Getting Calls From Recruiters While At Work

[5 minute read]

"Hi Nick, my name is Hyper McSellypants! I'd like to talk to you about a GREAT job opportunity that I think you'd be a PERFECT fit for. Is now a good time to talk?"

Actually Hyper, no, it isn’t. You see, I’m at work. My boss is ten feet away and can hear every word I say. Now, he’s knee deep in some complex problem of his own, so I doubt every word would really register, but somehow I doubt “…blah blah blah { { { new job } } } blah blah…” would escape his ears. Besides all that, my personal phone number and email address are both listed in plain view on my résumé, LinkedIn profile, about.me page, and pretty much everywhere else that displays my professional history. So why go though allllllll the trouble of navigating my company’s phone tree just to hunt me down and put me squarely in the cross hairs of a predictably awkward situation? Why climb to the top of the tree when I leave so much low hanging fruit dangling about? Don’t get me wrong - I may very well be interested in hearing what you have to say! But pitching me a new job while I’m on duty at my current one isn’t far off from hitting on a girl while she’s holding hands with her current boyfriend. Wouldn’t waiting until he’s out of sight improve your probability of success? Likewise, I would really, really, really prefer you leave me a voicemail on my personal line - or better yet, send me an email via my personal address - with a high-level overview of the job in question. If I’m interested, I will make sure to respond as soon as I can reasonably do so. Say, for example, when I’m at lunch or on a break. Sound good?

Thankfully, I don’t get many cold calls from Mr. McSellypants these days. In my experience, at least, most recruiters won’t go out of their way to call you at work so long as they can easily find another number to reach you. The real conundrum is figuring out what number you should make readily available. A cell number would work, but then you’re still vulnerable to all kinds of phone calls you don’t necessarily want to receive. A better solution is to get a “voicemail only” number and putting that on your résumé, LinkedIn profile, and everywhere else that’s public. This way, recruiters are forced to leave you a message and/or email you, and you can choose to call them back when it’s convenient for you - if you’re interested in the job they’re pitching. I’ve used my Google Voice number for this exact reason for years, to great effect, and not just for professional purposes. A voicemail only line is great any time you need to give out your number and you’re even slightly concerned it may end up on some telemarketing list. Or, whenever you’re certain you don’t want to get a call from whoever you’re giving your number to. Or, whenever a voice message from the recipient will suffice. I basically default to my Google Voice number for any situation where a person or company I don’t explicitly trust needs a phone number for me. I leave my Google Voice account permanently in Do Not Disturb mode and, voilà!, instant FREE voicemail only line.

Google Voice isn’t the only option out there for this purpose, but it’s still the best when you consider that it’s completely free. It’s a little sad, in a way, because it’s in such desperate need of an overhaul. The iOS app is ancient. The web interface is kludgy. Sometimes I get duplicate messages. The voice transcription is so inaccurate it’s essentially useless. The general consensus is that all or most Voice functionality will eventually be folded into Google Hangouts, but when and if that will happen isn’t currently publicly known. For all we know, Voice could be discontinued entirely tomorrow. Unfortunately, every other service I can find that could be used as a phone filtration system starts at $10 a month. Compared to free, $120 a year seems awfully steep. Until very recently I had started to use another service called SendHub, which had a limited, free plan and a nice, modern UI for both the web and iOS app, but as of September 12, 2014 that option is being discontinued. The next cheapest plan is $25 a month, which is way too much money for my intended usage. True, SendHub is entirely geared toward enterprise customers - not people like me - so I understand their pricing strategy, but still I wish they would have simply raised the price of the basic plan instead of eliminating it entirely. Personally, I’d be willing to pay $5 a month for what used to be their “Basic” plan. Voice messages didn’t chip away at the Basic Plan’s monthly allotment of 30 voice minutes, so as a voicemail only line it was perfect.

Clearly, as my introductory rant indicated, some recruiters will still dig up your work phone number or email address. Over the past few years, I’d guess this has happened only half a dozen times or so. I usually just tell them now isn’t a good time to talk and to contact me using the number or email address on my LinkedIn profile. They always seem happy to comply. The last time, which precipitated this post, the guy was sheepish, almost embarrassed. That makes me think this is more of a rookie mistake than a conscious act of aggressive recruiting. Regardless, my voicemail only line has saved me countless unwanted interruptions from recruiters pitching jobs I wasn’t interested in pursuing. If you find yourself getting too many unwanted calls from recruiters - or anyone else for that matter - I’d highly recommend getting yourself one too.