I’ve been reading a lot of books about job searches. They all say you have to send in your resume then follow up with phone calls. In other words, be a pest! I am really annoyed by the junk phone calls I have to put up with both at work and at home, so I feel really stupid calling busy professionals and bothering them. Is this really the right way to go? Your advice and comments would be welcome. Thanks.

Nick’s Reply

hiring managerThat depends on who you’re calling.

A hiring manager’s dream

Suppose you’re at your job and you need to discuss with your boss how you plan to do your work more effectively and to get the boss’s advice. Would you feel like a pest (that is, annoying or a nuisance) if you called your boss to talk about work? Of course not!

So, how are you being a pest if you call your future boss about the work? You’d be the hiring manager’s dream.

A pest

It also depends on what you’re calling about. Are you calling to find out whether the boss received your resume? Or to say you’re just like all other job applicants — that you’re “really interested in the job”? Whether you call the hiring manager or the Human Resources department, how are you making their day or their jobs better? You’re not being helpful, are you? That’s annoying.

If you think you’re going to annoy someone, don’t call them.

If you think you can help a busy hiring manager (or your own boss) solve their problems, meet the challenges they’re facing in their department and contribute to the bottom line, then call! Good bosses (and smart hiring managers) want to meet job candidates who can offer solutions. That’s who they will hire. Is that you?

Prepare to talk with the hiring manager

But here’s where the fun really starts. Forget the job application protocols you’ve been taught. Skip the traditional process and sequence of events. Don’t act like every other job seeker! Your call need not be a follow-up to a resume or to say you really want the job (like every job seeker does), or to follow up on an interview. Your call — not your resume — should be your first contact with the manager!

Be ready to talk shop with the hiring manager just like you’d talk shop if you called your own boss! Stand out from the resumes.

This advance call about the work creates an advantage that your competition doesn’t have. When the manager finally meets you, they will know you and what you have to offer. The interview will quickly turn into a working meeting where the two of you can immediately get down to brass tacks. That gives you a tremendous edge.

There’s a catch

What’s the catch? You’ve got to do lots of work to prepare a brief call where you can offer the help that a specific manager needs. But isn’t that exactly what thoughtfully picking a job to pursue is all about? If you can’t walk into a manager’s office and demonstrate both your understanding of the work to be done and your ability to do it, then you have no business in that interview! Why should a manager hire you? To pull this off, you must do a lot of homework and preparation so that you will be worth talking with — not a pest!

(When is the last time you delivered a completed project to your boss without first discussing it? A job interview is a project. You can’t do it without first defining the scope and the deliverable. That means talking to the manager.)

Pest vs. dream

Are you beginning to see the distinction between making a useful phone call and one that wastes a manager’s time? The difference lies in preparation. (No idea where to start? Try the most important question in an interview.)

Traditional job hunting protocol says you should call after you submit an application. Yah. What are you going to say? “Did you receive my resume? I really want the job and I want you to know it!” Such perfunctory information is no more valuable than the sixth marketing message you’re harassed with: “Did you get the e-mail we sent you last week? You’re gonna love our product!” It’s all irrelevant and annoying.

Good managers pay attention to smart people who can talk shop. So, worry about being a pest only if you’re going to act like one. Be the manager’s dream by telling them something they need to hear—and relish the advantage you’ll gain over your competition.

So, what should that call be about?

Have I left you wondering… Okay, but what do I say to the manager when I make that call? What should the call be about?

Uh-uh. Nope. I’m not telling you. (I’m not going to set tens of thousands of people loose on managers, making calls reciting the same message.) You figure it out, then give your potential next employer a call. Don’t be a pest. Be the manager’s dream — and deliver value. No resume is required.

I won’t tell you what to say, but I’ll give you this tip: To plan what you should say to a manager, put yourself in the manager’s shoes. If you were a manager, what would you want to hear from a caller who wants to work for you? As the job hunter, What does it mean to talk shop to that manager?

eclipse 2024Think. Upon introducing yourself to a manager who knows nothing about you and who has never seen your resume, what could you say to make the manager want to meet you — and hire you? Then come join us in the Comments section below to share your ideas about How to Say It!

