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I am a software developer in the UK, I am currently searching for a new job. Among the various methods I'm using are recruiters.

I understand that the normal workflow of a typical recruiter will involve a phone call. However, my personal circumstances prevent me from taking phone calls or using Skype. It is an impossibility. I don't have any personal conditions that mean I cannot perform my work, or enter discussions in person, etc. Other aspects of my current situation preclude it. This applies to outside working hours.

How can I effectively communicate that I cannot undertake that part of their preferred process, and would gladly enter into an alternative?

Occasionally an e-mail exchange with a recruiter will proceed something like:

[Introduction: thank you, reiterate purpose of message, discussion of skills and applicability to the invited role, etc.]

I can be contacted by e-mail or post at the addresses given in my CV; I am also available for in-person meetings to discuss the position. Please be aware I am not available for phone calls.

To which they would reply: (often within minutes)

Are you available for me to call you?

To which I simply don't know how to respond, other than to repeat that: no, I'm not.

(n.b. Please consider my situation as axiomatic. If you'd like to challenge the prerequisite, you're not answering my question. Please do so in another question.)

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    Welcome to the Workplace @JAlderson, as you can see a lot of the members here are near obsessed with getting to the absolute root of a question, even if you have been quite clear multiple times that you've addressed it as far as you intend to. You can flag these comments for moderator attention if it becomes too much, I've taken the liberty of flagging them all as 'No longer needed' since you've already updated your question based on the first request and been quite clear on your stance for further details. – RyanfaeScotland Jul 9 at 12:29
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    If you are also going to decline job offers that require or expect to start with a 'phone screen' interview, it may be appropriate to mention that up front as well. How common this expectation is and how willing the hiring manager is to accept an alternate arrangement may vary by your industry, of course. – Meg Jul 9 at 16:55
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    Being unable to take a phone call is not necessarily a problem. Being unable to provide a reasonable explanation as to why that's the case is a massive red flag. It's not clear from your question, but are you open to simply telling them what that reason is? It seems from context that you are not, but this should be clearly stated in the question if it is the case. Would you be open to providing a good reason why you cannot disclose the reason you can't take a phone call? – J... Jul 9 at 22:02
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    Is chatting via Skype (in the sense of typing messages back and forth) an option? – Eric Jul 10 at 0:04
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    If you provided an explanation as to why you can't take phone calls, people could provide more targeted responses. No need for detail, but you could say "your job doesn't allow phone calls", "construction or doctor - safety issue", "factory environment or otherwise too loud", "medical condition", "personal preference", etc – Neolisk Jul 10 at 0:30

11 Answers 11

84

Provide the reason you are unable to field phone calls.

It is not necessary to be specific - vague language like:

"I have a condition which (temporarily/permanently) prevents me from using a phone" or "I do not have ready access to a phone/network connection suitable for voice communication"

would be sufficient.

It is not necessary to invite or entertain further discussion on that point, but I would argue it probably -is- effectively necessary to list some kind of reason.

Generally, being vague without being evasive is a strong signal to the other party that further discussion on that point is not desired, and most people will probably take the hint.

However, failing to list a reason at all is generally a suggestion that this is a question of preference instead of circumstance, which both invites further questions and suggests an undesirable candidate.

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    failing to list a reason at all is generally a suggestion that this is a question of preference - I wouldn't say that's the worst of it. Being secretive and cagey in refusing to do something that is otherwise completely normal and, at the same time, stubbornly refusing to explain why invites all sorts of speculation. If it's so bad or shameful or whatever that you can't explain why then people will assume the worst - maybe involved with crime, under surveillance, have some sort of deep psychological problems, etc. If you want a job you absolutely need to show this isn't you. – J... Jul 10 at 12:11
  • @J "...most people will probably take the hint" - recruiters aren't known for their subtlety and hint-taking skills in my experience :-) – Jamie Bull Jul 11 at 15:00
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A former co-worker, not a recruiter but someone who deals with a ton of email, once told me that she only scans emails for the important information because that's what they're told to do.

Many recruiters are likely doing the same thing: scanning your email for a phone number and then emailing you when they can't find it rather than carefully reading it and finding your note about phone calls at the very end.

