Last Monday, I sent out an application using an online form. I sent the files the morning and received a call out of the blue the same day in the evening, which took me by complete surprise.

The problem is, the person responsible (Bob for simplicity sake) called at the worst possible time: ten minutes before my driving lessons (which I can't just postpone), a minute before I was about to board a crowded train.

I was a bit nervous and I asked if I could call him back the next day, as he called at around 5pm, when most people are usually done with work, so I didn't think he would be available later. I simply told him I was on the move and right now is not the best time, I didn't mention my driving lessons. In hindsight, I regret not telling him that, because I think in his eyes, I didn't seem to have him high enough on my priority list, which of course wasn't true.

I tried calling him the next day three times: once in the early morning, once after lunch break and once in the evening, but every time it was his colleague who picked up the phone, telling me he was in a meeting or in a call. The second time was when he told me that Bob would call back approximately around 2.30pm, telling me Bob was very busy, but he never did.

I tried once again today in the morning, and got the colleague again instead, who again told me Bob would call back. About two hours later, I got a rejection email, telling me how after more careful review of the application material, they deem me unfit for the position.

As you might imagine, I was a bit ticked off after being lead on for an entire day. I don't know what the first call was supposed to be about, but surely if they squeezed in time in their apparently very busy schedule to call me on the same day, I would assume they already had me locked in their shortlist, one that they apparently threw me out of the moment I didn't have time to accommodate them immediately.

Obviously, those are just assumptions. I want to write an email to him, clarifying that:

  • I really absolutely did not have time to talk to them at that moment, mentioning the driving lesson, and that I would've loved to talk to them, but I simply couldn't.
  • I find the interaction very unprofessional overall, having me try contacting them over and over again for a whole day. If they really deemed me unfit after reviewing the application they already had, they shouldn't have called me in the first place. If possible, I want to find out the real reason.

Note: I'm not hoping to save the situation, I just want to get some closure. If they really boot me off simply because I didn't give them the time of day when it suited them, not caring about my own obligations, I'm not interested in their position anyway.

How should I go about this? Should I bother writing back to them or should I just let it go? If I should write back, are those points justified?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 3:50

11 Answers 11


Honestly, I wouldn't worry too much about not being available for the first call. Unless you had previously agreed to be available at that time - it's unreasonable for anybody to expect you to be significantly less busy than they are. A company that is willing to reject you because you weren't instantly available isn't a company I'd have high hopes for in general.

However, I do not believe this was the reason you were rejected

I tried calling him the next day three times: once in the early morning, once after lunch break and once in the evening, but every time it was his colleague who picked up the phone, telling me he was in a meeting or in a call. The second time was when he told me that Bob would call back approximately around 2.30pm, telling me Bob was very busy, but he never did.

I tried once again today in the morning, and got the colleague again instead

Simply put, you acted impatiently and annoyed their colleague.

Calling once to reschedule would be appropriate, and perfectly normal. However, you made 4 calls within 24 hours - each of which was recieved by somebody not directly related to the hiring process.

Importantly, after you called the second time - which is arguably already impatient and unprofessional (but still within understandable bounds); the colleague gave you a specific instruction - to wait for their call back.

Instead of listening to their colleague and trusting them, you called back twice more, interupting that person's work.

Any interaction between you and a potential employer should be a positive one. Unfortunately in this case, the colleague you phoned has likely had a word with the hiring manager and told them how you've acted - raising big red flags about how you would behave in the team, and how suitable you are as a candidate.

I want to be clear, that this isn't an attack on you. Everybody allows worries and emotions to get the better of them at some point or another. But it's important to recognise the impact of your actions - so you can improve your behaviour for future applications.

In this specific case, there is nothing more you can do. As you've likely built a reputation for being impatient - any further correspondance to fix the damage, has a real risk of actually adding to it. Instead, I'd suggest just moving on and learning for future.

