, please accept it graciously.

    -have a list of places you’d be interested in working. I might know someone!

    1. OP4*

      That’s really helpful! The only thing is that I was only given 1 e-mail address for each and its their gmail so I don’t think emailing them at work would be an option, even if I did find their work emails.

    1. Myrin*

      Alison always does only four questions on Fridays! It’s a little end-of-the-week/start-of-the-weekend treat for herself!

      1. Murphy*

        There have been 5 the past couple Fridays. (I just checked, because I was wondering if it has always been 4 and I just never noticed until this morning.)

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep! I do occasionally do five on Fridays, but four is my Friday default. I usually write the short-answer posts the day before, and it’s amazing how knowing I only have to write four on Thursdays feels like a big treat. Plus, most of today’s were long answers!

  13. Runner*

    #2 Have you told your manager YOU are looking for a new job? Please don’t tell your manager Jane is looking for a new job.

  14. Jim*

    #2, people have been fired for job-hunting – or even when their employers *thought* they were job-hunting.

  15. QualitativeOverQuantitative*

    OP4-Don’t hesitate to email them. I’m based in DC and receive a lot of emails from graduates from my university and people I’ve connected with only once or twice over the years. It’s not weird and I consider it good karma to help people out. Finding a job is hard, you have to use all of your resources and that includes your alumni network.

  16. Legalchef*

    For #2, I wonder if (and if so, at what point) the LW should tell Jane about Cindy’s lack of discretion? If Jane leaving was imminent then she could be told after she gave notice, but if it is more of a drawn-out job search there will be plenty of time for Cindy to continue spilling the beans. Or should the LW say something to Cindy that usually people don’t want their job searches advertised, especially to their manager, particularly since she saw her at a career fair in and presumably doesn’t want her (LW’s) own search gossiped about?

    1. ALH*

      LW here – I was surprised that Cindy told me about Jane’s job search, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t think she was doing anything wrong. I’m not going to say anything to Jane (or my own supervisor), but am planning to talk with Cindy about the importance of confidentiality next time I see her.

      1. legalchef*

        Yeah I didn’t get the sense that she was doing it with bad intentions, but that’s even more reason to talk to her! Glad you are going to.

    2. please*

      Worth noting also that recent graduates are often told to let everyone know they’re looking for jobs – that’s how their network can help as eyes to possibilities, so she might not be aware of how different it can be for someone already employed.

  17. BananaWoman*

    #3 – I’m so sorry for your loss. She sounds like a wonderful friend. Just to add a cynical note to proceedings: if you do decide to include her in your cover letter, then you should make a reference to her current status. If you were to just say “Leia encouraged me to apply” without any acknowledgement of her passing, it might sound like you’re dropping the name of someone you weren’t close to, as it could be interpreted that you didn’t realise she’d passed, and that could clang more than anything else. Good luck with your applications, and sending you my warmest wishes.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I would have said say the opposite. I might say to use the past perfect tense (“Leia had encouraged me to apply”), but I wouldn’t dwell too much on her being dead. Especially not in an interview.

  18. sssssssssss*

    #1 – I’m still wrapping my head around 20-25 info requests per DAY. Then on top of that, they want 30 minutes of your time? Some interviews only last that long anyway (the actual sit down and talking part). How on earth do so many people think this is a remotely good idea?

    I’ve rarely called or emailed the hiring people directly before applying; I think once to confirm that an old job posting on their website was still good (it wasn’t and it wasn’t their fault IT didn’t take it down). A lack of salary on job postings has made me want to call on a couple of occasions. But I don’t, and I simply don’t apply.

    Makes me wonder if there’s a particular job advice guru in that area encouraging everyone to do this as 20-25 per day is a lot of people showing gumption. Or, it’s a very desirable job or place to work for.

    1. Snark*

      “Makes me wonder if there’s a particular job advice guru in that area encouraging everyone to do this as 20-25 per day ”

      There’s a particuar job advice guru in a metro area close to here who got rather famous for telling applicants to do a certain thing that pissed off every hiring manager in the area.

        1. Snark*

          It was basically advising job applicants to surprise network with people from the company they worked for. Like, hang out at the coffee shop across the street and just ambush them. I had multiple people come up to me in the bookstore/coffee shop across the street from my old office, schmoozing as hard as they could and basically throwing business cards at me, and I was like….my guy. I’m a GS-11 with absolutely no hiring or supervisory authority. There’s a website you have to go to. I just want my damned coffee.

