“Would this annoy you?” Yes. Yes it would.

“Would this annoy you?” Yes. Yes it would.

by Kerry Scott on 24 August 2009


A loyal Clue Wagon reader sent me a link to this article, asking, “As a recruiter, would this annoy you?”

Yes.  Someone calling me at the end of a meeting when I have to pee, to recite a script that says…what?  “Please hire me, because I’m really sick of being unemployed, and I’m really fabulous?”  Yep, that would be annoying.

I see these articles a lot.  In fact, they’re one of the reasons I started this blog.  And the thing is, the advice isn’t really too far off the mark.  I mean, you can’t just apply and wait for something to happen.  You have to make contact.  But this article is missing a few key points:

  1. Phone calls suck. I’ve said this before:  a telephone is an inherently rude instrument.  You’re busy doing something, and suddenly a loud bell rings, and you’re supposed to drop everything because it was a good time for someone else to talk.  That’s a flawed concept.  That’s why email was invented.  If you want to cold-call complete strangers, cold email them instead.  At least then there’s some chance that you won’t annoy the crap out of them, that they’ll remember your name, and that they’ll be able to actually respond to you.  I don’t have time to talk to people when I’m running from one meeting to another, but I have time to respond to emails at 5am (when I can’t call, because it’s too early).  The email candidates get a response.  The phone candidates probably won’t.
  2. Scripts suck. Have you ever received a call from a telemarketer?  They have scripts too, and they’re annoying.  Most people aren’t good at delivering a script.  That’s another reason email works better than phone calls.  I’m a fan of having a few key bullet points written out to help keep you on track during difficult conversations.  But scripts?  Nope.  Additionally, what are you going to say that’s going to make me want to throw out my current hiring process and just pick you instead?  Even if the hiring process is bad, most people aren’t going to admit it that easily.
  3. Everyone’s doing this. The economy is bad, and it has been for a while.  That means salespeople aren’t making sales.  Do you know what salespeople do?  They cold call.  The HR people I know aren’t answering their phones at all anymore, because they’re being bombarded with cold calls from desperate salespeople.  Do you really want to get into that mix?  Because if you think you’re the only one calling to say you want something, you’re crazy.
  4. “Key hiring positions” are relative. I hope the book spells out that someone in a “key hiring position” is a hiring manager, not an HR person.  Remember, HR people don’t hire (unless the job is in the HR department).  Hiring managers hire.  That’s why they’re called “hiring managers.”
  5. It’s a whole lot of peddling in the wrong direction. You’re supposed to do in-depth research to find all of these names of people to call, and “the point is not to know them personally, just [to get names of] people to call.”  That’s a lot of work just to get 50 names so you can get one interview (and really, I think that’s an incredibly optimistic ratio).  What if you put that same effort into building a network so you DID know someone personally?  Because cold calling doesn’t get you a job.  Warm calling gets you a job.  Spend your time building your network so that when you put a message out to everyone you know saying, “Does anyone have a contact at Acme Corporation?” someone does.  THAT’S a good use of your time.

Don’t get me wrong—there are a few things about this message that are dead on.  I agree that you have to be aggressive about looking for a job.  I agree that you have to talk to a lot of people.  I definitely agree that you have to be prepared for rejection, and that you can’t let all that rejection get you down.  It’s part of the job of finding a job.

In terms of the mechanics of how this is supposed to work, though, I have to ask:  Do you like getting calls from telemarketers?  Do you buy what they’re selling?  Because this approach boils down to the same concept…calling a bunch of people hoping someone will bite.  That plays to your desire to DO something to alleviate your frustration, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to a job.  Putting that same about of effort into a more targeted approach will get you back to work much faster.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I haven’t read the book in question…just the blog post I linked to above.    I tried to find the book, but they didn’t have it at my nearest giant two-story bookstore, and my local library didn’t have it either.  I didn’t think I knew the author of the book, but in trying to find his company’s website or something else to tell me about his background, I found his LinkedIn profile.  Apparently we worked for the same company at the same time.  I worked in Milwaukee, and he evidently worked in Chicago.  I don’t remember him, and I don’t think we ever met (although I suck at remembering stuff like that, so if he reads this:  Sorry dude.  Nothing personal.  I’m bad at remembering stuff like that).  I avoided going to Chicago whenever possible, and I was on maternity leave for a big chunk of his time there, so I don’t really know anything about him.  His LinkedIn profile appears to be incomplete, and I couldn’t find a company website for him.

Photo by The U.S. National Archives

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Alexis August 24, 2009 at 8:53 am

Sounds like too much of a shotgun approach to me. I might argue that in this case, when everybody hiring in a 50 mile radius knows your name, it could be a bad thing…

PS I love how you describe the phone as “rude.” I totally agree. I always feel like I am inevitably interrupting someone and therefore, prefer e-mail so we can play phone tag at our convenience.
.-= Alexis´s last blog ..Phases That Will Earn You A Kick In The Face =-.

class factotum August 24, 2009 at 9:45 am

A former co-worker wouldn’t give out his cellphone number. He maintained that the phone was for his convenience, not that of a caller.