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    Personally, I don't think the last two paragraphs are necessary. I think it'd be worth adding that calling four times in 24 hours makes you look desperate, and someone desperate for the job probably isn't worth having.
    – blurry
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 16:34
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    At the same time, I worked with an HR manager who insisted that people who didn't call back twice in the same day simply weren't really interested in the job. This is just the nature of people, they can cut either way.
    – Mark
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 18:22
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    @Mark +5 to your comment: this answer fails to note that OP did not actually do anything wrong, and that it was merely this specific hiring manager's reaction to what OP did. There are a lot of things where one hiring manager will say "I won't hire someone who does this" and another will say "But I won't hire someone who does not do that." From the seeker's perspective, a lot of it is a game of random chance. We could make an actual random number generator out of how hiring managers respond to certain applicant qualities.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 19:07
  • True, it's all in the eye of the beholder. But the beholder-back, the applicant can then choose whether they want to work for this or that kind of beholder.. In this case, I'd guess NoClue is lucky
    – user90842
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 19:33
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    I don't think you have the order quite right. OP called once in the early morning, then again after lunch. During the call, OP was given a time (2:30). OP then didn't get the call, called in the evening and then the next morning. OP did not call again between getting the time and not getting the scheduled call, but did try to call again after the missed call. OP doesn't mention if OP talked to anyone in the evening call. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 19:51

I'm going to jump in because apparently my view is in the minority (although my overall advice is the same).

I don't think you did anything wrong, and suspect you dodged a bullet (although it does depend on your industry and experience level). If your first experience with the company starts with them contacting you outside of normal business hours and expecting you to immediately be available, then it bodes badly for what working with them will be like. When I interview candidates I try my best to respect their time just as I would if they were my employees, so getting an answer of "I'd be happy to chat but I'm right in the middle of something right now - can we try again tomorrow?" seems like a perfectly fine answer to me, and I'd just follow up the next day.

Of course, we don't know for sure that they rejected you because of that first phone call, although from the facts you presented it seems likely. Were that the case though, that's on them, not you. I think their behavior suggests that they expected you to be available at anytime that is convenient for them, and seem to be approaching this from the perspective of "I have the job, I have the power, and you need to jump through my hoops". In case it isn't clear, I don't consider that to be a reasonable way for a company to approach finding candidates, and I would be very nervous about accepting a job from a company that approaches hiring with that perspective.

  1. Did you lose an opportunity because you didn't drop what you were doing and take the call? Possibly.
  2. Is that a bad thing? Probably not
  3. What can you do about it? Nothing

Regardless of how it happened, the opportunity is now lost. I think that's probably a good thing, but either way it is gone. Arguing never helps your cause. I've actually had candidates try to argue with me after they were rejected, as well as seen them try to argue with others when I wasn't the primary hire-er. I never appreciate it, I have never seen it work out for the candidate, and it is the quickest way into the "Never hire this person ever" pile. Letting go can be hard sometimes, but that's the only option you have.

Things like this are inevitable (I've been cut once or twice myself for reasons that I thought were unreasonable) but it's just how life goes, and you simply continue the job hunt.

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    I was coming here to write a similar answer, +1. Consider it a dodged bullet, life is too short to work with people that is not reasonable. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 19:40
  • yep just commented basically the same thing on another answer before reading yours about potentially dodging a bullet, +1
    – aw04
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 22:22

In addition to rath's excellent answer, I just want to add an observation from experience.

You don't have to justify anything, you did nothing wrong, yet you still missed an opportunity.

You need to put it behind you but look at what happened as you chalk it up to experience.

Opportunities can switch on and switch off in the blink of an eye in many facets of life. If you really want something, you catch the next train, don't show up to driver training, jog home, whatever it takes.

You can't relive the moment, but you can learn from it.