          1. Lynca*

            I have consultants try to suprise network me on job sites. I’m still flabbergasted they think that will work.

          2. Antilles*

            I don’t understand how the logistics of that even work. Are you supposed to just chat up everybody entering the coffee shop and assume/hope they’re an employee of TeapotCo? Do you make a teapot-related joke and see if they laugh, (oh, he didn’t laugh at my “three teapots walk into a bar” joke, clearly he doesn’t work for TeapotCo)? Should you specifically target people wearing nicer clothes presuming that means they’re upper management?
            …But I’m pretty sure I’m putting more thought into it than that ‘guru’ did, so the answer to all of these is probably “Don’t overthink it! Just show more gumption!”.

            1. Snark*

              Indeed, my friend, you are thinking this harder than she did. In my particular case, employees at my old job wore a fairly distinctive photo ID on lanyards or belts, making it fairly obvious who we were.

              1. Stormy*

                I never wear company ID or swag anywhere except in the office or at home. Good to know I’m justified in my paranoia!

              2. Lora*

                This happens at specific bars around Boston. You could readily find out the latest dirt on at least five major pharma companies just by hanging out drinking beer and eavesdropping at such places. And if we’re not wearing our official Dork Badges, we have company swag on us.

                Said companies invariably lecture us on not discussing work things in public places, but the other option of “don’t have terrible management who drives us to drink” is clearly not a choice they’ve invested in, so…

          3. LizB*

            Man, if someone basically stalked me to try to get a leg up in a hiring process it would be so tempting to take their business card and just rip it to pieces in front of them, then go back to my coffee. I wouldn’t, because that would be both unprofessional and cruel, but if only.

            1. Temperance*

              I would take it and give it to HR to add to the “do not hire” list. I’m petty AF, but like, don’t mess with my private time, and don’t EVER get between Temperance and her coffee.

              1. Natalie*

                “Sure, I’ll totally pass your resume on!” *sotto voce* with a note about how annoying you were…

    2. amaybe*

      Thanks for responding to my question (I’m OP1). I sometimes wonder if this happens because it’s an applicant’s first interaction with a nonprofit, so they have some pretty inaccurate assumptions about what we do, how we spend our time, and the things that we value. I remember the first time I got rejected from a nonprofit as a young adult. I was horrified. I couldn’t believe they didn’t even call me – I was totally qualified to work at a nonprofit (I thought). Now, I realize that I too had some pretty incorrect assumptions about nonprofits and was in no way qualified for the role.

      1. Kate*

        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve been a recruiter for both a university and a healthcare organization. The university got (no joke) 10x the number of calls from candidates that the healthcare org did for comparable roles. I think this is at least partially because universities are considered warmer, fuzzier, friendlier* places to apply, where surely the recruiter could spare half an hour before the candidate applies to answer questions about where this person would sit and whether there’s a window nearby.** Given the misconceptions people have about small/midsize non-profits, I’m not surprised it’s even worse for you.

        *These were not people who had worked at a university before.
        **I wish I were exaggerating.

      2. Eye of Sauron*

        I was wondering that too.

        I’ve never worked for a non-profit, only have had limited business dealings with a few. If I were to base my expectations from what I know from social media, talking to people, and other outside sources is I would expect that non-profits are more touchy feely than the private or public sector, run from a more humanistic perspective, and (dare I say it) have more of a community and family atmosphere. I would also probably be inclined to think that the biggest factor for hiring decisions is my passion for the cause. Obviously passion can’t be listed on a resume so I need to call to make sure they know how much passion I have.

        Now, I know that my superficial impression is not an accurate one, but I can see where people who are inexperienced in the workforce could get the wrong end of the stick on hiring norms.

        1. Kiki*

          >I would expect that non-profits are more touchy feely than the private or public sector, run from a more humanistic perspective, and (dare I say it) have more of a community and family atmosphere

          In my nonprofit experience, this is fairly accurate. But nonprofits also tend to run on a very lean crew of people and everyone is underwater on their work about 90% of the time.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think it really varies — and that in recent times, there’s been an increasing move to nonprofits that don’t fit that older “community atmosphere” model and which are run with real rigor.

            1. amaybe*

              Agreed. We intentionally moved away from calling ourselves a “family” because families put up with a lot of crap that we wouldn’t tolerate from our peers and it sets a conflicting message about what we value. Instead, we broke down the elements of a family that we do want and put a stake in the ground on those specific characteristics (ex. flexibility in work schedule, a place where all people can bring their whole selves to work, etc.)

