What to Do When Your Phone Interview is Late. Or You Miss It.

You’ve been anxiously awaiting your phone interview with a potential employer. But the phone isn’t ringing. Five minutes go by. Then 10. Then 15. You start to feel your stomach tighten, and your mind begins to race. You wonder: If I call her, will she think I’m impatient or desperate? But what if she forgot? You can’t sit there and wait all day. After all, your time is valuable too.

Unfortunately, this type of dilemma is more common than you may think. In fact, the roles could be reversed, and your interviewer could be wondering why you didn’t pick up the phone when she called.  She is questioning if you’re blowing her off, or if there has been some sort of emergency, or if you simply forgot. All this speculation is unnecessary on both ends. Whether you’re the one waiting on the call, or it was you who missed the it, certain protocols apply. Here’s what to do in either case.

If your phone interviewer is late…

1. Double check, and make sure you have the right time and date. It would be thoroughly embarrassing if you called or texted wanting to know why the interviewer was leaving you hanging only to find out the interview was actually scheduled for tomorrow. Also, if you live in different geographic locations, make sure you’re taking a possible time difference into account. And one more thing—make sure your ringer is on!

2. If you’re sure you have the correct information, and your phone has not been silenced, it’s time to think about how long you should wait before acting. Alison Green at Ask A Manager recommends you wait 15-20 minutes before making a move. This gives the interviewer enough leeway to account for unexpected circumstances like a late-running meeting or a family emergency. Any longer than 30 minutes without contact, and it starts to become a matter of discourtesy.

3. After you’ve waited no more than a half hour and haven’t heard a word, it’s time to make that necessary call. Also, be prepared to supplement the call with an email and/or a text in case the person you scheduled the interview with is unreachable. 

4. Formulate what you’re going to say. Don’t call with panic or anger in your voice. Even though you have just been treated unprofessionally, it’s still in your best interest to remain professional on your end. After all, you don’t really know what happened until you get ahold of the individual. If she was just rushed to the hospital, you’re going to regret leaving a hostile message or a “strongly worded” email.

5. If the interviewer answers the phone, say something like, “Hi, this is John C. Applicant. I know we had a 3:00 phone interview, but since I didn’t hear from you, I wanted to check in and make sure there wasn’t a problem. If there is, we can reschedule.” This way you sound confident in the fact that you didn’t confuse the scheduling, and you sound flexible while still valuing your time.

If you missed the call…

1. Hopefully, you have a very good excuse for missing the call. Otherwise, there’s probably not a whole lot you can do to save the situation. If you simply forgot about the interview or you slept through the call, your chance to make a good first impression has pretty much flown out the window.  Still, you should at least make the effort to contact the interviewer and let her know what happened, out of common courtesy.

2. If you have a legitimate excuse for missing the appointment, such as a personal emergency or a Wi-Fi outage, start by being apologetic. Don’t lay it on too thick but be sincere about regretting the missed interview. Briefly explain what happened and ask to reschedule at the interviewer’s convenience. And no matter what, do not miss the call a second time.

In the modern digital age, face-to-face interviews are becoming less and less common. People who would never dream of standing someone up in an office interview might be more nonchalant when it comes to speaking on the phone. But everyone’s time is valuable no matter what the channel of communication may be. So, whether you were the one waiting by the phone, or the interviewer was, just keep in mind that professionalism and politeness still go a long way.

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