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    You seem to be assuming that taking the call would have made any difference in the results, other than causing the OP to miss a drivers lesson/train. Can you make that explicit, and add evicence why?
    – Yakk
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 15:51
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    Agreed with Yakk, the cost/benefit analysis in this answer seems skewed to this job opportunity being great fit for OP, and a successful hire guaranteed if only he skipped his prior appointment. Working in IT, you will get 100s of recruitment calls in your life, and there is no reason to expect a call at an awkward moment to somehow be a better opportunity that the other dozen at more convenient times. Whilst there is good reason in my opinion, to see a red flag in Bob's behaviour that would make this "opportunity" not for everyone. Or to see fault with OP's follow-ups as per Bilkokuya's A. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 16:20
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    @aw04 that would be the vast majority of jobs, not even necessarily low skill. But my answer isn't even about the specific job, it's a life observation. A lost opportunity is lost, you can either learn from it or wonder about it unconstructively. I missed the last bus to talk to a young lady I'd just met and walked over 20km home. We've been married for quite a while and have four kids now. I could have caught that bus.If something important to you you inconvenience yourself, if it's not, don't cry about it later. Everyone has a lot of 'What If's'. I'm probably not explaining this very well.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 2:23
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    So it can be totally understandable and not your fault that you missed an opportunity, yet in fact you did miss it. Rationalising it as everyone elses, or circumstances fault won't get the opportunity back. More constructive to recognise it as a misjudgement on your part and move forwards.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 2:47
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    @Kilisi thanks for the clarification, makes sense.
    – aw04
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 14:10

I just want to get some closure.

I'd say you already have closure, because you received a rejection.

Note: I'm not hoping to save the situation

You are trying "to save the situation" by explaining yourself so that they won't think as badly of you. There's nothing wrong with that feeling; just don't act on it.

Rules for when you are job hunting:

  • don't answer when you don't have time to talk
  • don't answer if you're incapacitated (just woke up, drunk, whatever)

The problem started because you answered the phone one minute before the train arrived. I created both of the above two rules for myself after answering the phone out of a dead sleep one day.

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    I disagree with this. I'd answer the phone, say I only had a few minutes available right then. Get the 20 second summary of the job, say if I was interested or not and then if I was interested schedule a new time. Letting it ring out is pointless unless you really have no time to speak at all.
    – Tim B
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 12:49
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    When my cell phone rings at a bad time, it could be a legitimate personal emergency. I've had one call at a bad time that gave me a diagnosis I was seriously not expecting. Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 19:37
  • @TimB That is a perfectly fine plan, I expect it has worked well for you. In my opinion there are fewer things that can go wrong if you just don't answer. For example I've spoken to a number of people (especially recruiters) where it took them more than three minutes to read the job description and after that I had to ask questions to get enough details to make the yes/no call. Maybe how good my advice is varies by field. Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 20:24
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    @DavidThornley You're correct, it could be a legit personal emergency coming from a number that isn't in your phone. I don't happen to answer calls from numbers I don't recognize, ever (job hunting or not). I have voice mail and they can leave me one. I do check the voice mail. This works for me, your mileage may vary. Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 20:32
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    @goamn How late you would have been for the driving lesson depends on the train schedule and how long the instructor would have been willing to wait. Worst case, it could have delayed getting his license by weeks, and it may have been important in getting a job. I don't know the situation. I also don't know what the chance is that delaying one incoming call would be the difference between getting a job and not. I can't tell where the balance falls. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 14:45

Don't respond. Yes, their reaction is annoying and not very professional, and you might be right about the reason for being out of the running but do not know for sure.

I would like to offer yet another possible reason it might not have worked out for you...

It sounds from information you provided that you might be young, so this might be an entry-level position. Some places do not want to spend any more time than necessary, especially on low level positions.

I have worked for a couple of people before who had just that attitude about low-level positions. At one place, there was a position that needed only the most basic of technical abilities, and the boss there literally said to me multiple times that he "just wanted a warm body in that seat," and that he didn't care and would hire just about anyone as long as they could do the job.

Whenever that position was open (usually once every year or two, as the person got experience and moved on, as we expected they would), it was usually the very first person interviewed for the job that got it. In fact, one time someone walked in with an application for that position, the boss asked me to do the interview on the spot while he went to a meeting, and when he came back I just told him the guy was reasonable and so he was hired. Another time I recommended someone for the job, but the boss said "someone else applied this morning and I already gave it to him."

