am I supposed to remember the details of every job I apply to?

A reader writes:

I lost my job recently when the small company I worked for went under. I have a little savings buffer, but needless to say, I am job hunting vigorously. I usually put in two to three applications a day and I spend hours trying to write thoughtful and personalized cover letters, so I do research the companies I am applying to.

Recently I received a call back from a job that I had applied for over two weeks before (so a lot of applications in the meantime). The manager asked if I could talk briefly and wanted to know what about their mission/vision interested me in the job and why I thought I would be a good fit. I gave some vague answers, but she kept pushing for more specifics and referenced the job ad.

I honestly couldn’t remember exactly what this company did. I work in a general field that a lot of very different companies hire (think HR or accounting). I eventually admitted that I didn’t remember her specific company’s product, but once she said it, it all came flooding back and I was able to give some specific examples from my research like their commitment to being green that I found appealing.

However, it was clear from her tone and follow-up questions that I had completely sunk my chances. I never heard back. Is the expectation that I memorize every job posting/company mission statement indefinitely in case I hear from them? Could I have asked for a scheduled phone call at a later time so I could refresh my memory? I’m just so overwhelmed with this entire process.

Agggh, this is so irritating.

It’s utterly unrealistic to expect you to remember details off-the-cuff about a job you applied to weeks before while you’re in the middle of an active job search and have applied to a bunch of other jobs since then.

It’s also perfectly reasonable for an interviewer to want to know what about the job interested you.

But the way to reconcile those two things is to schedule phone interviews in advance so you have time to prepare, rather than calling you up with no warning, peppering you with questions, and judging you when you might not even recall exactly what job it is.

Calling people up for spontaneous phone interviews without warning is a bad practice for a whole host of other reasons too — they might be catching you while you’re working for your current job, or supervising a child, or at the grocery store, or napping, or at a loud family clambake, or otherwise distracted and not at your best.

And the only reason for doing it this way rather than scheduling the call in advance is that interviewers like yours believe it’s easier for them. This way they don’t need to contact you to arrange a time to talk, wait to hear back, hold spots on their calendar meanwhile, and then wait for the scheduled time to come around. They can skip all that and just call you. I’d argue it’s not really easier for them in the long-run — because getting people who aren’t prepared means they’re not getting an accurate picture of a lot of their candidates. But they don’t want to have to deal with scheduling.

When you get one of these unscheduled phone interviews, you do have the option of saying something like, “I’m not in a place right now where it’s easy to talk. Could I call you back in 20 minutes, or could we reschedule for another time?” The risk in doing that is that the later call might not ever happen — because some interviewers who operate like this just won’t bother; they stop screening people once they’ve talked with X number of reasonably qualified candidates and don’t get back to others who thought they were still in the mix. And of course, the fear of that creates exactly this situation where interviewers don’t get pushback on the practice so they keep doing it, thus annoying everyone else in the process. (Which doesn’t mean you can’t do it! I recommend doing it. Just be aware of that potential risk.)

{ 159 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. TheAssistant*

    One thing I do when I start a job search is use an Excel to track applications (nothing too advanced – company, title, salary, location, where I found the ad, and status) + paste the JD into a Word document, so I do have some sort of handy reference in case of spontaneous calls. It might help keep you organized, and makes prepping quite a bit easier to have everything saved and ready to pull up when needed. Also helps prevent applying to the same job multiple times inadvertently – either because the ad was reposted or posted to several sites or whatever and you are going cross-eyed after reading JD after JD.

    Reply
    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I was going to suggest this. No, you shouldn’t have to remember details about every place you’ve applied at the drop of a hat, but it’s probably a good idea to know where you *have* applied. Company website linking to their About page might also be useful.

      Reply
    2. Stephanie*

      This was going to be my suggestion – I use a Google Sheets with one main tab to track all applications and additional sheets to paste in the job description (I delete the sheets as I get rejections to try to keep it from becoming too unwieldy). Strongly suggest people play around and find a similar system that works for them!

      Reply
    3. Working Single Mom*

      I like Airtable (a free, cloud-based database tool) for things like this, because you can add attachments like your cover letter. It’s pretty intuitive, so if you can figure out Excel the learning curve should be fairly smooth. Works great on mobile, too, for sudden calls like these.

      Reply
      1. Former Child*

        Keeping your cover letter and their job description handy, even on paper, refreshes what they WANT and how you FRAMED your ability to GIVE them what they want.

        When you apply you could keep any notes about it too, w/questions you have. All of that comes up when you do the letter so just refer to it when they call.

        Keep one great question handy from Alison that you can pull out if needed.

        Reply
        1. Lacey*

          Yup. I would always review my cover letter before a phone interview so I know what I talked about. But, this only works if they schedule the phone interview and don’t surprise you!

          Reply
        2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

          DEFINITELY keep the record of job application details on paper – you never know when your computer’s going to glitch, but a printed record never fails! Want to be really well-organized? Get an inexpensive 3-ring binder and put printouts of your job application info in there; alphabetize them by company and all the information you need will literally be at your fingertips.
          Yes, it’s retro and yes it works! Your printer is your friend when it comes to keeping important information always available.

          Reply
          1. Karo*

            Eh, unless you have regular access to a printer, keeping something like this on Google Drive (or similar) is a better idea. You can access it from anywhere, including your phone, and you only have to worry about their Cloud servers going down, which is super infrequent. And, honestly, if they do go down, so many companies are also going to be having issues that I wouldn’t worry about it.

            Reply
            1. AnonInCanada*

              Even better: save a .PDF of those documents on your phone locally. Who knows if you get that spontaneous phone call in an area where the 5G or LTE network your phone’s connected to decides to take a crap at that precise moment? If you want to be prepared, you should be prepared for the worst. Mind you, if they made the call at that precise moment, you may be screwed as well, as that call would likely not reach your phone, either.

              Reply
    4. donkeys*

      I did this as well, after once being called for a job interview and discovering that the listing had been pulled down since I’d applied and I couldn’t remember any of the details! So my main tip is just to save the actual text of whatever ads you’re applying for, as well as which version of your cover letter you sent in, so you can easily reference what you’ve already said. But of course, hopefully people are not calling you up out of the blue to expect a spontaneous interview like this, which is just unthinking and impolite. Pop quizzes have no place in hiring.

      Reply
        1. SchuylerSeestra*

          If the posting was from a job board there is a chance in expired.

          Sometimes we pull/pause listings due to high application volume. I’ve worked on roles that received 100s of applications within a day of posting. Pausing to job can help streamline the process.

          Reply
      1. Nicotena*

        Yeah, I can’t be arsed to do a spreadsheet but I do select all / copy-paste the text of any job ad I apply to into one giant word doc, after having been burned one too many times with this.

