I have a missed call from an unknown number — was it an employer?

A reader writes:

I sent my application through email after seeing a job opening on the company’s website. Six days later, I missed a call from an unknown number (I don’t have Caller ID). I’m almost positive this was the company calling as I usually never receive calls on my cell phone, and I have not applied to any other jobs.

Now I’m panicking because I do not have a number to call and I’m worried they will not call back. I thought I would send an email apologizing for not taking the call and reinstating my interest in the position, however I’m scared this could backfire on me if it was not them calling. Do employers usually call back after a phone call isn’t answered? Or should I go ahead and send the email?

Don’t do this.

First of all, this call was from an unknown number. There’s absolutely no reason to believe that the call was from the company you applied with. It could have been a wrong number or all sorts of other things.

If you call them and explain that you think they called and they in fact did not, you’re going to look odd.

But for the sake of argument, let’s say that it wasn’t an unknown number and it was actually the company’s number. It still wouldn’t make sense to call them back, because if they wanted you to call, they would have left a message. That is what the message-leaving function is for.

Plus, if you called them, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the person who called you. You could get a main switchboard and end up talking to someone who has no idea who called you or what they wanted. This is annoying.

However, at least in that case, you’d know that it was them who called you, and it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to say, “I see I have a missed call from you. I’d love to talk with you about the position if you’re still interested in speaking.”

But when you don’t even know if it was them? I think you’ve got to chalk it up to wishful thinking and let it go.

{ 118 comments… read them below }

  1. nyxalinth

    I’ve had this happen. Looking up the phone number online told me pretty quickly that it was usually a local telemarketer or the like, and put my mind at ease.

    1. Anonymous

      OP said it was from an unknown number, which makes it difficult to look up. But regardless, most companies I know don’t have blocked numbers.

      1. Arbynka

        OP said she does not have a caller ID. So unknown number might have been a number she did not recognize. In that case, she can look it up. I have a caller ID and sometimes I get a call that literally says “unknown name, unknown number”, then yes, it is impossible to look it up.

        1. Cartwright

          I feel dumb for asking this, but if the poster doesn’t have caller ID, how did any number show up at all? I must be missing something…

          1. fposte

            Yeah, I’m wondering if she just means “missed a call”–somebody hung up without leaving a message or she got to the phone just after they hung up. If there’s no caller ID, there’s no number blockage involved.

            1. Arbynka

              “Yeah, I’m wondering if she just means “missed a call”–somebody hung up without leaving a message or she got to the phone just after they hung up. If there’s no caller ID, there’s no number blockage involved.”

              That would make sense. I thought when you have no caller ID the number still appeared on the screen but perhaps I am remembering wrong.

              1. fposte

                Oh, that could be too. My cell doesn’t work that way, but my cell’s pretty weird.

                On my landline, I don’t get any number display at all without caller ID; it might be a system-by-system thing.

              2. Leah

                This was my question. I don’t have Caller ID so my phone said “Missed Call: Unknown Number”. I called my phone company ad they couldn’t tell me the number because I didn’t answer. Also, I don’t have voicemail so they weren’t able to leave a message.

                In addition: I was travelling for a while which is why I stripped my phone plan down to basic with no caller ID and voicemail. I have since then added all of the extras.

          2. Arbynka

            Before I had a caller ID, when someone called, only the number showed up. Or nothing, just a line across the little screen. That was on landline. I have no idea how it works on cell phones, I am not paying for caller ID feature on my cell like I do on my land line but it does works like a caller ID. Perhaps different phones/plans work differently ? I am really not sure.

            1. tesyaa

              Your phone service provider (landline) uses a database of names associated with numbers. That may not be updated frequently, so phone numbers, especially cellphone numbers, may show the name of the person who had the number before them. This is especially true for VOIP providers.

            1. Vicki

              No, I take that back. On landlines you need Caller ID to see the number. But this was a cell phone. Without Caller ID, how does the OP even know there was a missed call?

              I’m confused too!

              1. Glor

                Essentially, for cell phone carriers [or at least the big red checkmark], Caller ID is usually to give you more information like a business name or location or whatnot. Default is generally to show the number itself and nothing else if you don’t have the number in your contacts/address book.

      2. Stephanie

        Most companies don’t, but it does happen! I’ve gotten calls for positions from blocked/restricted numbers.