I suggest using bullet points for your contact information since that makes it easier to scan and will allow you to bold your contact types without it looking like yelling:

  • Phone: Unfortunately, I am unable to do phone calls.
  • Email: [your email address]
  • Address: [your address]
  • Other: I am also available to meet in person.

It will draw their eye right to it. I also think a slightly apologetic tone is appropriate here. It would help to show that you realize that this is an inconvenience for them if you can't disclose why you can't do calls.

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    The tone is very important here. You're asking a busy stranger to deviate from their own process (which, it's fair to assume, exists for a reason). Without providing any details as to why, you're asking them to take it on faith that it is a reasonable request. Acknowledging that will go a long way to staying out of the "No, thanks" pile – Dancrumb Jul 9 at 14:39
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    I don't answer my phone when I'm at work, so I set my voice mail message to say something to the effect of, "if you're a recruiter, please do not leave a message, send me an email at <address>, thanks." I still get one or two people who can't even bother to do that. Today I had an UNIDENTIFIED number call, not leave a message, call a second time, leave a voice mail, then send me a text saying he sent me an email, then called, left a second voice mail, and called twice more. Gosh I wonder why I tell people not to leave messages... – Draco18s Jul 9 at 16:55
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    The use of bullet points is a very good idea that I hadn't considered, thank you. I have accepted another answer simply because it is on the whole more comprehensive, but I appreciate all the input given across all the various responses. – JAlderson Jul 10 at 0:57
  • @JAlderson I'm glad it was helpful. – BSMP Jul 11 at 16:23
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If you have a medical condition that prevents you from using a phone, you should be upfront about the restriction. You don’t need to clarify what the specific condition is, but you should include the limitation clearly in your cover letters. You should also disclose the preference for email as early as possible in discussions with recruiters (e.g., in an online application or in the first email exchange).

Most recruiters prefer the phone, but will be accommodating of legitimate needs of candidates.


If your avoidance of phones is personal preference, be aware that you are likely disqualifying yourself from most opportunities. Phone calls are more than just a preferred process for recruiters - talking over the phone is the norm for job seekers and recruiters across geographies. An unnecessary departure from this norm is likely to be a red flag for recruiters.

Good luck in the job search!

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    Talking over the phone is also a part of many jobs. Discrimination against against deaf people still happens in spite of law. Revealing that you have a condition requiring accommodation will often prevent being considered for a position. “Hmm, can’t interview him; he might sue us if we pick someone else.” – WGroleau Jul 9 at 13:02
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    I thought "I don't have any personal conditions" covered that, not to mention you can read lips over skype and skype is on the list of things they cannot do. – rtaft Jul 9 at 13:24
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    If the issue is one of limited hearing, then it's probably best to seek strategic advice from others having the same challenges. This is part of what is so problematic about the question giving no explanation for the motivation - it means there is nowhere to turn for comparable suggestions! – Chris Stratton Jul 9 at 14:35
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    @rtaft The whole sentence was "I don't have any personal conditions that mean I cannot perform my work". OP may have a personal condition that prohibits them from using the phone but doesn't prohibit them from developing software, writing emails or conversing face-to-face with someone. As WGorleau pointed out, deafness would be a possibility – Alexandre Aubrey Jul 9 at 21:03
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    @WGroleau The law (at least in the U.S.) only requires reasonable accommodations. If someone can't do the job because of some disability, then it's perfectly legal to not hire them for it. If someone indicates that they won't be able to use the phone on the job, then it's perfectly legal to exclude them from consideration of a position that requires using the phone on the job. Emails don't work for everything, which is why phones and meetings still exist. – reirab Jul 10 at 15:21
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I think that being unable to take a phone call is going to be so unusual to a recruiter (or a prospective employer) that unless you can give a good reason they'll just perceive you as "awkward" and pass over your application.

The best reason is usually the truth, e.g.

My location has no cell/data coverage and I only have limited web access. I can call you from another location at a pre-arranged time.

or

I live in a military base and personal phones and Skype are prohibited for security. I can call you from another location at a pre-arranged time.

or some version of whatever applies to you.

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Please note that eliminating the possibility of a phone call will cause some recruiters to refuse to work with you and will cause all sorts of problems with others that would make them less helpful for you.