        Reply
      2. Box of Kittens*

        Oh – saw this right after I said the same thing below! Learned this one the hard way, lol.

        Reply
      3. donkeys*

        Also if a spreadsheet is too much work, at least do a control-P print to PDF for all your job listings to throw in a folder somewhere on your computer. Even that is better than nothing!

        Reply
    5. Colette*

      I use folders – in the folder, I put the cover letter, posting, and resume I applied with. But that wouldn’t necessarily help if someone called me out of the blue, unless I happened to be sitting at my computer at the time.

      Reply
    6. Box of Kittens*

      I do this exact thing too. One thing I would add though is taking a screenshot of the job posting and description instead of or in addition to the link. I’ve tried to reference older postings for phone interviews before and found them taken down. So I then had to wing it through a phone screen.

      Reply
    7. Murphy*

      ^Adding to the recommendations for this. Especially helpful when they call you back after the posting is taken down so you don’t necessarily have the job description to refer back to.

      Reply
    8. June*

      That’s what I did too. I also labelled file folders on my hard drive so it was easier to search and put the resume and cover letter I used and put them in it. I make a PDF of the job ad and it goes in there too. This worked for me ymmv.

      Reply
    9. Skippy*

      This is a great tip, but it doesn’t really help if you get a spontaneous call and you’re nowhere near your computer.

      Reply
      1. Le Sigh*

        I haven’t tried this, but thinking that if you track info in something like Google sheets/docs and have that program handy on your phone, you might be able to stall a second and call it up quickly (or on a tablet or laptop). It’s still not great, but you might have a second to skim to basics and jog your memory.

        Reply
      2. Malarkey01*

        I kept a similar thing on my phone. Then if I got a call I just said can you give me 1 minute to step outside, quickly scanned the doc, and then resumed talking. Not perfect but it was something.

        Reply
      3. TheAssistant*

        That’s why I keep the spreadsheet at least in Google Sheets, so theoretically accessible anywhere. Though if I got this call out of the blue when I was not near my computer, I’d probably decline to “just answer a few questions”. Ma’am, I’m at brunch.

        Reply
        1. Le Sigh*

          Darn kids and their avocado brunch toast, refusing to answer last-minute interview requests so I don’t have to plan! Never get a job buying bottomless mimosas! /s

          Reply
      4. Audiophile*

        Spreadsheets are great; I did this for about 6-8 months during one job search but stopped tracking after I hit over 200 applications. It was mentally exhausting at that point.

        I’d say the bigger issue is HR staff calling or emailing unannounced and then not giving details about the role or company. I’ve received more than one email that’s said something like, “Hi, reaching out about the application you submitted for X role. Would like to schedule a time to talk.”, and they’ve not included any signature. It’s also often been from a general HR email address. How am I supposed to figure out who you are AND remember the role I applied for?

        It can be easy enough to backtrack if it’s a specific role, but if it’s something like Sales Representative and the company has 6 jobs with the same title listed, that makes it a bit trickier.

        Thankfully, you usually get a notification that an employer has looked at your application with LinkedIn and Indeed. It at least gives you time to prepare for an interview since both allow you to look at expired job postings.

        Reply
    10. EH*

      This! I actually log every call/email as well as application. Each is a kind of interaction, so I note who I spoke to/where I applied/who I emailed (along with the date, company, etc etc). I keep the salary, location, etc on the initial application interaction and sort the sheet by company+date when I’m going to interact with them again so I can see what I applied for, who I’ve already spoken to, etc.

      When I get an unexpected call from a number I haven’t saved, tbh I don’t answer it because most of the time it’s telemarketer recruiters I do NOT want to talk to. They are sketchy at best and super aggressive at worst.

      I usually save the link to the listing I applied through, but haven’t saved job descriptions like I see folks mentioning. That is smart and I am def adding that to my jobhunting protocol.

      Reply
    11. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      I started doing this during a long stretch of unemployment, The unemployment department wanted you to keep a list of where you had applied and the results, which you might have to show them. You had to show that you had been Actively Seeking Work. I found it was easier to cut and paste from the listings straight into Excel. It also enabled me to sort by whether I’d applied to this company too recently or for the same job or whatever.

      Reply
    12. Pretty Haired Lady*

      This is a great suggestion that I’ve never thought of before. I’m definitely taking this for the next job search period

      Reply
    13. Antisocialite*

      I also keep a spreadsheet of all my applications including a notes section with really brief details on what interested me, plus a PDF of the JD so I have an exact copy of what I applied for. I also use JobScan to help with the ATS aspect so don’t need to keep a word document with the JD’s cut/paste but I would if using something else.

      Reply
    14. Nanani*

      It’s a great idea but it sounds like LW’s caller didn’t even want to identify which company they were? As if they though applicants just sat there waiting for a call without trying to get any other job.

      Preparation is great but sometimes people are jerks and it’s not LW’s (or anyone’s) fault when jerky games are played.

      Reply
      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        “Hi, I need to wrap something up. Can I call you back in ten minutes? Or schedule a time tomorrow”
        …..
        “Great – I’ll call you at XX:XX. And can you say again which company you’re calling from – I didn’t hear right at the start”
        ….
        “Talk to you then”

        Reply
    15. Just Another Techie*

      I love Excel and consider myself a power user of the tool, but I ended up using OneNote for my most recent job search. Much easier to copy/paste the job posting, detailed notes from phone calls, etc, and keep it all readable. It got too frustrating mucking around with word wrap and cell sizes in Excel when I had so much text to keep track of.

      Reply
    16. Michelle Smith*

      This is exactly the right thing to do. I have all of the job descriptions saved, which has saved my ass a couple of times when they got pulled down off the website before my interview. I apply to few enough that I can just keep track of them with folders, but if you have dozens or hundreds of applications out there, taking the extra time to make a spreadsheet is key. You can then quickly CTRL + F while on the phone and get the information you need.

      No you shouldn’t have to have everything memorized, but that’s what computers can help you do. Just remember to save the files with descriptive enough names!

      Reply
    17. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I did a similar thing … well, this was nearly 30 years ago, when I was on a general job search (unemployed) —

      I had a chalkboard — this is before whiteboards were all that common and there was no Excel — and I would have 15-25 applications out there at any one time. All were in four columns —

      Column 1 was for new applications (sent, no response as of yet)
      Column 2 was for things that I received a response for , waiting
      Column 3 was for opps that were active and there was a chance of something going on
      Column 4 was for applications in “snowballs in hell” status

      There wasn’t much of an internet then, so I did as much research as I could (technical library and financial papers stuff) – but, smaller unknown firms also understood that you couldn’t research them. I still had two folders with notes, about companies, columns 2 and 3, and some column 4 corporate info.