    2. Michele

      +1. I do this all the time when a number comes up that I do not recognize. Plus if they were interested they would have left a message. Most people that want to talk to you leave a message.

  2. Anoners

    They would most definitely have left you a message. It would be odd for them to just call the one time, leave no message, and never try to contact you again.

    1. Arbynka

      I agree with Anoners. If it was the company, they would leave a message or they would have tried to call little later. This was more likely a soliciting call. I really guard my cell phone number but I still get a marketing call once in a while.

      1. De Minimis

        I did have this happen with a company once. They called on a Saturday and I was driving when they called [I lived in a state where it was illegal to use your cell while driving.] I got back home and looked up the number and saw it was a place where I’d applied. They’d left no message and when I called them they had a message saying they were closed. Made no sense…I did leave a message on their voicemail but never heard from them at all.

        1. De Minimis

          Forgot to mention that it wasn’t a blocked number of course, since I was able to look it up.

  3. Jamie

    Blocked number is a telemarketer almost every time, at least IME. If they wanted to leave a message they would have – they have your info to contact you again even on the off chance it was an employer.

    1. Arbynka

      Calls from my family and friends is Europe show up on my land line caller ID as unknown as well. But as Jamie said otherwise it is just telemarketers.

      1. De Minimis

        I’ve had more than a few potential employers call from blocked numbers, especially larger organizations/gov’t agencies.

  4. Nodumbunny

    I have so much sympathy for this today because I am hopefully waiting for a job offer and my recently-upgraded phone wasn’t notifying me of new voicemails. I made an urgent visit to the store this morning, sure that once I got voicemail set up right there would be a new voicemail waiting for me…..no such luck (yet).

        1. Chloe

          Me three. Currently waiting for a call to schedule a second interview, missed a call during a meeting. Had to wait 2 hrs to check the voicemail and…it was my optician. My contacts were ready to pick up.

          Sigh.

    1. Kevin

      For my current job my phone didn’t inform me I got a call or voice mail with a job offer. I was in the back part of a store and lost reception, when I got back to the front I had a missed call. I called back and the hiring manager says, “I got worried when I didn’t hear from you yesterday.” I was unemployed at the time and was ready to take any job let alone this one which was my strong first place. I about had a heart attack.

        1. Kevin

          It worked out and then some. I like the area a lot better than I was living before plus a big raise. I cautiously would say it’s my “dream job.” But only knowing that after being here a little while, not while I was applying.

      1. Susie

        I had this happen once. When I finally got the VM and call notification and returned the call I got a skeptical response because they’d never heard of this happening before but they trusted my word and it all worked out.

        I have to say, in the 9 years I’ve had a cell phone I’ve only had this day-long delay thing happen 3 times. Twice with text messages and the one time with calls/voicemails.

        1. anonymous

          This happens to my husband often. He’ll get a voicemail that was left 3 days before. I think it’s because when the call was made, he was in an area of his work territory that doesn’t have cell reception at all or reception for our carrier. There are places he has to drive to the top of a hill to even use business band radio to contact dispatch.
          When the power was out for 3 hours the other day, MIL called right before it came back on and I didn’t get the call and when I tried to call any local number, same area code and same prefix, I got a recording from a different carrier and had to try again using the area code. Anyway my vm is set up to forward to Google Voice and I have set it to text and email me when I have a message. The text for MIL’s message that was left right before power was restored came 3 hours later. I had already checked email and found it, earlier.

  5. tesyaa

    I am from the old school (grew up in the days before caller ID and cellphones), and it sure took me by surprise when I realized that no one listens to voicemails anymore, just calls back the number that called them. (But I go with the flow, and I rarely leave voicemails anymore unless I’m calling someone who listens to them – meaning someone my age or older :) )

    I definitely think an employer would leave a message, and I can’t imagine why the OP thinks it might be the employer calling, other than anxiety about the job search. Like you say, it is most likely a wrong number or a telemarketer.

    Put it this way – if you made up your mind to interview someone, would you cross them off your list if they didn’t answer one call? The candidate could be in a place with no reception, or in the bathroom, etc. Is that a good way to select and reject candidates? It’s laughable to think that a decent organization would use such a random approach. (If they tried multiple times to reach a candidate with no response, and left voicemails to that effect, that would be different, of course).

