Calling Your Potential Employer: 10 Do’s and Don’ts

March 18, 2013 | By Felicity Cull

One of the hardest things about job searching is that feeling you get once you have sent your resume out into the ether. You’re not sure if you’re going to get a response and worse, you don’t know how long you should wait for that response before moving on to the next application. A remedy for the anxiety produced by waiting for an answer is to call your employer to make sure your resume was received and ask about the hiring timeline. But is this a great idea?

I often hear people say that you should always call after you send your resume to ask if it was received, to build rapport and get noticed; this post recommends that you follow up once a week for a month before moving on (which is a lot, I think). On the other side of the argument, HR expert Susan Heathfield calls these phone calls ‘Fishing for attention’ calls and resents this waste of her time, saying this is a way of making a very bad impression.

There’s lots of conflicting answers about follow up calls, but I didn’t realise what a contentious issue it was until I read this post. In the comments, a HR professional said she hates getting these calls and that “no one appreciates being constantly interrupted by unimportant phone calls to check on whether a resume was received or not.” Vitriol from job seekers rained down upon her head. I think she underestimated the emotional impact of her words. People call about their resume because they really want or need a job and they don’t want to be told that issue is unimportant.

We understand that sometimes you just desperately want to know the progress of your job search. As such, we’ve got ten do’s and don’ts about calling to chase up your job application.

Do call if you’re great on the phone. If you’re thinking to yourself “hmmm, am I great on the phone?” you’re probably not. You know if you’re one of those people who are able to be charming and fun while on the telephone. If you are, then by all means use this skill.

Don’t call if you aren’t prepared. At least know which job you applied for and the details of the job (including any code that goes with the job, etc.). If you’re calling a big company and you don’t know the details your call can’t get forwarded correctly. You should also know what you’re going to say and be prepared to answer a couple of questions. It’s a great idea to have your resume in front of you to avoid one of those “hang on I’ll have to find out!” moments.

Do leave a voicemail if the person doesn’t answer. If someone gets multiple calls from the same number but doesn’t get a voicemail, that’s going to be annoying.

Don’t be rude to anyone, even if you think that person is unconnected to your application. If you’re rude to the receptionist, the person in HR or whoever is dealing with your resume is going to hear about it. Don’t bark. Don’t be demanding. Be responsive to the fact that your call may have interrupted something. Understand that some people do not like getting called about these matters. Be sensitive to that and accept that you might not get the answer you want. Be willing to be accommodating by leaving your name and number even if you feel like you might be getting palmed off. I can’t emphasise that last one enough. If the receptionist asks you to leave your details be as polite as you possibly can, tell them your name, why you’re calling and ways to contact you, even if you think this info should already be known by who you’re calling. You will do yourself no favours by not being forthcoming and polite.

Do wait to call until you’re in a good frame of mind. If you’re feeling a little intense about the phone call, go have a sit down and a cup of tea. A phone call that starts with a breathless person urgently saying “IWASWONDERING IFYOU GOTMYRESUME!” isn’t what you want to be conveying. Try again post-cuppa and don’t think about it so hard you start to dread it. Think about it positively and get a good feeling before you pick up the phone. Imagine that the person you will be speaking to is someone you know who is an absolute delight. That should help you get a lovely friendly tone to your voice.

Don’t ramble. Even if someone doesn’t mind getting phone calls about resumes nobody appreciates being kept on the phone for longer than they need to be. Greet the person warmly and then tell them why you’re calling, for example a statement like “Good morning, I’m [your name here]. I applied for the [role] position and I was wondering what the hiring timeline was” is better than “Hi, I am [your name here] and I’m a [your job history] from [hometown] but I just relocated and I was wondering if there was any way you could possibly if it was no trouble…” You get the idea.

Do listen to what the person you’re talking to is saying. Firstly, it’s good manners and secondly you don’t want to miss any of the information that you’re calling for. Also, if you listen, you’re unlikely to experience one of those awkward “no you go” situations.

Don’t call from somewhere loud, somewhere you might have to put the person on hold or from somewhere with reception dead spots. You don’t want to be in the middle of a good conversation and have it ruined by any of these factors.

Do leave it a reasonable amount of time before calling. It’s unlikely to take less than a week for an employer to review all candidates, place a candidate and close the job search so don’t call before a week has passed.

Don’t just call because you think you’re supposed to. I’ll let you in on a secret. If you’re a really good candidate for this particular job, your resume will be noticed whether or not you make one of these calls.

If you follow our do’s and don’ts, you should be able to get an answer without getting a potential employer offside. This article from the New York Times has some pretty interesting things to say about phone etiquette in the past; did you know that for thirty years after telephones became commonly used, telephone companies tried to dissuade people from using them for anything but business? The phone, like all technology, has morphing uses and popularity. Most people use email far more often these days, but you can’t beat the phone for an immediate answer.

Photo by Matt Reinbold.

Read the follow up to this blog here.