hiring an ex, should I thank my son’s new boss, and more

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

1. Should I hire an ex?

My company is starting a massive and complex two-year project, which I am managing, and I’ve been given approval to hire a small support staff. We advertised publicly but after interviews we haven’t found a suitable candidate for the position which is probably most critical. Rather than advertise again given the urgency, we’ve been asked to tap our networks for candidates to interview.

One of my exes has the qualifications to be considered, and last I spoke to him (a year ago), he was unemployed. We had a three-year relationship. I thought we were heading for marriage (he didn’t, which was the precipitating factor and one of the reasons we broke up). There was screaming, and we’ve been mostly no-contact since, except a few times we’ve run into each other randomly. Those conversations have been … not “friendly” exactly, but cordial. That was four years ago, I’m over it, and he also seemed over it when we ran into each other a year ago.

This is a position I will have direct management/supervision over, and will have to rely quite heavily on as it will be on-site for the project while I will be mostly off-site. Should I reach out to my ex to submit an application for this position, or is this a bad idea? And if I do, should I declare our previous relationship to my company before interviewing him?

Don’t do it. This isn’t someone you dated a few times years ago; this is someone you were seriously involved with for three years, thought you would marry, and had a difficult break-up with. There’s a chance that this could end up going fine, but it’s far more likely that it will introduce weirdness — for you, for him, and/or for other people on your team. You need to be able to give him feedback and have it feel impersonal, you need to be able to talk with him about performance issues, and you need to be able to fire him if he’s not working out. Combining that with an ex is just a bad, bad mix. Plus, you need other people to believe you’re impartial about him and not worry about him having any kind of special relationship with you, and frankly it’s better for you professionally if people aren’t thinking about your personal life.

Look at other candidates.

Read updates to this letter here and here

2. Should I thank my son’s new boss?

My son graduated from college in the spring and had been job searching since then without a lot of luck. He applied to many entry level jobs. I was on Facebook in a fairly large (private) ladies group geared to my geographic area and a woman posted that her company had a job opening. My son had applied to that very opening the day before, so I private messaged her. It was a brief, pleasant exchange and she said she would look for his resume. I thanked her and crossed my fingers. My son went through the interview process and got the job!

It has been about a week now and he is in his probationary period. Do I ever thank her or just let my initial Facebook message thanks be enough? If she was a personal friend I would thank her of course, but in this case, it’s not the same. I would love to thank her somehow but that sounds helicopter-ish. However, what if she sort of expects it?

Definitely don’t thank her. She didn’t hire him as a favor to you — she presumably hired him because he was the best person for the job and was the answer to a business need she had — and it’s undermining to your son if you imply otherwise.

That said, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if you messaged her something like, “I heard you ended up hiring Cecil! I’m glad to have connected you and wish you all the best.” That’s not a thank-you (again, because she didn’t do you a favor), just a sort of closing of the loop. But even that is unnecessary since it doesn’t sound like this is someone you otherwise talk with.

3. Asking a job candidate why they need to reschedule their interview at the last minute

What’s the best way to ask a job applicant why they need to cancel or reschedule their interview at the last minute if they don’t offer an explanation? My company hires a good number of people who are fresh out of school and may not have much professional experience, so I don’t want to hold it against them if they don’t realize that missing an appointment for a genuine emergency won’t disqualify an otherwise solid candidate, but I also obviously don’t want to recommend an unreliable candidate to the hiring manager. How can I ask what happened in a way that’s not overly invasive or accusatory?

Yeah, there are certainly legitimate reasons someone might need to reschedule an interview at the last minute (sickness, family emergency, etc.), but because convention puts the bar for doing it fairly high, a candidate really does need to give some context — like, “I’m so sorry but I’ve come down with the flu. Would it be possible to reschedule for next week?” Otherwise it leaves the employer where you are: wondering if the person is being cavalier or flaky. And you’re right that with candidates right out of school, it’s hard to know if it’s that or if they just don’t have the professional experience to realize offering some context is better.

You could say it this way: “So that I can let the hiring committee know, can I ask the reason for the rescheduling?”

4. Is it okay to give references for two people applying for the same job?

I worked for a higher education organization in the past, and when a position was posted (to which multiple people in the same office might be applying) there was often a race get get a reference from a particular manager.” So for example, if Mahtab and Clara were both applying for the same job, and perhaps they had both previously been managed by Faye, there would be a race to ask Faye to be a reference — with the understanding that Faye would only be able to provide a reference to one of them, typically the one who asked first.

Because of this culture, I witnessed several circumstances of awkwardness (and outright competitiveness!) to beat the other person to a reference, and often these situations didn’t end well and created bad feelings for one side. Personally, I always found these situations to be unfair, and a little confusing as well; while I understand it’s really the reference’s call as to who they provide a reference for, it never struck me as an unreasonable expectation for a manger (or other supervisory person) to provide references to two people applying for the same job. In fact, I always thought the manager could really give insight as to who might be the better fit for the job!

I never really saw this type of culture again, since moving into a different field. What’s your opinion — is this sort of culture/expectation typical or common?

No, that’s odd. There’s no reason one person can’t give a reference for two people for the same job. A reference isn’t “this is the best person for the job and there’s no one better.” It’s “here’s what I can tell you about this person’s work and what they’re like as a colleague.” There’s no reason they can’t do that for more than one person. (Moreover, it’s bizarre to award references would as some kind of first-come, first-served prize. That’s in no one’s interest — the candidates or the hiring manager).

5. Missed calls from unknown numbers

I’m wondering what the etiquette is around missed phone calls from unknown numbers with no message left. To me, my thought is that if it was important, they would leave a message or call again later. Though I know some people who return the call with “I have a missed call from this number?” I don’t know if it’s my phone anxiety, but returning a call from an unknown number with no voicemail seems very weird. What is the right thing here?

(Maybe a side note, since I got my phone TEN years ago I have been getting phone calls/texts from angry people asking for Betty, so maybe I’m just sick of answering the phone and trying to tell the angry person that I’m not Betty.)

In a professional context, if someone wants you to call them back, they’ll leave a message asking you to; in general, there’s no expectation that you’ll attempt to track them down based on a missed call from an unknown number. And in fact, it can be quite annoying when people do this — they sometimes get main switchboards where the person answering has no idea which of the 100 people there may have called, or the person already got the info they needed some other way.

(There are, of course, individual office cultures that are an exception to this, where missed calls are treated as requests for a return phone call — but those are presumably numbers you’d recognize.)

{ 412 comments… read them below }

  1. J Kate*

    Regarding missed calls with no message – please just make sure your voice mail is functioning correctly and your mailbox isn’t full. I see that a lot when trying to contact applicants and those individuals are often extremely difficult to get a hold of.

    1. Viette*

      Yes, so much this. Also, I get that some people don’t like putting their name in their voicemail message for a variety of reasons, and I respect that, but I will say that if you *are* willing to set up your voicemail so that it states your name, please do. In a work setting, I feel like having your actual name stated in your voicemail message, even if it’s mostly automated, is more professional. But I’d love to hear if people disagree!

      For context, I call a lot of people’s personal phones, and I very frequently get the automated “you have reached 5-5-5-1-2-3-4-5-6-7, please leave a message after the tone” message. That’s fine, except it doesn’t actually give confirmation it’s the person I intend to call; if they/anyone else input their phone number incorrectly in our system, I could be calling anyone. Obviously I double-check off a resume, and I trust that probably the candidate made sure their phone number was correct on their forms/resume, but it still feels strange to me to leave a personal-feeling voicemail in that context. You do the, “Hello, this message is for Euphemia Wilkes” thing, but I don’t love it.

      1. ellex42*

        Some years ago, when cell phones were not something everyone and his brother had and answering machines were a separate device that you plugged into your landline, I was a young woman living alone (with a couple of cats). My answering machine message was something like “You’ve reached Sandy, Porter, and Tiger, please leave a message” (not the actual names), with the last two being my cats’ names since I’d heard somewhere that it was a good way to sound like you were not a young woman living alone.

        I started getting junk mail for “Porter” (presumably someone using a mailing list to connect my phone number to my address), including credit card applications; people trying to make reservations for a local restaurant; “personalized” requests from charities and scammers; and months of calls from a construction company regarding their ongoing repairs to the roof of a local church (despite the message NOT saying “You’ve reached St. Whosisface Church”). When I changed the message to a more generic “You’ve reached 5-5-5-8-6-7-5-3-0-9, please leave a message”, I actually found that the wrong number messages dropped off sharply.

        But all that is irrelevant to the fact that putting your actual full name in your VM message is an invitation to harrassment, whether by an individual creep, a legit charity or political campaign, or a scammer. It’s on me to make sure I’ve given out the correct number to anyone I actually want to call me.

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            My grandad once filled in a market research questionnaire claiming his partner was “Ms S Cooby” (that being Scooby, an inflatable dog belonging to my uncle). Scooby used to get quite a lot of spam.

          2. Happy Lurker*

            I had my dogs first name and my last name put in the phone book, back in the stone age. She still occassionally gets pre approved credit card applications and other junk mail. It was a pretty good way to quickly weed out the blantent spam callers and junk mail. And it was good for a laugh.

        1. Renata Ricotta*

          I think “invitation for harassment” is a little strong, especially because in most cases you can identify yourself adequately with just a first name. I’m not aware of any current mail campaigns that identify people based on voicemail greetings, and anyway there are a tons other people who have almost certainly sold and resold a lot more personal info than my name and number online at this point in the history of the internet.

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            Agreed. I’ve never understood the reasoning behind not putting *at least* your first name in your voice mail. Like, that’s what the disconnect / hang-up button is for. Just because someone says, “Hi, Pennalynn Lott, . . .” that doesn’t mean I’m obligated to listen to them. And if they call back trying to “harass” me, I hit the button for “block and report”. Easy-peasy.

            1. Pennalynn Lott*

              ^^ Meant to add: It’s not like I’m a demon and my name in the mouths of others means they have some kind of special power over me.

          1. AKchic*

            I think it all depends on how the cat handles their ‘nip, and whether they find the kitty wine on the interwebz. Amazon does have everything, y’know. And toe beans do work well on touch screens.

        2. Tidewater 4-1009*

          Could any of you use text to reach candidates?
          I’m doing my first job search since 2011 and I wondered if any employers would text me instead of calling. So far none have.
          Texting is used so much more than voicemail these days, I hardly ever get a personal voicemail anymore.

          1. Rebecca1*

            I don’t use text for the initial phone call to the candidate. If I need to leave a time-sensitive follow-up message later on, I will leave a voice mail and text. If the voice mailbox is full, I also text.

          2. bluephone*

            The only job-search related texts I’ve received were:
            –confirmation texts with recruiting agencies for stuff like interviews and openings. But that was well after the agency and I established a business relationship via “traditional” means–me submitting a resume, them going through phone interviews, followed by in-person interviews, etc.
            –straight up scams

            As much as I dislike phone calls for various reasons, job searching is still one of those areas where I would not trust that a text from a hiring manager is anything but a work-from-home or Cutco-level scam

            1. Tidewater 4-1009*

              Oh, I haven’t seen these scams you mention either. I’m a dinosaur.
              If the text said “Hi this is Jane at Company Name”, and it was a company you applied to, would you still think it was a scam?

          3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I have never been contacted with a phonecall, most employers just use email to contact.

            I literally only call someone if they are being offered a job.

            I would never text anyone though, that’s not a professional platform to use, unless it’s simply for confirmation kind of details.

        3. KellsBells*

          Several years ago, my late cat Cleo got summoned for jury duty (!). I BELIEVE it was because I’d filled out a census form, and since asked for your pets’ names, I put them–Cleo and Adi.

          When I got the jury summons for “Cleo MyLastname,” the first thing I did was call my mother. When she was finished laughing (and suggesting that I actually bring my yowling, screeching Siamese in a cat carrier to actual jury duty), she told me to call the clerk’s office and explain the situation.

          When SHE was done laughing, she told me not to worry about it–my cat would NOT be arrested, and she’d make a note. :)

          1. Viette*

            I’m so glad your cat didn’t end up on the wrong side of the law! Though surely no jail could hold her. :)

        4. YouCanGoHomeAgain*

          My mother-in-law still has an answering machine. She lives alone, so she had my brother-in-law leave the outgoing message; “You have reached the Jones’ residence, please leave your name and number and we’ll get back to you.” That way, people don’t think she lives alone.

          I don’t even remember what my message on my cellphone says. I’ll have to check. LOL!

      2. NGT*

        When I was in high school, I had a stalker (I wasn’t his only victim, and he was eventually arrested for stalking high school students), and to this day I don’t put my name on my voicemail because of this. I also have my social media as locked down as it can be so that he can’t try to get hold of me that way. And I don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. Luckily, this has been somewhat short circuited by my phone these days. My phone includes public information for people and companies that try to contact me, so I know who it is even if they are not a contact.

      3. Oh Snap!*

        I’m in a situation now where someone has put my cell number on their resume. I have had this number for 15 years and the poor person is getting tons of callbacks, just to the wrong number. It’s been going on for almost a month now.

    2. Massmatt*

      Ditto on checking to make sure your mailbox is not full, ugh it shocks me how often this happens, then people complain about not getting messages. No idea how much memory most providers give but I definitely get lots of messages that the VM box is full! Check and delete messages, people!

      1. Quill*

        It’s usually 15-20 that you get for free, so if someone is job searching it can fill up in a morning with 2 jobs posted and 5-7 calls about each of them… (this from personal experience… one of the many reasons to prefer email!)

    3. Ugh*

      You can’t even leave a message on my phone, anymore. My service provider is so incompetent at handling messages that I wouldn’t get them, anyway, and I’d rather make it abundantly clear that it’s not a method of getting ahold of me than have an employer leave me a message and think I listened to it. I had voicemail service shut off altogether.

      1. Does that make me Danny DeVito or Arnold Schwartzennegger?*

        WE ARE TWINS! I had so many voicemail snafus –and was getting so many telemarketing calls on my cell phone– that I shut it down. The doctor’s offfice keeps telling me “my phone is broken”.
        Um, no, that’s why I told you to list my house phone as primary point of contact.

      2. MissedCalls*

        OP for 5 here! On my work phone, my voicemail is definitely set up with a custom message. I think on my personal phone between all the spam calls and wrong numbers I just gave up.

        Same with checking to make sure the mailbox isn’t full, for a while I couldn’t get any voicemail whatsoever so I had to make sure I wasn’t expecting any important calls, or try to answer everything. You would think by now providers would have a handle on all that and things could run smoothly….

      3. Not Today Satan*

        My voicemail works, but I don’t understand why employers don’t all just use email for scheduling phone screens/interviews. I can almost always read and respond to an email within a couple hours. With listening to voicemail and returning calls, it’s a lot harder, especially if I don’t have any privacy at work.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I’m feeling very snarky today, so all I’m going to say to that is, miss a shot by not taking two seconds to check your email and I’ll gladly take it.

          2. YouCanGoHomeAgain*

            Oh WOW!!! I can’t even imagine only checking email once a week. I’ve checked email at least daily, for the last 20 years! LOL!

          3. Pennalynn Lott*

            Aaaauuggghh! I ran into this when I went back to school (at age 47). My school was big on group projects and Every Flipping Semester there’d be at least one person on my team who never checked their school email. So they didn’t know when class was canceled, or when a new assignment came out, or when the rest of us had added them to a shared file.

            And this was true for undergrad AND grad. Ayeeee.

    4. Pretzelgirl*

      OMG, yes! I set up a lot of interviews for my boss. Most of them are between the ages of 18-25. Almost no one has a voicemail set up. Its frustrating, because I cant be 100%, I reached the right person. I also find it kind of unprofessional, tbh.

      1. Elderly Millennial*

        Why are you calling 18-25 year olds? That cohort is generally more reachable by email, or even texting. At least in my industry, people under 40 would rather do anything else on earth than answer a phone call, especially from a number they don’t recognize. Checking voicemails is even worse; in fact, to that generation, leaving a voice mail is considered rude.

        1. Ugh*

          Yea, we don’t leave voicemails. If I get a voicemail box, I just hang up. I’ll text or call again later.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I can’t text from my work phone. And I’m not going to use my personal phone for that.

          I suppose I could set up a Google Voice number to use for work, if it had occurred to me.

          (we now have 8×8 phone service from our computer, and maybe with it, I can text.)

        3. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

          I’m 27 and if someone calls in an official capacity, they better leave a voicemail. And texting is for people who are part of my life, not potential employers. Sure, I overall prefer email for official communication, but there’s a place for phone-calls, and if you call me and I’m not available, then not leaving a voicemail, I’ll assume means you’re spam or the New York Blood Center

        4. Elderly Not Millennial*

          Some of us oldsters don’t answer calls from unknown numbers, I never do. I’ll check voicemail though, although I don’t always leave them.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Same here. If you call me, and don’t leave a voice mail, I assume you are a spammer.