        2. Legal Beagle*

          I’ve spent most of my career in nonprofits and no, this is not accurate. Especially not “passion” being the main qualifier for the job. Nonprofits want educated, skilled people who know how to do their jobs. Demonstrated commitment to the cause is often one qualification, but it’s not top of the list.

    3. Myrin*

      Yeah, it’s almost comical, to the degree that I, too, suspect there must be something else going on.
      OP, since I’m seeing you around in the comments, are the positions you have open such that they are particularly attractive to people who are more likely to behave like this? (Like for very young people who don’t have much experience with job hunting yet and/or who are susceptible to bad advice, for example?) That could explain some of this to a certain degree because holy mackerel, 20-25 such calls all day every day? That really is a lot!

      1. amaybe*

        Hi Myrin – I’ve actually thought a lot about this. Surprisingly, for the entry level positions that we have, I don’t get a lot of emails / requests. It’s our manager and director-level positions that I literally cringe when posting because I wait for the onslaught. I truly think it has something to do with us being a nonprofit that focuses on equity and access, so people assume that we must be touchy-feely and desperate and not a highly-efficient, results-driven organization looking for each new hire to raise the bar.

        1. Natalie*

          Would your budget allow you to use a recruiting service or headhunter for those higher level roles? Fielding and screening out pushy candidates is part of what you’re paying for.

        2. Myrin*

          Yeah, I think that that, combined with the WFH arrangement you talk about in other comments, must be it. Still, I’m aghast that someone who is interested in a high-level position such as a director one would behave like that!

    4. WellRed*

      yes, it feels a little out of whack. The nonprofit is only 85 people to begin with so 20-25 pesterers (not just applicants) a day seems wildly disproportionate.

      1. amaybe*

        We have a national presence (with a pretty decent footprint) and because we’ve had so much growth over the past couple of years, have 12 FTE positions open at the moment (11 brand new, 1 backfill). Because the majority of our positions are virtual / work-from-home, we go above and beyond to get our postings out there so that we can truly attract and hire the best of the best, regardless of where they live. This wasn’t always the case, the focus used to be on a specific city / region with minimal focus on recruitment and the organization suffered for it.

        1. Kate*

          Oooh, virtual/WFH positions? Yeah, I can see how you’d get 25-30 calls/day. Your potential candidate pool is enormous.

          And from a candidate perspective, I can see their wanting to call to prove they’re really truly interested although they’re not local. Or (in the case of wildly unqualified candidates) being attracted primarily because it’s virtual/WFH, and not necessarily being in touch with professional norms. (Obviously most people in virtual/WFH positions are as [or more] professional as someone who’s in an office daily, but someone who is wildly unqualified and applies anyway because virtual/WFH is the main draw is probably not.)

          1. please*

            Me too.

            And I have some questions amaybe – can I give you call to talk? It’d just take 30 minutes.

    5. paul*

      Yeah, I’m….very flummoxed by that.

      We get maybe 3-4 a *month* where someone just calls to ask if we’re hiring.

      I get the impression from other people at local non profits that that’s not too far out of line with what they get–I mean, numbers vary but it isn’t a daily thing for anyone I don’t think.

    6. Bowl of Oranges*

      This isn’t quite the same but there is a fairly popular HR advice columnist who gives the advice to completely go around online application systems (because they’re black holes) and try to find the hiring manager and contact them directly.

      I’ve done it a few times in previous job searches and now I’m wondering if I annoyed people. Though I also applied through whatever system they had in place (and mentioned it in my email), and just sent them a fairly straightforward cover letter & resume email – NOT asking for a phone call.

      1. Graciosa*

        I think the only time any type of contact with the hiring manager is effective is when it is a recommendation coming in from a mutual acquaintance (NOT from you directly) along the lines of “Hey, a former colleague of mine, Bowl of Oranges, applied for your open position. I worked with her at Teapots Unlimited, and she’s an absolute wizard with spout conformance and great to work with! If you have any questions about her performance, I’d be happy to answer them. I think she’d be a really great fit for your role, and we’d be lucky to get her here.”

        That makes me sit up and take notice in a good way – anything else just ticks me off (including internal candidates trying to get an interview under the guise of asking questions about the role – you don’t get a pass on this just because you already work here).

