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The company I work for supplies phones and a phone account to employees. They have since I started working there almost a decade ago. It is a benefit, and not primarily used for work or expected to be.

I'm now going to hit the job trail again. Is it a "faux pas" for me to use this for phone interviews, contact number regarding interviews, etc? I'm not much concerned about what my current employer thinks about it, but I am concerned what my potential new employer would think about it -- especially since my current employer shows up on caller ID when I call.

If getting a new phone and a account were free and easy I'd of course do it. But since it isn't, I'm wondering if it's worth the effort.

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New phones aren't free, but can you buy a cheap pay-as-you-go one? I heard recently that a TracFone with 120 minutes is about $10 (here in the US). –  Monica Cellio Dec 20 '12 at 16:05
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why not just dial *67 before dialing? –  Yuck Dec 20 '12 at 17:54
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Personally, I prefer to give out a Google Voice number to recruiters and anyone else who might spam with with calls. Having a third-party service that allows me to screen calls and distinguish them in caller ID is a huge benefit. –  Nathan Long Dec 20 '12 at 19:53
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10 Answers 10

up vote 37 down vote accepted

Cell phones are cheap. You do not need the latest smartphone You can buy a prepaid phone with 100 minutes for $10-$50. Minutes are usually less than $.10 a minute for them. You do not need an account and when you are done with your job search you can throw the phone away dispose of the phone in an ecologically friendly way if you want.

I say this because yes it will look bad to your potential employer if they find out you are using company resources to secure a new position. The reason is if you are willing to do so at your current employer there is no reason to think you would not do so again at your new employer. If you are willing to take those resources what other resources are you also taking from your employer? They may be unreasonable assumptions on the prospective employers part but if you are willing to take the time to jump through their hoops there is no point looking unprofessional by using your current employers resources unless you can honestly say your employer is embracing and helping you find new employment(I have had a few that were very good about that).

So Yes you should avoid using your current employers cell phone.

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It should be noted that '... throw the phone away...' should come with the acknowledgement that it can't be into the trash - cellphones, as electical devices, are usually considered 'hazardous' or 'toxic' waste. If you don't want the phone, most electronic stores recycle them, and there are even some charities that take old phones. –  Clockwork-Muse Dec 21 '12 at 5:04
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No answer seems to be addressing this key part of the question:

The company I work for supplies phones and a phone account to employees. They have since I started working there almost a decade ago. It is a benefit, and not primarily used for work or expected to be.

If your employer expects and anticipates you using the phone for personal use there is nothing wrong with using it for personal use, whether calling your family or scheduling job interviews.

You might have specific language in your phone plan about this but it is unlikely.

Likewise, no one is really addressing your specific question:

I'm now going to hit the job trail again. Is it a "faux pas" for me to use this for phone interviews, contact number regarding interviews, etc? I'm not much concerned about what my current employer thinks about it, but I am concerned what my potential new employer would think about it -- especially since my current employer shows up on caller ID when I call.

It's doubtful your interviewers or potential new employer is going to care. About the only time it even might matter is if you are in their contact list already under "Name, Company" (which is really unlikely) or have a voicemail message which clearly indicates you are part of a company. In the latter case, this still probably isn't much of a factor to them as long as you have a professional prompt.

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Landline caller ID includes the name of the caller, (or in this case, the company name) without needing to have it in a directory on the receiving end. –  Aric TenEyck Dec 20 '12 at 23:50
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I think the company name showing up is an issue, to them it may seem like you are improperly using your companies resources if they assume you aren't suppose to use the phone for your own use. Beyond that, If your company has access to the phone records and you want to keep working while you search this could be a real issue. I'd imagine if they decided to look at who you are calling and discover that you are job hunting they may decide to let you go. The cost of your own phone might be trivial compared to the lost income from losing your job if this happens.

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If I was an employer and your current employer's came up on caller ID when I was calling in response to an application or lead I received about you, I wouldn't hesitate to hang up the phone.