    1. Arbynka

      + 1

      I don’t answer my phone in the bathroom, when I am eating or when I am driving. In doctor’s office, etc. There are times I do not answer because the location of my cell phone is temporarily unknown to me and I have to find it by it’s ringing. Not always in time. I think every reasonable person realizes that sometimes a caller is unavailable to answer the phone.

        1. Bea W

          Some people use the bathroom as their own personal phone booth. Not only is it disturbing for all other parties involved, it really sucks if it’s a single person toilet, and you’re the person doing the tinkle dance outside the door while the selfish twerp on the other side ignores you. (Pardon the name calling, but REALLY? What kind of person hogs the bathroom to make a call while other people are waiting to actually use the toilet?!)

    2. Laufey

      I’m up there with the “cell phone is a tool, not a lifestyle” crowd. I often turn it off if I don’t want to be bothered, and there are times and places that I refuse to answer it. I definitely agree with your comment about employers and calling – any employer worth working for with either call you back or leave a message.

      I find it interesting what you say about not leaving voicemails, though. I don’t return calls to unknown numbers unless I have a voicemail. I get so many junk calls or wrong numbers that calling a number I don’t recognize blindly is just a waste of everyone’s time. If it’s someone I know well – parents, grandparents, best friend sort of person – or someone I’ve been playing phone tag with, I’ll return the call without a voicemail, but otherwise I just assume the caller will either call back.

      Also, best voicemail tip I ever got – when leaving a voicemail, leave your phone number at both the beginning and the end of your message. That way, if the person is still scrambling for a pen, they don’t have to listen to the entire message again just to get your number.

      1. tesyaa

        I used to leave more voicemails, but my experience is that no one listens to them anymore. And fewer people leave them than when we had answering machines back in the day, but before the days of caller ID.

        I think it’s truly from laziness/impatience that people don’t even want to take a minute to access their voicemail. (Or seconds with a smartphone).

        A pattern emerged: I would leave a detailed message for someone (e.g. my mechanic) and I’d get a call back “Did someone call from this number?”

        1. Windchime

          Except it doesn’t just take a minute to listen to my voicemail. I have to listen to the voicemail system go through all the old messages (which I delete as they start playing, because they’re usually weeks old and from my mother), and then I have to listen to the voicemail lady give me long, explicit instructions and explanations about how to delete or save the message, or what day and time it was left at. So….yeah. I rarely listen to voicemails if it’s from family or a friend. If I’m expecting a return call from anyone else, then I will listen to the voicemail. But it’s a hassle.

      2. tesyaa

        Scrambling for a pen? I feel like no one bothers with pens and watches (timepieces) anymore now they have their phones. Yes, it’s generational, and no, I”m not trying to pretend I’m young, but I believe that if I want to initiate communication with someone, I have to do it on their terms. It’s actually not difficult.

        1. Colette

          Considering the person you’re trying to get in touch with is the reason for leaving your phone number at the beginning and end of the call. Yes, people still write down phone numbers or info if they’re not going to call back immediately/from the same phone – not everyone, but you don’t know which category the person you’re talking to falls into unless you know them well.

          1. tesyaa

            Sure, if it’s important at all, I do clearly leave my number at the end of the call, and I usually repeat it at least once. But I know many people won’t listen.

            In addition, some people get impatient with long messages. A brief message with a clearly spoken number is best.

            1. The gold digger

              And if you are calling to say, “Maggie! Aunt Flossie’s funeral is at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday. Granma will be really upset if you’re not there;”

              and if you leave that message three separate times;

              then please leave your number at least once so I can call you to tell you that you have the wrong number. I don’t want Maggie to miss the funeral.

              1. Joanne

                I hate it when this happens. I end up spending all day worried about what will happen to grandma when Maggie doesn’t show up.

          2. Bea W

            Unless you have super verbal memory, most people will need some sort of writing implement to note down a call back number before dialing. If I’m listening to your voicemail on my cell, I can’t very well type it in there somewhere – at least not yet.

            Pens and paper – still very much alive in the office, if only to jot down quick notes. Watches – that is generational. (IMHO it’s a pain to pull out a phone just to look at the time. So much easier to just look at my wrist!)