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Thing is, I have heard of that working, very rarely, when the application system actually did have a black hole in it. So Ann told Betty to apply because she had the exact qualifications they really needed, and yet an electronic or human filter killed Betty’s application and it never reached the pile of final stage applicants, and was only found out via someone (Ann, hiring manager, third party) realizing this and getting Betty to start over again, this time with someone tracking her application.

  19. MuseumChick*

    OP 1, I want to address this part of your letter: ” Since we’re a small nonprofit organization (roughly 85 people), I feel compelled to respond because our organization does value each staff member and I want candidates to have a positive experience regardless if they get the job or not.”

    As a fellow non-profit employee, I understand why you think this way but as you have found it is totally impractical. When you work in a non-profit their can be a tendency toward complete emotional exhaustion because you give over so much of yourself to the mission. It is completely reasonable for you to put up boundaries here. Put it both in the job posting and have a form email on hand that says something to the effect of: “Due to the high volume of applicant we cannot accept any phone calls regarding job opens or application status at this time. If you have a specific question regarding this position please email”

    If you do receive a call your can stay pleasant will repeating this message and adding something like “We should be responding to applicants in about X – Y weeks. If you have a specific question you can email” Then go make a note on their application that they ignored/disregarded the instructions in the job posting.

  20. Guacamole Bob*

    OP#4, I did some networking through my alumni network when I was finishing up grad school, and it was super helpful. I was looking at both government and private sector jobs in new city, and there was a lot of information that someone already in the industry could tell me that wouldn’t be apparent from more general research – the culture of different agencies, how different agencies are structured and which of the divisions/departments/job titles would be a good fit for me, how the government hiring processes work, which agencies are more financially stable, which ones contract for which types of work with the private sector and which do things in-house, etc.

    The person who was most helpful forwarded on a job posting in a different department at his own agency a few weeks after we talked, which I ended up getting – and that was hugely helpful, because thanks to the bureaucracy of the place the job description was terribly written and out of date and he was able to give me a bit more relevant info. But even aside from that, the people I talked to were very helpful – my job search ended up much more targeted than it would have been otherwise.

  21. amaybe*

    Thanks, Alison, for your advice! I appreciate it.

    I think the increased transparency about why I’m not setting up phone calls as well as the outlet for sending questions is likely going to be helpful, and something I hadn’t thought to do. Reasonable people will hopefully appreciate the transparency and recognize that I, too, am a human being on the other side of this process. I’m going to work on my response. Thanks again!

    1. MuseumChick*

      Hi Amaybe, I made a post it it appears to have been eaten. I wanted to address this part of your letter: “Since we’re a small nonprofit organization (roughly 85 people), I feel compelled to respond because our organization does value each staff member and I want candidates to have a positive experience regardless if they get the job or not.”

      When you work in a non-profit their is a tendency towards always going above and beyond even when it is detrimental to your own physical, psychological, and emotional well being. We put huge a huge amount of emotional energy into everything because your reputation with the public is everything in the non-profit world. But as you have found it is totally impractical. Could you add a few sentences to the top of the job description that says something like “Due to the high volume of applicants we do not accept phone call regarding job openings or application statues at this time. If you have a specific question please email (email address). Disregarding application instruction may disqualify applicants.”

      You can also basically say the same thing on the phone “Thank you for your interest in working here! Unfortunately due the high number of applications we get we do not have the staff to answer questions over the phone. I can give you the email address to send any question you have.”

      Them: “But just an half hour of your time…”

      You: “Again, I’m very sorry but we cannot answer questions over the phone. Would you like that email address?”
      Them: “How rude! I just want 10 minuets of your time!”

      You: “I do wish I had the staff to dedicate to answering applicant questions over the phone. Unfortunately I don’t. Would you like that email address?”

      Then make a note on their application that they did not follow instructions. And while you are not obligated to, if you get calls asking one someone wasn’t even interviewed its perfectly reasonable to say “Unfortunately the job application instructions were not followed so the application was disqualified from consideration.”

      1. fposte*

        I’d cut it off earlier; this is one of those conversations where waiting until the other person is on board will take you forever. The answer to “But just half an hour of your time!” is “I’m sorry, all questions need to be directed to email. I look forward to your application, and have a great day!” Click.

        1. Natalie*

          Definitely. People that continue pushing after the first round seem very, very unlikely to stop pushing after the second round.

        2. MuseumChick*

          I understand where you are coming from. In my experience at least this kind of emotional hand-hold in the conversation I laid out is expected in non-profits, especially the smaller ones. Its super annoying but comes with the territory.