      But you don’t especially want to walk into a Fortune 500 company and not know what they do.

      Reply
    18. AJR*

      Same. Have done this for job interviewing and also for tracking informational interviews – helps me remember one or two details about the conversation, who was in it, where/when it took place, or whether it even happened at all. Have gone through about 4-5 job hunts at least, so sometimes it’s interesting to look back at what happened. Am also very organized with my filing system and save the JDs as PDFs in the files – that has saved my bacon a few times. I also track things like who put me in touch and whether I sent them a thank-you note. Helps me feel like I’m structured and making progress on the job hunt.

      Reply
    19. Ally McBeal*

      Yep – after I send off the cover letter, I reopen the Word doc and post the job description at the bottom of the letter. I also use an Excel doc to track everything. It’s been SO helpful during phone screeners, because I can see (in the cover letter) where I’ve made connections between my skills and the requirements/wishlist items in the JD, so I can speak to those connections quickly.

      Reply
    20. Elizabeth West*

      Me too. I save all the job descriptions in a separate folder and refer to them when preparing for the interview. Rejections and no replies are moved to subfolders (same with cover letters). I color-code the spreadsheet:

      –light blue for No Reply
      –dark grey for Rejection
      –light green for Active/Not Sure (something is happening but I haven’t had the interview yet)
      –bright yellow for In Progress (I’ve had an interview and am waiting to hear back)
      –light orange for Other (the job was pulled, I rejected it myself, or it was fake)
      –bright blue for I Got The Job or Contract Work

      I was using light purple for No Reply, but I switched to blue when COVID hit so I could sort those more easily. I even made dropdowns:

      –Yes/No for did I use a tweaked resume (it’s not always worth the effort to personalize it for generic admin jobs)
      –A whole list of resume codes so I know which one I sent to what company

      This system allowed me to see how little the job market in OldCity had grown in ten years by comparing my 2021 spreadsheet to the latest one. The list showed the same jobs at the same companies and only a slight increase in pay. :(

      Reply
  2. V*

    I found it useful when job hunting to make a spreadsheet with all the info and contact I’d had to help avoid being jumped like this. But I will definitely follow this advice next time re: not taking spontaneous interview calls.

    Reply
    1. Rayray*

      Last time I job searched, I kinda just relied on the information I reported to unemployment but I did run into a snag when I got a surprise call once and they were calling to ask if I might be interested in a different position since that one I applied to was filled. Funnily enough, I got hired and then moved over to the job I originally applied to after a few months with a pay raise

      Reply
  3. Jellyfish*

    Save the job ads along with your the tailored cover letter when you apply! An unscheduled phone call might still catch you off guard, but at least you’ll have something to reference.

    I learned that the hard way after being in a similar situation. The jobs I applied for all had a long hiring process, and I’d get phone interviews a month or more after applying. Since I was applying for similar jobs every day, there was no way to keep all the details straight in my head.

    Now, I have a Google drive full of want ads and very similar cover letters that I don’t need anymore, but they were quite useful at the time.

    Reply
    1. Berry*

      +1 to this! I did this a lot too and it was definitely helpful (especially if the company took down the job posting while I was still in the interviewing process)

      Reply
      1. Exhausted Trope*

        I always save postings, too. It helps me remember the company /position and helps the company remember the details. I’ve had to remind a few about the salary range, hours, location, job duties, etc. at offer. I know that companies are always able to change anything about a position at any time for any reason, but it’s still helpful.

        Reply
    2. Former Child*

      Yes, your letter should respond to their ad and they called you, so you can repeat and elaborate on it. When you write the letter is the time you may think of questions you have, so keep them w/the letter and their ad.

      Adding some questions to ask if they call gives you an “ad campaign” for you. Then close it up and if they call, pull it out.

      Reply
    3. BRR*

      I do this. It’s been helpful for when postings disappear, when I’ve had to rewrite my job description, when i’m looking for language for my resume, and when they actually list a salary range so I have a point of reference for myself and if I ask for a raise.

      Reply
    4. lalalindz*

      THIS, and then ask the interviewer to have 2 minutes to pull up your application/get to a spot you can chat/whatever, if you don’t want to call them back.

      Reply
  4. Jester*

    I screen my calls (most of the time but especially when job hunting) to avoid just this. Let them leave a message so you have a chance to check your notes, excels, emails receipts, etc.

    Reply
    1. Cobol*

      This. You can call right back. Even if you have a spreadsheet it can take a second to find the specific job.

      Reply
    2. anonymouse*

      I was wondering about this. My knee jerk reaction was, “oh, no, I will look bad if I’m not ready and waiting.”
      And then the more time I took to think about it, the more I realized that, if it did make me look bad, then these people are ridiculous.

      Reply
    3. Ally McBeal*

      THIS. Even though I’m actively job searching, I refuse to answer calls from unknown numbers because of the nonstop deluge of spam calls I get (despite being on the DNC registry). They can leave a voicemail.

      Reply
    4. Elizabeth West*

      Yep, me too. And I use a Google Voice number for applications so I know it might be an employer calling (it’s pretty easy to tell if it’s spam).

      It also goes to my Gmail so I can call back from my computer when I get home, which leaves my hands free to type during the phone interview. I just tell them I’m on speaker so I can take notes and ask if that’s okay.

      Reply
  5. James*

    Might I recommend a Trello board? Back when I was looking I set one up with columns around “To Apply, Applied, Considering, Rejected”. I used labels to indicate month – and in each card I put the Title and a link to the JD – this way when people asked me 29 days later I could refer back to it.

    Reply
    1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      And also, ensure that you have the job ad and position description saved locally! It’s terrible clicking on the link you saved only to find that the job ad has since been taken down and no longer accessible.

      Reply
  6. Lana Kane*

    Cold calling an applicant for a phone screen is a terrible idea for all the reasons Alison mentioned. Scheduling interviews, whether it’s phone or in person, is just part of hiring.

    I definitely agree with the suggestions of making a spreadsheet, but also pairing that with using it during a *scheduled* phone screen. If a hiring manager cold calls and pushes back on a request to schedule, that’s not good news. And I say this as someone who sees fewer things as red flags than maybe others do.

    Reply
    1. Autistic AF*

      Yeah, I remember getting a job call while I was out at a restaurant once (pre-panorama), and another time when I was walking in a garden. Waiting for calls would tank my mental health (which job hunting isn’t great for to begin with!).