From an ethical perspective, it demonstrates your willingness to exploit your current employer to further your career. It may sound a little extreme, but it's a little more bold and brazen than I would expect.

  • Use company resources (computer, printer, envelopes) to draft your resume? You wouldn't be the first, by a long shot.
  • Take a long lunch hour to go to an interview? It may require a little imagination, but it's been done.
  • Use the company phone system or company-issued cellphone to call recruiters or potential employers? Ethically muddy waters, but not out of the ordinary.

In your case, you're actually using your company cell phone to receive calls to find other employment. That's like cheating on your girlfriend, but giving your mistress your girlfriend's nightie to wear because it really gets your motor running. Even if your girlfriend never finds out, the mistress already knows what you are capable of doing. Initially, she may feel special and flattered because of the risks you're taking to be at your best with her, but, eventually, she'll figure out, based on your history, she probably needs to take regular inventory of her underwear drawer.

You're going to need to weigh the costs of getting your own cell phone against the potential benefit of the new job you're looking for. If you can't afford to get a basic personal cell phone used simply for the purpose of allowing potential employers to contact you, then you may need to stick it out on your current job until you can afford to look for a new one.

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mistress + nightie anecdote is priceless –  zipquincy Dec 20 '12 at 18:28
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From practical point of view you should use your private phone number - because you have control, how long you will use it.

If you're looking for new job, you're going to quit those you have now, and you'll have no longer your company phone. Assume the company you're applying to will want to contact you - and they have only that phone number you don't have anymore...

As it was stated, cell phones are cheap. What's the reason to care to save a few dollars using you current 'benefit'?

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Yes, I would avoid using a company cellphone because it's something you do not control. If your company decided to give you a different phone tomorrow, then you have two problems: 1) the interviewer may be unable to reach you, or 2) the interviewer might end up talking to someone else in your company.

If you think of a job search as an investment in how you earn your living, then it makes sense to spend a little up front to make sure everything is in your control.

Can you use your company's cell phone for a job search? Sure you can -- but it comes with certain risks that I personally wouldn't find acceptable.

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Since you are still working at your current employer, it is reasonable to expect that your cellphone will display your employers details.

If it is indeed difficult and expensive to get a private phone where you are, I doubt any employer would think twice about it.

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As others have mentioned, cell phones are dirt cheap. Here in the US, you can pick up a no-contract dumb-phone for about $50 for the handset and then $20-30/month for the service. Once you get your job, you stop paying.

Bear in mind that your employer is getting the bill for your phone, which means they can see every phone number you call. Depending upon the level of technical sophistication of your company, each and every phone number might be automatically recorded and categorized (I've written apps that do this for budgetary reasons).

Now, the chance is small, but it exists:

  1. Your phone bill gets audited.
  2. You are asked why you called "Acme, Inc" several times off hours.
  3. You are fired.
  4. You now have to explain to Acme why you were recently fired.

or

  1. You find a job at Acme, Inc and quit.
  2. Your phone records are audited by your old company.
  3. You are personally billed for the usage*.

*Does your phone agreement include provisions for personal use?

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*) The OP states that the company-issued phone "is a benefit, and not primarily used for work or expected to be.". That would seem to me to indicate that personal use is fine by the company. Of course, job-hunting might be different! –  Michael Kjörling Dec 21 '12 at 19:11
    
@MichaelKjörling you are right! -1 for my reading comprehension fail. –  BryanH Dec 24 '12 at 0:38
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From an ethics POV, using a company cellphone for non-company purposes is not strictly ethical and therefore I would not use a company cellphone for job-searching outside of the current company.

(Not to mention your activities are likely to be monitored by the company IT (most companies make you sign something stating 'you consent to be monitored') and your activities may be breaking company-policy. Or at the very least very embarrassing/increminating if someone in your company finds out what you are doing with your company cellphone... a)

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You should not use the company number but you can still use the phone. Sign up for a free google voice account. You'll be able to make and receive calls to a different number using the company phone.

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