          1. fposte*

            Interesting; is it the potential for donors, do you think? I mostly get stuff like this from undergraduates or international students, and while there’s a strong care ethic here it doesn’t extend to having to talk to applicants outside of the hiring process.

            1. MuseumChick*

              Well you just never know who you are talking to. So someone who is apply might be best friends with the Board President, or that anonymous donor who gives you $10,000 dollars every year, or someone who (in my case) has a basement full of amazing artifact that their kids and grand kids don’t want but “Oh! The people at the Chocolate Teapot Museum were so nice when I applied to that job I’ll call them see if they want anything.”

              I’ve gotten a number of donations for museums I’ve worked at just be spending a half hour on the phone with someone who doesn’t really have anyone else to talk to and just called “to ask one questions” but then tells me their whole life story.

      2. amaybe*

        Thank you, I really appreciate your post. I feel a lot of added pressure to get it right because our former TA processes were a disaster and I was hired to come in and fix them. The exchange you outlined above is incredibly helpful and I plan on utilizing some of your talking points moving forward. Thanks!

        1. MuseumChick*

          Us NFP peeps gotta stick together! Lol, I’ve been in similar positions where people want “just a minuet” but really they mean an hour long conversation followed by asking me to do/research/find out X, Y and Z for them. Blaming lack of staff is a good got to because 1) 99% of the time its true. 2) Its something they cannot argue with.

  22. Phoenix Programmer*

    #1 Alison do you recommend candidates send a generic resume whenever requesting an informational interview? Curious how employers know who is strong enough to ‘recruit’ otherwise.

    1. Willis*

      I think it would make sense to send a generic resume along with a request for an informational interview so the recipient has some sense of your background. But these people aren’t trying to get informational interviews with #1. They’re trying to talk about their qualifications for a specific job opening…basically trying to skip to the phone interview portion. They should just apply by emailing a relevant cover letter and resume as the OP’s job ad requests!

  23. ancillary resolution*

    #4 In all likelihood, your alma mater has a service set up specifically for alumni to connect to one another for job-hunting/advice purposes. Use it!

    But, also, be polite? (Last year, someone contacted me to ask for advice on applying to a former employer. I sent her a quick email to describe how my hiring process went. I also pointed out that my process for an administrator position was likely not at all relevant to the hiring process for a very different kind of role. I had no advice that would be relevant–academic researchers don’t even use the same resume format. She continued pressing for a phone call and I eventually had to just stop responding to her messages.)

    1. OP4*

      Good to know! We’re in the same industry, so I feel like they might have valuable advice even if our expertise is in a different area of that industry.

      That being said, is it too aggressive to ask to get coffee while I’m in the area visiting my partner?

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I’d make the request for coffee as low-pressure as possible. Like “I’m often in the area on Fridays, if you could spare 30 minute to get coffee, or I’d be happy to chat briefly by phone any time during the week.” If you offer the phone call as the backup to the coffee you don’t look presumptuous (though you may also be less likely to end up actually meeting in person).

        I’d try to avoid anything that tends in the direction of “I’ll be in the area next Tuesday, so would you be available to get coffee between 9:45 and 11:30 a.m.? But I’ll need to get to the airport afterwards so it would have to be on the other side of town from your office.” You’re asking them for a favor, so make sure you’re making it easy on them and offering maximum flexibility.

      2. ancillary resolution*

        Aggressive? No, as long as you make your peace with the possibility of hearing “no”. Most of the time, I’m delighted to network, but some times of year, it’s pretty far down my list.

  24. Kate*

    OP #1/amaybe – This won’t cut down on number of calls, but could be helpful with the complaints. When I’ve received similar requests before, I’ve emphasized fairness as the reason why we were unable to do informational interviews prior to candidates applying. Variations of this were useful: “to ensure a fair and transparent process/ a level playing field/ that all candidates are treated equally…” People were disappointed, but they seemed more accepting when it was presented as effort to treat candidates fairly. Maybe they thought it was a misguided effort, I don’t know, but I didn’t get complaints.

  25. Allison*

    1) I remember dealing with these requests, it’s why I don’t add my contact info to job descriptions and why if anyone’s like “hey can we talk about the application?” I explain I’m not the recruiter for the position (I’m not), and if they want to be considered they need to apply, and the recruiter will be in touch if they’re qualified.