So, depending on the type of position that it could be, you may have been the first potential interview, and having missed that the first person who did not flunk the interview may have gotten the job already later that same day that you declined to speak.

Another similar example:

A place I worked for before had a massive employee rearrangement: some people were scheduled to switch positions (because they had asked for it), and at the same time it was found out that the money had been mismanaged so they had to lay some people off, and some quit... a big upheaval indeed.

Coming out of that chaos, the company realized that they had a position which was legally required for which they no longer had someone fulfilling and nobody who knew how to do it. In order to meet legal obligations, they had to get someone in that position and fast. I imagine they overlooked a lot of otherwise good candidates in the scramble to get someone at that desk.

A third related example: sometimes a place already knows who they are going to hire but might have a legal obligation to perform a search for the position. I've seen positions that were legally required to be publically posted and required a search, so the search went through the mechanical motions while the search team already knew who would be hired beforehand. In this case, all the applications are worthless and the company was wasting the applicants time because of the legal requirement. If this was the case, you would not have gotten the job no matter what.


I think they simply wanted to check if you're one of those people who send out tens (or even hundreds) of resumes and then wait if somebody responds, or if you did some research and you're really interested to work for this specific company.

By trying to reschedule the call for no obvious reason, it most likely seemed to them like you belong to the former group and they obviously aren't interested in you anymore.

As for actual advice, you should learn from this experience, there's nothing better you can do.

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    What a strange answer! There are millions of legitimate reasons to reschedule an unplanned (!) call, including rushing somewhere and/or having diarrhea. By suggesting people should be available 24/7 for unscheduled calls, you want them to become slaves. Every serious company starts such calls by asking the candidate they are calling whether they have a few minutes. If not having time the first time they were called was the reason noclue was rejected, they really didn't miss anything valuable. (But I would think they got rejected because they tried to contact the company so many times).
    – BigMadAndy
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 18:42
  • @385703 The problem is that OP didn't clearly state that he/she has a legitimate reason to reschedule the call.
    – Simon
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 7:04
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    @Simon one can ask for rescheduling something which was already scheduled. And it's not the case here. Seriously nobody should feel obliged to explain inability to talk at the very moment if someone calls out of blue. I might be just cutting a roasted chicken for my guests and it's none of the recruiter's business unless the call was scheduled. Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 12:34

The answers already posted provide the core of what you need to know about this situation, except for one thing. Any interaction with an employer regarding whether or not you have a job is among the most upsetting things humans experience on a regular basis. Obviously, if it works out favorably, it is not nearly so bad, but all the moments of uncertainty are agonizing and rejection is immensely agonizing. It is tragic that we put one another through this awful experience so frequently in professional life. You need to know that it really hurts bad, and not think that is not part of it or that it doesn't matter.

However, at the same time, it is critical that you play along and act in all your professional interactions as though everything about these kinds of situations is routine. Here is why: for everyone except the person whose employment status is in the balance, this stuff IS routine. We call it business, as if that justifies your agony. It is not that no one wants to care about your particular situation, it's that no one has time to care and also, people protect their own sense of stability by basically blocking out the negative part of the employment process affecting others. When people are cut loose or rejected during application for employment, the surviving employees want nothing to do with you. It is as if people feel associating with you will undermine their job security. The only positive thing you can do is walk away and find something somewhere else.

That email you had in mind is one of the worst ideas you will ever have.

The person who pointed out your closure consisted of the rejection email was 100% right. The fact you didn't recognize the closure is a correction you need to make. Keeping this cut and dried is one of the ways you can keep your agony to a minimum.

