Do Candidates Need a Cell Phone When Applying for a Job?

With the increasing popularity of the internet as an important resource for job hunting, smartphones have become a critical tool for finding and applying for jobs. Almost two-thirds of Americans now have smartphones, and for many, they are a key entry point to the online universe, including the job-hunting space.

Research shows that there are three behaviors exhibited by job seekers using a cell phone when applying for a job: browsing various job listings, calling potential employers, and emailing potential employers.

  • 94% of job seekers have used their cell phone to find jobs online.
  • 74% of job seekers have used their cell phone to email someone to inform them about a job they are applying for.
  • 87% of job seekers have used their cell phone to call a potential employer.

But do candidates need to have a cell phone when applying for a job?

In some cases, yes, as there are organizations that require an online application.

What About Job Seekers Who Don’t Have a Cell Phone?

According to a recent Twitter thread, having a cell phone has become a basic requirement for job seekers. The initiator of the discussion thread, Lisa Kaplan, the founder of Alethea Group, an organization that counters disinformation, was helping a homeless woman apply for a job at a public library when she discovered how difficult it is to apply for jobs online without a cell phone.

Lisa started filling out the job application and quickly came to the field that required the applicant’s email address. When she tried to create an email address for the woman, Lisa was prompted to enter a cell phone number. But the woman did not have a cell phone and ended up not applying for the job.

When creating an email address, a majority of email service providers (e.g., Yahoo), require you to provide a phone number. Outlook and ProtonMail do not require you to enter a phone number. Gmail has made it optional.

The reason many Email Service Providers require a cell phone number when you are creating an email address is that they want to confirm that the account is being established for legitimate reasons, not for the purpose of creating a spam account. Email Service Providers are sensitive to spam account creation because they need to abide by the CAN-SPAM Act. So, they send a text message to the cell phone featuring a PIN that needs to be entered in order to complete the email account registration process. While this verification step makes sense for the Email Service Providers, it creates a challenge for legitimate job seekers who don’t have a cell phone to apply for jobs online.

Options for Job-Seekers Who Don’t Have a Cell Phone

In 1991, Community Voice Mail, an initiative of Springwire and later Feeding America, provided homeless individuals with a free voicemail number to enable them to check messages from social services agencies, family members, and friends. At times outreach staff also broadcasted messages about job opportunities in the area to participants in the program. That program ended in 2015 due to a lack of funding, but there are several government programs in place today that do even more.

Assurance Wireless, a federal Lifeline Assistance program by Virgin Mobile, provides a wireless account to individuals who qualify based on their participation in certain public assistance programs. SafeLink Wireless and Q Link Wireless are part of the Lifeline Assistance program, too. There are also options beyond the major phone carriers, such as prepaid and no-contract plans.

ClearStaff makes it easy for candidates to apply for jobs, regardless of whether they have a cell phone. Candidates apply in person at our 7 branch offices or at job fairs throughout the Chicago region.

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