        2. anon

          Um, yes, I do have to scramble for a pen/paper if someone calls my work landline. For some reason my work phone doesn’t save numbers called from, so I do have to write the number down to call back. Landlines aren’t dead yet. Of course, I can always replay the message if I miss the number. ..

        3. Laufey

          Geez, I am young, but this is starting to make me feel like I’m mentally sixty or something. Yes, both at work and from my cell phone, I will generally write down phone numbers left for me in voicemails. Often, call back numbers are not the same as the number in caller id, and I’ll probably want to write down a note during the conversation (even if it’s just “Dr’s appt @ 3p” or whatever). Just because you’re technologically advanced doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t write things down.

          I also wear a watch every day, for the record.

          1. tesyaa

            I don’t mean to stereotype “young” people; of course some younger people use voicemail and watches. But I think most don’t. I don’t think we can bemoan the loss of courtesy and appropriateness; the world changes and those who don’t change either get left behind or learn to deal with it. Listen, my parents (elderly) don’t have smartphones and only use computers/Internet to a fairly limited extent, and they’re doing just fine.

            1. Felicia

              I’m a young person and I always listen to my voicemail, and i don’t know anyone who doesn’t personally, but i wouldn’t say most. I don’t use watches though, and i don’t know many people who do anymore, but that one makes sense to me, because the phone provides the function that your watch would perfectly fine. However, if it’s a number i don’t recognize, I won’t answer. I will check my voice mail though, and if t hey left a message i call back pretty quick. I started doing this because of the habit of so many employers to give on the spot phone interviews – i google the number, so it tells me who it was – but now i just always do that. As long as i check my voicemail, i think that’s perfectly fine

              1. LondonI

                I didn’t used to wear a watch. Now I do, it’s a revelation! So much easier than fishing around for my phone every time. I thoroughly recommend it.

                1. Bea W

                  ^This! Huge PIA to go digging around your bag for your phone and then wake the screen when you only want the time.

              2. Cath@VWXYNot?

                Wearing a watch when you carry a cell phone at all times is like strapping a barometer to your leg to get a weather forecast.

                I will never give up carrying pen and paper, though!

        4. Stephanie

          We’re not all like that! I’m a millennial and while I do have an iPhone, sometimes the trusty pen and Moleskine come in handy. :)

    3. The IT Manager

      it sure took me by surprise when I realized that no one listens to voicemails anymore, just calls back the number that called them.

      This is a pet peeve of mine. I had a friend a few years back who never listened to voice mail and would just call back for missed calls. So annoying because usually my message was more informative than “call me back now.” We’re no longer in touch, but I wonder if texts have changed this habit of hers.

      1. Meg

        I listen to my voicemail, surprisingly. I take it as “Oh, they left a message. Must be important.” Well… I take that back. I’m more likely to call back immediately upon seeing a voicemail. If I get a missed call without a voicemail, I have no sense of urgency to return to the call.

        But I still listen to voicemail.

      2. Mystic

        I always listen to voicemails if they are from a number not in my contacts list. If it’s from my parents, then I don’t listen to it…

        I know that if it’s Dad it says, “Hey, call me back.” And if it’s Mom, it’s a 3-minute long stream of consciousness, the end of which she announces she’ll call me back in an hour or two.

        1. Bea W

          My dad’s voice mail is usually a weather update and an admonition to dress warm / be careful driving. I listen for the amusement value. :D

          My mother would just serial call. :/

      3. Kelly O

        I am absolutely with you.

        Even with my own mom, if I call and she doesn’t answer, I will always leave a message, even if it’s just “sorry I missed you” and she never listens to them. I have to say “it’s okay, I just left you a message” and then we have the whole conversation.

    4. smallbutmighty

      I haaaaate voicemail. I don’t even know why I hate voicemail so much, but I do.

      I think much of my dislike of voicemail is habit. For all the years I had a dumb phone, I struggled to recall the access steps and the passcode to get to my voicemail. (I didn’t tend to get a lot of messages, so I never developed a comfort level with that sequence.) I now have an iPhone and accessing and reviewing voicemail is easy, but I still feel my chest tighten with impatience and annoyance when I see that little “new message” icon.

