August 11, 2015

Call Me, Maybe?

MobileI resigned from the regional recruiting firm where I worked for the past eight years in January. After taking some time off to travel, relax, and enjoy a little “funemployment,” I decided that it was time to get back to the real world and start thinking about what’s next for me and my career. I reached out to my network and started reconnecting with old colleagues, but I also decided I should try posting my resume online.

As a professional recruiter for the past 10 years, I’m somewhat wary of this “post and pray” method, but I’m open to considering many different opportunities at this point, and I figured it couldn’t hurt.

So, I posted my resume on a few of the major job boards and waited for the phone to start ringing …

It never did. Not one call. The phone. Did. Not. Ring.

You’re probably thinking that my resume just isn’t that good. That’s what I would think if someone I didn’t know relayed this story to me. However, after 10+ years as a professional recruiter, I know a good resume when I see one — and mine is pretty damn good. In fact, I look great on paper. I have a solid work history, quantifiable accomplishments listed in an easy-to-read bullet-point format, and a clear career progression.

Besides, I was actually contacted by several different companies regarding a number of potential opportunities.

The real reason the phone didn’t ring is that 100 percent of the initial contact I received regarding my resume was done via email! I was quite surprised, and honestly, very much put off by this approach. My feeling is that if a company can’t be bothered to call me for initial contact, then I can’t be bothered to consider an opportunity with that company.

Now, I’m a relatively teCallch-savvy 34-year-old, so I don’t think this is just me being an outdated curmudgeon in the age of Twitter and texting. But still, I wondered if I was unique in feeling this way?

To find out, I conducted an informal survey among about a dozen or so friends and peers (all mid-level professionals ranging in age from 27-35), and it turns out that I’m not alone. To a person, everyone I spoke to agreed that if a prospective employer sent an email only, they would be less likely to respond than they would if an employer picked up a phone and called. The one caveat was that if it were a particularly well-known or desirable company, most people I talked to said that they’d give that email a little more merit.

One friend put it this way: “An email response to my resume being posted online is just spam. A personal phone call indicates true interest in my candidacy and in getting to know me.”

Another person I spoke to had this to say: “It’s just too easy to send a blast email to hundreds of people, versus a personalized phone call. If I get an email about an opportunity, I think, How many people did they send this to? Did they really read my resume? Are they actually interested in me, or are they playing a numbers game? But when I get a phone call, I know that the person on the other line saw something in my background that they liked and they took the time to call me to discuss it.”

Discussing a position (semi-) in person is one of the main reasons given as to why a phone call beats an email. Words like “consultant” or “analyst” can mean different things in different organizations, and a conversation about a job description is likely to give more clarity to the prospective candidate than the written word.

From the company’s perspective, a live conversation gives the employer a chance to present themselves and the opportunity in the best possible light and ensure that there aren’t any misunderstandings. It is easy to imagine a scenario where an otherwise ideal candidate might ignore an emailed job description that they don’t understand, when, if someone from the company would have taken the time to explain the role more clearly over the phone, they would have been interested in pursuing it further.

GuyThroughout the course of my informal survey, I heard several other reasons why people looked negatively on emailed first-contact: the inability to ask questions; the impersonal nature of the communication; the lack of subtle communication cues, such as voice tone and inflection; and the apparent lack of enthusiasm or sincere interest that an email conveys.

To that last point, many of the people I spoke with about this issue shared the sentiment that, if a position is really a fit, the recruiter or a representative of the company should have a strong urge to call the candidate as soon as possible. The feeling is that a recruiter should be excited and eager to contact a candidate who may be a good match — and if they aren’t driven enough to pick up the phone, then the perception is that maybe it’s not actually a good fit.

Finally, a former colleague (who happens to be on the market right now) summed up her feelings this way: “It’s just common courtesy! Especially if I don’t know you, your email is going to come off like one of the hundreds of other spam emails I receive daily. I put my phone number on my resume for a reason. Use it. Call me.”

Read more in Recruiting Tips

Josh Hale, CSP, has been active in the recruiting and staffing industry since 2004, focusing primarily on high-end corporate accounting and finance placements. Over his career, he has held every position within a staffing firm, including "rainmaker," recruiter, and manager. He has a bachelor’s degree from U.C. San Diego and spends his spare time traveling the poker circuit and working to improve his golf game.