    First of all, these requests to talk on the phone before an application has been submitted usually sound like a request to skip that step completely and go right to the phone screen. And that’s not to say it never happens, but when it does happen, it’s usually the recruiter or hiring manager initiating that phone call, not the applicant requesting it. Sometimes it’s because they just want to speed the process along.

    Second, sometimes people are concerned that if they apply their application will be lost in the black hole, but I think a lot of the people who insist on a call “first” are pretty sure they’re not qualified enough for an interview, but convinced they can do the job just fine without the experience or skills the description calls for, so they’re hoping that with a back and forth with a decision maker will open the door for a discussion of why they’re qualified, not necessarily a sales pitch.

    Third, and this also relates to the “black hole” concern to a degree, people feel that a call will make them harder to reject. The decision-maker will hear their voice and know they are a human being who needs a job and will do anything, and they’ll be more likely to take a chance on that person. Thing is, the hiring manager wants what they want, and if a recruiter puts them in a room with someone who’s not qualified, that hiring manager is gonna be annoyed. You might think “yeah, I’d take a chance on this scrappy upstart!” but that doesn’t mean much if the next person is like “why did Allison waste my time with this clown?” which can absolutely ding someone’s numbers and/or general reputation on the team.

    So yeah, I get why a lot of people would rather skip the application and go right to the talking part of the process, but you don’t have to grant them that, and if someone gets snippy when they don’t get their way, good riddance!

    How visible is your email address? If people need to email you resumes, that’s fine, but if they’re using an ATS, don’t put your email on the job posting. The whole “contact Jane if you have any questions” line opens the door for this sort of thing, and it may seem nice to add it, but it’s not necessary. Have them apply, and ask their questions in the phone interview if you decide to call them.

  26. BlueWolf*

    For #1, I was trying to figure out who all these people could be that are asking to talk to the hiring manager “for just 30 minutes” before even submitting the application. But then I remembered my old job where patients would call to try to get a same day appointment and when we would tell them there was nothing available they would want to just be squeezed in “for a quick appointment” (which is never quick because they inevitably end up talking to the doctor for an additional 20 minutes after the appointment).
    The LW’s description of their application process (in the comments) sounds totally normal and reasonable. I can’t think of one time I have ever even called a hiring manager. Yes, it’s annoying to submit applications and then never hear back, but I understand that certain positions or organizations get so many applications that they just don’t have time to provide a personalized approach to everyone. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. If you are qualified, then your cover letter and resume should show it. That’s just how it works. That’s not to say there aren’t improvements that could be made by many employers, but I don’t think LW’s is one of the bad culprits.

  27. Betty*

    #1: As a candidate, I would be happy to hear, “You can find the application form for the position at [wherever] along with some guidance notes on applying. I won’t be able to discuss the position generally over the phone but if you have any specific questions then you’re welcome to email me on [email] and if I can help then I’ll get back to you within a few days.” Then you get to hang up.

    If they send you a long email that’s basically a non-application pitch for the position, you can skim and delete. If they send you a question that’s way too broad or they could easily answer themselves, you can skim and either delete or send a quick link to the information on the company website. If they send you an actually specific question, you can reply at your leisure and at the length that you choose.

    You are not obliged to reply to any of them if it’s a massive pain! But maybe set up a dedicated email address and check it twice a week for an hour and answer anything you can then. You’ve set expectations by saying “IF I can help” and “a few days”.

    1. MeanieNini*

      I second setting up a second email address. I got my employer to do this and it helped a lot! To have something that is generic like HR@ or recruiting@ or something like that takes some of that personalization away, but I respond from my company email once I want to contact and have a conversation with a candidate. It hasn’t stopped all the phone calls, LinkedIn messages, and even people finding my company email address on their website … but it has curtailed it quite a bit … and most of the silly requests are going to that generic email address that I can look at as I have time to respond to questions and review resumes.

  28. Reba*

    OP #3 — I’m so sorry about your friend.

    I bet it was fun for her, during her illness, to be able to focus at times on the positive and productive narrative of you and your work future.

    I know it can feel wrong not to mention a person we have lost — even though at the same time it feels awkward to bring them up — like we are forgetting or erasing them. You’re not forgetting Leia and you’ll always remember her kindness and the way she rooted for you.

    In terms of the interviews, I think if you *want* to mention the connection, if someone asks “Why Hospital” you could say, “My friend, Leia Organa used to work in X Department and always spoke highly of it, and [XYZ reasons it’s a good fit for me]” But agree with Alison it’s not necessary.

