Sometimes I have a hard time hearing everything that is said during a telephone interview.

When I interview it is most commonly handled on the phone. I have noticed that I sometimes have trouble hearing the interviewer. In particular I have a hard time hearing the first part of the sentence.

Usually I just carry on and try to pretend that I understood the question, when in reality I only heard a few words or a phrase. How should I handle this situation?

Will the interviewer think any less of me if I ask for clarification?

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    This isn't really a question relating to the workplace, rather you are having some technical issues with voice comms that is interfering with your interviews. If you do most of your interviews via voice comms, then you really need to look at fixing that. – Jane S Jun 10 '16 at 2:26
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    Are you having hardware problems? Are you having trouble finding a quiet area to have the conversation? Problems understanding an accent? Do you have a hearing deficiency? Something else? Lots of things could cause problems understanding an interviewer but different problems will have different solutions? Pretending to understand a question you didn't understand is seldom a good plan. – Justin Cave Jun 10 '16 at 3:06
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    You can easily work that out by testing it with someone. If it's Skype, there is the Skype Testing Service you can do a test voice conversation with. But I get the impression you've had the problem with more than one potential employer. Given you are the only common denominator, the chance of it being everyone else and not you is pretty low. – Jane S Jun 10 '16 at 5:36
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    This happens a lot on phone conversations. Don't pretend you understood. Confirm it. "Are you asking about ...?" "Is your question whether ...?" – Brandin Jun 10 '16 at 7:21
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    If your question is how to handle an interview when you can't understand the interviewer properly then you should edit your question to drop the technical angle about "voice quality" and such. – Lilienthal Jun 10 '16 at 7:59

Do not continue on any interview where you or the other party cannot hear properly. Period. Try to dial back in once or twice. If that doesn't help things reschedule. Follow up immediately via email.

You do not want to be the annoying person that the hiring manager couldn't hear or the person that didn't answer half of their questions. Without good voice communications there are just too many things that can go wrong. It would be really easy to be asked a question and then answer a different one.

The hiring manager might understand the quality is bad (at best) and cut you slack but they will ultimately equate you with an annoying phone call. At very best they might try you again for basically the same step in the interview process and that is best case scenario... so just end it when it happens.

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We're all familiar with modern communications and the sometimes poor connections we have with them. When you realize your connection is bad, mention it to the other party and ask if you can disconnect and call again. If the connection is so bad that you cannot get anything through, send an email immediately (or message if you're using Skype or some similar service) explaining that you cannot hear them and you will try hanging up and trying a new connection. Wait for a response before actually hanging up. Often this helps resolve the problem.

If reconnecting doesn't solve the problem, ask (via email or message) if you can reschedule the interview.

If connections are consistently bad for you, change locations. If they continue to be bad, your device is probably the problem, and you owe it to yourself to use a different device. (Buy one, or borrow one.) It will be very difficult to have a quality interview when you cannot understand each other.

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This sounds like an important problem.

As an interviewer one of the main questions I'm trying to resolve/answer in an interview is, "Do we understand each other?"

By "understand each other" I include:

  • Language (accent and vocabulary)
  • Personality and motivation
  • Technical ability

Adding a hardware problem doesn't help, interferes.

It's not just an interview problem too, i.e. if you can't understand me during the interview then you won't be able to understand me if we're working together.

If you can't understand what's said then I suppose you should say so, and maybe try to fix it (maybe somebody needs a better microphone or better internet connection, or switch off video in order to improve the audio), even reschedule the interview.

If you answer a question that I didn't ask, that'll give me the impression that you don't understand me or vice versa and that we can't or shouldn't try to work together.

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I have hearing problems and occasionally have to "zero" in on sound for a while before catching on. Certain voices on telephone produces problems and it's not entirely dependent upon being foreign but just a certain quality and grade.

With that said, it wouldn't hurt to simply state that your phone is not the best or that you have difficulties hearing. Just be sure to state this prior to the interview. If you don't want to do that try small talks at first such as asking how everyone is, the weather, etc to get used to the person's voice.

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