What To Say When An Interviewer Calls You At A Bad Time

It finally happens! The phone rings, and being in active job search mode, you eagerly answer every unrecognized number because it could be your next employer. But at the particular moment, you’re at the gym, in line at the grocery store, or picking up your kids from after-school sports. Related: Top 5 Proactive Job Interview Strategies When the phone rings in these situations, it can be mentally jarring, and therefore difficult to focus. Not to mention you’re unlikely to have your resume or other notes in front of you about the particular company. (You did take notes on your company research, right?) So, resist the urge to proceed with the interview anyway, out of fear that you won’t get another chance. You will, as long as you set the proper tone of this initial conversation with the recruiter. Here’s how:


Answer the phone correctly in the first place.

Since nearly any job is going to require that you speak to some other human being inside or outside the company, it’s important to demonstrate how you would answer the phone in professional circumstances. The first impression you give the interviewer should be an indication of the first impression you would give to that company’s vendors or customers. Eliminate the awkward five seconds when the recruiter, probably thinking it’s you, is required to ask for you, only for you to respond with, “Who’s calling?” (or the more defensive version, “Who’s this?”). The wrong inflection can make you seem like you’re avoiding bill collectors, and the entire exchange slows the flow of conversation. Instead, smile – yes, smile through the phone – people can tell, then announce your name. A simple, “Hello. This is Joe,” will immediately confirm to the recruiter he’s reached the right person and set the stage for a pleasant exchange.

Express gratitude and enthusiasm.

Over the phone, your voice and attitude are the sole criteria available to the recruiter in these initial moments. This is the opportunity you were waiting for, so be happy about it. Regardless of the busy scenario you’re caught up in, if you had a second to answer the phone, then you have a second to ensure your tone is positive. Continue to build on your pleasant-sounding foundation. Say, “Thanks so much for calling. I was hoping I’d hear from you. I’ve been really excited about this opportunity since I first came across it.”

Speak the truth – or something like it.

Clarify that you can’t talk right now, but don’t over share. When you call someone at work who can’t speak right now, their administrative assistant says, “She’s in a meeting at the present moment,” regardless of what the case actually is, because it really doesn’t matter. Maintain the same level of professionalism – no need to say you’re two minutes from completing your ten-minute mile on the treadmill right now. Your objective is to politely, firmly end the current call. Demonstrate your professionalism and initiative by setting up the next call. It’s like a date. When you ask someone out, if the response is, “No, I can’t,” then you have to wonder if that means no forever or just no to that particular day – either way, not a good feeling. But if the response is, “I can’t on Tuesday. How about Thursday?” then you have something definite to go on. Apply the same concept to the conversation with the recruiter. Say, “I need to be in a quieter place in order to focus. May I return your call in one hour?” This post was originally published on an earlier date.

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About the author

Jewel Bracy DeMaio finds out who you are, what you do, and the value you bring, and articulates that in a way that invites the employers and recruiters to call you. Ms. DeMaio is a triple-certified, nationally-recognized executive resume writer and job search coach. Learn more at www.APerfectResume.com or call 855-JOB-FOUND.   Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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