            If you text me trying to sell me something I will block you.

            If you email me, depending on what email address you’re using will determine the urgency I respond with.

            If I call you and need a response, I will leave a message.

    5. ThatGirl*

      For sure, I ran into that occasionally in customer service, too, where we’d try to call back a customer only to run into a full or nonexistent voicemail box.

      That said, there’s also the extremely frustrating phenomenon of spoofed calls, where a number is faked by a telemarketer, so I never call back random missed calls because it seems likely to either be a telemarketer/scammer or some poor random person whose number has been used to try to scam me.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        I didn’t either, until I started looking for a job. Now I have to see if I received a voice mail from them and if not, call back. Just in case it’s a job call.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I have a Google Voice number for job hunting. I only call back unknown numbers on that line. If they don’t leave a message, I google it since I’ve had occasional issues with the voice mail. Most employers call from their work phones, so if it’s a legitimate business, I can usually find it.

          Email is better but if you’re going to call me about a job, leave a message.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        I usually don’t call them back (years of growing up with a number similar to a local dental surgery and getting all their wrong numbers made me wary of that). However, I did once call a scammer back by accident once – I was going on holiday the following week, and the area code was for the same town as where I was staying. In the moment I panicked and thought the missed call might have been the hotel calling with a problem, so I called back only to find someone asking if I had been missold insurance.

    6. Tina*

      I genuinely do not use voicemail because clearing is an extra charge ($10/month to set up voicemail-collection, plus $2 per call, yay weird phone providers, but they’re the best and cheapest for literally everything else) and I just straight-up don’t have the budget to do that just for voicemail and don’t actually get many calls anyway, so I set the message as ‘hello this is Tina’s phone. Sorry to have missed your call. I can’t collect voicemails, so please don’t leave a message; text me or call again’.

  2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    Never hire an ex for a “critical” level position especially since you will be managing him. It will end badly for everyone except for businesses selling popcorn and front row seats to the ensuing drama. Work is meant to be professional and an ex that you are comfortable screaming at/with is not a good candidate.

    1. Avasarala*

      Oh, OP, honey… you’re looking to hire a “critical” position that you ” will have direct management/supervision over” and your thought is, let’s offer it so someone you’re “not “friendly” exactly, but cordial” with?

      How would you feel when he shows up on his first day and you train him on how everything works?
      How would you feel if you saw him developing a close rapport with other staff?
      How would you feel if he comes to you with a complaint? If you hear him complaining about you?
      How would you feel when you see him do that annoying thing that always bugged you when you were together?
      How would you feel having to reprimand him, or praise him in front of others?
      How would you feel having to explain to your bosses and colleagues that you used to date seriously? How do you convince them that you can judge him impartially?
      How would you feel negotiating his salary? If he asks for time off for his wedding?
      How would you feel putting him on a PIP or firing him?

      “That was four years ago, I’m over it”
      I don’t know if you are… which is OK! But you don’t owe him this job opportunity (remember your information is a year old) just because you know about it. And when it comes at the cost of your job and professional reputation.

      1. valentine*

        How will you feel if he gets married? (Especially to a colleague or to another of your reports.)

        an ex that you are comfortable screaming at/with is not a good candidate.
        Apart from anything else, it’s best to limit your pool and hire someone you’ve never had a screaming exchange with. Set the bar really, really high for intimate acquaintances to be part of your professional network, and even higher for them to be part of your hiring pool, especially if you’re a woman.

        will have to rely quite heavily on as it will be on-site for the project while I will be mostly off-site.
        You need someone you trust. If this is your first managing role, exclude exes and even good friends. Give yourself the best start possible by choosing someone with whom you’ll be starting from zero.

      2. MK*

        I don’t think the OP is primarily (or at all) concerned about giving her ex an opportunity. My impression is that the only reason she is considering it is because the role is difficult to fill.

        1. Massmatt*

          I wonder whether that’s because they are not paying well or are not searching widely enough. Yes the job market is tighter than it was years ago but whenever I have heard someone tell me they are having a lot of trouble hiring the issues seem to really be they are looking at a very small pool (one hiring manager literally relied on an alumni magazine only) or are paying dramatically below market rate. If you are looking for a hard to find skill set you need to be prepared to pay for it.

          If these are not the issue then look to see whether there is another reason people are avoiding you as an employer, maybe the reason jobs are going unfilled is because of your company’s reputation? Check what people say about you on Glassdoor.

          1. TooShort*

            Hi, I’m the OP on this question. The position is a tough one to fill because of the skillset required. We got a lot of great CVs on paper but the interviews showed up disqualifying weaknesses. This is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime project, so there’s been a lot of interest. My company does not usually have problems hiring for this type of role, and we’ve hired pretty easily for other roles on this project. It was to the point where I wondered if I was being too picky, but everybody else on the interview panel agreed that we haven’t found what we need yet.

            The good news is that tapping networks has brought in a few more promising applicants so we’re going back into interviews with high hopes.

            1. eplawyer*

              Are they really disqualifying weaknesses or are your standards so rigid that nothing less than a 100% perfect candidate will do? I realize its a big project and you don’t want to whiff on hiring, but don’t box yourself in on what the “perfect” candidate looks like.

              Keep this in mind as you go through the new round of interviews.

              1. TootsNYC*

                and of course, not every “disqualifying weakness” is the same–some of them can be alleviated with training or experience.
                But hopefully the OP and her colleagues are factoring that in.

            2. Marthooh*

              “High likelihood of drama” is also a disqualifying weakness, so I’m glad you have other leads, OP

            3. EventPlannerGal*

              I get your reasoning, OP, but I think regardless of how specific the role is I think your ex is off-limits. Even apart from the work side of things, I think it will come across to him more like an odd attempt to reestablish contact than a genuine job tip. That’s certainly how I would take it if a serious ex contacted me out of the blue to ask me to apply for a job that reported to them. I think this is a case of ‘leave well enough alone’.

          2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

            That’s a good point. I worked at a job that was located 40 minutes from the nearest large city. It was a good job but the powers that be decided that the lovely setting made up for paying less than the going market rate. No one was willing to commute every day for less money than they could make closer to home.

      3. Sharrbe*

        Great questions. “I’m over it/him” may not turn out to be the case after she’s spending 40+ hours a week with this person and all the old memories have time to surface. I think the number of people who could properly and professionally handle this situation would be the exception rather than the rule – we’re only human after all. Even if the LW does everything right in her role as manager, there’s no guarantee that the ex will act the same way in return. Plus, if I were him, I’d be a little more than hesitant to take a job that was offered to me by ex. Like red flags would be pinging in my head big time.

      4. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        Avasarala your advice is undermined by your use of the word “honey”, your patronising tone, and your 8 detailed examples of things OP should be thinking about.

        I can almost hear you saying tut-tut and smiling gently at OP’s foolishness. I’m sure you didn’t intend it to come across this way, but if I was the OP this would really get up my nose.

    2. Tallulah in the Sky*

      Yep, I get the position is hard to fill, but even if the ex is still jobless and is the perfect candidate on paper, this will be a disaster, and it will be all OP’s fault for creating this situation in the first place. Don’t do it.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I would honestly take out the “critical position” part because it’s not relevant in this case. The bottom line is that this new hire would report to her and that in and of itself is a disaster waiting to happen.

    4. Pony tailed wonder*

      I recommended an ex for a job and it turned out well. I work a part time job and they needed someone reliable and it fitted his schedule and temperment very well. I think what made it work is that he was exceptionally well suited to the job and we had broken up because we had drifted into being more like friends than romantic partners. We worked as a team under a manager and the three of us got the job done.

  3. Rachel*

    LW1: hiring your ex and having to rely on him and deal with him every day would be a big sacrifice of your personal interests to your professional ones. You don’t owe that much to your company.

    1. MK*

      It’s highly debatable that this would be in the company’s best interest anyway. It doesn’t sound as if the ex has some hard-to-come-by expertise that woule make the potential fallout maybe worth the risk.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Yes, on the personal and professional levels, AFAIK. Not to mention all the nasty gossip that will fly around the office about OP having an affair with the ex if they hire him!

        1. Lynn*

          If I was Ex’s colleague, I would suspect pretty strongly that OP wanted to get back with EX and would unjustly favor EX. Or I would, from my outsider’s point of view, believe that any discipline/coaching that was done with EX would be informed by the past romantic history one way or another.

          This is a case where avoiding the appearance of impropriety is nearly as important as avoiding actual problems.

          1. JM in England*

            Your last point was stressed quite vigourously during my Anti Bribery & Corruption training at both current and previous jobs….

          2. Annony*

            The opposite could also happen. The OP could be seen as being too hard on the ex and treating him unfairly because she is holding a grudge. Either way it’s bad.

    2. Minimax*

      I took OP at her word that she has moved on, but she cant really know her ex has.

      Too much opportunity for drama.
      Also 3 interviews with no candidate isn’t a lot? I would check your job description to make sure its marking important what matters.

      1. Minimax*

        Example time. I applied for an internal role where I met 4 of the 5 required skills. #5 was experience with the specific report the job would be responsible for doing.

        Well it turns out #5 is the most important to them. They are willing to hire someone who only checks the #5 box.

        But skills 1-4 are really rare and intimidating to those who don’t have them. All their applicants have been people with those skills.

        See the issue? Its not that there are no people out there with #5 per say, but the job add lists all 5 skills as of they are equally important when they are not.

    3. Marny*

      Yup. Work is hard enough without adding this wrinkle. We see everyday on this site how much trouble managers have confronting employees about things– and those are employees with whom they haven’t had outside personal relationships. Imagine how much harder and more fraught the confrontations would be with this situation. OP1 would be risking otherwise avoidable drama for very little benefit.

      1. C*

        Exactly. You should keep work and family/friends seperate for this reason. In 99.9% of cases, people will not work well together if they also spend personal time together. And when the relationship breaks down, it will affect the company too.

        Our boss just hired his wife. They already have a bad relationship outside of work and fight constantly. The few times she has visited the office, they have continued that fighting in front of us (either together or with one of them insulting the other to us when the other has been out of the room). She talks about him with absolute contempt when he’s not around.

        The boss thinks hiring her is a great idea and will help her get started on her career (she’s already nearly 40). What he doesn’t know is that when she used to visit our office back when they first married she was very open about the fact that she was only with him for the money. She doesn’t want a career and instead expected to leech off his hard work after they tied the knot, and was annoyed that he was making her get a job. She would constantly bitch to us (his employees) about the fact that he wasn’t making enough money and asked us if we knew any wealthy men we could introduce her to instead (basically asking us to help her cheat on him). This was while he was out of the room. He seems completely oblivious to what she is doing and she clearly thinks his employees will never say anything (or he won’t believe any of us). Which is partly true, I suspect.

        Within the first week of hiring her, he was making bad business decisions based on her recommendations. She isn’t that great at her job (which is why she can’t get hired elsewhere), and is therefore trying to make it look as though she is doing more than she is to justify her salary. No one will push back against the decisions as ‘it’s the boss’s wife’. It is incredibly awkward for everyone involved (partly due to what she told us), and they haven’t even started openly fighting again yet. She knows full well that if the business goes up in value while she is employed there, she can claim part ownership of it in a divorce. Our boss has a young child from a previous marriage, who will be the one who will likely end up missing out because of her. The entire situation is incredibly messed up and working here is like watching a car crash in slow motion and not being able to do anything about it.

    4. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      #5: If they didn’t leave a message, I would assume that they aren’t expecting you to figure out who it is and call back. I think most people are reasonable about this. I think it’s arrogant to just call someone, not leave a message, and then expect them to call back. If it’s not important enough to leave a message, then it’s not important that you call them back. Not many people do this anyway. Those that do aren’t seen in the best light.

  4. Dragoning*

    OP1, the company asked you to reach out to your networks.

    Consider this ex permanently out of your “network.” You’re no contact, why would he be?

    1. Antilles*

      Agreed. If you aren’t on good terms (see: “there was screaming” and “random conversations have been not friendly”), he’s not part of your professional network.

  5. Miss Annie*

    I get so many spam calls on my cell these days that I simply don’t answer a number that is not already in my contacts. If it is important they will leave a message. I quit returning unknown missed calls after several times when a number was cloned for spam and calling back got the actual owner.

    1. Beth*

      Same. Especially since spam calls can spoof area codes these days, so even a case of “I don’t know this number but it’s from my area” doesn’t mean there’s a real person I know on the other end of the line. Someone who needs me for something will eventually either leave a message or reach out in another way.

      1. Gatomon*

        Yep, the spoofers have really ruined it. If I don’t get a message for a call, I will search for the number online to see if it matches a legitimate business or known scam. It’s almost always no result though, so likely a spoof. A text or voicemail is really required for follow up now.

        I also spent an afternoon and went through the company directory to add the cell of every tech who could ever conceivably call me to my work phone so I’d be able to identify those calls. Requires a moderate amount of upkeep, but I can exempt known numbers from DND, which is great.

        1. Avasarala*

          This is what I do. Where I live doesn’t have as much a problem of spoofing/spam callers as the US seems to, so I can usually get results that way, or know from the phone number if it’s a local number or the local equivalent of a 1800 number.

          I got a US number on Google Voice and gave it out to less than 5 people. Within 1 week of it being active I got spam/random calls in the middle of the night. It was shocking to me how big of a problem this is!

          1. Massmatt*

            It is a big problem, along with spam email.

            Both are so cheap and easy to send to literally millions of recipients it’s hard to stop. Do not call lists

            It is so easy for phone spammers to spoof a local number that i am immediately suspicious if I see a number from my local exchange I don’t recognize—and I need to talk to lots of clients by phone! Spammers ruin things.

            1. JessaB*

              Which I love because the local exchange on my phone is not where I live. I’ve had the number forever, and it’s a Florida number, I live in Ohio, random calls from my exchange means spammer/spoofer. Because everyone I want to hear from in Florida is already listed as a contact.

              1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

                I have this too and it’s wonderful. Easy to figure out important calls since they’re in the local area code whereas 99% of the spam is in my phone’s area code.

              2. Cog in the Machine*

                Lucky! The spammers in my area have figured out to spam fron where the phone pings instead of the local connection. Combine that with also having a Google Voice number, and I don’t answer if the number isn’t in my contacts.

              3. alacrity*

                Same! It’s incredibly helpful. The only numbers with that area code I would answer are for people who are already in my phone.

                The downside is that if it is a number from my current location’s area code I am more likely to pick up (thinking it’s something like a doctor’s office calling me) but the longer I’ve been here the more likely I am to get called by local window companies.

            2. Pennalynn Lott*

              2-3 times a year I get included in an angry group text message from someone who doesn’t understand how area codes, exchanges, and last four numbers can be spoofed. So, basically, the group text consists of, say, eight of us whose numbers start with 464-986-XXX.

              I used to ignore the angry texts (“Stop harassing me!” “Quit calling me!”) but now I respond and ask the sender to see if they can identify anything in common with all the phone numbers.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Working in a large office with phones on a local exchange made it screamingly obvious that robo-calls dial every number in a sequence. I’d get the call and call out to the office “don’t answer it, it’s the newspaper again” (or Rachel from Cardholder Services or a cable company) and then the next five people with a similar number would get the same call.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              It’s so true! We occasionally get calls like this go around the office. The strangest one is all in Mandarin. No one in our company speaks that language, so we have no idea what it’s supposed to say.

              1. Gaia*

                I get one in Mandarin all the time from a Bay Area area code. I had a friend translate it for me. It said someone at the embassy is trying to reach me. Unlikely.

                1. I google every number before I answer or call back*

                  I got the ones in Mandarin in the Bay Area. Every Wednesday my business line would ring for weeks. A friend in the office told me that if you press a number or stay on the line, you get a person. She had successfully gotten them to stop calling that way. I just told them (in English) that I didn’t speak Mandarin and asked them to take me off their list. I never got another call from them.

              1. Phony Genius*

                I never knew those could take incoming calls. I think I can write a horror movie script based on this premise.

        2. The Original K.*

          Me too. I don’t answer unless I know the number, and if there’s no message left I assume it’s spam. Sometimes I’ll do a quick search for the number and it’s always spam. (I have an app that blocks a lot of robocalls, which helps.)

        3. Quill*

          I don’t even go that far – missed calls that don’t leave a message and I don’t expect a call coming? You threw away your shot by not emailing me. (And if there are legitimate reasons for you to contact me, you have my email! Or you’re a human I personally know who can reach me via text or some other shared platform.)

      2. Phony Genius*

        If you return a call to a number that was spoofed, you may get a real person who will be very confused as to why you’re calling them.

        My boss has a policy that he always returns every call that he’s too busy to answer. Nine out of ten of them are scams. He thinks that since there is a tiny chance that somebody calling from that number in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada may actually need to talk to him, he should return it to be polite. He doesn’t fall for any of the scams, but allows them to waste a lot of his (and sometimes my) time.