      I don’t believe I’ve ever received a work voicemail on my business phone (we email and text exclusively), and I’m very much in the habit of going a week or more without listening to voicemails. The ones I receive tend to be from my parents and people I know socially, and they almost never contain anything that couldn’t have been better conveyed with a text message. I actually avoid developing friendships with serial voicemail-leavers. Voicemail bugs me THAT much. I know it’s irrational, but it’s true.

      And for what it’s worth, I’m solidly in Generation X, not a Millennial.

    5. Bea W

      Really? But then I am from the pre-caller ID, pre-cell phone, pre-voice mail age (and you paid extra for touch tone service!). I don’t call someone back if they haven’t left a message even if I recognize the number, not unless they are my closest of closest friends. It just seems weird to call back, and I figure if it were that important they would have left a message.

      This happens to be the weeks before an important local election. I am getting bombarded with unknown calls with no message. The are probably political calls.

    6. nyxalinth

      I’ve heard of it happening, and has happened to me a time or two, but usually it wasn’t that great of a place, or was an agency just going down the list.

      On a related note, I really hate when someone calls and leaves a message, I call them back literally five minutes later, and they never never ever return my call. I figure if that’s how they are, I didn’t want to work there, anyway, but it’s a hard attitude to keep when you need a job right now!

  6. Steve

    I can’t stand people that call me back when I haven’t left a message. Maybe I dialed a wrong number and don’t want to waste your time listening to a voicemail of me apologizing for a wrong number. Or maybe what I had to say was an “in the moment” kind of thing (oh my God, turn on Ch 2 NOW! This woman’s dog on the news looks just like ex-boss!!) Maybe I called on the off chance you could chit-chat while I was waiting for the cable guy. Or maybe I pocket dialed you and didn’t even know it. If I want you to all me back, you will definitely know it.

    1. Jamie

      This. If it’s important and you didn’t pick up I’ll send an email or text – or try you later. If it’s an emergency there will be a voicemail telling you what hospital I’m heading to.

    2. A Bug!

      I also find it terribly frustrating. Often, I’m not calling because I need to talk with you; I’m calling because I need to tell you something. If you’d listened to the message I left, you wouldn’t need to call me at all, and now I’m stuck wasting time repeating myself.

      On the flip side, if you’re calling me to let me know something relatively brief that doesn’t need an immediate response from me, please don’t just say “hi, it’s Penelope, call me back”.

      Voicemails have a very good range of uses. It’s too bad so few people bother.

      1. Bea W

        That drives me NUTS! Especially at work. When I’m making a purely social call to a friend, I might say “Hi this is Bea. (insert some social nicety or other inane comment) Give me a call later.”, but at work, when someone calls me it is usually with a specific question request or issue. When you leave a specific message, it saves everyone time when I can look up something or do whatever I need to do instead of taking the extra time to call back, then find out what you need, especially if it’s a task you want me to do or something I have to get back to you on. I’d rather just call back with your answer the first time.

        Some office phones don’t have caller ID display at all. If you don’t leave a message, the person you are trying to reach won’t even know you called. Other office phones show only the number for external calls. Please don’t make people guess or Google. Just leave the darn voicemail or hang-up and email your message. Double points if you have a more detailed or complicated question when you called, and you leave me a message saying you are calling with a question about the new Chocolate Teapot recipe, and will send me an email with the details.

        I also hate to presume everyone will recognize me in caller ID or just assume they will know to call me back. That seems rude, but it could be my generation.

      2. Windchime

        And this is why I usually don’t listen to voicemails. Because most of the time, it’s my mom and she says, “Hi , this is Mom (as if I might not recognize her voice). Call me back.”

        My kids and I rarely leave voicemails for each other. If I see that one of my (adult) kids has called, I’ll call them back as soon as I can and they will do the same if they see that I have called. If the person being called back can’t answer, no biggie; we’ll just catch up when we can.

        1. anonymous

          My mom doesn’t say who it is. She says, “Hi, it’s just me.” Then a brief message.

    3. tesyaa

      I think this genie is out of the bottle. This is what people, especially young people, do. They’re not going to change because we have a pet peeve.

      If someone calls me back and I didn’t leave a message, I usually just explain that I don’t need to talk to them anymore. No one seems offended and the call is over in seconds.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        But if you call me and don’t leave a message asking me to call back, I won’t. From my phone, there are no callbacks without a voicemail.

