I believe I have some form of social anxiety. I'm uncomfortable speaking to people on the phone, especially people I haven't met, and I'm also uncomfortable meeting new people - especially in the context of an interview (for a job or otherwise), which I understand is not uncommon.

In order to make it less stressful, the last time I was looking for work I attempted to "take it slow". There was no urgent need since I was already in employment, so I decided to just look for available jobs once in a while and apply only to the ones I personally believed I had a shot.

That plan failed. The vast majority of job postings is done through recruitment agencies instead of the employer directly, and the moment I applied for a single job through a recruiter, I began to get calls from several people in that agency where they wanted to get information about me and my experience in order to call me again later with more positions that may fit me. This was eventually followed by calls from people from other agencies as well.

I went along with that and the result was that my stress levels were practically unbearable. Instead of staying with my (then) current employer and waiting until I found something better, I found myself having to answer calls and emails practically every day. Trying to ignore them did not help much; I'd get follow-up emails and messages on my voice mail. Those were always at the back of my mind and as a result I became even more stressed.

In addition, overzealous recruiters often arranged interviews for positions I could tell required more experience and knowledge than I had. When I failed to get through these, my stress elevated even more.

All this stress took me to a place where I'd rather not go again.

When I decide to start looking for other work again, I'd like to make my original plan succeed: Only apply to jobs I personally find, at a pace I would set myself. And yet that seems to be impossible as long as I must apply through recruitment agencies. Even if I explained to a single recruiter that I do not want to hear about other positions (and even if they accepted this), others would still call me and send messages.

I've identified a few things I could have done better, but I'm looking for advice on anything else I could do.

If I start looking again, I plan to do the following things differently than the last time:

  1. Not make my CV publicly available.
  2. Not list a telephone number; although getting a lot of emails is stressful, phone calls are several times more so.
  3. Use a different email address than my main one, for which I wouldn't get notifications. Instead I'd check for new messages periodically.
  4. Explain to every recruiter that contacts me that I do not want to be sent information on any position I've not personally chosen to apply to. Even if most wouldn't listen, some would.

Is there anything more I could do? I thought about adding a notice like "Please, no unsolicited messages" next to my email but I'm not sure that would be a good idea.

  • 4
    George, I have good news: "The vast majority of job postings is done through recruitment agencies" That is totally incorrect. The vast majority of job ads are simply companies directly running a job ad. If you don't like using recruiters, don't use them. Enjoy!
    – Fattie
    Apr 14, 2019 at 19:20
  • 3
    @Fattie This is definitely not always true. In my industry most recruitment is done through recruiters. And in the company I work for, some of the more generic roles will be posted directly on our website, but any of the specialised ones will be done only through recruiters.
    – Phueal
    Apr 15, 2019 at 5:42
  • 1
    Negotiating with your fears typically bites you in the ass for the rest of your life. I suggest eliminating your fears through therapy instead.
    – IDDQD
    Apr 15, 2019 at 12:52

4 Answers 4


1. Don't put your phone number on your CV.

I used to have the same problem.

What I've found is just putting my email address, (and you can create an email address just for recruitment) greatly cuts down on the number of calls I get.

What this does is it gets recruiters to to email you first - and you have the chance to ask about the role via email before talking to them. eg. 'What technology does this role use', 'what are they paying?', etc, and then you have the opportunity to turn them down before giving them your phone number.

You will still need to talk to recruiters on the phone at some point, but at least at this point, you are cutting down on who will be calling you.

2. Save all recruiter phone numbers in your address book.

This way you have a chance of knowing that it is a recruiter that is calling you and you can send it straight to voicemail.

3. Change your voicemail message to say 'I prefer email'.

It's nicer when they just email you instead of leaving a voicemail.

4. Consider buying a cheap phone/SIM just for recruiters

Obviously you need to be talking to recruiters when you're looking for work. But when you're not, you could just have a cheap phone that leave turned off - with a voice message saying to email you instead.

5. Build a network of recruiters that you trust/prefer working with.

What I've found is that some recruiters are pushy, or will put you forward for roles that aren't particularly suitable, while others are a lot more useful and won't waste your time so much.

It takes a while to work out which recruiters you prefer working with, but once you do, then you can favour applying with them over other recruiters.