      Reply
    2. Rayray*

      One of the best ways I’ve had this is when I’m emailed a link which I can click and select an available time slot. I remember another time I had one that just listed a bunch of times and asked me to email back my best three. I did so and got “None of those time slots are
      Available. Can you do x-less-convenient-time instead?”

      Reply
    3. Willis*

      Yeah, I would never just cold call an applicant and expect them to do a phone screen! Between people screening calls and others genuinely not being available (and of course people not being prepared), it just seems like a waste of my time.

      Reply
    4. Canadian Valkyrie*

      I was cold called by a major org and it was… weird. Thankfully at least this org was just doing a quick screening call without expecting me to actually know shit

      Reply
    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, if they aren’t respectful of your time as a candidate you can’t expect them to be respectful of your time as an employee. So if you ask the cold-caller to work out a time to talk when you are available and that is a deal-breaker for them for some reason then I would consider that a bullet dodged and move on.

      Reply
  7. Roja*

    I’m sorry, OP. No advice, only commiseration. I remember I applied for a promising and urgent job once and got an email back 20 minutes later (!) setting up a call for 15 minutes later (!!). I had done enough research on them to it could be a good match but wasn’t intimately familiar with everything about them. So I spent the next 15 minutes furiously reading through their website for the details. I made it to every section but one, and naturally the interviewer wanted to know what I thought of that particular section. They were quite disappointed to hear I wasn’t familiar with the school’s daily schedule yet. I was like… come on, now. It’s not realistic to expect me to be an expert on your daily schedule when I only submitted my application 30 minutes ago.

    It’s very frustrating when interviewers do this.

    Reply
    1. KRM*

      I once applied to a research job through a hospital system that just said “immunology” or “kidney” on the title of the job description. One called and started with “Hello this is X from Dr. Y’s office” and I was confused and asked what they were calling about (did I forget I made a dr appt?). She said “Oh, this is a job you applied for with Dr. Y.” Then she paused and said “Well, you people just apply to everything out there”. Ummm, your actual system doesn’t give names! It just puts my resume in under a department name! How do I know what specific doctor ended up with my resume?
      I ended up getting another job and called to cancel the interview, which I think was just as well.

      Reply
      1. Annony*

        Sometimes it is also the HR system causing issues. We were hiring for a research position recently in a hospital and couldn’t figure out why so many people with no research qualifications were applying. It turns out that they weren’t. HR was pulling resumes from a pool they had based on keywords and presenting them the same as if they had directly applied. It was not helpful.

        Reply
        1. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

          Yeah, once I got a ton of applicants who were RNs ….for a job in computer hardware support. Apparently there’s a job-title overlap? Either people were applying for every job they saw with the title and not reading the details, or something went terribly wrong with how HR was handling résumés, I’m still not sure what went wrong (I wasn’t the hiring manager, just on the team that was doing cuts to get a pool for phone interviews, so I don’t have the details).

          Reply
  8. Aphrodite*

    When I was job hunting I never wanted to be surprised by anything so I always let any incoming call go to voicemail. (This was a landline.) Then I’d return the call within five to ten minutes. That gave me plenty of time to “prepare” and more than once that proved invaluable.

    Reply
    1. PT*

      I did this on a jobhunt and ran into people who wouldn’t accept return calls or leave voicemails. You didn’t answer, they’d just move on to the next person.

      It was extra frustrating because I was jobhunting while having a ton of dental work done, and they had a knack for calling just after the dentist had settled into work on my mouth.

      Reply
      1. quill*

        Call screening is nice in that it gets rid of recruiters who are only looking for numbers of people contacted and won’t bother giving you any info… and bad in that when you do get messages they are often just plain BAD voicemails. My kingdom for someone to call when they are in a QUIET space and enunciate! I swear I had some sort of childhood ettiquette training on how to leave a message and nobody ever follows it, lol.

        Reply
      2. Me*

        Id argue that you avoided working for places with unreasonable expectations.

        I can understand why it would be frustrating but that’s not a sign of an employers with good hiring practices and if they treat you poorly before you are an employee, it’s not going to get better when you are one.

        Reply
        1. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, I would agree – I don’t think I’d want to work somewhere that doesn’t leave voicemails for job candidates (or send an email or something).

          Reply
  9. HIJK*

    Is screening calls an option? I simply don’t pick up if I don’t recognize the number. If they leave a message and I want to take the mini-interview, I re-read my cover letter and refresh my memory with a little bit of research before calling back. If you say something like, “I’m, so sorry, I was on a video call/at a doctor’s appt…” most aren’t going to penalize you.

    Reply
    1. Exhausted Trope*

      I’ve come across some recruiters who just don’t care where you are at the time. I told one recently who texted me and called that I was working but could he schedule a later time. He just kept pressuring me, via text, to drop everything and call him. Dude, what about “I am working and can’t talk” don’t you understand?!

      Reply
      1. Nea*

        I would have texted back something like “I’m sure you’ll understand that I cannot return your call until x time because I’m giving my current employer the same high-quality, undistracted work that I’m offering you. I’m sure you don’t want to hire someone who drops everything at any time.”

        Reply
        1. Exhausted Trope*

          I’m not sure he’d care. External recruiter who just wants his commission, apparently. He did end up scheduling a call but didn’t call me. So disrespectful of my and my employer’s time.

          Reply
    2. ecnaseener*

      You’ll run into that same risk that they won’t bother to call you back / play phone tag with you.

      Reply
      1. Skippy*

        I always let my calls go to voicemail unless I know exactly who is calling. Yes, you do run the risk of missing a call from a possible employer, but I always figure that if they’re really interested, they’ll leave a message and I can call them back.

        Reply
  10. SentientAmoeba*

    I got my current job from a cold call and while I was able to make it work, never again. They just happened to call at the start of my 45 minute lunch and the interview took about 40 minutes as there were 4 people on the call. After a year in the role, I confessed to my supervisor that I took the entire call in a bar because that was where I took my lunch (it was close, fast and inexpensive to where I was working at the time)

    Reply
  11. JRR*

    I always let unscheduled calls go to voicemail, then call back when I’m in a quiet place with my notes in front of me.

    Reply
  12. Alex Beamish*

    When I was job-searching — before PCs (I know, I know), I’d have a page for each company, and after each interaction, I’d slide that page into my typewriter and add updates. I can’t remember, but I expect the companies were arranged alphabetically.
    The funny part was when I applied to a blind ad (just a P.O, Box number), and got a call from them ..
    Them: Hi, this is Vladimir from Saynor Electronics ..
    Me (confused, wracking my brain, and letting my left brain take control of the conversation): But I didn’t apply to Saynor.
    Them: Oh, it was the PO Box number.
    Me (relieved, but also embarrassed): Oh!
    Them: So anyway, I liked your resume, and I have a few questions for you ..
    .. so I went in for the interview, got the job, and it was awesome.
    I would expect an HR person should understand that any applicant has likely applied for multiple positions, and if they’re calling out of the blue, they should be prepared for a little, “Who’s calling?” Better would be an E-Mail suggesting some times for a phone call.

