3 (Possible) Exceptions to the Do-Not-Call Rule

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This post originally appeared on February 9, 2009.

Last week I talked about why you should never listen to people who tell you to call and follow up on a job application. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Here are three circumstances under which it might be okay to follow up on the resume you sent:

  1. You were referred by a friend/colleague of the person you’re contacting. If the hiring manager or the corporate recruiter is a personal friend or colleague of someone you know, and that person says you should call, then go ahead and do it. What you’re looking for here is someone who can say with absolute certainty, “Yeah, I know Jose, and he’s not going to mind that you’re calling to follow up.”
  2. You have serious problems with the application process that cannot be resolved any other way. Back in the days when resumes arrived via email, I occasionally had candidates who would call me because their email bounced, or they got error messages, or other stuff happened that genuinely made them wonder whether I’d receive their resumes. In those cases, obviously, I didn’t mind the follow-up (and, in fact, I appreciated knowing that they were having issues, because it helped me work with the IT folks to figure out what was wrong). More recently, most medium-sized and larger companies are using an applicant tracking system (ATS) to manage candidates. Occasionally they don’t work the way they should. If you have problems with a company’s online application process, look for an 800 number or email address to use. It’s usually at the bottom of the screen, or somewhere in the error message itself. Those are important because applicant tracking systems are usually run by an outside company that hosts the application…not the company to which you’re applying. The company to which you’re applying, ironically, can’t usually help much with the technical problems. If there really is NO online or phone support, and you really can’t get the thing to work, and you’re sure you’re following the directions…then it’s okay to call the company. Take good notes on what you did and which error messages you got, though, so they know you’re not just a dolt who can’t work a computer. Sometimes those systems really suck, but the corporate types who implemented them don’t always admit it unless you show them what went wrong.
  3. You’re applying for a job where being obnoxious is a plus. In some company cultures, only the super-flashy people get ahead. I’d rather be hit in the head with a frozen chicken* than work for one of those companies, but if that’s your thing, knock yourself out. There are also some fields (like public relations, for example) where the definition of “obnoxious” is different than it would be for, say, accountants. That’s not to say that PR people are obnoxious…just that they are, perhaps, more likely to respect your aggressive approach, rather than resent it. If you work in one of those fields, and you are calling other people who work in those same fields, your mileage may vary. If you’re calling the HR person who is recruiting for one of those fields, though, the normal rules of obnoxious apply, because we HR people mostly hate that kind of thing. Be flashy only with your fellow flash-o-philes, please.

One caveat: Even in situations where it might be okay to call, I’d still recommend emailing instead. A telephone is an inherently rude object. When you are in the middle of doing something else, it makes a loud ringing sound, and asks you to drop whatever you are doing to talk to someone who randomly decided that this was good time to interrupt you without any real clue what you were working on. Email, on the other hand, is a little less intrusive. Additionally, unlike a phone call, an email recipient can reply at 3am if that’s what’s convenient. Email also allows you to show off the fact that you can form a coherent sentence. Not everyone can do that, so you get an edge instantly. If you MUST follow up on your application, I’d do it via email.

*NOTE: This is a colorful expression, not an actual invitation to hit me in the head with a frozen chicken. Last week I learned that there are some crazy people who are reading this blog, so I feel compelled to make this clear. I prefer not to be hit in the head, or in any other body part, with frozen dead animals of any sort. Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

Photo by Ballistik Coffee Boy

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6 Responses

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