  • Save all recruiter phone numbers in your address book this tip is unrealistic. Tons of them, really tons, and they change rapidly, one cannot even grab all the phone numbers
    – Suncatcher
    Feb 3, 2020 at 9:27
  1. Don't give out your phone number, it will be shared if you do - and unfortunately you won't know who shared it.
    That doesn't matter in your case, because unless you changed your phone number, a lot of people already have your number... so on to the next step.

  2. When you do get a call. Take control.
    Get their name, the firm they work for and who/where they got your number.
    If they are reluctant to give this information for any reason ("we have to act fast, I need to know...")
    just say, "I'm sorry, this doesn't work for me" and you hang up the phone. Even if you have to talk over them (don't wait for them to stop talking if they are rude, you'll be on the phone all day). When you take control you will be less anxious.
    Put every recruiters phone number into your phone, so you know who is calling you.

NOTE: When you put their names in your phone, prefix recruiters with a letter/phrase.
I have my phone contacts displayed as first/last, so:
* my friend John Doe is "John Doe"...
* recruiter John Doe is "q John Doe"... (q means recruiter)
* unless I don't like him... then he's "x John Doe" (x means don't answer)

Once they are in your phone - you don't have to wonder who is calling.

overzealous recruiters often arranged interviews for positions I could tell required more experience and knowledge than I had. When I failed to get through these, my stress elevated

Well, of course it did! No one likes flunking an interview.

But you can minimize that feeling (the anxiety) two ways:

  1. If an interview is arranged for you and you don't believe you are qualified for the position, don't give permission for the interview to be scheduled.

  2. If the recruiter convinces you that you are "close enough" and you take the interview, you can still take charge when it goes bad.
    When they start asking you specific questions about Java (or whatever) and you don't know that language you just respond:

    "I'm sorry, I don't have experience with Java.
    When I mentioned that to John Doe, he said the fact that I have a lot of experience with .NET MVC would be close enough, and not to worry about it.
    I'm happy to answer questions about MVC if John was correct.

    But if actual Java experience is required it seems that John Doe wasted both our time."

No need to be anxious about not knowing something - no one can know everything.
If you properly explain that it is the recruiter's fault for misunderstanding the job qualifications - they won't think badly of you for that.


Under GDPR recruiters can only call/e-mail only about that one certain job offer you are interested in. Agencies that SHOULD NOT have your phone and e-mail are breaking the law if they acquire and use it.

THEY need your CONSENT to process your data AND in that agreement there should be a sentence about using it only for that particular offer.

Being in situation similar to yours (anxiety and stress) I made a "rule" in my CV:
Before calling please make sure of availability by sms or e-mail.
IMHO it added a little bit of professionalism (as you would normally setup a call meeting at work) and allowed me to just not answer if I seen a number (so not added to my contact lists). A little screening on my side also as it showed who really read my CV.

Second e-mail I setup a second email linked with g-mail account and set filters so only e-mails with keywords were pulled. I didn't checked or seen the mailbox. You can't be stressed by things you don't know exist.

Different CV I had two CV. One with phone and e-mail address that I've sent to certain job offers and second without them that was publicly available on Linked and similar sites. Another screening on my side, IF recruiter really think I'm the candidate for their offer they would go through additional hassle of sending me message on that platform asking for contact. Messages without details were ignored.


I had a similar problem in the past. I was not even looking for a job, but my LinkedIn profile is public, and some agents had my phone number. Which they shared with God knows who.

The result? Countless calls, especially while I was at my work, with colleagues and bosses around. For a while, I tried to be nice, but the number of the calls was going through the roof.

I decided to change the strategy: whenever they called me without prior appointment, I told them that their behavior is totally unprofessional and that I am totally unhappy with the situation. I also told them to spread the information (that I accept calls ONLY after prior written agreement) to all their colleagues and partners, as these colleagues and partners were equally unprofessional.

The result? I got rid of one stress. No more calls.

  • "Who are you and what recruiting company are you calling from? OK. Please be informed that this phone number is on the national Do Not Call registry. Unsolicited calls are a violation of the law and may be subject to a substantial fine per call. I strongly recommend that you take me off your contact list."
    – keshlam
    Sep 15, 2023 at 3:32

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