    Reply
    1. Sleepless*

      That happened to me when I applied to a confidential job listing! I strongly suspected who it was, so I wasn’t completely caught off guard, but they just started talking as if I knew exactly who they were!

      Reply
    2. Empress Matilda*

      I once applied for a job with the International Olympic Committee. It was total spur of the moment – I wasn’t job hunting at the time, but I saw the ad, thought it looked cool, and sent off a resume a few minutes later. Then I forgot about it, because it was such a random thing I assumed nothing would come of it.

      As it turns out, I forgot about it *very* thoroughly. So when I picked up the phone a few weeks later and heard “Hello, this is Valentina Warbleworth calling from the International Olympic Committee,” I was genuinely confused – why on earth would the IOC be calling me, of all people? Took me a minute to remember I had applied for a job with them!

      Reply
    3. Elizabeth West*

      I quit applying to blind ads when I accidentally sent a resume to a company I’d been let go from several years before (my performance had tanked due to illness). The screener didn’t look at the second page, where the company was clearly listed.

      She said, “I’m calling from Glados Enterprises; we used to be known as PORTAL.” She was super embarrassed when I told her I didn’t think they’d hire me back, nor did I want to return. Whoops!

      Reply
  13. Susie Q*

    When doing mass job searching, I print out the job description and my cover letter for that position and staple them together. Then I write down notes on the company on the job description. Then I can quickly reference the job, the company, and what I said about it in my CL.

    Reply
  14. ecnaseener*

    If you don’t want to risk rescheduling, what would be a good script for “It’s been a while since I applied, remind me what your company does?”

    I want to believe that if you’re put in this situation, it is possible to pull off the “of COURSE this is a reasonable request” attitude and get your memory jogged without being judged as scatterbrained. But if a recruiter thinks cold-calling is truly a good idea, it might be a long shot :(

    Reply
    1. Former Child*

      I think it’s like online dating. You don’t want to say, “Wait, are you the bald one or the soccer fan?” You want them to feel like “Oh, yes, I remember you because you were so interesting on your cat-breeding business! I love cats too.”

      It’s always better to make them feel like you were just waiting for them to call.

      Reply
      1. ecnaseener*

        Your online dating matches are probably not going to cold-call you and ask why exactly you want to date them with zero context, though.

        Reply
    2. Khatul Madame*

      This is not a good question even in an impromptu callback situation. I think a good-natured, apologetic admission of ignorance would go over better than asking “So what is it your company does again?”
      If the call comes from a recruiter/HR, you can ask them to tell you about the company.
      If the unscheduled call is a hiring manager doing a full interview (not common at all), chances are they will not quiz you on the particulars of their company that moved you to apply. If they do… you may be SOL, but the probability of getting such a question is not high.

      Reply
      1. ecnaseener*

        Really? I can’t imagine a statement “I’ve forgotten what your company does” would be better than a question that can be quickly answered. How is anyone supposed to respond to the statement?

        Reply
        1. Khatul Madame*

          You call it a question that can be quickly answered, but I (hiring manager) see it as asking me to deviate from the purpose of my call to help you do your work of researching the company. If the candidate just says “sorry, I was not prepared for our conversation and do not remember the details of your company’s accomplishments” I would either forgive them and continue the interview or mentally move on.
          This is my own perception though. I see from the comments that the situation described in the OP rarely ends in a positive outcome, so it will not make much of a difference. The good news is, such a scenario does not happen often and can be easily avoided by means of voicemail.

          Reply
          1. ecnaseener*

            That’s why the script for a question should indicate that you did research, you just need something to jog your memory. In my example, I said “remind me”

            Reply
      2. ecnaseener*

        Also – I agree re good-natured and apologetic. Those are things to incorporate into a script, which is what I asked about. -_-

        Reply
        1. R2-beep-boo*

          I can’t take credit for this because it’s posted further down, but I was thinking on your question about a script and wanted to be sure you caught this because I thought it was helpful.
          Another reader commented to say that phishing sites will pull your info and send (or call) with bogus job info. It wouldn’t be out of line to say that you’ve been getting calls like that and ask for the caller to confirm some of the details of the posting. This might at least give you a chance for the information to ring some bells.

          Reply
    3. Reba*

      (Stalling) “I’m sorry, say the company name again?” (frantically googling while saying the following) “Thanks. I’m so glad to hear from you! You know, I have been sending out a lot of applications these days — could you quickly remind me what the position is that you’re calling about?” “Okay, give me one more moment to pull up my notes about the application. Got it. What questions did you have for me?”

      Semi-joking, but really the last one is the most important. It’s okay to ask for time when someone calls you up! If they don’t realize that they have interrupted something, whether it’s your workday at your job or your TV marathon, they are being rude.

      Reply
      1. ecnaseener*

        Yeah, good point. Saying you have notes is better than letting them think you didn’t research the company. (And yes maybe will give them the hint that people need a chance to look at said research before the call!)

        Reply
  15. Jam Today*

    When I was job hunting I had to track all my attempts to find a job as part of my UI reporting requirements (I had to submit a log every week) so got into the habit of keeping a spreadsheet of the title, the company, location, phone number, website, date of application, etc. If you have something like that at your fingertips you can easily get to the website to see who they are while finessing your way through some preliminary chit-chat while you’re looking them up.

    Reply
  16. voluptuousfire*

    I used to use an excel sheet but I use my inbox. I have a folder for the auto-replies which I use as my record of application and I email myself the job description. It’s all in my inbox and I create a dossier on the company if I get an interview.

    It works very well for me. This way I don’t have to update anything, which I will forget.

    But someone calling for an on-the-spot interview is IME very rare. The only people that have called me are agency recruiters and even that’s pretty much maybe 3 times in the past 5 years. Everyone does everything by email and we schedule a time.

    Reply
  17. Recent Hunter*

    When I was job hunting recently, I got blindsided by one of these calls and scrambled to find the job description on Indeed (where I’d applied) during the call. It didn’t go well.

    After that, I didn’t answer the phone if I didn’t know the number and I let people leave messages so I could review the posting again on my own time and call them back when I was ready (I tried to make it the same business day when possible).