        1. pentamom*

          I just don’t understand this attitude. I understand believing it’s some kind of social or professional obligation (though when it comes to unknown numbers I disagree), but if someone “really needs” to talk to you, they will leave a voicemail. Even with all the seeming allergy to voicemail that people have, “really needs” means they will do what is necessary, even if it’s outside their usual habits.

          1. JKP*

            My SO calls back every missed call. He has his own business and often a potential new client won’t leave a message. He would lose a lot of business if he relied on people to leave messages. When he calls right back, they’ve usually already called another 3-5 competing businesses in the 15 min since he missed their call.

        2. Antilles*

          When spoofing first became a thing and wasn’t well known, I’d *regularly* get calls from people asking why I had called them.
          My phone rings, so I answer.
          Me: Hello
          Them: Uh, I just got a call from this number but I didn’t get to the phone fast enough. Who is this?
          Me: Huh? This is Wedge, but what are you talking about? You just called ME, not the other way around.
          Them: No, you called me first.
          Me: No, I didn’t, I just picked up the phone when you called me a few seconds ago.
          Them: No, no, I got a call from this number.
          Me: Um, I don’t know what’s going on, but I definitely didn’t call you and you didn’t call me either, so uh, bye I guess?

      3. Salsa Your Face*

        I got my cell phone number in 2003 when I was living in a big city away from home, but never bothered to change it when I moved back to the area I grew up in. And because I don’t keep in contact by phone with anyone I knew back then, it means that anyone who calls me from a number with my area code is 100% a spoofer. I have a blanket filter denying all numbers from my area code now, and it means almost no spam gets through. It’s actually quite a relief.

      4. KoiFeeder*

        There’s a spammer in my state that’s been spoofing a well-known children’s hospital, which should be a crime.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I’m pretty sure that is a crime.

          The FTC says: “Under the Truth in Caller ID Act, FCC rules prohibit anyone from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongly obtain anything of value. Anyone who is illegally spoofing can face penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation. However, spoofing is not always illegal. There are legitimate, legal uses for spoofing, like when a doctor calls a patient from her personal mobile phone and displays the office number rather than the personal phone number or a business displays its toll-free call-back number.”

            1. KoiFeeder*

              That’s interesting, because when I contacted the FCC consumer complaints, I was told that it was non-actionable and to have a nice day. Should I have reported it somewhere else?

              1. KoiFeeder*

                To clarify, the spam caller does not claim to be the children’s hospital except by usage of the caller ID. They’re something about car insurance, I believe.

              2. Tidewater 4-1009*

                IME you can usually find out how to report this type of crime by googling. In this case “how to report a telephone spoofing crime”. There’s usually a form to fill in. The agencies are very nice and appreciative of reporting.

      5. Is butter a carb?*

        I often will answer if it’s local and looks like a real number because I want to make sure it’s not something for my kid. Or, I quickly google the number to see what comes up before I answer!

    2. Drago Cucina*

      I will answer the phone from an unknown number (my sons both work in fields where they could be injured and I would be called by someone I don’t know). If a message isn’t left I never return the call.

      My direct office line found its way to a collection agency for someone who had never worked with us. That was irritating. After many explanations I ended up filing a complaint with the state attorney general. It was the only thing that stopped them

      And random messages that are only, “This is Arthur Havisham, call me at 555-555-5555,” don’t get returned. Why are you calling Arthur?

      1. Reply from Arthur*

        I’m calling to sell you something you don’t want! The only chance I have to sell it to you is to talk you into it. There’s no way you’d ever call me back if you knew why I was calling. I leave these messages hoping to get some suckers who’ll call me back out of curiosity or obligation.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Hey hon! Are you tired of your boring 9-5? How would you like to ditch any sense of security and decency and join my MLM scheme?! You could BE YOUR OWN BOSS, BABE!

          1. Drago Cucina*

            Yes. Telephone lesson for new library staff is that 99.9% of the people calling and acting like my best friend are sales calls.

        2. Quill*

          Aren’t some of these collect calls / pay per minute, or does that not happen anymore?

          Growing up in the late 90’s I was told to never call back an unknown number that left a message that only left contact details and no context, because there was some sort of scam on where collect call numbers would do that.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        At my first unshared studio apartment, my brand new phone# was on someone’s bad checks. He’d bounced them from California to Kansas by the time I gave up and changed my number.

        1. Krabby*

          Yeah, I had the fun experience of my address being used by the local criminal element whenever they needed to list a place of residence (our address was along the lines of 420 69th street). The cops would constantly be coming by and asking us if certain people lived there. They knew they didn’t, we knew they didn’t, but they had to check. I eventually moved out because I was so sick of having to deal with the cops knocking on the door. Which was too bad because our landlord was the best one I’ve ever had.

        2. Filosofickle*

          Years ago I had a landline that got calls for a specific family’s school absences and bounced checks. It seemed like a family that was struggling, more than intentional check bouncers. This went on for years! They must have lived in the neighborhood, based on the which school would call. I was surprised that the collection agencies accepted my “they don’t live here” and generally weren’t super persistent.

      3. Temperance*

        I don’t call those back, either. If you can’t bother to tell me what you want, I’m not calling you.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I got called back by a somewhat aggressive woman who wanted to know why I had called her cell phone twice an hour ago. I reminded her that at that time she was in the parking lot of the farm stand and asked a passerby to call her phone which had slid under a seat somewhere in her car. That passerby, me, had not been looking for an aggressive follow-up to this act.

          (Recently my phone offered a direct-to-voicemail option for unknown numbers and I took it, figuring my kids or parents on a borrowed phone would know to leave a message. Just due to the sheer volume of spoofed robots calling my landline.)

      4. Bernice Clifton*

        When I worked as at a former company, I was the first contact for random customer questions that fell under the purview of, “I love your company’s chocolate teapots but how come you don’t make caramel teapots anymore? Do you have any left at in your warehouse?” and it was my job to call them back.

        A lot of people would just leave a name and number, which was more difficult because I had to call them to find out what they wanted and research the issue. I changed my voice mail to ask people to leave their name number and “please explain how I can help you” – I save myself SO much time!

      5. Burned Out Supervisor*

        This happened to my mom with her first ever cell phone. The previous owner of the number apparently never paid her phone bill and a collections agency would constantly call asking for this woman (and usually couldn’t be persuaded that my mom wasn’t who they were looking for). When my mom would FINALLY convince the collections agency and the calls would stop, the agency would sell the debt to another agency and the farce would continue. My mom finally gave up and changed her number.

    3. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

      #2: Given that this wasn’t a person who you knew very well, it was probably a mistake to PM her in the first place. I know I wouldn’t want my parents contacting my potential boss out of the blue to talk about my job application. It’s definitely not necessary to contact her again.

        1. Artemesia*

          Because questions are not just about the person writing in but all of us who might be in similar situations; it is a public advice column that lets all of us learn from others situations. The first call was a huge misstep that might have cost him the job. Glad it didn’t. A follow up would IMHO be another huge misstep.

    4. Delta Delta*

      My carrier flags some calls as “spam risk” which is nice except that about half the time it isn’t spam and is someone who actually wants to reach me. So, I’ll keep on answering.

      1. Quill*

        I’ve been seeing these potential spam calls pop up… and on vacation with my parents they asked “why aren’t you answering your phone?” when it rang, so I told them “Because caller ID labeled it ‘potential scam'”

        Then they went from “oh phones can do that now, how do they know it’s a scam?” to laughing at me in under 2 minutes when my brother said “don’t you mean SPAM?”

    5. Carlie*

      I had a cell phone number that got spoofed before it was a commonly known thing. The callbacks were… unpleasant.

      1. Cindy Featherbottom*

        Same. I changed my voicemail to say that my number had been spoofed and that I was sorry for the inconvenience….and then just avoided answering my phone for about a month. I think that calmed most people down a bit and I avoided a lot of “who are you and why are you calling me” conversations

    6. MissedCalls*

      OP5 here,
      I think it’s spam calls that really changed the game in the last 5-10 years. I will answer the call if I’m available, especially as someone mentioned above – during job searching I need to be cognizant. I once got a call from my exact number, with just the last four digits reversed. (1234 as 4321)
      I have just met quite a few people that will attempt to return the call, and it seems so counterproductive to me. It clearly wasn’t important enough to leave a message or try again, so why would I put effort in?

      1. Pretzelgirl*

        I got calls for about 2 days straight, from my own number! It was incredibly frustrating. Also I would say about 3-5 times I week, I get calls from numbers with my prefix. Lets say my prefix is 123-456. My call log looks like this:

        etc, etc

        1. Valprehension*

          I also get a lot of calls from numbers with the same prefix. It’s definitely meant to make you think “oh this number looks familiar”, so you’re more likely to answer it…

          1. Artemesia*

            I retired to a different area but have an area code of course from my previous area. I figure if it is an old friend or contact they will either leave a message or text. Every once in a while I pick up to test this theory and it is always someone trying to tell me that the warranty on my 18 year old car is about to expire or that while my credit card is fine, they have important information about my credit. And then I go back to just blocking these numbers. My phone labels many of them as ‘scams’.

        2. nonegiven*

          I don’t get near as many as I used to. I stopped answering them unless I was expecting a local call from an unfamiliar number. They have pretty much stopped, now.

    7. CupcakeCounter*

      My work phone was spammed – I was getting about 5 calls a day from all over the country with a “Yeah I have a missed call from this number” and I didn’t have a clue what was going on. After 3 days of this I contacted IT – their response was that our contracted phone company either sold our numbers to telemarketers or were hacked and our numbers spammed. After that, I quickly let people know that it was a spam call and they were pissed at me! I was clear in my explanation that my company wasn’t the one calling (along the lines of “Actually we didn’t call you, we’ve been informed that our numbers were spammed so that was a robo call so it you gat a call that starts with (XXX) XXX-5, feel free to ignore/block it) but people can be weird. I was curious how many people received these calls for me to get so many every day – I never call back an unknown number without a voicemail.

    8. Nora*

      Me too! I actually changed my outgoing voicemail message to state “I receive so many spam phone calls that I can no longer answer calls from unknown numbers, so if you would like me to call you back please leave a message.”

    9. Nita*

      Same! I’ve gotten maybe 4 calls from unknown numbers that were actually for me in the last few years, the rest were 98% spam and 2% wrong numbers. Although… the one time I didn’t pick up a call that was for me turned into a very stressful experience, so now I grab the stupid spam calls, make sure they’re spam and then hang up.

    10. Tisiphone*

      I generally never return missed calls when there’s no message. You can’t bother leaving a message, I can’t bother returning the call. Got no time for that.

      Weirdest spammer I got was after I moved back into my home after several months, during which my home was under construction after significant storm damage. The very first day after I got my landline reconnected I got the following call:

      Caller: I’m calling because you requested a followup to our call. (insert sales pitch)

      Me: (interrupting) Wait a minute, did you call me at this number?

      Caller: Yes.

      Me: You couldn’t have talked to me. Or anyone else for that matter. This number was disconnected. SPAMMER! (click)

  6. Lisa*

    Increasingly I find that unknown numbers that don’t leave a message are spammers, and the spammers aren’t actually at the number they “called” you from. About once every month or two I get a message on one of my phones complaining that I called and didn’t leave a message. When I did not! People can even get very grumpy and insistent about this. Sure you need to be a little more attentive when you’re job hunting, but between email and LinkedIn etc. there are plenty of ways to get ahold of people these days!

    1. Dragoning*

      I get voicemails (Because I didn’t answer the unknown number) telling me to stop calling them and that they “know” I am a scammer, and that what I’m doing is illegal.

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        There are a surprising amount of people out there who still don’t understand what a scam / spoofed phone call is and take it EXTREMELY PERSONALLY when they think you’re calling them.

    2. many bells down*

      Yeah I had this 5-6 times a day several months ago. Thought I was going to have to change my number. Since I got my phone when I lived in California and I don’t live there anymore, any number from my (old) area code that I don’t know don’t get answered.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Same here. I plan to stay where I am now permanently so it would make some sense to change my cell phone number except since I have no contact with anyone where I used to live, I find it really easy to ignore all calls from that area code.

        And when I get a call from my area code, even if it’s an unknown number, I figure it must be someone/some business I’ve given my cell phone number to.

    3. Just Another Manic Millie*

      “About once every month or two I get a message on one of my phones complaining that I called and didn’t leave a message. When I did not!”

      That happened to me once. Someone called my landline and said, “You just called me.” I said that I didn’t. She said that my number came up on her cell phone. I said that someone must have spoofed my number. She believed me. Then I got worried that the spoofer would continue to use my landline number. Luckily, it never happened again. Or maybe it did, but I hardly ever answer my landline nowadays. I tell people to call me on my cell phone, which I do not answer if the call is not from one of my contacts. But if the caller leaves a message, and it’s someone that I know, I put their name and number in my list of contacts.

      1. Daffy Duck*

        Oh yeah, I had a very irate message on my answering machine from (what sounded like) an elderly woman who was incensed about spam calls. Apparently she didn’t know about spoofing (and I wasn’t going to call her back and inform her).
        I have received spoof calls from both my own number (the one that was ringing), my cell on my landline, and multiple family members.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        I remember when I was at university, one day I’d just walked into my room to get a call from some woman demanding to know why I’d phoned her, she took a lot of convincing that I wasn’t from a company, I now think that must have been something like that.

  7. Mer*

    #5 – I never call back people who don’t leave messages and I don’t expect people to return my calls if I don’t leave a message. I’ll usually just hang up and send them an email.

    I work remotely and have an app on my cell phone called Sideline, which lets you add a second phone number to your phone. At least once a week I get a call to my Sideline number from a random person saying, “You just called me?” when I hadn’t just called them (I figure it’s a scam and someone’s using my Sideline number as a cover for their actual number). My reaction is always, “Who are these people that just call back a random number they don’t know that didn’t leave a message?! Talking on the phone is the worst!”

    1. Random IT Guy*

      If one calls from an unknown number, I respect their privacy and not answer it.

      In all seriousness – a missed call from ‘unknown number’ and no reply / message / mail / text etc. – there is nothing I can do.

      Should it be someone that needs to get a hold of me, that person can either call again, send a mail, a text or whatnot.

      I have “missed” calls from countries i have to use Google to locate – obviously i`ll not calling those.

      1. Fikly*

        In my job, I sometimes arrange phone calls that will come from unknown numbers (to protect the privacy of the people making the phone calls, who are on-call). I always, always warn the people receiving the calls to expect it to be from an unknown number, and to please pick up. Because I know that otherwise they won’t.

    2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      ““Who are these people that just call back a random number they don’t know that didn’t leave a message?”

      People waiting on an important call who don’t want to take chances on the person not trying again.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      But do people even listen to messages?

      A few years ago I called someone heading a fundraising committee for one of my kid’s activities. I left a very detailed message explaining what information I needed from her. Two seconds later (indicating that she was holding her phone the entire time, but declined to answer a call from an unknown number, which I understand but YOU ARE THE HEAD OF A FUNDRAISING COMMITTEE AND YOU’RE ASKING BUSINESSES AND DONORS TO CALL YOU) she called me back and said “I got a call from this number?” I wish I’d said “Oh, did you? I wonder if they left a message?” and hung up.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        And I mean “unknown number” as in she didn’t recognize who was calling her, not that my number was blocked from her caller ID.

      2. Mr. Shark*

        Maybe they were on another call?
        Sometimes it takes a minute for the voice mail to show up, so she called back, expecting it to be someone regarding the fundraising committee (who may or may not leave a message).

  8. Bubbles*

    LW1: Please do not hire your ex. If he were interested in the job he would have applied for the initial posting. And you know what? Maybe he did and was screened out for whatever reason. But introducing that sort of interpersonal complication is simply Not Good.

    Even if you and Ex work well together on this project, it will come out that you were previously involved. People will question whether he had the qualifications for the position, whether you factor the personal relationship in to decisions, and the simple fact is that you will. You will not be able to manage him appropriately. You will be trying too hard to be neutral and it will be noted. This isn’t fair to either of you. Don’t do it!

    At the end of this project, if he is kept on for another position, it will be assumed you had something to do with it. And if he isn’t kept on, it will be assumed you had something to do with it. And bottom line: they’d be right both ways.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Basically, I would classify significant exes* as being in the same category as other fairly close family relationships – partners, siblings, kids, parents, their spouses – when it comes to jobs. You don’t supervise them, you aren’t supervised by them, and if you happen to work at the same place, you excuse yourself from discussions which involve their job status (promotions, discipline, etc). In addition, you should disclose the relationship if you happen to work at the same place, so that it’s taken into account by your manager when assigning duties, the same way it would be if you happened to be coworkers with your sibling or spouse.