        1. Bea W

          Same. I’m not a mind reader. I am getting older and crankier, and don’t have the mental energy to play “Guess if I want you to call me back!” In the business world that totally does not fly, and I can’t imagine that will change much. Who has time to stop and call back every number that didn’t come with a voicemail attached? That’s a stupid waste of time.

          The younger generation also writes in text speak. That’s fine in casual conversation amongst peers, but not in a business or professional context.

    4. Anonymous

      I never call people back unless they leave a VM – I just assume it wasn’t important or they’ll try me later. I’m kind of surprised to hear that some people expect it? I hope I haven’t been pissing my friends off.

      1. chikorita

        I do the same thing, especially since most of the time the people who call and don’t leave a message just want to sell me double-glazing or something. Everyone else will text me or leave a message, or just call back later.

    5. Kelly O

      One of my pet peeves is people who call saying “I had a call from this number. Who is it?”

      I mean honestly, buddy. There are four hundred people who work here, and anyone could have called you from a half-dozen numbers and shown up with this on your caller ID. I don’t know who it was or what they wanted, even if it WAS someone purposefully calling you.

      Maybe I dialed your number by mistake. Maybe your number is almost exactly my Great-Aunt Cora’s and I just misdialed. Maybe the teenage babysitter I was trying to call texted me wrong. There are all sorts of reasons someone might call a wrong number, and I am sorry, wait, no I’m not sorry. I’m not leaving a message explaining to a stranger why I dialed the wrong number.

      Y’all ever watch Chappelle’s Show? “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong” – the one about the woman going ballistic about someone “playing on my phone” comes to mind.

      Let. It. Go.

      Sorry, total soapbox for me. It just drives me bonkers.

      1. LondonI

        Agreed. When I had a similar role I would ask, “Do you know who it might have been or which department it might have been from?” Usually the answer was no. Sometimes these callers would say “Oh can’t you just ask around?” Well, no. Not in a large organisation where any number of people could have called from the same user ID. You just have to trust that the caller (a) would have left a message or (b) will call you back if it were an important matter. And yet some people still got shirty.

      2. nyxalinth

        I had a call from a very grumpy man back in 2001 wanting to know why someone from my number had called. I told him I hadn’t. We went back and forth for a bit. He eventually figured out he’d transposed two numbers, and went away, but damn.

    6. Bea W

      No kidding. If it’s that important or even not important but I just called to chat and would like to catch up some other time, I leave a message. Otherwise, it’s likely one of the other scenarios you mentioned – wrong number, butt dialing, or in the moment/killing time waiting.

  7. The IT Manager

    Let me join the choir. Don’t call the company. This is an example of an assumption making an ass of you.

    I’m almost positive this was the company calling as I usually never receive calls on my cell phone, and I have not applied to any other jobs.
    This is wishful thinking on your part.

    If it was the company wanting to schedule an interview or pre-screen you, they would have left a message.

    I once listened to my collegue’s half of the conversation as someone called our office and tried to figure out who might have called the her and her roommates phone and why. My collegue had no idea, and it was just silly.

    And what do you have to lose? You will look dumb and desperate to the company.

    1. Leah

      I never said I was going to call the company, I was thinking of sending an email to the hiring manager. Also, I don’t have voicemail so they weren’t able to leave a message.

  8. AnonAnony

    The only thing to do going forward is check that your voicemail is working, and make a habit of going into your voicemail a couple times a day, just in case they’re not showing up as missed calls/ unheard messages.

  9. BausLady

    I recruit for a call center and I call anywhere from 5-20 candidates on any given day to set up phone interviews with them. I always leave a message (although you’d be surprised by the number of people job searching that don’t have their voice mail set up, or have a full mailbox).

    My biggest pet peeve is when a candidate calls back without listening to the message and just says ‘I got a call from this number.’ Even if I just called you, chances are I have no idea who you are. Because I also just called 15 other people. It just bothers me that people can be so passive about something as important as a job hunt.

    1. BausLady

      I should add that I agree with the chorus that if it was the employer, they’d have left a message.

      1. Mystic

        Do you leave messages even for folks with a bad voicemail greeting?

        When I was job searching, I re-recorded my voicemail greeting to be more professional sounding in case potential employers called. I’ve gotten new phones since then and now I think it’s just a robot voice that says something like “123-456-7890 is not available.” I know some doctors won’t leave a voicemail unless the greeting identies the number owner by name or whatever… Do employers operate the same way?