    While I was job hunting, my then-job physically precluded me from answering the phone while I was working and I landed my now-job after playing phone tag with the hiring manager a couple times. So letting it go to voicemail if you don’t know who’s calling is probably fine.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth West*

      Yes, a professional company will know they might have to leave a message if someone is working or otherwise occupied. A lot of times, they just email anyway.

      Reply
  18. Jennifer Juniper*

    If the OP is able to do so, they can also keep a spreadsheet for each company they apply for. It could have each company’s name, mission statement, what it does, and what is appealing about the company and the role applied for. The spreadsheet can then be stored in the OP’s phone and updated every time they fill out a new application. That way, the information for each company is handy at all times.

    Is it a pain? Yes.
    Is it fair they may have to do this? No.

    But that may be what companies expect these days.

    Reply
  19. Annie J*

    This is probably completely the wrong answer but if an interviewer called me and I didn’t remember anything about their company, i would just make it up.
    Particularly with values, they are so generic that just saying that you approve of the companies track record on diversity, or their green climate policies will probably get the right answer.
    I mean it’s not as if they’re going to say, well no actually we don’t care about the climate or no we don’t have any interest in diversity at all.
    some of the other buzzwords I’ve learned, companies love it when you mention there corporate social responsibility, and how they create value for all stakeholders.

    Reply
    1. Mental Lentil*

      I am generally opposed to lying, but you have a point here. Every company seems to be committed to the same values and all their mission statements just seem to be multiple iterations of the same corporate speak. Why not turn it around on them?

      Reply
      1. voluptuousfire*

        Absolute worst case you lose out on a role. There’s usually another interview around the corner.

        Reply
      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I really disagree–I think most companies would be like “sure we are not opposed to [insert long list of things generally considered good values here]” but most will have just like 3-5 specifically called out on their website and if you try to bluff it and talk about things that sure they’d probably like to see in their candidates but they are not actually mentioned anywhere on the website, you would come off wildly worse than if you just said it wasn’t a good time to talk schedule a time to reconnect later.

        Reply
  20. Anon for this*

    One thing helpful is, if you’re actively job hunting, it’s quite likely scammers have found your resume and are trying to cold call you to scam you. It’s entirely reasonable to tell someone you’ve been getting a lot of phishing calls lately, and could they please confirm which job they’re talking about. In fact, this is fairly standard for any situation in which someone you do not know is calling you. Scammers are so common that the burden is on the caller to prove their identity. Not on you to recognize them.

    Reply
  21. a nony mouse*

    I wish we lived in Liar Liar World, when asked about why we are excited to work for Cosgrove Cogs, we can truthfully answer,” I’m not excited. I like having food and shelter and nice things so I need a job. One that won’t make me miserable or too stressed out. In exchange I will be reasonably eager and punctual, and will give a good day’s work for a good day’s pay. I will not promote MLM schemes, religious fanaticism or political views at work. I will not be racist, anti-LBGT or misogynist.” I will not steal or fight or have problems with my hygiene. Does this sound like a relationship that interests you?

    Reply
    1. Anon for this comment*

      Sort of how I reply on dating apps after we’ve gotten past the “Hi” stage; “I won’t ask for noods unless it’s pasta and promise to not send you DPs.” Seems to have been reasonably effective, usually gets a laugh.

      Reply
    2. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve sent out more than five hundred applications in this job hunt and I would also like to add, “And I’m really, really tired of writing cover letters.”

      Reply
  22. Environmental Compliance*

    This is why I prefer letting things go to voicemail. I do keep a spreadsheet when job searching, though, with a copy paste of the job description (in the event of a posting deletion), date of application, etc.

    However, I once answered the phone to someone who jumped right into a series of questions – no introduction at all, no name or company – and then got snitty with me when I had no idea who she was. Turned out it was a job I had applied to *months* earlier. I think the most delayed phone call I got was a call back 2 years after I had applied.

    Reply
  23. Harried HR*

    In many small companies HR / Payroll / Benefits and Recruiting are the same person. so scheduling phone screens for 1 position with over 100 applicants is not practical.

    However when calling to do a phone screen I will say or leave a message with the following intro.

    Good morning you recently applied for the Teapot Design Project Manager role here at Teapots R US via LinkedIn /Career Building / Zip Recruiter etc. Do you have a few minutes to discuss this with me.

    If the answer is no, can you call back etc. I will ask for a convenient time and try again (Once …)

    Reply
    1. Skippy*

      That’s the best and most professional way for a recruiter to handle a cold call. It gives the person you’re calling the opportunity to schedule a call back if they’re, say, out at the grocery store and can’t talk right there and then.

      Reply
    2. Khatul Madame*

      Yes, IME the first question from recruiters has usually been “Is this a good time to talk?”
      Harried HR, your standard message checks all the boxes, except – do you announce yourself? If I am a candidate returning a call, I would feel more polite if I could call the person by name.

      Reply
    3. KayDeeAye*

      If you must do cold calls, that does sound like a really great approach, Harried HR. But my question is: Why do phone screens with 100 applicants at all? Why not narrow it down to a more manageable number? If you don’t get a decent number of prospects for in-person interviews from screening, say, your top 12-15 applicants, you can always do a few more. I just truly don’t see how you can find out meaningful information from the applicants when you’re juggling 100 of them. But hey, maybe that says more about me than it does about your process, because it definitely wouldn’t work for me. I would find myself awash in mostly useless data. But again, maybe that’s just me.

      Reply
      1. Daisy-dog*

        Depending on how in-demand the role is, you really just have to move very fast to a phone screen stage. Even at that stage, it can take a week or longer to schedule an interview. Lots of candidates can drop out at any stage.

        Out of 100 good resumes:
        – 15 will have a full voicemail/voicemail that is not set-up and never answer calls
        – 20 will never return the call
        – 10 will have already accepted a new position
        – 5 will end up playing endless phone tag with you until either of you gives up

        And of the other half:
        – 1o will not be able to do some basic functions of the role even though they appeared qualified in the application
        – 15 will not be interested once they discuss the benefits and salary (even if listed in the job posting)
        – 10 will change their mind after hearing about certain aspects of the role
        – 5 will seem like not a good fit
        – 5 will schedule interviews and not show up
        – 3 will show up for interviews and not be a good fit
        – 1 will get a job offer, but accept a role somewhere else
        – 1 will finally be hired

        This is obviously for a high-demand role, but if you don’t have 100 qualified applicants you may not even reach the step of hiring anyone. Don’t even get me started on hiring managers who move too slow or provide no feedback.