      *By significant exes, I mean that this wouldn’t generally apply to someone you went on a couple of dates with ten years ago.

      1. anon this time*

        I worked with a sibling (on the same team) for several years, and it went great, but we have generally got along well (and did at work too), have similar work ethics, and neither of us was in charge of the other.

    2. Jennifer*

      Yeah, I assume that if he hasn’t applied, and it’s an opening he’s highly qualified for, AND he has highly sought after skills, he either has found a job in the year since you last spoke to him and is happy or knows you work for this company and doesn’t want work with his ex.

  9. bunniferous*

    On phone calls-some of us real estate brokers are not that fond of voice mail (the millenials text and as a boomer I have grown to like texting) and in any case in our business we absolutely return missed calls even if no message is left. I am not sure if this is just personal preference with the ones I know or if it is real estate culture overall. I know my own husband hates voice mail. If he does not pick up a call from me I know he will call me back once he notices I have called so very rarely do I leave him a message.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I’m a text only boomer. In my personal life, if you emailed me, you probably need to text me if you want me to see it. And I dont really listen to my VM unless I am calling, say contractors for a home project or am applying for jobs.

      For the OP, there is no need to call back numbers you dont recognize if they dont leave a VM.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        I don’t know why you don’t listen to VM. I have an iPhone, and the VM actually does a VM to text, so I don’t even have to call anything. It just shows up in my VM as text, so I can read it quickly and determine if it was a real person or spammer, and call the person back.
        Somehow texting feels more personal than VM. I wouldn’t text a random person who didn’t know me even if I needed something from them, but I’d leave a VM and hope they’d call me back.

    2. Curious*

      How do you deal with spammers/spoofers? Given that most guidance is to not answer unknown numbers. Hangup quickly once you realize it’s a robo call?

      1. Daffy Duck*

        If I don’t recognize the number I don’t pick up. Friends know I tend to screen calls. If it is from someone I want to talk to I pick up; and if it ends up being a spammer hang up as fast as possible.

    3. Annony*

      I think that is common for sales, especially if commission is involved. A missed call could be someone interested in buying and is worth the time to call back and see. In other jobs, calling them back just means spending time on something that won’t affect your pay.

    4. Quill*

      I wonder how this will change as boomers age?

      I’ve found that increasingly people in their 50’s 60’s in my life who may start to experience hearing or auditory processing loss suddenly learn to love texting and IM’s. Whereas younger Millennials have always been “text first” since our formative experiences with phones are that they’re devices you check in secret because they’re ‘not allowed’ at school.

    5. Curmudgeon in California*

      I’m a boomer who does voicemail and text. I hate talking on the phone, though. Still, if you want to talk to me, leave a message. Unless I have your number in my contacts, I won’t answer a phone call. Too many spammers/scammers/spoofers.

  10. Beth*

    OP1: It sounds like you’re feeling pressured to reach out to your ex despite feeling uncomfortable with the idea because the position is hard to fill and on paper he technically meets the requirements. Please consider that one of the hidden requirements for being eligible for a position under you is the ability to integrate into your team and take direction from you without it being weird, stressful, complicated, or otherwise problematic. It sounds like your ex solidly doesn’t meet that requirement! The best you guys have managed since your breakup is ‘cordial for short periods of time,’ not ‘chill with one another on a daily basis.’ That history makes him a bad for a position under your leadership, no matter what technical skills he might have. Go with your gut and leave him in your past.

    1. valentine*

      you’re feeling pressured to reach out to your ex despite feeling uncomfortable with the idea because the position is hard to fill and on paper he technically meets the requirements.
      And possibly because he was unemployed and you want to help him.

      1. Amy Sly*

        I’m thinking there might be some of this motivation here. After all, what could prove to yourself that you’re truly over the relationship than helping him like this?

        That’s not a bad desire. I just highly recommend that she try to get it out of her system by networking him into a job … somewhere else.

    2. Chili*

      Yes, it seems like LW is taking the request to tap their network a little bit too much to heart. Your company isn’t expecting you to personally fill this role at any cost, they just know there’s some likeliness people already working for them in this area probably are friendly with potential candidates. They don’t expect you to try and rehabilitate your relationship with an ex so he can fill the job. In fact, if you were to tell someone this plan, they would likely discourage you from doing this: there is so much potential for this to go sideways!

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If I were the other hiring manager, I’d write it off as a “weakness” that this applicant is only marginally cordial with someone on my staff — even if it wasn’t for a serious relationship!

    4. Artemesia*

      Another factor is that she works off site and he would be working at the base. Perfect place to build an empire and undermine her position and authority. This hire would be inviting doom. Maybe not — but always a risk that is not low.

  11. Heidi*

    Re: OP5. When I got my phone, I used to get a lot of calls asking for Ricky. This Ricky was quite a character, because it was always debt collectors and such. For some reason, they found it very hard to believe that they had the wrong number or that Ricky had changed phone numbers. It’s fine to ignore the missed calls without voicemail and block the people looking for Betty.

    1. Enough*

      I had this, too. I even got a call from his attorney. Fortunately everyone was fine when I told them William didn’t have this number anymore. But after a while the calls turned into you have qualified for a loan of $1500. Thankfully I haven’t gotten these for a few years.

      1. Leslie Knope*

        A business I used to work at had the former phone number of someone who had a LOT of debt. I was constantly fielding phone calls from debt collectors and they never believed we were a business and not “John Owesalot.” It went on for several years and then finally fizzled out, but was very annoying when I was busy.

        1. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

          Same here! I think in our case, the debtor had worked for a company with a similar name, and the debt collector was convinced I was covering for “my boss.”

          After I began consistently telling them I was going to report them to the cops for harassment, it died down, fortunately.

    2. Lost in the Woods*

      Prior to me acquiring it, my phone number seems to have been utilized as a fax, so for a very long time I got faxes on my cell phone (they come in as a series of long beeps), from such varied businesses as Bank of America, a stationary shop, and a local Chuck-E-Cheese. (I remain desperate to know what the prior owner of my number did) This taught me at a pretty young age that picking up all phone calls would only result in a disappointing series of beeps. Unless OP works in an industry with very different norms they are completely fine, and should definitely block the people looking for Betty. Without blocking, I would still be getting 10-20 cell phone faxes a day.

      1. Anonymouse*

        The prior owner was using the stationery to print counterfeit money (Bank of America) and counterfeit Chuck E. Cheese coupons.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        My mom’s landline used to get faxes every so often, and the person was quite insistent, so it’d be numerous “calls” in a short period. One day my mom left the phone off the hook for a while and a woman came on asking that she get off the line because she was trying to send a fax. Mom told her there was no fax machine there so she should check her number. The woman hung up without saying anything else.

        1. Construction Safety*

          A lot of fax machines have an “Auto-Redial” feature that can be REALLY annoying if it’s not a fax number they’re calling.

        2. Lost in the Woods*

          This was a huge issue for me; I’d get five attempts from the same fax number in a row cause of the auto-resend. I’d have a full mailbox every day which actually made it impossible for real people to leave messages. It was super aggravating.

      3. Nanani*

        I used to get FAX calls to my office number, back when I still worked in an office.
        The office FAX line was a different number but for some reason mine rang with a lot of them.
        The machines always called back 3 times so I’d warn the rest of the team that it was going to be ringing for a FAX again.

      4. EvilQueenRegina*

        Way back when I was still a temp before being taken on permanently, back in 2005, one of the extensions in the department I was in then was 0870. I am in the UK, and 0870 is a code for premium rate numbers, and a lot of companies had these numbers. We used to get a LOT of people who forgot to dial 9 for an outside line, would come through to us in error and then wonder why I couldn’t do anything about their partner’s unpaid phone bill.

        We also had a lot of people who forgot to use the 9 for an outside line on their faxes, so it wasn’t unusual to answer that number and get the bleeps of an incoming fax. The only way we could stop these from constantly bugging us was to divert these calls to the actual fax machine on reception, so they used to get who knows what rubbish coming through. It eventually got to the point where the extension 0870 was retired.

        Another time in another department, the entire building (and my team, who had actually left that building several years earlier but still got their emails) got this email in RED SHOUTY CAPITALS saying “Whoever is faxing London, please stop. 0208 is a PHONE extension in Building X!”

    3. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      My cell phone number is the same as a local business (our city has about 4 different area codes). I don’t get them often, but every once in awhile, I’ll get calls for the business. I just tell them oh, that’s a (insert area code) number, you called (my area code). Most people are pretty nice about it. I also used to get voicemails obviously meant for them. It helped when I actually set up my voicemail to say “you have reached MY NAME cell phone, please leave a message” instead of the generic “you have reached .” Oh the joys of phones. But no, you don’t need to call a number back if they don’t leave a message.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        I went through a couple of weeks of updating my voicemail, starting at “This is Jamoche” and ending with “This is Jamoche. There is no Jenny here, you have the wrong number. There has never been a Jenny here. I cannot give Jenny any messages because I do not know who she is.” because each of the shorter versions just got a “well, can you (whatever it was I then added to the next message.)”

        1. saf*

          My cell phone number is very close to what used to be the FTC Fair Credit Reporting Office. My message made it very clear that I was NOT that office. People left me all kinds of messages, often including their SSNs!

      2. SweetestCin*

        My personal cellphone is similar to that of a pharmacy 100 miles away from me. The last two numbers are inverted. That leads to some interesting messages. My VM says “This is SweetestCin, NOT XYZ Pharmacy. I am not a Pharmacist, nor can I assist you with your medication needs.”

        My employer owned cellphone, well, I get all sorts of very interesting phone calls for the prior user. Debt collections, process servers, etc. Typically a “this number is owned by company name, if you need to reach Joe Dokes, you might try contacting our HR department to see if he left forwarding information, but I do not know it and do not know him but by reputation” works.

      3. Queen Anon*

        Back in the early 90s, when cellphones were basically bricks and few people had them, there was a family whose landline number was almost identical to the local Domino’s. I accidentally called them once when ordering pizza and their answering machine picked up. The message was basically “This isn’t Dominoes. This is the Smith family residence. If you want to speak with one of the Smiths, please leave a message and we’ll call back. If you’re trying to order pizza, please call 555-1234.” I imagine they were thrilled a few years later when that Domino’s closed and they could answer their phone again.

        1. Queen Anon*

          Forgot to add that this was near a sizeable university so they probably got too many pizza calls a week to handle without using their a answering machine.

        2. New Job So Much Better*

          My mom grew up with a phone # one digit off from a local cab company, so they were inundated with drunks calling for cabs in the middle of the night. And that was back before answering machines or other technology. She said they eventually started telling them they’d be there soon to pick them up… then went back to bed.

      4. Turquoisecow*

        My husband’s phone as a kid was very similar to a nearby specialty shop. People refused to believe him when he said he wasn’t the shop so he started telling the customers what they wanted to hear. “Yes, we have that item in stock!”

        Then an hour or so later he’d get another call because the person had gone to the shop and the item wasn’t in stock and the actual employees didn’t know who the customer had spoken to on the phone.

    4. WS*

      When I moved house and got a new landline, I always got asked for Maryanne, and (being from a small town) I did actually know Maryanne and where she’d gone! But I wasn’t passing that on to random callers, so I let her know that people were looking for her at her old number. She obviously wasn’t interested in telling them, though, because they kept calling until I got rid of that line.

    5. tommy*

      I got a series of increasingly desperate voicemails — like seven on the same day, each more worried than the last, going late into the night — to come pick up my kids. :(

      I don’t have kids. I don’t know why Nadia (the person they thought they were reaching) hadn’t given their new number to the person caring for the kids. I was worried about everyone in that situation. When I heard the messages (I had been away from my phone) I did eventually text to let them know I wasn’t Nadia.

      1. K*

        Oh dear. I hope they eventually reached Nadia.

        When I lived in France I used to get calls from someone that always started “Allô Nadège?” in an urgent tone of voice. Nadège is the French version of Nadia! It was always from the same person, who sounded as if French wasn’t her first language either, but (sadly) neither was English. As I did eventually make it clear that I wasn’t Nadège, but the calls kept coming until I moved back to the UK and changed my number, I can only assume she habitually miskeyed the number.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          When my state went to dialing “1” in front of a long-distance number inside our area code, some people complained. I cheered because I knew I’d get fewer calls for “Terry” who lived halfway across the state on the edge of the area that got the new area code. It worked.

      2. Mill Miker*

        I once got a voicemail like that from someone’s doctor, with some urgent-sounding test results. It was on an actual answering machine on a line without caller id or voicemail, in the middle of a block of messages (so no star-whatever to call back), and the person leaving the message only referred to themselves as “your doctor’s office” and left no return number. I really really hope they got that sorted out in the end.

      3. Risha*

        I used to have a job in South Carolina where my office phone number except area code (803) was identical to the city visitor’s/convention center’s 800 number. The state is relevant because South Carolina used to only have one area code, so a good sized percentage of the population was in the habit of dialing without the area code, or in the case of one particularly memorable call I picked up, had never heard of 1-800- numbers. I received calls for them all day long. I never returned the voicemails, but I made an exception for when a large church(?) group of mostly consisting of small children was stranded without money or luggage at the airport. I got their voicemail in return, so I just hope that means they eventually got through to someone who could help.

    6. Harper the Other One*

      At one point my sister lived in a city with many Chinese immigrants, and she somehow ended up with a landline number that used to belong to the Chinese consulate! After months of getting messages in Mandarin from people overseas (because the incoming callers couldn’t understand her English message saying that she wasn’t the consulate) she had to recruit a friend to record a voice mail message for her. I remember she was so worried during that time that someone would be calling with an urgent issue.

    7. hbc*

      We didn’t have crossed numbers, but my husband had a debt collection agency thinking he had tracked down Ed Smith. Which he had, but turns out that Edgar Smith and Edward Smith are two different people, despite the same nickname. We always managed to convince the particular caller/collector eventually, but three months later, we’d pop up on their list again. There were…words…the last time that must have finally convinced them to find the right flag in their system.

      1. Artemesia*

        my husband has a name as common as Ed Smith (there are thousands with the name and so they have the ‘right’ name, just the wrong guy) and we have battled persistent debt callers several times over the years as collection agencies just go through the listings and call everyone by a certain name and bully them. They won’t agree to stop because they don’t care if they inconvenience you. Once I would convince them he was not THAT Ed Smith, we would get a break for a few months and then they would start in again as the paper was sold further down the line of collectors. That was when we stopped answering the phone and had an answering machine. We could rush and pick up if it were a friend or colleague. Then they started calling our number for ‘Juana’ — no one we knew and no one had lived their previously. We just ignored those as our good deed for Juana as payback for the collectors who had harassed us because my husband has a common name.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Argh. My father’s name is something that’s “John Smith” level of common (back in the days of phone books, there were more than 10 of them in the local phone book). We once had a “fun” situation with debt collectors one summer when I was home from college and living with him while also taking summer evening classes.

          Every morning, he’d go off to work. Around 8 or 9 am, the house phone would ring, wake me up, and an aggressive person on the line would insist they needed to speak to John Smith and only John Smith, and that they couldn’t give me any information since I was not John Smith. I’d refuse to give out his work number but write down a callback number.

          Every evening, he’d call them and they couldn’t find his file, because they needed John A. Smith, SSN 555-55-5555, and they’d called John B. Smith, SSN 222-22-2222. He couldn’t get anything sensible out of them on the phone or find any way to get them to stop calling.

          This went on for weeks, regularly causing me to be woken out of a sound sleep because I’d optimized my sleep schedule around my class schedule, so I was getting up around noon so the classes would hit early enough in my “day” that I wouldn’t fall asleep during them, then doing my homework in the middle of the night after my classes. (This was back in the days of landlines that rang loudly enough to wake up the entire house.)

          They finally managed to call when he was home and took him off the list, but it was the most obnoxious and dysfunctional phone situation I’ve ever had to deal with, since they basically had no plan for our situation. This with a name pair so common that I personally know two of them just in our town (who are not related to each other), and there’s so many of them that it’s extremely foreseeable that if all you have is a first/last name match it’s not your John Smith.

          He also has gone through periods when no one would take his checks because some John Smith in town was writing bad checks, but this modern age of credit/debit cards seems to have solved that problem.

    8. MissedCalls*

      OP5 here!!
      Betty is also quite a character, but in the sense that they live a very luxurious life near Vegas! My number is from Michigan, and not even close to resembling a Nevada area code near Vegas, which was weird to me.
      I was getting angry calls, but then also texts for cosmetic surgery appt reminders, very very sweet family holiday texts, and even a job offer as an addiction psychologist for $300,000/year! I responded to that text saying that although I am not who you are looking for, I would gladly change my major if he held that job for me. Luckily, he found it amusing and apologized for the wrong number.
      It’s slowed significantly since I finally started answering and telling them I wasn’t who they thought, but blocking also sounds like a good idea.