  29. Candi*

    #3 -I’m so sorry about your friend.

    She was a major influence in getting you to even think about that employer, and you can feel her every time you write a cover letter for them or click submit. You feel her beside you, even though she’s no longer physically there.

    It’s understandable that’s she’s so largely there as you continue to apply.

    But remember, unless your interviewer worked with her in some fashion, she doesn’t loom as largely in their lives, if they really knew her at all. Her influence on them is much less.

    Tell the hospital and the interviewers why you are going to be awesome at that job. It’s not forgetting or dishonoring your friend to not mention her; you honor her every day you remember her.

  30. Ann O'Nemity*

    #1 is so timely for me. I was literally searching online and in the archives of this site just this week about the etiquette of contacting the hiring manager before applying. In my case, it’s a senior-level position that I heard about. I’m not actively job searching, so it would take a really good role to lure me away. So I was tempted to reach out to the hiring manager – also the executive director – to get more information before applying. It’s hard to decide from a half-page job ad if this is an opportunity I should pursue. The general advice that I heard, however, is to apply first. I have to admit, now I’m on the fence about applying at all.

  31. Good Afternoon!*

    I am a part of a Large University Alumni Group in a West Coast Area. It’s not very common to get people reaching out to us, but it’s always welcomed.

    Over the past years we’ve had questions ranging from jobs, to housing, to commute, to hobby potential opportunities.

    Our group has people from every decade of life and a huge range of jobs and lifestyles. The one thing we have in common: we know the huge impact of the change from moving from the Midwest to the west coast.

    Reach out for sure. And check Facebook for the <35 crowd being the heaviest users. In general it's very casual to begin with like most chats with random midwesterners.

  32. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

    Hey LW1!

    Can you set up another email account with an automatic response similar to what Alison mentioned and make that the point of contact? Add in Kate’s bit on fairness and Betty’s bit on equality, then you’d only have to skim that account every other day or so and delete the majority of the emails. If you make it a separate account then you can check it when you are ready and it doesn’t interrupt your day.

    Bonus with a generic account–it’s there for someone else to deal with if/when you need to hand it off later.

    On the phone bit, I like Betty’s idea.

  33. Liane (OP 3)*

    Alison, thanks for the great advice, and the kind words about Leia. Also to the commenters for theirs–I scrolled through & read before typing. I was clearly pretty down when I emailed Alison; it was shortly after my husband’s friend lost his lost his wife Christmas week and a few days after the oldest member (103) of our congregation died.

    To answer Bananatanger above, these are not clinical jobs. Most are admin/receptionist, the job title Leia held, although I don’t know the exact department, so it possible I would encounter someone who knew her when interviewing. Plus a few lab positions that are in line with my degree and some older work experience.

    i am going with not bringing it up, which is probably what Leia would prefer, thinking back. I had forgotten until I read today’s post, but at one point I had asked Leia about mentioning her as my referral in either interviews or the ATS and she had told me, “Hold off. I have just got back from med leave.”

    Again thanks to all of you for the condolences and advice.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Thank you for the update and good luck with the interview. Fingers crossed for you!

  34. Stellaaaaa*

    OP2: If I’m reading your letter correctly, you’re job hunting too. Please don’t expect more disclosure from your employee than you’re willing to give to your own supervisor. There’s some cognitive dissonance happening here.

  35. Perspicuosity*

    LW #1 – Just this week, I was one of the job seekers who did this! I saw a posting for a job that looked fantastic, and for which I did not meet many of the listed requirements. However, I had other serious experience that I thought might add a lot to the role. (I’m an industry changer.)

    Rather than write a cover letter in the cold, guessing what they wanted to hear, I cold-emailed someone at the organization to see if they’d answer a couple of questions. They were very pleasant and made time for me with a junior staffer who knew the position. It turns out the requirements I don’t have are the least important to them, and they encouraged me to apply.

    So to your dilemma — delete, delete delete, and definitely ignore anyone rude, but there may be someone in your email pile who you’d genuinely love to have apply and is emailing you for a legitimate reason.

    1. Perspicuosity*

      Also: I was not expecting a response. I would not have thought worse of the company if I got no response. People are busy and cold emails are (rightly) at the bottom of the priority list.

      Allison’s suggestions are great if you can follow them, but IMO also feel free to ignore with impunity.