        Reply
        1. Harried HR*

          Excellently explained, at my company we hire for specialized roles, so in addition to all the challenges you listed above

          – Some candidates will have completely irrelevant experience, no relevant education ( 10 years of teaching High School Chemistry for a Teapot Design position) and no indication in the cover letter as to why they would be able to do the job (if there is a cover letter)

          – The job posting and description both state the position is IN PERSON at our location (we have a WFH policy but employees still need to come in to the office for collaboration) We are in Florida and we receive applications from Oregon !

          Having said that I love my job and I never have a dull moment :-)

          Reply
  24. Aster*

    I once got a job, and then in the first week my supervisor told me that she almost didn’t hire me because I didn’t answer the phone on the first ring when she called to offer me the job. Definitely a ‘them’ problem, not a ‘you’ problem.

    Reply
    1. LizB*

      Lol, what? That’s a wild expectation. Were you supposed to be having a 24/7 staring contest with the phone as soon as you finished the last interview, just in case?

      Reply
      1. KayDeeAye*

        A candidate with true gumption would definitely pick up on the first ring. Everybody knows that, right? / sarcasm

        Reply
  25. Michelle*

    I had a similar experience – applied to a job for llama hairstyling (I thought) and was called back by the HR person for a screening interview. Answered all the ? from my perspective as a llama hairstylist, only to have the interviewer say I wasn’t a good fit as a llama hoof-shiner. They had two roles open in the same job family and I’d applied to the other one… but in my defense, they’re both llama grooming roles… for which I had experience, but I wish she’d gone off script and clarified earlier in the convo.

    Reply
  26. bob*

    As more people return to the office, recruiters have to understand that candidates can’t always take their call.

    I usually let calls go to VM if I don’t recognize the number. A well-known progressive organization once blew me off when I called 15 minutes later. 20 years later and I still remember the conversation.

    There’s not much that can be done on the candidate’s side other than what’s already been suggested. Mostly, it’s on the recruiter to treat people with consideration. Candidates notice, and the market is very competitive for qualified candidates right now.

    Reply
  27. Dagny*

    I would just say, “Thank you for calling! Unfortunately, it’s not a good time for me right now. What is your availability later this week?”

    Remember that hiring managers do not own your time. You are not an employee on company time; you’re on your own time.

    Reply
  28. ES*

    If there are any recruiters who are reading this… I work in media and often need to schedule numerous interviews with sources or podcast guests. My 2020 productivity hack was using Calendly (or a similar service; this is not spon con I promise). I stumbled on it when my wife and I were splitting child care during WFH and we needed to put holds on each other’s calendars, and it became super useful for my day job as well. You set your open times and your interviewees can pick their own pre-set time slot (15, 30, 60 mins etc) that’s open for both you and them, and it auto-generates a calendar invite. Much easier than the back-and-forth that as Alison rightly notes leaves recruiters trying to hold conversations with no advance notice.

    Reply
    1. learnedthehardway*

      This – I’ve shifted from taking calls from candidates to sending everyone to my online calendar.

      Of course, then you run into the people who can’t seem to follow simple directions – such the ones who email you back with “Yes I’m interested, when are you available?” when you have just literally sent them a link to your online calendar, but at least I don’t have to play phone or email tag with them.

      Reply
      1. learnedthehardway*

        ETA – Every recruiter/hiring manager should ask “Is this a convenient time to talk?” before starting into a phone interview. And should be willing to schedule something if it isn’t convenient!

        Reply
        1. Christmas Carol*

          Even my boyfriend asks, “Is this a convenient time to talk?” when he calls me, and I think he’s kinda cute.

          Reply
      2. Evan Þ*

        Great; if you were sufficiently clear in your email, they’re the people who don’t know how to follow directions, so put them straight into your “Do Not Hire” list.

        Reply
  29. WestOfTheRiver*

    The most awkward “unscheduled phone interview” story I have was when I was about to graduate undergrad and was applying to my first professional jobs. One interviewer called me back about an application while I was *on the air* (I was–and still am–a radio DJ as a hobby). Fortunately I wasn’t on the mic, but she asked if she could “ask me a few questions” and because I wasn’t yet deeply involved in the professional world, I assumed this just meant checking some background info, but it ended up being a 20-minute phone interview. While I was switching CD’s and running the board and trying desperately to time it so I didn’t have to talk on-air until this was over.

    I actually ended up getting moved forward to the next (in-person) interview round, but it never went past that.

    Reply
  30. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    From an alternate perspective – when I have time, I do call people unscheduled, but I never expect them to be available to talk right away. I tell them who I am with what company, that we’re interested in their application and ask if we should set something up or if they’re free. I’ve been able to talk to a number of good candidates this way, and have also had an increase in people we ARE interested in phone interviewing actually schedule a screen, where reaching out via email, sometimes our emails end up in spam.

    I am also much more understanding if there is more noise in the background than you’d expect during an interview, or if the person needs to cut the call short. The extra personalized outreach seems to have been appreciated by most folks, and anyone who doesn’t answer, I just leave them a voicemail and let them know we’ll follow up by email on their application to schedule a phone interview.

    Reply
  31. Jack Straw*

    After this happened to me once, I rehearsed a response along the lines of Alison’s advice (not at a place I can talk) until it felt genuine and natural. Having it at the ready reduced the chance is get caught in a situation where I honestly did want the job but couldn’t remember jack about it in the fly.

    TBH, I did that almost as much as I rehearsed my salary negotiation.

    Reply
  32. goducks*

    I learned long ago never to cold-call a candidate, not even to set up an interview. Too often they’re in the middle of driving or a store or some other place that’s not conducive to talking. Even if you ask if now’s a good time, too many will say yes because they’re afraid that if they say no they’ll eliminate themselves, so they try to talk while juggling something that should have their attention rather than talking to me.

    I strongly prefer to drop an email or message via our ATS asking them to talk at X time, and noting that if that time doesn’t work, then we can do it another time, or they can call me and set up a time. Yes, there’s some back and forth, but at least I get to interview someone who is not caught off-guard by the interview.

    Of course, there have been a couple of times when I’ve done scheduled phone interviews and the candidate has asked who my company is and what we do and what the position is, but some people are just going to do weird stuff like agree to an interview and never even look up the company at all. Automatic no-hire, of course.

    Reply
    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      “Even if you ask if now’s a good time, too many will say yes because they’re afraid that if they say no they’ll eliminate themselves”

      Exactly! Thank you for factoring that into your process and not putting the burden on the candidates to have to overthink what they can do versus what they feel like they have to do.

      Reply
  33. BlueBelle*

    I have had this happen to me and I sit down at my computer and say “give me one second to pull up the job posting so I can respond to some of the specifics” Then I quickly pull up the company’s website and the job posting. If it is a scheduled interview I have the company’s website and the job posting already open in front of me.