    9. Bagpuss*

      Probably because claiming the debtor isn’t there or it’;s no longer their number is quite common when people are trying to evade paying their debts.
      When I was a student, we used to get bailiffs and debt collectors calling at out house quite frequently as our landlords never paid their debts.

      They were a;ways very polite, but they did not accept t face value being told “Ricky” doesn’t live here (in the end, we made a photocopy of our tenancy agreement and redacted our own names and home addresses, and used to show them that, and give them the address of the agency we rent through. Chatting to some of the debt collectors they told us that people will pretend to be someone else, or get someone else to answer their door / phone to try to avoid speaking to the debt collecting agency.

      But people are also very weird about updating their contact information. When I bought my current house, and when I bought my previous home, it quickly became apparent that the previous owners had not updated any of their contact details. With the last house I was getting their bank statements, setters from their GP, letters from their wedding planner and all sorts. Since they hadn’t left a forwarding address I just marked it all as ‘RTS’ and after the first year started binning it, but it always seemed bizarre to me.

      With the current house, on the day I got the keys the old owner told me they would pop by and pick up post periodically. I told them I wasn’t comfortable with that but that if they gave me a forwarding address I was quite happy to forward stuff for a few months until they had updated every one with their new address. They didn’t want to give me their forwarding address so after 3 weeks I took a bag of post and gave it to their estate agents (realtor?) . It’s 6 years since I moved and I am still getting mail from one bank for them,.

      1. Paulina*

        I’ve had debtors and even the police call me by mistake, but it wasn’t a wrong phone number — they were looking for someone with the same (common) name.

        My last apartment building has an intercom system that links to residents’ phone numbers. It was very flaky when I lived there, and often didn’t connect properly to my phone. Even when it worked, it was somewhat confusing because it wasn’t clear to me that the call was the intercom, while the person calling didn’t know that it wasn’t clear that he was in the lobby. However, after I moved out, for the next 18 or so months I would occasionally get a call from this system. (Intermittent — I think the building manager went back to the old number when resetting the system.) People would call and ask for Dave, I would tell them it was a wrong number (Dave’s not here!), they would be very confused since they were at the building (not making a phone call)…. the last time it was pizza delivery, so I just let them in to go knock on his door. And tell him to get his number updated.

      2. Triumphant Fox*

        YES!!! we have three former residents who still get what looks like important mail sent to us 3 years later. No amount of return to sender or updating the post office has worked.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          A previous owner of the house we live is is dead and we still got her mail for the longest time. Some of it looked important (government benefits kind of important!) and after putting Return to Sender on it for years, we finally just started writing RTS: Deceased on it. That stopped everything but the junk mail.

      3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        The lady who used to own my house was an exotic dancer and she was incorporated.

        I was guessing about the first part of that when I first moved in, based on the dozen pairs of feather-and-sequin-covered size 5 six-inch stiletto heels she left in boxes in my master bedroom closet. (I ended up taking them to Goodwill, because my feet are not compatible with either size 5 or six-inch heels.)

        The second part, I discovered two weeks after I moved in when I was bringing in the mail, flipping through it in the driveway and I came across an envelope from the state department of revenue, addressed to My Tits, LLC. I stood there in the driveway for a solid two minutes gaping at it before I came in, handed it to my housemates and went “What is even my LIFE.” Ever since then, I sporadically get all manner of nonsense addressed to My Tits, ranging from official state bureaux and IRS communications (which I RTS) to like, U-Line catalogs (which I just threw away).

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          (But Facebook has finally, thank $deity, stopped asking me if I want to check in at My Tits while sitting in my living room.)

      4. NapkinThief*

        Oh man, people are SO weird about updating! As a bank employee, I often get complaints from customers that they haven’t gotten their checks/new debit card/statements. 9 times out of ten they moved but never updated their contact information. And somehow it still is our fault. Facepalm.gif

    10. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      When I first got a land line for my house, I got a lot of calls for, let’s say Graham Choudhury. There is nothing about me that suggests that is my name. Most callers did not believe this.

    11. Salsa Your Face*

      Oh god, that just reminded me of something that happened in my childhood! Our home phone number was very repetitive–it was the kind of number that someone who was making up a phone number might invent. Well, we suddenly started getting threatening phone calls looking for “Mr. Kissel.” Apparently he owed someone money. A lot of money. And the people he owed it to didn’t really care that we didn’t know anything about the situation. We stopped answering the phone and let the answering machine screen our calls for us, but the calls continued for months. We got the police involved, but the people calling never got too explicit in the messages they left so there wasn’t anything that could be done. The calls eventually stopped on their own, but it was a scary few months for us.

    12. Sled dog mana*

      My parents home number is the same as the local lawyer’s office with two digits reversed (so parents are 555-2835 and lawyer is 555-2853). So many calls looking for the lawyers office, fortunately they don’t handle criminal law so most people are very polite about having the wrong number. The best time was my dad accidentally calling home when he was trying to call the lawyer, he sounded so surprised.

    13. Cog in the Machine*

      I think favorite/ least favorite wrong numbers are the ones where I answer and tell the caller that they’ve got the wrong number, and then they call again multiple times after that.
      My cell number must be somewhat similar to a doctor’s office, because a lady kept calling trying to schedule an appointment. I ended up blocking her number after the third time she called me and wouldn’t listen when I told her she was calling a private number and she sent me a very rude text.

    14. LunaLena*

      The calls for Betty remind me of the time I constantly got calls and texts for “Barbara,” all from men who insisted they’d met me at a bar and I gave them my number. One called multiple times and wouldn’t give up until I had my now-husband answer the phone. I eventually realized that “Barbara” must be giving out a fake number to guys in bars and just happened to be giving out mine. I wanted to find out who she was myself so I could tell her to stop, especially since it went on for over a year. Moral of the story: if you’re going to give out a fake number, please make sure it’s not someone’s actual number! One radio morning show I used to listen to got a call from a guy who was given the number by a girl in a bar, so maybe find a number like that (he and the DJs had a laugh together when they realized what happened).

      1. 1234*

        When I was around 16 or 17, I got my first cell phone. A woman (sounded way older than I was at the time) named Joanie kept calling my number for Perry and leaving voicemails when I was in school. I remember one of them said “I don’t know where you are…” I started to recognize her number and picked up one time and told her she had the wrong number. She said “sorry” and I hung up. I figured the voicemails would stop. They didn’t.

        This was back in the late 90s/early 00s when people first got cell phones and my parents would get us yearly or 2 year contracts and not renew them because a competitor would have a better deal. Back then, we couldn’t bring our phone number over to the new carrier so I had to change my number so I never ended up knowing if Joanie moved on with her life or if she ever reconnected with Perry. Part of me thinks Perry changed his number to get away from Joanie. She used to leave very detailed voicemails…

      2. tangerineRose*

        There was an episode of the TV show Mom, where Bonnie Plunkett told a wrong number caller that she used to give the phone number of a pizza place when she gave a fake number. That way, at least the guy could get a pizza.

  12. Cedrus Libani*

    Re: #4…I’ve honestly never understood the culture-thing where if someone asks you to be a reference, and you agree, you have obligated yourself to be 110% supportive no matter what. Even on here, I see this repeatedly – usually in the form of “Thankfully Fergus didn’t ask if I would be a reference, so I could tell the truth”. Fergus got fired for pooping in the chocolate grinder, and yet if he’d only asked for a reference, he would have gotten one that made him sound like a model employee. I don’t get it.

    If I’m asked for a reference, I’m going to tell the truth. I can tell the truth about multiple people, and simply trust the hiring manager to figure out what qualities are most important to the position. And I certainly don’t put my reputation on the line for any Fergus who asks me to. Am I just missing something?

    1. valentine*

      the culture-thing where if someone asks you to be a reference, and you agree, you have obligated yourself to be 110% supportive no matter what.
      If you don’t have mentors who say otherwise, TV can have you believing reference is synonymous with recommendation.

      Fergus got fired for pooping in the chocolate grinder
      There’s an argument to be made there.

      1. doreen*

        I actually work in an agency where references are irrelevant, but recommendations are used for everything from choosing who to send to a training course with limited spots to promotions above a certain level. And because it’s a recommendation, there is typically a limit – I might be asked to recommend up to two people for an upcoming training or one for a promotion ,although I would never choose based on first come, first served. But the whole thing works very differently than references – starting with the fact that people don’t ask others for recommendations , they express an interest in training or a promotion to their supervisor and typically don’t inquire if hte supervisor is going to recommend them

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        “reference is synonymous with recommendation.” I think this is it right here. If getting a job feels like running for office (trying to stand out from other candidates, lobby on your own behalf to prove you’re the best person for the job, etc.), they think a reference is like a vote, and obviously the manager can only vote for one person for the job.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I think that when someone asks if you’re willing to be a reference, they are often implicitly asking if you can be a good (or a least decent) reference. And a lot of people, when asked, would speak up if they couldn’t be a good reference (ie, if what they would say is, basically, “don’t hire this person”). It really, really sucks to find out that the person who has agreed to be a reference for you is telling prospective employers to not hire you, and it can take years of unemployment before you figure out why you’re getting interviews but never hired.

      I do, however, think it’s perfectly acceptable to be a reference for more than one person. In most cases, you simply answer questions honestly and independent of the other applicants. I certainly don’t think it’s fair to only give a reference for the first person who asks, regardless of competence.

      1. Willis*

        Yeah, this. You aren’t (or shouldn’t be) expected to lie on someone’s behalf. But it’s reasonable to expect that if you have nothing positive to say about them, you’d decline the request to serve as a reference. Now, if Fergus lists you without asking or a reference checker finds you on their own, by all means, regale them with the poop stories.

        1. Knitter*

          I had someone who asked me to be a reference and I declined (in the meeting when he quit before he was fired but had started as essentially a PIP meeting). He still listed me as a reference. I just didn’t return the reference checkers calls.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            Oof, I don’t know if I’d ignore the calls or call back to say something like “I’m sorry, I’m not sure why Fergus gave you my number because I can’t provide a reference for him.” I feel like ignoring the calls might make potential employers think that you just didn’t get back to them, not that you didn’t want to give a reference.

            1. Antilles*

              The last part is exactly correct – not returning the calls is MUCH less damaging to Fergus’ chances than a call-back where you decline to be a reference. The former is just “oh well, maybe you’re on vacation or unavailable or just bad at calling people back” – I’d ask Fergus for another name, but as long as he provided one quickly and that reference was positive, I’d just write it off as whatever. But directly calling back and declining immediately* makes me assume that you must have something negative to say and just don’t feel right saying anything.
              *Unless you specifically say something like “well, I’m sorry, but company policy forbids us from ever providing references on former employees”, in which case, I’d be aggravated at your company’s dumb policy but not at Fergus himself. Though I’d still get back to Fergus and ask if maybe he knew any people from that job who no longer work there and thereby are available to chat.

          2. Person from the Resume*

            Do a good deed for the potential employer trying to check referenced. Be a reference. Tell them he quit while on a PIP for X reasons. All you have to do is tell the truth.

      2. Massmatt*

        So they shouldn’t ask for a reference from the manager that fired them (as above) for pooping in the chocolate grinder.

        Or maybe they have some other glaring issue in their job history or interviews that is holding them up. It’s not 2009, in many areas of the country There is a labor shortage for skilled jobs. I have to think there is an issue if this goes on for YEARS in this economy. Is this interviewee answering questions with “yes, toots”?

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Right, asking someone if they’ll be a reference means “can you be a good reference for me?” The expectation is that you’ll decline if you cannot.

        1. Oxford Comma*

          I have encountered more than a few people who will go ahead and agree to be a reference and then tank that individual. Based on that, I have always explicitly asked if the person can provide a good reference.

          I’m in academia and I’ve been asked to be a reference by more than one applicant who is applying for the same job. It’s quite normal in our field. You don’t compare candidates and when they call for references, they usually ask all their questions about Candidate A and then all their questions about Candidate B.

        2. Jedi Squirrel*

          I once mentored an intern where I was required to give a reference. (Public education, lots of bureaucracy, my recommendation that they repeat the internship fell on deaf ears.)

          Those were some uncomfortable phone conversations, to be sure.

      4. Jennifer*

        I agree. I don’t think someone is obligated to give a positive reference just because I asked. However, if I asked you to give a reference that means that I think that we have a good working relationship and that you like me, at least on a professional level. If that’s not the case, I’d like a heads up. Plus I’m basing this opinion on positive feedback and annual reviews, so if you secretly hated me the entire time we worked together but never spoke up, that’s an extra layer of weird.

      5. Sparrow*

        I also want to clarify that this racing-to-get-a-reference thing sounds like it’s unique to OP’s organization. I’ve spent my career in the higher ed field at a variety of institutions, and I’ve never seen this happen. And I agree, there’s no real reason for a manger to limit themselves to speaking about only one employee.

    3. Beth*

      I mean, if someone has asked you to be a reference for them, I think it’s generally implied that they mean “a good reference”. It doesn’t mean you have to be over-the-top enthusiastic or pretend they have absolutely no flaws (that invariably comes off as fake), but if you have serious reservations or can’t give them a generally positive recommendation, you really should let them know.

      If someone puts you down as a reference without talking to you first, of course, all bets are off; that’s one reason it’s important to check in with your references before putting a potential employer in contact with them.

    4. Asenath*

      I don’t really think that asking for a reference means expecting a universally positive one, at least not in my area and my experience. I always tried to ask someone I thought knew me well and liked my work, and I’d have hoped that if I picked wrong, I’d get the “Well, I think you should ask someone else who knows your work better/has worked with you more recently” answer. When I reviewed a lot of other people’s references, I did come across one or two that said something like “Luna is bright and hardworking, but her strengths probably suit her for some other role than llama grooming.”

    5. hbc*

      I always assume someone is asking me to be a positive reference, so I say “Yes, but…” for the ones where I won’t be able to speak positively in the roles I assume they’re going for, and I ask everyone to give me a heads up on the particular job they’re going for. That way, Fergus is warned “Yes, but I’ll be mentioning the grinder incident when asked about how you handle stress or why you left,” and I can bow out if my excellent welder is applying to be CFO somewhere.

    6. epi*

      I can sort of understand how OP 4’s old situation could occur in higher ed (and a few other places) though. It sounds like these are internal jobs that exist in every department and that multiple people would be qualified for. Something like an admin or a research coordinator. In that situation, their supervisor really would know who is likely to be the best candidate for that job, and may even manage someone else in a similar role already. The alternative is that people in this department regularly applied for jobs that made no sense for them.

      My experience with references is similar to others’ here, I don’t expect my reference not to be candid but I do expect them to tell me if they don’t think they can give a generally positive reference at all. I really would not appreciate it if I asked my boss for a reference based on our good work together, and the substance of their reference turned out to be, “epi is great but really, her coworker Sheena who also applied is a better fit”. Now the effect of the reference for me is negative enough that I’d have expected and preferred to be told to just ask someone else. But as a supervisor, no one would want to get pushed into giving an employee feedback that compares them directly to their peers, just because an internal opportunity opened up.

      There is probably a smarter way to handle it, but I can see how it could happen.

    7. Tapdancing Loaf of Bread*

      OP4 here: To clarify, the situation above assumed that if you were asking for a reference, you were asking for a positive reference.

      In general I agree that if you are asking for a reference, you are asking if the person can provide you a positive reference. If they cannot provide a positive reference for me, I would want them to decline my request. I definitely appreciate that in extreme cases (such as pooping in the chocolate grinder!) you’d kind of want to pass that info along to the next manager – but I think the chocolate-grinder-pooper would find it hard to get positive references in general, and that might be a sufficient consequence.

      ps. CHOCOLATE GRINDER?! Oh my, why have I not previously considered that I could have a chocolate grinder in my life?

  13. RG*

    OP #5: Nice try, Betty! But seriously though, given the obnoxious rise in spam calls, you get a pass for not answering unknown numbers as far as I’m concerned.

  14. Elva B.*

    I find it irritating when people call me back when I didn’t ask them to. It’s as if you knocked on your neighbor’s door to borrow an egg, but they weren’t home: you don’t want them ringing your doorbell hours later demanding to know why you knocked earlier. If I need a callback, I’ll leave a voicemail or a text saying so.

    1. Willis*

      Me too. I have a few friends where a missed calls carries an implied “just calling to catch up,” and I’ll return those without a vm and am not annoyed if they do the same. But an unknown business contact? If I didn’t leave you a message or send you an email, I don’t need you anymore and I don’t want to deal with your call back. Also, the “I have a missed call from this number” greeting always comes off to me like more of a demand to know why I was calling them.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I cannot stand the “someone called me from this number”, especially since it’s usually because I got the wrong number. Dude, if I want you, I will leave a message or call you back! I once got one of those calls and I hadn’t even called that number, yet he kept insisting. Ugh.