It is absolutely essential that you learn to contain the agony and anxiety you are going through, so that others (except close friends and family) do not see it. Act promptly, but not anxiously. Your repeated calling was anxious. I imagine you thought you were showing interest, which you might have thought would be appreciated. It is true that showing interest is what you want to do, but as you have been reading, you went beyond that. How could you have known that? Answer: you could not have known where the line is because you do not yet have enough employment experience to have observed this sort of thing. That is why the advice you are getting in this thread is hugely valuable, like gold. Without it, it would take a lot longer for you to get oriented to the ways of employment

Overall, this was a favorable experience you had. Yea, you made a mistake or two in how you interacted with Bob's place. On the other hand, you paperwork drew a response, that is great. You have come here to review what happened, so you are learning, and moving forward. That also is great. You suffered, which is a bummer, but now you know that is a very powerful natural part of the employment process you are going to be coping with for a long time.

Finally, be assured, and assure yourself, you will find a job. Everyone who seriously looks finally finds a job. As a matter of fact, you probably will find when it rains it pours. You will have more offers coming in after awhile of searching than you know what to do with. The pouring starts when your persistent efforts have reached a critical mass of potential employers and enough time has gone by for them to go through their hiring process, that opportunities start showing up fast. It usually takes a few months before you get any good results and then the results come fast. You might find yourself with an offer in hand but while expecting a better offer from another place and you have to decide whether to take the offer in hand or to take the chance and wait for what might be a better offer but might also be a dud. No matter what, you will find work. Try not to let the horrible feeling you have been experiencing have its way with you. Find ways to turn the situation around in your mind so you can feel good about it, because that bad feeling can eat away at you and cause damage if it goes on long enough. To an extent you have to be your own cheer leader.

If I had a magic wand I would change a lot of this, but alas, no magic wand for me. Good luck.


Note: I'm not hoping to save the situation, I just want to get some closure.

The only way to get closure is by stopping to care. By definition, this is completely unilateral. It does not involve the other party. But it may involve time.

This applies also to relations outside the workplace.


"I was a bit nervous and I asked if I could call him back the next day,"

And here was your initial mistake. The correct action would be to arrange a specific time to call back; as this ensures that you don't end up in the same situation but reversed. Something like "Sorry, I'm preoccupied right now and don't have long to talk, can you please call me back at {some time when you're free}?" to start the discussion to obtain a mutually agreed time (or range) when they'll call back.

Note how I put that so that they make the call. I don't know what they want to say, or how long they want to be - so they can cover it. On top of that I've jumped through all their hoops so far, now they get to jump through one of mine.

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    Asking for rescheduling is reasonable. Asking for it at a specific time is not. We're told Bob is extremely busy, and so it should be on Bob's schedule. If you make the prospective employer jump through one of your hoops, you're likely to give the impression that you're difficult to work with. Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 19:33
  • @DavidThornley Sure - The timing has to be mutually agreed, and can certainly be a range. The emphasis is that "call me tomorrow" suggests that you're free all day tomorrow, while "can you call me at 5pm tomorrow" at least starts the conversation; and they're the ones who should be calling you. I'm not saying you demand they call you at some time at all! (answer updated to clear confusion)
    – UKMonkey
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 14:49

There is such a thing as job rejection response letter. In the letter you could explain why you were not able to speak on the phone when you were called and why you regret not having the opportunity to otherwise continue the interview process. Historically these were real letters sent in the mail but nowadays people also send these through email.

There are examples of these letters on the internet, but I would specifically mention the train ride and driving lessons since they were the reasons you were not available.

As a side note- if answering a cellphone call would otherwise distract or inconvenience you then you should not answer and let the call go to voice mail. Trying to answer a call when you are rushed or inconvenienced means you will receive even less information versus just letting the call go to voicemail and letting the caller state their business.


Since you've found this opportunity important enough to write about, I suppose you wanted that job. If this was the case, you shouldn't have told you were busy and asked to be called tomorrow. You should have gone for it. A job will shape your life for the next years, maybe even define your entire career. There's no way a missed train or a driving lesson could have such an impact.

Of course simply agreeing to an interview is no guarantee of success, but that's not the point. I once flew to an interview for a job I really wanted. I still didn't get it and it was disappointing, but it would've been worse if I didn't even try.

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