    Reply
  34. RagingADHD*

    LW, I have a magical phrase for you: “Just a second, let me pull up my notes.”

    No halfway reasonable person expects you to have instant recall of stuff you did weeks ago. However, a reasonable hiring manager might well expect potential emoloyees to keep their own records and be resourceful enough to refresh their own memory without being prompted.

    This is a problem that is easy to solve for yourself, and unless that hiring manager was a lunatic, their disappointment was probably in the fact that you needed them to solve it for you.

    Reply
    1. Lana Kane*

      As a hiring manager, my view is that a reasonable one would schedule an interview. Aside from being the most practical thing for everyone, it’s iumportant to respect people’s time. Now, if we schedule one and the person isn’t prepared, that’s not good.

      Reply
      1. RagingADHD*

        There’s a difference between not being prepared for a full job interview, and basically asking “wait, who are you again?”

        If the job entails any element of thinking on your feet or being able to take initiative, then they need a candidate who can self-advocate and ask for an extra minute (or twenty minutes, or an extra day).

        Taking a moment to compose your thoughts and get oriented is, I would think, a necessary prerequisite to figure out if you actually need more extensive time to prepare. Just like taking a minute to pull out your calendar if you’re going to reschedule.

        Reply
        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          If you show up to an interview with an attitude of “wait who are you again?” then yeah that would be bad.

          But if an interview ambushes you unscheduled and unprompted then I disagree that anyone should be able to recall the details of that specific job with “just a second to pull up notes.” I don’t doubt there are plenty of people who *could* do that, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that anyone *should.”

          Reply
          1. Sasha*

            It also assumes you are in a location where you ^can^ “just pull up notes”. If you are driving, or in the park with your kids, or halfway through a 10k run, no amount of thinking on your feet is going to make you interview well.

            Reply
  35. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    When I was job hunting, I was papering the earth with applications. I had the computer files and the spreadsheet, but it takes a few minutes to open them and refamiliarize yourself to your applications.

    So I’d let calls go to voice mail, then pick them up, check my files, and call back within 5 or 10 minutes. If waiting that long was going to make them not want to talk to me at all, it wasn’t a good situation to begin with. But I don’t recall that that ever happened.

    Reply
  36. Bookworm*

    Thanks for asking, OP! Can confirm Alison’s last paragraph. Got a call out of the blue (I had just applied), wasn’t prepared and asked to call the following day. Left a message, never heard back.

    TBF I knew this was a risk and already had some inclination from previous interactions but in the end I’m glad I didn’t waste 30 minutes or whatever.

    Reply
  37. Raida*

    I’d go with “I’m out and about at the moment, can I call you back at [specific time within the hour]?”
    And make the call from your computer, with all your research and the application available to you.

    AND don’t be vague and give shoddy answers!

    Say, very clearly and confidently, “I have applied to three dozen jobs since I finished the application for this role and I don’t have my research notes and application in front of me. What is [company’s] specific product/purpose?”
    maybe add in a “Sorry, but the business name is just too similar to some other ones for me to recall off the top of my head. I know you understand how it is, when it’s not the only role I’m looking at!”

    This puts the next step on them to give you the info required, it does not *request* the info, it puts them in the position of having to make themself look bad if they disagree with understanding how job applications work, etc.

    I do this all the time because I’m bad with names – I dont’ use a ‘neat trick’ where I call everyone ‘buddy’ – I jsut say “I have forgotten your name, I’m so sorry, I’m terrible with names.” and we move on with our lives.

    Reply
    1. katertot*

      This is perfect- I think the key is coming off confident and ensuring it doesn’t sound like you don’t care, recruiters KNOW that you’re applying to multiple roles, and it’s not that you haven’t done your research, just that you need a minute to go back to your notes.

      Reply
  38. RJ*

    After job hunting for over a year and despite keeping records of companies, hiring manager names etc. I will not take calls from numbers I am not expecting calls from. If they leave me voicemail, I immediately go back to my notes and research the position, brief description and cover letter (where applicable). These type of calls sabotage the process IMO.

    Reply
  39. Rachel*

    Ugh I have definitely had situations like this!!! I once had someone be annoyed that I didn’t remember details from an application I had put in a month before.

    Reply
  40. Anna*

    I’ve had sudden calls before and I’ve always found the best way to deal with it is to just say “I’m driving right now, can you call back in 20 minutes once I’m home?” It’s a short enough time that they’ll just call another person in between and won’t forget you-and it gives you time to track down your research!

    Reply
  41. SleeplessKj*

    Keep notes and a spreadsheet where you can keep a record of each job you’ve applied to so you’re not caught off guard again.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Today*

      Yes, I also thought this was a test and the interviewers said to herself “gotcha”.

      So unfair!

      Reply
  42. Fabulous*

    Seems like what would make the most sense in these instances would be to say something like, “I’ve been researching and applying to several companies and I’m finding that all the details have started to run together at this point. Could you please refresh my memory on what your product/service is so I can be sure to give you the best answer?”

    Reply
  43. ElleKay*

    We’re actually hiring for a position right now and one of the (very qualified!) candidates responded to my boss’ scheduling email to ask for a copy of the job description. I didn’t find this problematic at all (since, yes, you apply to many jobs and, now that our application window is closed, the JD is no longer on the website) but it completely turned my boss off!
    She thought it was rude and showed a lack of interest. When I point out to her much of what Alison says here and that HR took down the description her response was like “Oh, well OK, I guess” but it’s definitely counting against this candidate.
    And it’s soooo frustrating! Our application window was open for 5 weeks; are you supposed to have downloaded and saved (indefinitely!?) the description for everything you apply to while job hunting?!

    Reply
  44. Regular Human Accountant*

    I always save the cover letter with the name of the company in the filename, which allows me to pull it up quickly if necessary and see what I was aiming at. I like other commenters’ suggestion of a spreadsheet with the date of application and a link to the job description.

    Back in the olden days of newspaper ads, my freshly-graduated self would cut the ad out and staple it to an index card and write the application date and any interview notes on it . . . sometimes I miss index cards.

    Reply
  45. Orora*

    YES! This is spot on. It’s ridiculous to ask someone to remember all the jobs they apply to during an active job search. When I am recruiting, I block out chunks of time on my calendar specifically for phone interviews. Google Calendar lets you set appointments so I send my public calendar to the candidate and let them choose a date and time that is convenient for them within the blocks of time. It eliminates a lot of back and forth.

    This way the candidate can be in a quiet place, with our website in front of them, and have an uninterrupted, prepared conversation. It is rude to believe that the candidate’s time is less important than yours and they can drop everything because you called to ask them about a job they applied to 3 weeks ago.

    Reply

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