        1. Michelle*

          Oh I get those on my work line all the time. 100 people work here so if you don’t have a name, there’s not a lot I can do to help you! If they don’t have a name I ask if they are expecting a call from our company or do they know someone from our company and if they say no, I say I guess they will have to call you back.

    2. QueenoftheCats*

      90% of the time, I don’t callback from numbers that don’t leave voicemails and I don’t know who they are. However, I recently did callback such a number because I got a funny feeling that I needed to. I reached a voicemail of a business. I said, “Hey, I don’t know if you meant to call me, but if you did, you can call me back at…”

      I get back home and check my email. Turns out the person who called was finalizing my mortgage and just just doesn’t bother leaving voicemail messages.

    3. MissedCalls*

      OP5 here,
      I find it irritating as well, yet I have met almost a significant amount of people in general life, and work life, that will return the call. As the other comment’s mentioned, it seems intrusive and demanding and unnecessary??
      If it is a friend or number I recognize, I’ll return.
      Otherwise, especially with the cleverness of these spam callers, I can’t risk returning the call. Their skill has improved so much that like the UK comment, charges could incur or even they could get into my network and get information! It’s scary out there now.

  15. Mommy.MD*

    I don’t answer unknown caller or call back. If it’s important enough they’ll leave a message.

    When I got the phone number I have now Honda Finance left a message my car was going to be repossessed. I was paying off a Honda. I called in a slight panic and said I’ve never missed a payment in my life. If was for the deadbeat previous owner of my number.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Mr. Gumption’s work phone had a deadbeat prior owner whose name, as far as we could decipher, was “Curtis Furbear”. 10ish years worth of blocking this dude’s collection calls. Worst part is given the nature of his job, Mr. Gumption has to answer unknown numbers since he is the regional point of contact for his company.

      1. Bubbles*

        My husband’s first cell phone number happened to previously belong to someone with a similar name. Hubby’s middle name and a generic last name like “Smith”. Collectors called all of the time assuming he was related. Even after spending significant time explaining the situation, some asshole collector linked my hubby’s credit report to deadbeat. We ended up tossing the number, I got a second phone on my account (which was still technically my parent’s business account) and he used that for several years until we ported them to our own account. And yes, asshole collector was reported for illegal practices.

  16. Zeeb*

    OP 5 – I don’t know if this just a UK thing, but there’s a scam where a number will call a mobile phone then immediately hang up so it shows up as a missed call. When you call the number back to see who it was it’s a premium line so the caller will be charged quite a lot. Definitely a good reason not to call back when there’s no message!

    1. Duke Flapjack*

      Supposedly it’s going on in the States too. Like most phone scams it seems to affect the elderly primarily. They are one of the few groups of people who seem to actually call back missed calls.

    2. Zephy*

      That’s one of the oldest phone scams out there – back when “calling long-distance” (or internationally!) was a premium service that cost a lot of money, it was common to trick people into making such calls. I’m not sure how the scammers benefited, exactly, but it was definitely a thing. My grandmother still has a newspaper clipping from goodness knows how long ago up on her fridge, warning people that if you have a missed call from any of these numbers, don’t call them back!! They’ll leave a message claiming to be the IRS or a family member in trouble, but it’s a trick to get you to rack up crazy long-distance charges!!

    3. nonegiven*

      DH is sometimes getting a call from ‘unavailable,’ which he doesn’t answer. Then immediately another call from ‘restricted’ which he also doesn’t answer, they never leave a message. He doesn’t have to answer for work anymore so he doesn’t. He says it has happened several times, in the same sequence.

  17. Massmatt*

    Both 1 and 4 seem to have issues with finding enough qualified candidates . Maybe they are in an isolated area or looking for VERY specific skills, but in either case they probably need to widen the search, increase the pay, or both.

    Or look to see if your organization has a poor reputation—check turnover, Glassdoor, market rates, etc. Looking to hire unemployed exes is probably not the best solution

    It sounds dumb, but someone going on and on to me about not getting any good candidates had not updated the salary since they last posted for the position. ELEVEN years ago! Well duh.

    1. irene adler*

      Or they should consider training for the skills they need. Find someone who is trainable and has some of the skills needed for the position. Then train them for the remaining skills.

      Yes, this takes time to complete. But so does waiting for that perfect candidate to show up.

  18. Eng*

    5 – Oh, Betty! I don’t get phone calls for Betty, but I do get a lot of mail for Betty many months after moving in. Important stuff, if the senders are anything to go by. Please update your contact info, Bettys of the world!

    1. Asenath*

      I almost never return missed calls due to the scam callers – the only exception is if I’m expecting a call from someone I don’t usually hear from, and even then I usually google the number to see if it’s right. I am meticulous about making sure there is space on my message manger – “voicemail box full” is very annoying to a caller.

      I’ve been getting calls for Leeann, apparently from friends and relatives, that still sometimes sneak through, and it’s been decades since they started. They’re always quite polite, and unlike the scammers who call me on a line I don’t have number blocking for, they call at reasonable hours, not very early in the morning. I think that scammer doesn’t understand time zones, and is located west of me. They can’t imagine they’re going to get a good response that early.

    2. Annie Moose*

      I recently got mail for Betty–three years after moving into my house!

      Betty, hon, PLEASE update your address!!

    3. ThatGirl*

      The previous owner of our house was a little old lady named Betty, and almost 8 years later we still occasionally get mail for her…

      1. Artemesia*

        We get tons of mail for someone who used to sometimes stay with the previous owner and apparently used her address and we get tons of junk mail addressed to our address in our realtor’s name. I used to RTS the mis-sent mail and if I get something for the former owner that looks actually important and personal I will do that, but the visitor’s stuff and anything else addressed to other people now goes into the bin.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I get mail for several rounds of previous owners of my house, and also at least one organization that I know the most recently previous owner also wasn’t likely to be in charge of (it’s a [specific ethnic group] business association type of org, and I met the previous owner and she was not of that ethnicity or in a line of business where it would make sense to join/run such an org). If the people who haven’t lived here for at least a decade would like to let Bi-Mart know they’ve moved, it would be appreciated, because I am tired of getting their coupon books every two weeks.

    4. That’s not Me.......*

      Yup – it’s been almost four years now since I moved into my home, and I’m still getting (important from the company) mail for the prior owner. I RTS what looks truly important – but most goes straight into the trash.

      I did call a few places after getting the same letter four times. One place was great and I got a person who understood that people move. The others, well they still send me mail – including what look like collection notices. If you refuse to help yourself I cannot help you either.

    5. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I get regular statements in the mail from Chase Bank for someone who I do not recognize the name. Which means they haven’t lived there in at least 13 years.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I still get the mail for the previous owners. This summer it will be ten years since I bought my house. The people I bought it from are retired and living on the opposite side of the country (assuming they are still alive… you never know) and I have no way of getting hold of them. I just assume that it’s all junk mail at this point and that they wouldn’t have wanted it anyway. Most of the mail I get for them is from Teamsters.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        This summer I got a wedding invitation addressed to the people who lived in my house before the exotic dancer I bought it from did. Which means they were inviting people who’s address they were at least eighteen years out of date on. I RTS’ed it, but there was definitely an internal mutter of “Gift grab!” as I did so. :P

    7. 1234*

      I’m guilty of being this “Betty.” I’m almost certain someone is still sending me mail to my old apartment.

      I’ve also gotten numerous letters addressed to the “Bobs” of this world too, something about his recalled BMW X5. But I’m not Bob, he doesn’t live here and I don’t own a BMW X5 so *shrug*

  19. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP3, Please accept as valid if the interviewee’s current job is the reason they’re rescheduling. For you, it shows you they’re reliable even when they’re job-hunting. For them, a chaotic job where emergencies come up or approved days off get rescinded may well be WHY they want to leave!
    (It would be completely fair to ask about it in the interview to be sure it was this sort of a situation.)

  20. Delta Delta*

    #2 & #4 together remind me of the Sopranos episode where Carmela pressured a high-powered Georgetown graduate to write a recommendation letter for Meadow. The person demurred, saying she could only recommend one person and had already written a letter, but relented when Carmela pressured her. A) It’s best to keep out of your kids’ professional lives and B) it’s ok to serve as a reference to multiple people.

    1. JM in England*

      I definitely agree with B).

      IMHO, all a reference has to do is give an objective account of their (former if applicable) employee’s work ethic, character etc. It’s then up to the hiring manager in how they use this information, regardless of the order in which it was received.

  21. Nee Attitude*

    #1, Whether your ex is potentially great at the job or awful at the job, once people learn that you recommended/hired your ex, they will judge you and your reputation will suffer.

    And I find it quite odd that you haven’t spoken to him for a year or more, and you cannot carry on a conversation, yet you think he’s OK to work a position you directly supervise. He’s not owed a job and you don’t owe him anything.

    In addition, this might be an excellent time to start developing your professional network.

  22. Nee Attitude*

    #5, Given that just about everyone has a smart phone these days, I think the etiquette surrounding missed calls from unknown numbers with no voicemail would be to just ignore them. If you talk with your acquaintances about this issue, you’ll probably learn that every person has experienced this on numerous occasions.

    It could be possible that attempts to contact “Betty“ are attempts to bait you with spam. It could also be that someone has used your number to avoid being contacted by unwanted callers. I have a VoIP number that doesn’t indicate that the caller has reached voicemail, so I’ve learned that some unknown callers were debt collection agencies and property repossessors concerned with a former roommate of mine from nearly a decade ago.

  23. Duke Flapjack*

    I keep my VM totally empty at all times and respond to them as quickly as I can.

    That being said, if you’re number is not in my contacts I WILL NEVER pick up and if you don’t leave a message I WILL NEVER call you back.

    My time is too important to play telephone tag with telemarketers or people who (apparently) don’t think the call is that important.

      1. hbc*

        I don’t understand this. No one who is in emergency need should be dialing any number but 911. And if there’s, say, a stroke on my shop floor and I’m calling the emergency contact of my employee (after calling 911), I will leave a message saying, “This is hbc, Fergus’s boss. He’s had a stroke and an ambulance is on the way.”

        There’s a delay of 2 minutes tops between that and answering the phone, and if you’re relying on that to be the difference for a known health problem, that’s the real issue.

        1. Chili*

          I don’t know for certain, but I’m guessing Fikly is referring to the fact a lot of medical offices won’t leave results over message and are ridiculous to play phone tag with. Additionally, if you’re seeing a lot of specialists, there’ll be a lot of unknown numbers calling you. If I miss a call from my doctor and call them back 2 minutes later, I get stuck on an endless directory with no people accessible that has me end up leaving a message. Then 3 days later that message is returned. If I miss that call by even a second, I go through the process again. If this is about a routine scan, it’s annoying but whatever. When it’s about your biopsy result, those 3-6 days of not knowing are extremely stressful.

          This is kind of a tangent from the subject at hand, but it does seem like the medical industry is an exception to the stated common rule that nobody expects you to answer a call from an unknown number anymore and that you only should call back if you receive a message. I think the medical industry needs to overhaul communication with its patients, but most current systems seem to skirt today’s normal etiquette rules.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            It makes sense that doctors won’t leave results over voicemail, but wouldn’t they at least say something like “this is the doctor calling and we have your results so call us back” or something? I feel like it would be very odd for a doctor to leave literally no message at all? I would definitely assume they were a telemarketer or a wrong number if they didn’t leave any message.

              1. Relentlessly Socratic*

                Yes, and you can also instruct them the best way to contact you and specify whether or not it’s okay to leave a detailed message.

                1. bluephone*

                  I tell every medical office I have to interact with that it’s best to call my cell phone (and I only give them my cell phone number), you can leave a detailed message even for test results (ESPECIALLY for negative test results), I swear I am the only person who will pick up that line so yes it’s private, etc etc etc

                  And yet none of them can be arsed to leave detailed messages, they insist on me making an appointment to go over (NEGATIVE) test results, they’re not sure if they have the right number (my outgoing VM greeting has my name), and they even manage to sometimes get my home phone number (thanks to poorly-maintained databases) and leave messages there.
                  Honestly, our healthcare system needs to be burned down and rebuilt from the ground up because sweet jesus marie

              2. Fikly*

                Yes, except that then leads to a series of 12 more phone calls where you attempt to actually reach a live person.

            1. Purple Jello*

              I once got a series of voicemails from a doctor’s office requesting I call in as soon as possible about my test results… But they had the wrong number in their files (mine) and never said the doctor’s name, so I couldn’t let them know. I wondered if their patient finally called them…

            2. Third or Nothing!*

              IDK about more specialized places, but my gyno’s office always leaves a voicemail stating who they are and why they’re calling. They don’t give results over the phone just like any other medical professional, but they do say something like “we have your results, please call us back at XXX-XXX-XXXX to discuss.”

          2. Observer*

            Maybe you should consider another doctor’s office. Seriously. If you can’t you CAN push back.

            Because it’s very possible and common for them to operate differently. Most larger practices (or ones affiliated with major medical systems) use a standard set of numbers for outgoing calls, so there is no reason why you doctor’s office should not be in your contacts if you want to operate in that way.

            Also, they can leave a message, they can make it possible for you to get your test results, and they can make returning messages a reasonably timely practice. Oh, and it’s becoming more and more common for test results to be posted on a portal so you can check whenever you want, but also to be able to send a message.

            I can’t speak to what “most” practices do, but although I’ve dealt with a number of practices (including some major medical systems), I’ve never encountered the kind of loop you are describing. Obviously, this is you experience and I can imagine how frustrating it is, but it’s far from universal.

            I’m also not saying that everyone MUST or even SHOULD use their phones the way Duke Flapjack does. But that kind of snarky slap down doesn’t really make much sense.

            1. Fikly*

              I have never had a major practice or hospital have a standard number. Every department (and sometimes each individual doctor) has their own number.

              I have 15+ specialists, multiple hospitals, various labs, testing departments, plus insurance, etc. If I am so lucky as to have an actual doctor or nurse calling, I had better answer that call, because if I miss it, it may take days before I get to the head of the queue again and they have a spare minute.

              1. Observer*

                Each doctor DOES have *A* number, though, no? So why can’t you put those numbers into your contacts?

                In any case, the fact that this would not work for you does not mean that no one else should do it this way, that it’s wrong to even MENTION it, or that no one else who has a lot of medical issues can operate this way.

                You either can’t or don’t want to operate that way. That’s fine. Honestly, no one really cares as long as you do what works for you and stop trying to shame others for having different specific circumstances.

                1. Fikly*

                  Because there’s 50+ of them, and they are ever changing?

                  And it’s not wrong to mention it. As I mention elsewhere, it was the “my time is too important” bit that got my back up. I’m not trying to shame them, I honestly think it is nice to not have health problems, but I wouldn’t know.

          3. That’s not Me.......*

            I’m one of those people calling from a medical office – also over VoIP without a voicemail box. I have had to sign a form at my office that states I CANNOT leave a voicemail on a non-secure line.

            What we do if we get a voicemail is say this is “Office” returning your call of blah day and time. We will attempt to reach you tomorrow. And for those upset that I’m not leaving a phone number, I’m sorry but because it’s VoIP, I don’t have VM. I have gone to adding that the person I am contacting can call back the line they left the VM originally with and give whatever missing information I need, but that is literally the most I am allowed to do because of information privacy regulations.

          4. ArtNova*

            But, my Dr’s office isn’t an unknown number. In fact, pretty much any professional that I interact with I will already have in my phone. AND most professional offices have their Caller ID info pre-programmed so that it pops up on people’s phones. So when you see a phone call from “My doctor’s office” instead of “Random doctor’s office”, you will probably feel pretty secure in answering your phone. When I got a phone call from the post-op team after my husband had surgery, the caller ID info was already there, “Major City Hospital.”

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        So… Duke Flapjack uses their phone differently than you do and has different preferences and needs, yet you feel the need to “at least it’s not cancer” them? Not cool. You can use your phone however you want, because it’s yours. But your way is not the only way.

          1. Observer*

            So? The fact that you don’t think that you can save time this way doesn’t mean that anyone else who can save time this way is somehow inferior or saving time at you.

            1. Fikly*

              So it’s my fault that I understood someone’s communication to mean something you do not think was meant?

      3. Washi*

        That’s pretty “not everyone can have sandwiches.” Duke Flapjack is stating what works for them, and it’s a pretty common position. They weren’t saying that everyone should do that, no exceptions.

      4. Miss Cheeks*

        If your doctors and specialists all call without leaving messages, I feel very sorry for you and would recommend finding other medical professionals to deal with.

        1. James*

          Seconded. At worst my doctors (I have 3 kids, plus a minor surgery and a cancer scare, so I’ve dealt with a lot of doctors in the past year!) have left a message saying “This is Dr. Feelbetter’s office, we have the results of your test and would like to schedule a time to go over them with you.” Not doing so is pretty unprofessional. And if they’re that bad when dealing with patients, how bad are they when no one’s looking?