        1. Bea W

          I hope not, though it hasn’t been my experience. Any employer or Dr calling me has left voicemail. I deleted all my personal greetings and switched to the generic due to being stalked. Last thing I need is some creep getting confirmation that they’ve found the right number. :-/

        2. KellyK

          They won’t leave a message at all or won’t leave a *detailed* message? One of my doctors’ offices asks for each contact number you give them if it’s okay to leave a detailed message with test results and that sort of thing. I completely understand not wanting to leave that kind of message without confirmation that you’ve reached the right person, but I don’t think: “Mr. Smith, please call your doctor’s office at 555-867-5309” should be any kind of privacy violation.

        3. BausLady

          I leave a message no matter what. Whether they identify themselves in the voicemail greeting or not I just state who the message is for, who I am, why I’m calling, and how to reach me.

  10. any mouse

    I’ve actually been on the receiving end of this type of call back as a receptionist. “Someone called but the number was blocked, and I applied for a job there and I want to know if you were trying to contact me.” Each department did their own hiring, and if they wanted you they called and left a message and at least one department head would not take any calls for any reason from applicants unless they were 1) returning his phone call or 2) calling to say they were delayed for an interview.

    Then there was the woman who walked in and handed her resume. I said we weren’t hiring but asked what position so I could at least get the resume to the right person. The woman cheerfully informed me she was looking for secretarial work, preferably reception work and she was sure she would be an asset to the company and I don’t remember the phrasing but basically she said she could do the job better than the current person (but not in those words).

    I tried to be polite and told her that I was the receptionist and had been working there for 2 months and wasn’t planning on leaving. Which left her flustered.

    But I’m at the reception area, I couldn’t believe she didn’t put it together that I was the receptionist.

    1. JMegan

      I’ve never worked reception, but I used to work within hearing distance of the reception desk. At least once a day, I would overhear her having the following conversation:

      “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but I don’t know who called you. We have over 400 staff here, and all outgoing calls show up as our main number on your caller ID. Did the person leave a message? No? In that case, I’m very sorry, but I really can’t help you.”

    2. tesyaa

      The more I think about it, this has little to do with technology. Imagine a 1960s-era job-seeker returning home from doing errands and hearing the phone ringing – running to answer it – but too late. No caller ID, no answering machine. The job seeker would still be obsessively wondering if it was the prospective employer. That’s the word I’m thinking of, obsessive. I realize the job search is frustrating and then some, but as Alison often says, send in the application (or do the interview), then come home and assume nothing is happening, until you hear otherwise.

      1. TK

        But at that time, much of the important parts of the application process probably would have been conducted by postal mail, exactly to avoid this sort of issue. Today we use e-mail for similar reasons.

      2. Bea W

        True, the same thought process is going on, but technology has now enabled us and trained us to act irrationally on that obsessing over a missed call. So now people do things like dial up some stranger at a company with hundreds of people and say things like “Someone called but the number was blocked, and I applied for a job there and I want to know if you were trying to contact me.”

        Back in the day, before caller ID and voicemail, it was the norm that call would try again, because there was no expectation someone would call back just because they couldn’t. It was always on the caller to try again later. If you missed a call because you were not home, you never even knew about a missed call. There was no visible record that a call came to the phone. There was nothing to check. So you did not have this obsessive checking of caller ID for missed calls which just feeds into itself.

  11. JMegan

    Funny story about “unknown numbers.” Several years ago, post-caller-ID but pre-cell-phones, I had a day where I had almost a dozen phone calls to make. I misdialled one of the calls, and hung up as soon as I heard the person’s voice mail and realized it was the wrong number. Then I forgot about it, and went on to make the rest of my calls.

    Fast forward to 1:00 am – my phone rings, and scares the everloving carp out of me since, you know, I’m asleep at that hour. I answer, and the person says “Someone called me from this number earlier today – they didn’t leave a message, so I thought it might have been important.”

    I didn’t even remember the wrong number I had called, because it really wasn’t that important. So there was a lot of back and forth with me trying to figure out who was calling me, them trying to figure out who they were calling, and both of us trying to figure out why we were having this conversation. And did I mention, this was in the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT?

