John Hadley's Career Accelerator Blog
Seek Answers to Your Career / Career Search Challenges

September 2008
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Phone Messages
Filed under: Networking, Interview, Recruiters
Posted by: John Hadley @ 3:19 pm

I came across this advice some time ago for how to reach out to a hiring manager who has an opening:

“If the manager’s secretary answers, introduce yourself and ask for the manager by name. Expect that she will tell you he is not available and ask the purpose of your call. Do not, under any circumstances tell her you are responding to an advertisement or seeking a job, but rather say, “it’s personal.” Then leave your name, phone number at which you can be reached, and a time you will be available. The chances are very good that she will pass the message on.”

I take very strong exception with telling someone “It’s personal”. Having been a hiring manager for many years, I can tell you that anyone who did that with me would have a big hole to dig themseleves out of. In fact, most times when I got a message saying “it’s personal”, and didn’t recognize the name, I would throw away the message, ask my administrative assistant to call and find out more, or simply assume the person would call back some time. I had learned that 99% of such messages I received were either recruiters or salespeople.

There is the additional issue of potentially alienating a very important person - the hiring manager’s administrative assistant.  By misrepresenting yourself this way to get around the assistant, they will also remember you negatively for having done that. You have just turned a critical gate keeper into your enemy!

Although the “it’s personal” strategy may get you through more often than being honest about the call, when you do get connected you are on a much stronger footing. The key to an influential conversation, to a winning interview, is to build a strong relationship with the hiring manager, so that they see you as someone they really WANT to work with day by day, who is clearly aligned with their goals, who they can always rely on. Starting out with something that already may negatively influence that relationship is not a great strategy.

For more on how to Hit a Home Run in Every Interview, see this article:

By the way, another tactic used by a recruiter for whom I used to have respect was to leave a fake name. He claimed it was to protect the candidate, since he was so well known. At the time I didn’t realize this - he hadn’t needed to try that particularl dodge because I always took his calls.

He then did 2 things I considered unethical in presenting candidates to me, and I told him not to ever bother to call our company again, as we would never use him in any capacity. (I was responsible for all actuarial hiring.)

A few years later, when I was looking to make a move myself, he called me under the fake name (which I still didn’t know), and sent me materials about his firm with that name on the letterhead.  Since he had moved in the interim and had a different phone number and area code, I didn’t realize it was him. I went on the interview, afterwards happened to mention the name to a friend, and found out who I was dealing with. I never let on, and made a note in my address book never to return a call again that was left under that name!

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