The Parable of the Telemarketer

The Parable of the Telemarketer

Harry Jones is one of my neighbours in a 30-story condo building. Harry resents calls from all telemarketers, but he becomes especially rude when someone calls him asking to send a sales rep to provide a quote on a new roof. There are 15 floors above Harry. If the roof leaks, at least 15 other people will know before it bothers Harry.

One evening earlier this week, the following telephone conversation took place between Harry and Shelly, a woman calling on behalf of NVR Leak Roofing.

Shelly:      Mr. Jones, our crew will be installing a new roof just down the street and I’d like to send our estimator to provide you a free quote.

Harry:       What was your name again?

Shelly:      It’s Shelly, Mr. Jones.

Harry:       Tell me Shelly, does your company install roofs on condo buildings?

Shelly:      No, we certainly do not, Mr. Jones. I apologize for wasting your time.

Harry:       There’s no excuse for wasting my time. If you just looked carefully at my address before you called, you could tell I lived in a high-rise condo! But you couldn’t be bothered! I can’t tell you how infuriating it is to get these time-wasting calls just because you are too lazy to make sure your call is the least bit relevant to me before you dial! I am expecting some calls from some resumes I have sent out. I need to keep this line free. Please waste someone else’s time!

Shelly:      Again I apologize for wasting your time. Have a great day!

About 9:30 a.m. a few days later Harry’s phone rang again. It was Shelly.

Harry:       Wasn’t I clear the last time you called? I don’t need anything you can offer me.

Shelly:      Don’t be so sure, Mr. Jones. I’m not calling for NVR Leak Roofing today. That was my evening job to earn a little extra to support my daughter at university. This morning I’m calling about your application for a sales position. You sent a resume and cover letter to Does that sound familiar? I am the HR manager.

Harry:       Great to hear your call, Shelly. Don’t be so formal. Please call me Harry. I trust you are calling me to set up an interview? Any day this week is fine.

Shelly:      Not exactly, Mr. Jones. I was just about to hit the delete key when I thought something about your name and address sounded familiar. As soon as I heard your voice I was sure. After you hung up the other day, I couldn’t get your words out of my mind. You were exactly right. I had no right to waste your time. That’s why I was so astonished when I saw your cover letter and resume.

Harry:       What could you possibly mean? I’ve been sending out essentially the same resume to hundreds of companies for months. I’ve had lots of positive feedback on that resume and cover letter! How dare you!

Shelly:      But that’s exactly what is so frustrating for me. I received hundreds of applications for this position, and your resume does have some impressive experience.

Harry:       So what’s the problem?

Shelly:      Harry, we listed 8 specific requirements in the job posting and they are all important to us. When I look at your resume I suspect you very well may satisfy most of them, but you haven’t made any effort to revise your standard resume. Astonishingly, given the harangue you unloaded on me the other night, your cover letter actually fail to mention a single one of those eight requirements. If I passed your resume on to the VP of sales, she would laugh me out of her office! If you can’t be bothered paying attention to the information we have told you, how likely are you to listen to our customers? You were very hard on me the other night, perhaps with some justification. But you also have wasted my valuable time because, as you so nicely put it, “you were too lazy to make sure your application was the least bit relevant to me”. I couldn’t say it better myself!

Harry:       Shelly, I think you have made your point very clearly.

Shelly:      You may call me Ms. Lincoln. Have a good day.

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