    TL;DR – do not do this. If the call was important, the person would have left a message. If there’s no message, *and* you don’t recognize the number, I promise it wasn’t important.

    1. Arbynka

      They called you at 1 am ? OMG, who in their right mind would think that’s a good idea ? The only excuse for that I can come up with is if it was an international call – you know the time difference – but otherwise that’s just plain crazy.

    2. TK

      “they didn’t leave a message, so I thought it might have been important.”

      Who thinks like this, rather than reverse? How bizarre.

  12. Al Lo

    My personal voicemail says something to the effect of, “If you’d like to leave a message, go ahead, but if you’d like a faster response, please text or email me [with appropriate contact info given] instead, as I check my voicemail less frequently than the others.” I check my work voicemail more frequently, but it still does direct people to email me.

    Really, I just don’t like listening to my voicemail. I’d rather have the information in front of me (and searchable, if I want to go back to it), and I can read much faster than I can listen to a message — especially if you’re mumbling or you drop the end of your phone number and I can’t decipher it.

    It’s just a preference — I state it clearly, I follow up with what I’ve said I’ll do, and I’m not completely abandoning my less preferred option (in this case, voicemail); I’m just making it clear that you’ll get a faster response if you get in touch with me in a different way.

    (Although, for the record, I don’t call back unknown numbers that don’t leave a message of any sort — if it’s important, you’ll get back in touch with me. I have no desire to play the awkward “Did someone call me?” game.)

  13. holly

    this goes for anyone: if someone calls and want you to call back, they will leave a message. or they will get in touch with you another way.

    non-message leavers are telemarketers, wrong numbers, etc. they are not important calls.

    if i want someone to call me back, i leave a message. i do not assume they will divine that my sheer act of calling means i want them to call me back.

    1. Bea W

      Except when it’s the police and for some reason they assume they are properly identified on your caller ID. True story. The calls started around 3:30-4 AM. There was no name to go with the number on my cell phone, so I assumed it was a drunk dialer at that hour.

  14. Ruffingit

    I find this part of it odd reinstating my interest in the position. I’m assuming they meant reinforcing. In any case, please listen to Alison OP. People who want you to call them back will leave a message. The call you got is more likely a wrong number.

  15. SL

    That situation is a little nerve-racking. Once, after several rounds of interviews for a job I really wanted, I got a phone message with a tremendous amount of interference–enough that I couldn’t tell who was calling. I don’t have caller ID, either. I was worried that if I called them to inquire and it wasn’t them they’d feel I was using a pretext to pester them–and also, of course, worried that it was them and that they were getting impatient that I hadn’t returned the call.

    I finally emailed one of the people I interviewed with and brought it up–the company was small enough that anyone I’d interviewed with would have known if they decided to move forward with me. It wasn’t them. I pretty much accepted that I might have shot myself in the foot, but I couldn’t think of an alternative.

    I still got the job, though.

  16. Windchime

    I recently was texting a friend’s work Blackberry…..except she no longer had that phone, and the number belonged to someone else. The new person didn’t say anything when I texted him/her a picture of my cat, but they were very confused by my next message.

    Rambling story, but the bottom line is that wrong numbers happen. Hopefully the OP will get the call that he/she is hoping for soon!

  17. Amber

    It was most likely a wrong number or a telemarketer. Personally, I’ve been getting telemarketing calls 2x a day lately because the government shutdown messed up the Do Not Call List.

    Employers typically leave messages, especially if they are interested in you. I wouldn’t worry about it!

    1. nyxalinth

      I never made the connection, but it makes sense that suddenly we got many more telemarketing calls lol.

  18. VictoriaHR

    Ugh. I always leave a voicemail and half the time, the candidate calls me and says, “yeah I had a missed call from this number.” They don’t give their name, I have to say “I’m going to need your name… ?” and then they will give it. Too many people are dependent on caller ID these days.

    And I won’t even mention the # of people who, when I’m working remotely and using my cell phone to call candidates, will ignore their voicemail indicator and text my number going “whos this”

  19. Elizabeth West

    Please don’t call back. As a former receptionist, getting calls like “Someone called me from there” is annoying. It’s unlikely the receptionist or switchboard operator would be able to find that person for you. I agree with everyone else; if it was the job, they would have left a message, or they’ll call back.

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