NOTE: My apologies for not providing a heads-up that there would be no newsletter last week! I was in Texas with friends chasing the total eclipse, which we found in a Walmart parking lot in Killeen. Four and a half minutes of totality, but only a few glorious seconds without full cloud cover. It was totally worth the 3+ hours each way from Houston!

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  1. I think everyone is over-complicating this simple, yet crucial, portion of a job search. If, in discussion, the interviewer suggested they would be making a decision in X days/weeks/months, a follow-up call (in the absence of any communication with the prospective employer) is not annoying, but a logical next step in the process. Sometimes just a message left could be enough to jog the interviewer’s memory. What happens next is potentially more critical than the interview, itself.

    If you were promised an answer in XX days/weeks/months, you’re entitled to some kind of response to give you status (or hopefully an offer). But if the person and/or company who interviewed you is now dodging your calls, they’re dirtbags and you probably dodged a bullet.

    But if you only had contact with an HR department, they’re still not off the hook. If you answered a job posting or other opportunity advertised to solicit responses, you’re still owed a response of some kind. HR employees and/or directors who routinely do this are also dirtbags and deserve to be fired.

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m not understanding why everyone is not understanding this concept. Common courtesy is what we should be showing, and expect in return.

    • @Steve: Please read the OP’s question again. It says: “They all say you have to send in your resume then follow up with phone calls.”

      There was no interview, just a resume submission.

      Once an interview has taken place, I agree with your suggestions. But I think what we’re talking about here is how to get in the door.

      • Ok, I had a half-dozen or more things going that day. But I nailed it in my third paragraph. Employer had an obligation to contact everyone who responded. If they didn’t, they’re not worth the time to think about this again. No excuse for not responding.

  2. Glad you got to see the eclipse! Everyone thought Cleveland would get clouds, but clear weather and sat in the front yard and saw the whole thing.

  3. An issue that I have seen is that the job itself is often very different from what they posted. You can make guesses about what they need from their industry and the position in general but I seem to guess quite incorrectly most of the time. So of course they never call back.

    • You can often make good guesses about what a potential employer needs from what they include in their job add requirements or assets. Talk about your successes in dealing with similar situations.

  4. I have been on both sides of this and HR does mess things up for both candidates and hiring managers. That being said. I am not taking a call from someone on how they are going to fix my problems when they have no idea what my problems are. I get enough of that from vendors who I routinely block because they all claim to have the magic fix to a problem I may or may not have. The only exception is If they know someone I know and they get to me as a referal but not for a verbal discussion until I have seen a resume to see if their experience is even in the ball park.

    • @Jeff:

      “I am not taking a call from someone on how they are going to fix my problems when they have no idea what my problems are.”

      Gotcha. But please read more carefully:

      If you can’t walk into a manager’s office and demonstrate both your understanding of the work to be done and your ability to do it, then you have no business in that interview! Why should a manager hire you? To pull this off, you must do a lot of homework and preparation so that you will be worth talking with

      This is not a conventional approach, and it’s not easy, but I believe it’s the only way to apply for a job if you’re serious. I totally understand why you wouldn’t want a call from someone that cannot pull this off!

  5. Pre-COVID I would have said a follow up call was being a pest unless they has something specific to discuss.

    But Post-COVID?? I would be happy if the person showed ANY interest in working.

  6. An email is less intrusive than a phone call, and gives you a chance to write two or three sentences without being interrupted, yourself. Also, you can send it any time of day or night.

    • @JR: I think a phone call is best, though I know these days people tend to be averse to calls and would prefer e-mail or text. You could pull it off with e-mail if you’re a good writer.

      • How about:

        “I recently applied for the open position as [**]. I’m a great admirer of your company’s work, and I am sure my experience and skills will help me do the job profitably and well, especially in the areas of [*] and [*].

        “I have some thoughts about this, and also one or two questions, and I wonder if you would have time for a brief telephone conversation sometime in the next few days? Please let me know if there would be a good time to call.

        “Thanks! I look forward to speaking with you soon.”

        Include somewhere reference to application submission, LinkedIn profile, and/or (hopefully) a mutual professional acquaintance so they can check you out beforehand if they want to.

        This is very non-pressing and gives them lots of room to ignore you, which would tell you probably all you need to know. On the other hand, they might email back.

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