Many candidates in my career search optimization seminar ask me, “Can I call a recruiter about an opening even when the job listing specifically says ‘no phone calls please’?”

The answer is “Yes,” and several of my clients have gotten interviews and landed opportunities by ignoring these messages. It’s all about using the correct strategy and phone techniques that anyone can learn and master.

“Do not contact us” messages are gatekeepers to reduce the number of unqualified submissions. Most job seekers simply find the message intimidating. And strong qualified candidates don’t contact the employer because they think their resume is good enough. They make poor assumptions that recruiters actually have the time to read several hundred submissions.

In my talks with HR, recruiters and hiring managers, they all say if the candidate isn’t lucky enough to get their resume noticed through the employer’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS), they are out of luck. The dilemma many face is that they want to follow the HR rules, yet they fear they might not hear back (which happens many times).

With the correct phone techniques, you can increase your probability of getting noticed positively by the corporate recruiter. Remember, at the end of the day, they want to fill the role and move on to other duties. While part of their job is screening candidates out, it also includes looking for top talent. If you’re top talent, you have to make sure you’re noticed, or you might miss out to someone who has better optimized their resume.

Before submitting your resume to a company, I suggest you look at your network and see who currently works there or might know someone who can get you introduced. In the perfect world, you would send an e-mail to your contact, they would do the employee referral and the next day you would have an interview at the company. Realistically speaking, introductions can take time, and if HR is serious about filling the role, you could miss out on a great opportunity.

Using the following technique as a blueprint, here is what I suggest you do:

  • Call the main corporate number and ask who is working on the particular role for which you’re interested in applying.
  • If the receptionist doesn’t know, go on LinkedIn and find a name of someone in recruiting. Call that person and see if he or she is the one in charge of the position.
  • If not, ask who the correct contact is, write down the name and hang up the phone.
  • Call the main receptionist back and ask to speak to the correct contact. The receptionist should be able to transfer you.

Note: If you sound like a nervous jobseeker, you will be caught by the gatekeeper and will have to try this technique another day. To make sure you succeed the first time, simply ask to speak to the contact name as if the person is a colleague or as if you have an appointment with him or her.

  • Once you have the contact on the phone, say “I noticed this particular job description” (state the title or number), “and I have a couple of quick questions for you.”

Note: The words “quick” and “couple” are the key to the recruiter remaining on the phone. If you don’t sound urgent or take too much time trying to build rapport, you can lose their interest and they might reply with, “All qualified candidates must apply online. You’ll be contacted if your background is a good match.”

  • Follow with, “Have you started interviewing for this role yet?” and “If so, what has been the hiring manager’s feedback about the ideal candidate?”

You’d be surprised how much information these two questions will reveal. The first one will give you a sense of the recruiter’s urgency and a glimpse into their hiring process, while the second question will give you a final opportunity to customize your resume to the exact needs of the hiring manager not found on the job description.

  • End with, “I would love to apply for this opening, but if I’m not the perfect fit, I’ll try to help you fill this role by sending referrals.”

There are a couple powerful statements hidden in this sentence. First, you have offered your generosity in helping them fill the role, which compels them to look at your resume. This could be all you need to get the interview.

Second, by saying, “…if I’m not the perfect fit,” you are employing what is called an “embedded suggestion.” In psychology, we learn that our subconscious brain does not hear negatives. (Example: You tell your child, “don’t go into my bedroom,” and he hears “go into my bedroom.”) In this case, the recruiter hears, “I’m the perfect fit.”

While I’ve given you a high-level technique and encouragement to reach out to recruiters when pursuing a job opening, I’m hoping I’ve also given you enough details to get started right away. If you have questions on this technique, or have thoughts to share, put your comments below.

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6 Responses to If the job listing says ‘no calls, please,’ should I call anyway?

  1. Mike says:

    This maybe the single most greatest article I have ever read! 🙂 going through this right now and it makes me feel like i am doing the right thing.

  2. David Anderson says:

    Great read! I love the psychological aspect of what you can do or say to get the edge. You won me over, looks like I’ll be at the Oct 20th semina!

  3. Kristen says:

    As a corporate recruiter I will preface my response by saying that none of mt jobs say “no phone calls please”; that is commonly used more by agencies these days.

    I will gave the same response if receive a phone call (assuming I pick up, which I don’t always do if I don’t have a call on my schedule or recognize the number): please apply online. If you meet our minimum qualifications, I will share your information with the hiring manager.”

    Here is why: I cannot LEGALLY consider anyone that doesn’t meet the minimum qualifications. So feel free to leave me a message.

  4. Jeffrey Lemkin says:

    I don’t agree with the focus or suggested outcome of this article at all. I’ve seen you post many excellent and worthwhile ideas, this – in my view – is not one of them.

    Building a relationship by trying to ‘trick’ a recruiter with Psych 101 rhetorical embeds is one of the silliest – and most unprofessional – things I’ve ever heard of. No recruiter I know worth his or her salt would be willing to do anything in response but what earlier commenter Kristin describes.

    While it is possible – though not likely – that the recruiter will respond to your first question, the second question you pose “If so, what has been the hiring manager’s feedback about the ideal candidate?” is not a question that any real corporate recruiter would be even a little comfortable responding to, particularly from an unknown caller.

    I generally appreciate your good work and the excellent concepts you share with our group, but it’s my view that this strategy is not one of your best ideas.


    Jeff Lemkin

  5. Amy Woidtke says:

    I love the concept of this technique though I have to admit, I have been hesitant to use it because of the ” no calls please” request.

    I understand now how taking the risk could be the key to getting in the door vs. not. I am also interested in what recruiter Kristen has said about legal issues. Curious…

    Thank you for your always helpful tips! I know there is a perfect position perculating for me with a super company. I’m excited to be watching how it pans out 🙂

  6. I appreciate and respect your comments Kristen. We have 100s of clients that have tried this technique successfully over the past 5 years; including myself. While it doesn’t work every time, it works enough times to make it something worth teaching.

    Best regards,
    Paul Anderson