          1. Nita*

            I don’t know, I prefer my doctors to leave no message and just call me back… maybe that’s because my OB’s office has all kinds of minor, but annoying dysfunction. A couple of years ago I saw them a lot, and would occassionally get a 9 PM-ish voicemail from the doctor saying “please call me back about your test results!” Which would lead to panic about what would make them call me, and call me so late, and which test result is bad, and is it the baby or myself I should be freaking out about? And then I’d call them back, find out it’s “99% likely nothing, just wanted to let you know,” breathe a sigh of relief, aaaaand… a few days later, get another late-night voicemail from another doctor in the same office. More panic. And when I get them on the phone, it turns out it’s about the same test result. Because apparently they don’t talk to each other. That was fun.

        1. Fikly*

          Since when do health care providers leave voicemails with any information that is useful, beyond call us back? And then that leads to a series of calls back and forth where you attempt to reach a live human, which can take days.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            But that’s still a voicemail. The original comment is only about not responding to people who leave *no* voicemail at all. Regardless of how much information they leave you in their voicemail you still know who called and why. For most people, if you don’t know either of those things because they didn’t leave a voicemail at all there is probably no reason to call back.

            It sounds like you are dealing with something rough and I’m sorry about that but it has literally no relation to the type of situation that OP5 and Duke Flapjack are talking about and there is no reason to get snarky with them.

            1. Fikly*

              If by something rough you mean the last 25 years, then sure.

              But I wasn’t being snarky. I was being wistful.

              Unless it’s ok for you to misinterpret what I wrote, but not for me to misinterpret what Duke Flapjack wrote?

      5. Fikly*

        My apologies – clearly I did not convey the meaning I intended. I was annoyed at “my time is too important” because I felt it implied my time wasn’t important because I do answer the phone.

        In order to get the care I need, I have to answer my phone, regardless of number. In particular, because I have complex health needs, typically I am waiting for a doctor to call, and you pretty much get one shot at that per day. Additionally, they will typically do their call backs after office hours (because that’s when they’re not seeing patients) so if I miss the call, I cannot reach the office until the next business day. If it’s Friday, I’m out of luck until Monday.

        I also work overnights, so I sleep in the afternoons, so that means my phone ringer is on while I’m sleeping, for those calls.

        Even if a provider was willing to leave any kind of instructions over voicemail, that still doesn’t work, because I almost always need to convey more information than can be taken down in a message (or over portal, because of character limits) in order for them to make a care decision.

        Clearly my frustration with the overall situation combined with what I felt was a dismissive remark from Duke Flapjack, and I didn’t word my response very well.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I sometimes pick up when it’s an unknown number, because my mom is in her 80s and gave my name and number as her emergency contact anytime she needs to give an emergency contact, and a small percentage of these callers turned out to be for/about mom. I had the same situation with dad when he was alive. If I answer a phone and it’s spam, well I now have one more number to block and they will never be able to call again.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I only pick up unknown calls from my mother’s area code. Anyone else needs to leave a message. Even her life alert button company leaves a message when they contact me about her service.

        I do not answer my cell phone in meetings or on the road. I do not answer unknown numbers. Even if the number belongs to a business, unless I deal with them regularly, I will not pick it up – too many spoofers.

        I went through a couple years after the 2000 financial crash where I had creditors calling me constantly, on my landline. An answering machine saved my sanity, as I was spiraling into depression and anxiety from a situation I couldn’t fix. I still don’t like to talk to strangers on the phone, and I hate scammers who try to scare you into giving them money.

        I am completely and totally unwilling to apologize for any of this.

  24. Bookworm*

    #5: Agree they should leave a message. I’ve had some leave both a message and send a follow-up email, sometimes a missed call and an email only (no VM).

    Once I had one v. huffy person not leave a VM but send an email saying she couldn’t be sure it was me and to check my resume to verify it was my phone number since she didn’t know and I didn’t have an outgoing message. I was already kinda “eh” about applying for the job anyway and sent a reply withdrawing my application. She might have had a point but her first impression was really snippy so oh well.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I do think she had a point though — when you’re job searching and sending out resumes with your phone number on it, you should have a voicemail greeting set up. There was no need for her to be snippy, but that’s probably an instance of a rude person giving you info that actually reflects what other employers may be thinking but not bothering to say.

      1. lost academic*

        It’s common for a voicemail greeting to be nothing more than a confirmation of the number you dialed. If that isn’t enough for a recruiter dialing a number on a resume, then there is indeed a problem with that recruiter and/or company. Check your resume to be sure it’s your phone number? I wouldn’t even wonder that if I were calling someone still in college, that’s just bizarre and insulting.

        1. Quill*

          Agreed, there are a bunch of reasons people might not customize their voicemail greeting and pretending that not doing it, especially considering that people may be unable to find a quiet space, have difficulty speaking clearly, or be aware that their accent might be hard for people to parse, or just not have sufficient phone-specific tech knowledge, is in any way unprofessional is a bit of an overreach.

          1. Smithy*

            If you’re actively job searching and taking the time to send out resumes, then among all the work you’re doing – checking that you have some kind of voicemail greeting to confirm it’s you makes sense to me.

            The chance for miss-dialing a number is just as possible to do today as it was twenty years ago. And while I likely have the name/number in front of me, the opportunity for human error is huge.

  25. Lynca*

    OP#5- I don’t really get a choice in returning unknown caller phone calls and where I work is very clear that we are to call them back. Thankfully the voicemail on both my office phone and work cell phone list the other number as an option to call. So generally I will have a missed call on both phones. That makes it easier to tell that it is a legitimate caller vs. a spam call.

    The only problem is I serve a large geographic area and turnover is high among the people I deal with. So I get new unknown numbers multiple times a month. I’ve learned to let it not bother me.

    1. Nanani*

      I think it ‘s different between a work number – presumably a work provided phone or your office line? vs a personal phone.

    2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      #5: If they didn’t leave a message, I would assume that they aren’t expecting you to figure out who it is and call back. I think most people are reasonable about this. I think it’s arrogant to just call someone, not leave a message, and then expect them to call back. If it’s not important enough to leave a message, then it’s not important that you call them back. Not many people do this anyway. Those that do aren’t seen in the best light.

  26. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    “And in fact, it can be quite annoying when people do this — they sometimes get main switchboards where the person answering has no idea which of the 100 people there may have called.”

    Oh, I remember those days. OMG, that was so annoying! And sometimes the person calling would be baffled as to how I didn’t know who called him and stymied that I wasn’t going to find out for him. I would push back: “Do you know someone at Company X?” “Um…no?” Sorry, can’t help you. Don’t miss being at Reception at all.

    1. Quill*

      “Hello I’m [garble garble] from [garble] calling you about [loud train passes by] position at [ambulance siren] please call me back at [mumbled numbers]”

      Yeah, sorry reception, if the automatic callback in my phone doesn’t take me directly back to the person who called… chances are I have zero idea who it was. :(

    2. Sparkly Librarian*

      I work at a small library with 3 or 4 staff on shift at a time. Sometimes we make phone calls! I usually make a long list of calls at the end of the summer when I’m notifying people of prizes. If I don’t reach a person, I leave a voicemail saying, “Hi, this is Sparkly from the City Library, Branch. I’m calling because your child Name has won a prize in our summer reading raffle! You can pick up the prize anytime this week at Branch. We’re open until TimePM today, and tomorrow we open at TimeAM. If you have any questions, please give me a call at Number.”

      2 or 3 hours later, we get calls on the public line, “Someone called me from this number?” And they have no idea who or why, and they WON’T TELL US WHO THEY ARE. So that’s useless. It’s one thing to be suspicious of unexpected calls, but… do people just not check their voicemail at all? And do they not realize that when they give us their phone number in the box marked “We will call you if you win a prize” and then enter the reading program… we will do exactly that?

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        See, when I return a call like that, I say “Hi, this is _my_name_, did anyone from your number call me?” if I couldn’t decipher the voice mail.

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I used to work for a nonprofit that shared an office and main phone line with three other nonprofits/businesses. We would always leave messages with the company name (ABC/ XYZ/ ETC) but had to answer the phone with “Alphabet services, how can I help you?” – people never listened to the messages and never knew who they were supposed to be calling! So annoying.

  27. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    Please don’t thank your son’s employer. I’ve had it happen once and it was super awkward. My employer accidentally hired someone without any of the qualifications we needed because HR put her through to an interview and the division head thought she was a “sweet girl” (he was starting to have some age related cognitive issues no one would talk about). She was the WORST- dangerous in a potentially deadly work environment, petulant and incompetent. Her parents came to visit the place which wasn’t odd for our industry, but when her dad thanked us for employing her when everyone else had fired her and implied she had some significant intelligence deficiencies it was really awkward.
    I don’t think she ever did get fired despite several come to Jesus meetings about her horrific attitude and I left and moved far away.

      1. ThatGirl*

        It’s a fairly common phrase/saying, for the record, that is a reference to how punishment is rarely an incentive to improve, but I can certainly understand why you’d be upset by it.

      2. Massmatt*

        I am very sorry for your situation and wish you safety and all good things, but the person’s online handle is not a reference to domestic violence.

      3. KoiFeeder*

        It originated in the navy, and I believe it entered popular consciousness via a movie on the subject. It’s a bit of an inside joke in my family because my dad would say it right before he took us out to dinner or something to cheer us up when we had a bad day. You don’t have to like it, but you don’t know the personal context involved in that username, either.

      4. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

        It’s actually a reference to a former job I had where our morale meeting was a threat to start appreciating your employment or get out. We also had to come up with ways to improve morale or we would be in trouble with the boss. Like others have said it’s a common phrase and has no reference to domestic violence.

  28. AnonANon*

    OP5: Agree with Alison. I get a million spam calls in a week on my cell and I can tell they are not real people trying to contact me. If it is urgent they will leave a message.

    However, a few years ago I found out that voicemails take up space on your phone and you can only have so many. So if someone is trying to leave you a message they may not be able to and they will keep calling. If you save voicemails, it may be time to clean them out.

    I have had my cell phone number for about 20 years. A few years ago I was getting angry “Betty” calls too. To the point where someone thought I was cheating with their significant other and called and left scathing voicemails even though my voicemail clearly states my name. Come to find out when I picked up the phone to stop the harassment, they had just gotten a new cell phone and my phone number was given to them!! So the lines kept getting crossed when they were making calls. They had to call the cell provider and tell them they were given a cell number that was already in use. Maybe next time you get a “Betty” call, answer it and see if they are in fact trying to call your number.

  29. MCMonkeyBean*

    This is not crucial, but for the last LW I wonder if you have ever googled your number + Betty? I used to get calls all the time for some dude named Richard. After years of being like “wtf this has been my phone number since I was 12 how I am still getting all these calls??” I finally did some googling and solved the mystery. This guy Richard has a small business in the city where my area code is from. We have the same phone number except he has a different area code. So people are assuming his phone number would have my area code (so here’s a tip for any small business owners out there–make sure your phone number matches the area code you are actually in or you will miss out on a lot of calls!).

    I started telling people who called me asking for him that they had the wrong area code and I think the message might have got back to Richard because my wrong numbers have significantly decreased.

  30. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

    Calls with no messages.

    With all the spam calls these days, people fishing for info, the IRS is sending the police to your door, someone stole your ssn, if you could please just verify it for us, spoofed numbers…..Ugh,

    Not returning a call with no voicemail. If you want to talk to me, leave a message.

    1. Zephy*

      I think my favorite scam call I ever got was one that went straight to voicemail (def not sketchy /s) and was an obvious robot voice (also def not sketchy /s) saying “There is a warrant out for your arrest in [state I’ve never been to]. If you call [number different than the one I missed a call from] right now, we may be able to help you. If you don’t call right now, we will be forced to turn you over to the authorities.”

      1. TiffIf*

        I got a scam voicemail a couple of weeks ago saying it was the Microsoft Refunds Center and to contact them immediately for my refund because Microsoft is going out of business and had been ordered by a judge to refund all their customers.
        I had a good laugh

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          We can all laugh at these because we’re well aware of the all to real life of scammers.

          But just remember these sick things work and take advantage of the elderly mostly, along with other vulnerable populations. My friend’s mother fell victim to the “this is Microsoft and your computer is infected, give us your deets now!” scam. So now all their personal info is out there being sold to more scammers :( Identity theft is awful.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yep. Not wasting my time to figure out what the scam is.

      People who want to talk to me leave a message, with name, company and phone number. I am willing to do phone tag if I know you’re calling.

  31. Jennifer*

    #2 I don’t think your desire to thank her makes you a helicopter mom. I can understand wondering if this woman expects some sort of acknowledgement for hiring your son. Actually thanking her would come off a little helicopter-ish, just because your son is an adult. Just remind yourself she didn’t do it as a favor. She did it because he was the best option, and good for him! I think Alison’s suggested script is perfect and that way there’s no awkwardness the next time you interact with her.

    1. Irinam*

      I am responding to this comment not to single it out. But this Op (mother) has shown a flag that indicates over-involvement in their kid’s life. Or you could call it helicopter parenting. People who aren’t that type of over involved would at this point in the adult child’s (his) life be further removed. Period. And it’s worth be honest and fair in these types of questions or subject matter because ‘flags’ are what people are told to watch for, the same people who need to distance themselves from the controlling nature of a helicopter parent or the helicopter parent of a partner.

  32. Andrea*

    I once got in trouble — like, a LOT of trouble; yelled at by a colleague before he went to my boss, who then also yelled at me — for not returning a missed call. I’d received maybe three calls from the same number, no voice mail. I looked it up, and it was from a large company that we did do business with, but we had several contacts in various departments there and I had no idea of knowing who might have called.

    Then the guy who’d been calling me called my colleague and told him I’d been ignoring his calls, and all hell broke loose. (I do NOT miss that employer at all.)

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Working for unreasonable people will elicit unreasonable expectations. This is not the norm, and still wouldn’t make me answer unknown numbers on my cell. The important people in my life have my number and are saved as contacts. Anyone else can leave me a message if they need to talk to me.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        This. I have several of my coworkers saved as contacts. If you’re not in my contacts, I won’t answer it. Please leave a message at the beep… ;)

    2. MoopySwarpet*

      People call here sometimes “I missed a call from this number.” But if you can’t give me a hint, I can’t tell you WHO called you. We are small enough, I can take their name and check with others to see if they called someone, but in a larger company . . . no way.

  33. Annie Moose*

    LW2, I completely understand your desire to thank your son’s new boss! You are of course thankful! But I agree with Alison that it would just be weird to go back and thank her. Your son is really the one who “closed the loop” already, by interviewing and being hired. Let him and his work stand on its own, and be quietly thankful from afar, in my opinion!

  34. James*

    I’ve frankly given up leaving messages for certain people. I’d leave a message saying why I called, laying out the problem and potential solutions. Then I’d get a call back saying “Hey, you called? What’s up?” and I have to explain the situation all over again. Messages are a waste of time; if these folks don’t pick up I just hang up, they see my number, and call me; and it gets the same response. With modern cell phones they know it’s me–they see my name pop up on their Missed Call list.

    That said, that’s for specific people, folks that I have a strong working relationship with. With new contacts, new hires, and managers, I leave a message, even if it’s just “Can you call me back? I have a problem I need your help to resolve.”

  35. A Poster Has No Name*

    Re: returning unknown missed calls with no voicemail. Please, people, do not do this. They are spammers, scammers or solicitors. No good will come from returning the call, because it most likely didn’t originate with the number in your caller ID. Spammers spoof caller IDs all the time, and all you’re going to do is end up confused, with a confused person on the other end, when you call asking (or demanding, as some do) why that person called you. That person didn’t call you. A scammer called you and made it look like their number.

    I manage a call tracking product at my company, and I can’t tell you how many concerned clients I get contacting us wondering why someone would call them saying the client called them, when the client didn’t call them. Is their number hacked? Have they been hacked? Why are these people calling? Is this number unreliable? It sucks.

    Don’t do it.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This is happening with email spam now from hackers.

        My IT guy just explained to us all that it’s easy to spoof the email address that is being used to appear to be anything, including your own email. This is to make you think they’ve gained access to your email itself. So it’s just the same kind of theory behind why spammers would take someone else’s phone number to spook a person.

    1. Nanani*

      The first time this happened to me was spoofed local number at a time when I had reason to expect a local business to call me. I “called back ” and got sworn at by a very angry and confused person who perhaps thought that I was trying to scam them somehow?

      Seconding the advice not to return unknown calls.

  36. StellaBella*

    #5, seems to me if people need to reach you they will leave a message or email or call again. Unless they are an old boss of mine who changed their number, called, left a vm to tell me they sent an email to check in, and in said email just wrote one line that they had called and to call them back. So… Yeah. Most sane people will leave messages or reach out with actual info in some way. Don’t answer if you don’t want to.