That being said, if you want to communicate your no phone policy then you need to do so in your initial communication and do so definitively. Say something like:

I would like to make it clear that under no circumstances will I be able to communicate via telephone. I am available to communicate via email or the address on my CV. For any matters in which these forms of communication will not suffice, we can schedule an in person meeting.

Any recruiter that later responds with "Are you available for me to call you?" is probably not worth using as either they did not read what you wrote or lack reading comprehension skills. I would not respond to them at all.

Your pool of recruiters will be limited because of your demands but hopefully bluntly stating your desires should ensure that the remaining recruiters will accept your situation and try to work with you.

7

It might help to phrase things as follows:

I regret that I am not reachable by telephone, however I would be happy to travel to answer any questions you may have in person.

First, you present the issue with phone calls as part of your situation. If you say that you are "unavailable" for a phone interview, many people will think "well, make yourself available". If you are unreachable, that feels more like an immutable fact, and prompts the thought "how do I work with someone who isn't reachable by phone?" Right on the heels of that, you offer a concession: you will take your own time to come and meet them. Now you're collaborating to solve the problem.

If the issue is simply lack of attention on the part of the recruiter, as some answers have suggested, then changing the phrasing of something that they don't notice anyway won't make any difference. But if they are reading it, then a little bit of framing can help create a mindset that encourages them to work within your limits instead of trying to put you back into the business-as-usual box.

3

Are you available for me to call you?

Simply answer it politely. You don't need to give any specific justifications, just need to put your request clearly.

Sorry, I won't be able to take any phone calls. Please communicate over email and I'll make sure to respond promptly. I prefer email over phone as it makes the communication un-rushed/convenient and keeps it documented.

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    I'm concerned that that would be inviting him to attempt to engage in phone calls outside of working hours. – JAlderson Jul 8 at 16:06
  • @JAlderson Updated. – Nimesh Neema Jul 8 at 16:08
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    The second sentence is a sentence fragment (in the last paragraph). – Peter Mortensen Jul 9 at 13:18
  • @PeterMortensen Sorry, I don't get it? Can you please edit if you feel a correction is required. Thanks. – Nimesh Neema Jul 9 at 13:19
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    This answer suggests made-up reasons that are big red flags. You don't tell someone you want to "keep it documented" in this kind of context unless you expect that they're trying to screw you over or do something illegal. – R.. Jul 10 at 14:30
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"Are you available for me to call you?"

How do I communicate that I cannot undertake that part of their preferred process,
and I would gladly enter into an alternative?

Just offer the alternative.
And acknowledge that you are asking for a deviation.

I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but as I mentioned, I'm not available for phone calls (nor Skype).

I am available for an in person sit-down. You can choose the location.
Because this will be our first meeting, I'll plan to buy my own.

Note that you are not apologizing for your personal situation.
That, of course, doesn't require an apology.

But you are asking for a deviation from their normal process.

You're also showing that avoiding their phone call is not to get a free lunch.
(In my experience, the recruiter pays whenever you meet in person... assume UK is the same.)

0

Just offer to buy coffee / tea / lunch to discuss it. You don't even need to mention phone limitations. Who would turn down a free meal? Plus it shows that you are assertive and seriously interested. Or even just drop by their office (if they have one) on your own time.

Remember, recruiters make money off of placing jobs. They will work with you if they believe you could get them a commission. Often more than one recruiting agency is trying to place the same position.

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I understand that you do not wish to disclose your reasons to us, please don't take this answer as insistence on that.

If your condition is not absolutely unique (and with over 7 billion people on Earth it most likely isn't), then talking to other people with that limitation and how they dealt with it could be a good idea. Phone calls for interviews are very common in a lot of industries, so any cross-industry solution should be at least useful to you.

How to do that without disclosing your reasons in a public forum depends a lot on your condition. Perhaps Reddit is a good place to start looking?

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When they email to arrange a call ask for their physical address as a scam check. Turn up in person at 9am saying you "were in the area".

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    This is a really bad idea. Most recruiters keep an organised schedule for interviews and you crashing at 9am will just be an inconvenience to them. – Morgan Jul 10 at 1:50
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    I don't think a lot of recruiters would divulge physical addresses. Given that recruiters nowadays could call from all over the country/world, this is mostly not even feasible. – cst1992 Jul 11 at 9:40

protected by Snow Jul 10 at 17:33

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