  36. Lucy Montrose*


    I used to be highly distrustful of any website or company that could only be contacted by email. Why? Because I didn’t trust that the person I wanted to contact would ever read my email, out of a flood they likely got every day. In fact, I was sure that email-only contact was set up specifically because it was easier to avoid people that way. It’s easier to ignore an email than a phone call.

    Now, I feel better about email, because I have used it to contact people with questions, work-related matters, etc. and– gasp– I do get responses. Not every time, mind you, but enough that I can be confident that, given some patience, I will more often than not get contact with X person.

    I still have trepidation with online job applications. I don’t trust in them to work for me. Between too many qualified people not getting jobs because of the keyword issue, to intrusive questions about personality, to salary being a required field, to the fact that in my lifetime I have gotten precisely one job from submitting an online application, I just don’t trust them.

    But in the interests of being considerate of the time on the person on the other end, and of not wanting to burn bridges, I suck it up and fill them out. But unenthusiastically. I have zero optimism that anything will come of an online application, besides radio silence.

    I highly object to the idea that waiting for someone to contact you, is the only acceptable way to job hunt. I think waiting like that is awful when you’re looking for a romantic partner, and it’s much worse when it’s something as important as a livelihood.

    It feels to me like being told, “being proactive is disruptive”, like if you do anything other than the equivalent of wait by the phone for your crush to never call, you are being entitled and not following the directions. “Trust in the process or else.”
    Also, it feels like if I do get that radio silence, the only courteous thing to do is automatically assume I’m unqualified, not a good fit; and move on from that company forever. That depresses me and makes me feel like employers have no interest in my career development.

    So, yes– that’s part of what may be going through the head of a person who’s trying to avoid submitting the online application: they want a job, and are afraid the online application process will actually decrease their chances of getting one.

    Online applications are here to stay; but it’s my hope that they’ll become more mindful and human, like email did for me. The last online application I filled out allowed me to skip the past salary field, for instance. I did a little happy dance at that. May we have more of those, please.

  37. Former Hoosier*

    As someone who has done a lot of hiring in non profits and healthcare, I have to say that I get exhausted by reviewing applications/resumes of people who have no business applying for the position i.e. like a radiology technician job or LPN or something else.

    1. Former Hoosier*

      I hit submit too soon. What I also meant to say is that there is a sub group of people who will apply to any job and who will go to great lengths to get an interview. These are exhausting and are far different than candidates with reasonable questions or genuinely want some more info. Asking for 30 minutes of someone’s time is not reasonable. That becomes interview time and not worth it for every candidate. A short email asking about responsibilities, or possibility of relocation money or salary range is totally reasonable.

      And I do try very hard to turn down every applicant who is rejected but sometimes it is just not possible. And when I have to set it a limit it is with applications for which the person was so completely unqualified for the position and should have realized it from the job description i.e needing a rad tech license and not even having work experience in healthcare, that I don’t feel too badly about. I have desparately needed jobs in my life but sometimes it really is pointless to apply and people should realize that.

  38. 221 Baker St.*

    With #2 I’m silently wondering if my coworkers think I’m job searching ( I most definitely am) and worry that I may meet one or two at an interview. The field I’m currently working in hired me with a bait-and-switch low pay tactic and I’m seeing all of these red flags pop up. I can’t help but think there will be layoffs or a shut down of the whole office.

    One employee already left and she didn’t say a word to pretty much anyone about it. For reasons I won’t get into detail for I completely get why she left as my reasons are the similar. Thanks to this site I’ve rewritten two “meh” cover letters that appear formulaic into two customized testaments showing my passion for technology for each employer. I sincerely hope I get a good match and am able to finally get out of the low paying job hump. I’m curious as to why everyone assumes these are just job hunting parties and why people wouldn’t utilize them to network too. Just because you see someone is hiring doesn’t mean you may be the best fit and I like to get to know more about a place than to just blindly apply. Unfortunately I’m blindly applying to one company because they’re offering significantly more income, benefits, and the work experience I’m looking for.

    I haven’t breathed a word to anyone except the employee who already left and she gets why I’m looking, however every employee is terrified they’ll be fired on the spot if they’re found out. While some of you would say that doesn’t happen I’ve witnessed a death threat or two and get why it’s such a stressful subject. I would definitely not breathe word of anyone’s name that I see at such an event. Why anyone might think it’s okay to blab about I’ll never understand.

    Just do “the nod” and keep on networking/job hunting. I see no reason to make any other assumption and would not bring up a subject with that person unless they bring it up first, well out of earshot of coworkers and supervisors and off of company grounds.

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