  37. Goldfinch*

    #3 If I’ve got something going on so urgent/problematic that I have to cancel an interview, you can bet on getting a generic excuse because it’s probably deeply personal and I barely know you.

    All this exercise will do for you is filter out people who are both flaky and bad liars, while also coming across to good candidates as a yellow flag that you’re intrusive. Anyone who is smart enough to use the phrase “family emergency” is going to get through your “test”.

    1. Zephy*

      This comes off kind of…adversarial? I mean, the hiring committee doesn’t need all the gory details about whatever issue has forced a reschedule, but it’s not a “test.” OP3 just wanted a script for how to ask for context from applicants who might legitimately not know that they can or should offer a reason for needing to reschedule an interview.

      1. 1234*

        THIS. I’ve found that reliable people who need to reschedule will generally offer up the excuse themselves. “My child is sick” or even “I appreciate your time but at this time, I’ve accepted another offer.”

        Those who are flaky will just say “I can’t make it” and won’t even offer to reschedule.

      2. Smithy*

        This. But also – “I can’t come because I’m sick” – likely won’t benefit from an interview time the next day. “I can’t make my 9am interview because my car just broke down” could potentially be available later that day or the next.

        I would also say that when interviewing lots of things are considered – showing up on time, dressed in a certain way, etc. And there are a number of genuine reasons why something might now allow for that. Wearing tennis shoes due to a recent injury, accident results in major traffic diversion, etc. But there are also people who just show up late and not according to industry norms. And this attitude is giving no context to distinguish A from B.

    2. Jennifer*

      I got the impression that these people aren’t giving any excuses at all, they’re just saying, “I need to reschedule,” with no further explanation. It does come across a bit flaky. You don’t have to give your full medical history, but “I’m feeling very ill,” or “A serious family emergency,” should get the point across.

      1. Leslie Knope*

        Or even, “Normally I wouldn’t ask to reschedule, but unfortunately I need to move the appointment we have scheduled on Thursday.” You don’t have to give up any information at all, but you should do something to make the other party feel like you’re not being flaky. Especially for an interview with someone where you have no prior rapport.

        1. Jennifer*

          Yes, that works too. You have to say something to indicate that you’re still interested in the job, you know it’s highly unusual to reschedule a job interview, and you wouldn’t do it unless you had no other choice.

    3. Bob Dob*

      Eh, I pretty much agree with Goldfinch. I wouldn’t ask why because I think it’s unnecessary and a bit unprofessional. I just don’t see a lot of value in asking. If someone has to reschedule any type of business meeting on short notice, I don’t ask why. Am I going to sit in judgement as to how worthy their reason is? Nope, I’m just going to reschedule–the first time it happens. And if it happens again, that–in and of itself–has meaning. We all know that unexpected things come up in life, and interview schedules today can be crazy–sometimes an entire day of interviewing. If OP needs to make a judgement about the candidate, then make the judgement based on the circumstances of the request and how the candidate made the request: Was the request made in a professional, courteous manner? You will probably have so many more valuable criteria and data points to assess a candidate other than their reason to reschedule.

  38. Leela*

    OP #5 – I almost didn’t get a job because the manager kept calling to tell me she was offering it to me but kept calling my landline (long time ago) when I was at my then-current job and didn’t leave any messages. Finally when she got a hold of me she told me it was the sixth and last time she was going to call. I said “Oh sorry, I didn’t get any messages from you! I wonder if my roommates deleted them by accident?” and she went “No I just really don’t like leaving messages.”
    A HUGE red flag that I unfortunately couldn’t afford to take into account and that kind of skittish, unprofessional and bizarre behavior was a recurring theme the whole time I worked there.

      1. Leela*

        This was very early 2000s and e-mail wasn’t all that commonly used (although I did have one, and I did list it). I think it’s likely she’d read somewhere that phone calls were more professional so she decided to just do that, she had a real habit of getting ideas from somewhere and implementing them without really considering WHY she was doing it or whether it would make sense in the given context.

        Whatever the employer version of gumption is (using neon paper for resumes to “get noticed”, weird personal branding that means nothing, etc), she had in spades so you’d see a lot of bad employer advice that she’d clearly just picked up from some article somewhere.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Back in the late 90s, a large company in my area had made the list of 99 best companies to work for, was insanely popular with everyone wanting to work for them, so I guess it went to their head because they started blacklisting a lot of the candidates. Someone I knew back then who did work there, told me they’d blacklisted her friend, that she’d put a resume in of, and recommended as a good candidate. That was before cell phones. Apparently they’d called her at her home number to schedule an interview, the person’s school-age daughter answered the phone, they asked her to give the message to her mom and the kid said sure and then forgot. They called again and this time left a voice mail (again, when the candidate was not home), which got accidentally erased by a family member. That was it. They put her on the black list. This and other similar stories made such a bad impression on me that I stopped applying there. The people who did keep applying and got in, told me later that the company wasn’t all that of a “best place to work” after all. Very slow-paced, very bureaucratic, lots of red tape. Of all of which their hiring process should’ve been a dead giveaway.

      1. Leela*

        I hate that a lot of times, I’ve been in a situation where I’ve had to take whatever I was offered and wasn’t able to be discerning or really add the red flags from the hiring process to the equation. I’ve only in recent years, after dealing with several extremely expensive health issues and other such problems, had the financial stability to turn down jobs I didn’t want and it’s crazy how freeing it is.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          If it makes you feel better, I’ve never turned down an offer. I once took a job (granted, after 30 minutes of haggling with the hiring manager on the phone and after he’d promised to pay me more than initially intended) where, during my second interview, they told me they didn’t have dental benefits and I said something like “hmm, that’s not great”, to which their HR/CFO guy replied, “how so? do you have bad teeth?”

    2. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

      It’s amazing how those red flags become so obvious after you’ve accepted an offer somewhere and they’re so easy to wave off when you’re desperate. My last employer couldn’t remember what he told me vs the other candidate (we were both hired) which led to absolute nightmares in communication. We were basically treated like an entity and gaslighting abounded.

      1. Leela*

        Oof yeah I’ve definitely taken jobs I was very hesitant about due to something they did in hiring. I have never once been pleasantly surprised when I take such jobs, but a lot of times there really isn’t any other choice unfortunately.

    3. Hellow Sweetie!*

      This happened to me! It was one of a couple red flags, such that I was already probably going to decline the job but it still annoyed me.

      I applied for a position with a particular lab, interviewed and my prospective manager told me that he still had another interview for later that week. On Thursday I was away from my phone and came back to a missed call, but no voicemail. It was in the late afternoon and I didn’t recognize the phone number. The next morning I got a call early, before 8am but was in the shower so I missed the call – still no voicemail. Then a few moments later from the same number I got a text message saying who he was and that he sent me an email and called and sent am email. I went into to work to check my email and saw that the email had come in early that morning with a 12 hour time limit to accept the job.

      I declined. I had already had a couple red flags but the time limit was the big one. The early morning call without a voicemail was another big one.

  39. Nanani*

    1. I really did a double take when I saw the ex hadn’t even applied – LW1 is considering reaching out to them? Yeah no. A thousand times no. You do not need that kind of drama at work.

    5. Calls from unknown numbers with no message can be safely assumed to be spam. Where I live, spoofed calls are a plague – that’s when a spam number makes the calling number look local. Calling back with “I missed your call” just results in confusion (or worse!) because the number that seemed to be calling you, wasn’t the real origin of the call.

    For peace of mind, just be diligent about answering the messages you do get, and proactive about adding people to contacts/specifying that email is better for you /etc.

    1. Zephy*

      Spoofed numbers are a problem where I am, too. I’ve gotten so many calls from numbers that are a few digits off from mine – maybe banking on a family that got their phones together so all their numbers are similar? I don’t know. I did get a weird voicemail from one of these probably-spoofed numbers once – female voice, introduced herself as “Linda,” claimed to have missed a call from me and offered two callback numbers that (1) did not have area codes and (2) neither of which were the number that called me. Points for creativity but that’s sketchy as hell.

      I also work for a university and sometimes we get calls from lenders like Sallie Mae for legitimate reasons, but the calls look so scammy – it comes through on caller ID as “Toll-Free Number,” not “Sallie Mae,” and if they leave a message they’ll most likely give a different number than the one they appear to have called from. It doesn’t help that people are also out here spoofing Sallie Mae’s actual customer service number for scam calls.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      A good way to tell a spoof caller is to have an outside the region area code.

      I snort every time an Oregon number comes up these days. Everyone who I know with one is in my phone. Nice try, game over, I don’t go there anymore, spammers.

  40. Zephy*

    At work, I generally don’t return missed calls that don’t leave messages, because it’s not uncommon for people to somehow get routed to me when trying to reach totally unrelated businesses (usually either waste management or the VA, for some reason). If the number belongs to a client (i.e. I can look it up in our database), I might call them back, especially if it’s someone I’ve been playing phone-tag with, but if I were a client trying to call a business and didn’t reach anyone, I wouldn’t expect them to call me back if I don’t leave a message anywhere. On my personal phone, I don’t even answer calls from unknown numbers; 9 times out of 10, it’s a scammer of some kind. Anyone calling instead of texting me is either my mother or a business that I have asked to contact me, so they’ll leave a message if I can’t answer.

  41. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #5 – I let all of my friends know that if they call me from an unknown number that they need to leave me a message because I won’t answer the phone. I get so many spam calls that I’m tired of answering my phone for BS. If it’s something important (a call about a job, appointment, etc.) the person will leave a message.

  42. Oh No She Di'int*

    OP 2: A slightly different perspective. I basically agree that OP should not send a “thank you”. I also congratulate OP’s son on getting a job.

    However, I do think it’s a bit more complicated than he was “the best person for the job” pure and simple. This was an entry-level position. In my experience, such openings tend to attract 10, 20, 50 candidates, any of whom would be perfectly capable of doing the job. Which is why the friend said that she would “look for his resume.” This sounds like a case where he was a qualified candidate who may have gotten a slight bump over other qualified candidates because she received a personal reference. That is she may have slightly put a thumb on the scale in his favor.

    This is NOT an accusation of favoritism or corruption! Hiring happens this way All. The. Time. It is not scandalous or reprehensible in any way. I want to reiterate that I am NOT saying that your son was not qualified for the job. I am simply trying to say that I don’t think we can pretend that this was some sort of pure meritocracy at work. I do think an acknowledgment would be in order. Not a thank you, but simply an acknowledgment that she completed a transaction that you helped to move forward.

    1. Jennifer*

      I agree. I think it’s realistic that the fact that his mom knew the hiring manager may have helped him out a great deal. If he’s very young and just starting out, it’s not likely there was something on his resume that put him far and beyond every other applicant.

      1. Artemesia*

        But not a call. The next time she sees the contact she could mention how much her son loves the work or whatever. but any overture is going to come off clunky.

        1. Jennifer*

          Yes, the original comment in this thread and my comment above both stated that thanking this woman for hiring her son would be unnecessary. We both are just saying that pretending that the fact this the OP is friends with her didn’t help him get hired is unrealistic.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            Online friends, remember. They’re in a large FB group together. (They may know each other IRL but OP doesn’t mention that so I’m assuming not.)

  43. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I screen my calls and never call anyone back who doesn’t leave a message. It’s a throwback to answering machines to weed out sales calls. So it’s not a new trick by any means!

    I also have my email on my voice mail though, so everyone should know by now it’s my preference.

  44. Swarkles*

    When I was a receptionist there was nothing more annoying than someone calling and saying, “I just got a missed call from you?” No, I did not call you, did you check your voicemails first? :|

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I can’t stand when people do that. No, I did not call you. If I had called you I would have left a voicemail. And when someone calls me and doesn’t leave a message, even when it’s someone I know, I don’t call back. I assume if they really wanted me to call them back the would have left a voicemail.

  45. 1234*

    OP 5 – Due to the nature of what I do, I expect calls from all over the US and will pick up most numbers except:
    – The phone number looks like my number, as someone else mentioned. Let’s say my number is 123 456-7890. If I get a call from 123 456-7809, it’s more than likely a spam call.
    – It’s an international call from a country where I know nobody and have never been to.
    – Any call that my own cell phone provider identifies as “scam call.”

    However, I once picked up the phone and it was someone spoofing Some Other County In My State’s POLICE DEPT. I had never been to that county at the time. They claimed that I was “in trouble” and “will be arrested.” I said “oh ok” and hung up on them.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Ha, I noticed that. In my case, my number is let’s say also 123-456-7890, and any call from *any* number starting with 123-456 is guaranteed to be a spam call. These are also one of the few ones that I never answer.

  46. Frankie*

    #1, everything you just wrote absolutely SCREAMS do not reach out to this person.

    Like, remove that he’s your ex from the situation. Would you ever hire and attempt to directly manage or supervise ANYone with whom you’ve had a screaming match? So it makes me wonder why the ex is even on the table, in your mind.

  47. Lygeia*

    For #5, a phone number spoofer got ahold of our office main line number and spam calls people so I occasionally get a “I have a missed call from this number?” calls and have to explain it wasn’t really us.

    I got one very charming voicemail from an irate teenager about how we shouldn’t be contacting her about her lack of auto insurance because she is 14 and doesn’t even has a license. (We are a recruiting firm and definitely not calling anyone about their insurance auto or otherwise.) I hope that person goes on to do great things. She was very articulate and sounded so self-confident.

  48. Chronic Overthinker*

    Anyone have any advice for motivation loss on days off? These past few weeks I have had no motivation to do the basic tasks of laundry, cleaning, et cetera. I do have diagnosed depression, which I attempt to maintain with meditation and other non-medicinal therapies. I think it might just be my regular depression, coupled with S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder).

    I have heard that exercise and other activities can help, but if I don’t have the energy/motivation for laundry and other responsibilities, I won’t have the energy for exercise either. Ugh. I cannot wait for warmer weather.

    1. JM in England*

      There are a number of websites to do this in the UK. Recently got a call purporting to be from my bank and I looked up the number on such a site. Turned out that it had a history of fraud associated with this bank going back over 3 years…

  49. Powercycle*

    #5 – Most of the phone calls I get are scammers/spammers. I never return random calls unless I recognize the number.

  50. workbee*

    the simple answer to the problem of picking up unknown numbers/leaving voicemails is to simply abolish the phone

  51. SimplyTheBest*

    For #5 – as someone who answers the phone for my office, people who call back missed calls and just say “Someone called me from this number?” is my biggest pet peeve. It is an absolute nightmare trying to figure out who out of the hundreds of employees and faculty might have been the person to call. Everyone just sounds like an idiot, half the time it was a wrong number, just don’t do it! If it’s important, they’ll either leave a message or call back!

  52. Analytical Tree Hugger*

    #2: Definitely agree with AAM, a thank you note would be a bit odd (though it’s understandable that you feel grateful).

    It’s not clear to me, is the person who posted the job the hiring manager? I’m not sure it makes a difference, but it might be less weird if they weren’t.

  53. hey anony*

    Re #4: it seems especially weird to me that this would be a thing in higher education, where it would be beyond common for, say, a senior professor to have a number of doctoral students/advisees on the job market at the same time, possibly even competing for the same position. In those cases, it would be disastrous if that professor could only give one reference, since you pretty much must have a reference from your advisor.

  54. Former Employee*

    I had such a bad feeling when I read OP#1’s letter.

    To me, it was perfectly reasonable that she thought they were going to get married after they were together for 3 years and I thought it was somewhat odd that he had no such idea in mind. Most people think they are in a serious relationship after that much time. That was the first red flag: They seem to see the same situation very differently.

    The second red flag is that she mentioned he was unemployed the last time she saw him. If he is still/again unemployed, I would wonder why and I would also wonder if the OP isn’t trying to “rescue” her ex.

    I have trouble imagining that this could end well as opposed to ending with a screaming match or, worse, ending with the OP realizing that she hired her ex so he would feel grateful for the job and come to see that he needs her in his life.

    So many possibilities; so many ways for things to go wrong!

  55. iliketoknit*

    Re: only giving one reference for the same job – I came across this attitude somewhat in academia, never since. One context in which I encountered this attitude in academia was more about being able to say “the best candidate for the job” – so, for instance, a given person was supervising 3 grad students applying for jobs in a given year, and they’re all basically applying for the same jobs because it’s academia so there are almost no jobs. The supervisor would give references for all of them, but would sort of informally work out with them which job they would push the student as the “best” candidate for. That is, the supervisor wanted to say “student X is the best candidate I know for your job,” but couldn’t say that for all three students for the same job, so would write the “best candidate” letter for student X for a given job, and write other letters for students Y & Z for the same job. Then for a second job Y would get the “best candidate I know” letter, and Z would get it for a third job.

    It really seems way overcomplicated, but then, academia…

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