I am currently interviewing and usually the first contact with a company is with an internal recruiter. I have found most recruiters don't want to set up a time for a phone screen. They give only vague times like "Tuesday afternoon" and then expect you to keep your whole afternoon free just in case they call (half the time, they forget). I am currently also working, which means I have tasks and meetings to complete. I also need to plan ahead so I can sneak out to my car or into an empty meeting room to take the call. I can't keep an entire afternoon free, so I just tell them I'm not interested. How should I be handling this?

  • 2
    Have you tried to say that you prefer to either them set a certain time or them to adjust to your availability? Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 15:58
  • Are you talking about a call with a recruiting agent, or with the HR manager of the company with the vacancy? Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 11:03
  • Internal recruiter.
    – Frosty
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 13:56

4 Answers 4


Make it clear to them what you can and cannot do.

So if they say to you "Can I call you Tuesday afternoon?" you say

I'm sorry I'm going to be at work that time and I can't take outside calls. If you give me an exact time in advance I can arrange to be free then. Alternatively you can call me after work or at lunchtime.

If they say "I don't know when I'll be able to call you" say

If you text me a day or so in advance, I'll give you a time slot when I'm free, and we will arrange to talk then.

Offering to take a call after hours is often helpful, because it means you are being cooperative and enthusiastic, but they don't want to do this so they will do their best to accommodate you within work hours.


This is what I've done in the past:

  1. Remove your phone number from your CV and job sites.
  2. Sign up for a service like Calendly or Google Calendar Appointments.
  3. Add your Calendly or GCA link to the Contact section of your CV
  4. Have recruiters pick a slot that suits them and have them leave you their number.
  5. Call them yourself.

I had the exact problem and used the solution above. Some recruiters didn't like it, which is fine. There's more recruiters these days than there are jobs, or at least that's what it feels like sometimes. Most of them had no issue though, and I've never lost a lead because of this.

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    I've never lost a lead because of this - that you know of!
    – dwizum
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 17:14
  • 1
    @dwizum Good point. I generally don't float my CV everywhere so it's not as easy to find. I'm always the one initiating contact. I usually reply to the ad and send them a link to my online CV, which has a Calendly widget when I'm on the market. So far, I don't remember losing someone at this first stage, and if I did, well that's the price to pay. By the way, I used to generate goo.gl shortlinks (they've stopped the service now) and that gave you a rudimentary analytics console. Which was interesting.
    – rath
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 21:53
  • Google Voice (with its separate phone number) is also something that I'd recommend. While it won't force people into making appointments, Google Voice is good if people don't respect your boundaries. Plus, it also transcribes your voice mails in real-time and will email those transcripts to you as soon as a voice mail is received. Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 22:00
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    @StephanBranczyk - I agree, Google Voice is great for things like this. You can spin up a number for job searching and then keep it segregated. People get a "real" phone number, and you can manage it in whatever way you'd like.
    – dwizum
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 13:47
  • 1
    @rath, They only give you one number, but Google Voice is super customizable. You could indeed set up a different extension or a different PIN for each recruiter (all for free), but I think that would be overkill and kind of weird to do. Google Voice is already integrated with Caller ID and if it's a number that it recognizes, it can forward it to you directly so you can pick up the call. It can also do that based on what day of the week and the time of day it is. In addition, it allows you to listen in on someone leaving a voice mail so you can pick up the call midway through the message. Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 22:12

You're not "not interested", you have a job with responsibilities

Just because you hit some difficulties doesn't mean you're not interested. You want to be taken seriously as a good catch by a recruiter. Professional candidates are already hard-working people, so it doesn't look bad that you're too busy to wait all day for them. As long as you propose solutions, not just throw up problems.

Take Control

Recruiters can't be relied on to call at a convenient time. Some of them do - if you agree 14:00 they'll call at 14:00. Sweet. Some others are perfectly nice people but they'll helpfully call at 13:30.

So you need to call them. Tell them "I can't take outside calls at work. When can I call you?" If they name a whole afternoon, you have the whole afternoon to call them at a time that suits you. If they propose a specific time, call them exactly then.

  • And don't say 14:00, say 14:05 or 14:03 (to show that you're looking for them to call at a precise time and not just an approximate time). Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 22:03

Ask them to call you outside office hours.

They expect you to have a job, and it's normal to be unable to make personal calls at work.

Otherwise, you call them, and try again later if they're busy.

Recruiting agents are optimists, they'll hope you have a private office and can take calls at any time, but they do know that doesn't apply to everyone.

  • They don't want to talk outside of office hours.
    – Frosty
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 13:51

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