I absolutely agree with that philosophy but in this case, it was a cellphone provided BY OUR EMPLOYER. In that situation, I would say that the phone is for the convenience of customers and co-workers.

My husband does not have a company-paid cellphone for that exact reason: he does not want to have to answer the phone every time it rings.

Except he does answer it every time it rings. “What if it’s my PARENTS?” he wants to know. Well, so what? If they’re dead, they’ll still be dead after the movie is over. Dead in FLORIDA. We’re in WISCONSIN. So it’s not like we can do anything about it this second anyhow.
.-= class factotum´s last blog ..Marriage 101, Lecture 85: Your kiss is on my list =-.

laurie ruettimann August 24, 2009 at 10:09 am

Good lord.

Just reminds me that you can write a book about anything and find an audience.
.-= laurie ruettimann´s last blog ..Coulda Been a Contender =-.

abdpbt August 24, 2009 at 1:29 pm

See, you’re my kind of recruiter: I have always despised the phone, and you’ve articulated it so much better than I ever have. It IS RUDE. And when someone leaves a message it’s like, well fuck–now I have to make time to call them, too? I’m not looking for a job, but I appreciated this anyway.
.-= abdpbt´s last blog ..8 of My Ill-Fated Attempts At Starting a Twitter Meme =-.

Kerry Sandberg Scott August 24, 2009 at 1:35 pm

My theory is that the phone was invented by extroverts. I’m an introvert. So there you go.

Clare August 24, 2009 at 3:41 pm

It’s the numbers-game approach – the same as in telemarketing. What matters isn’t the quality of the leads so much (although this obviously helps) but the quantity. The more you call, the higher your chances of boring someone into buying. But as an ex-telemarketeer, I can also tell you that you’re more likely to end up with painful squashed-ear syndrome (caused by clasping a phone to your ear for four hours straight) than with getting enough “bites” to justify your time.
.-= Clare´s last blog ..Use your personality to get a job =-.

adowling August 24, 2009 at 9:36 pm

I am a firm believer that the phone is evil and should be banned by all. Eight times out of ten the person calling is someone checking on the status of their resume; I got it. I keep the volume turned almost all the way down and out of my line of sight. I’ve got a friend in Compliance, her voicemail is “you’ve reached the voicemail of Jennifer, please email me at Jennifer@email.com“.
.-= adowling´s last blog ..Rock The PHR – a PHR study guide =-.

Liz Williams September 21, 2009 at 11:09 am

True story about the phone: I was talking to my Italian professor in his office and I heard this ringing sound that seemed to be coming from a long distance. It stopped, but in a few minutes, started again. My professor sighed, excused himself and pulled out a key, unlocked his bottom desk drawer, removed the phone book on top and pulled out his phone which was ringing. He answered it, told the caller he was busy and replaced the phone, put the phone book back on top of it, then shut and locked the drawer. “Please excuse the interruption. The phone makes us all discourteous.”
.-= Liz Williams´s last blog ..The tale of X =-.

Nyxalinth October 17, 2009 at 12:25 am

those ‘What Color is Your Parachute’ books are ALWAYS recommending this approach. I knew there was a reason I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea. What’s your opinion on them? I find them annoying, though there’s some good advice here and there.

Kerry Sandberg Scott October 17, 2009 at 7:07 am

My opinion is that you shouldn’t take advice on how to get a job from someone who hasn’t spent a great deal of time giving out jobs to people (and recently, not in 1989). There are a lot of people who give advice on this, but not many of them actually know from experience what gets people hired.

You can find nuggets of good advice anywhere, but you’re likely to find more of them from people who know what they’re talking about.

I also think there are a lot of people who make a lot of money by making it sound like you need to know a lot of special secrets to get a job. You don’t. You need to know how to make yourself qualified to do a lot of things, and you need some common sense. That’s it. I wish there was a secret so I could sell millions of books too…but there isn’t.

Antropologa October 19, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Yeah, but I suppose you could write something about how to build experience, about career trajectories, about bad career moves, about what looks bad to have on a resume, what looks good. I guess it really depends on the field, and so often that stuff is not under people’s direct control–they just need any old job, please, and then they’re stuck in a location, and then they have debt or family or other constraints.
.-= Antropologa´s last blog ..I hate cold. =-.

Kerry Sandberg Scott October 19, 2009 at 3:15 pm

You could write about any or all of those things, if you had the appropriate experience to give good advice.

My beef is with people who give advice on how to get hired when they don’t actually hire people for a living. They are the majority in terms of job hunting advice, and that really boggles me.

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