can I rescind a job offer immediately?

A reader writes:

I recently called an applicant to offer her a customer service position. She responded flatly as soon as I introduced myself. (“Oh. Hi.”) I was a little taken aback, but proceeded with the job offer anyway.

Her terse reply immediately signaled a complete lack of interest. She said little other than, “Huh. I’ll get back to you later.” I asked if she had any questions or concerns about the job, but she said in an almost annoyed tone, “No. Nothing.”

I’ve had the same experience a handful of times with other applicants. So I wasn’t surprised when she didn’t bother to respond by the agreed time frame. She also didn’t reply to a politely worded email saying I would be moving on with other applications.

Friendly telephone communication is an essential requirement of the job. Whether they accept or decline, it’s a red flag when applicants reply with indifference bordering rudeness. My question is, would it be inappropriate to rescind the job offer on the spot in this scenario? Should I wait and email them to cancel our offer of employment later, out of politeness?

I’m curious whether when you’ve had this experience with other candidates, do any of them ever end up accepting the offer? (And if so, what kind of employees do they make?) Based on this one experience, I wonder if it’s just happening with people who have already decided not to accept the job, and who just aren’t professional enough to explain that.

In any case, I wouldn’t just rescind the offer on the spot if you encounter this again. It’s possible that there’s an understandable reason for the tone — for example, if the person just heard about a death in the family, I could imagine the conversation going this way, and in that case you wouldn’t want to be all “your tone sucks, so NEVER MIND.”

What I do think you should do is to just name what you’re sensing and ask about it! For example: “You sound a little hesitant about your interest level — can I ask where you’re leaning?” Or, “I’m getting the sense I may have caught you at a bad time — would you rather I call you back about this?” Or even, “I don’t want to misinterpret, and I’m having trouble reading your tone here.”

A good candidate will respond to this by giving you more insight on what’s going on (which could be anything from “oh, I’m sorry — I’m in a room full of people” to “I have the stomach flu and am trying not to vomit before we hang up”).

But if the person stays terse — and if it’s rude terseness, not just reserved terseness — there’s no reason you can’t say, “I’ll be honest with you — we’re really looking for someone who’s excited about the job. If that’s not you, that’s okay! But I’d want to move forward and offer it to another candidate if you don’t think it’s for you.”

Also, though, I wonder what’s going on if people are sounding warm and friendly earlier in the process (I’m assuming, if you’ve decided to offer them the job) and then checking out by the offer stage. Are you attracting a lot of candidates who aren’t experienced or professionally polished enough to know that tone matters outside the interview? Are they learning something about the job or the company during the interview process that’s draining all interest out of them? Are you not asking the right questions of references to find out about things like professional demeanor before you decide who to hire?

It’s unusual enough that because you’ve seen it with more than one person, I’d take a look at where it might be coming from.

{ 214 comments… read them below }

  1. The IT Manager*

    My first thought was that you caught the person at their current job or some other place where they couldn’t have an open conversation about their new job. Given that the person never responded to accept, that first impression is probably wrong, but still I think you should give people the benefit of the doubt and make sure they can converse freely with you before rescinding the job offer.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Sometimes it’s not that easy. There are have been many times where I wish I had responded one way instead of another but I was caught off guard at the time. I think it’s always best for the caller– no matter who they are– to ask if it’s a good time to talk in such situations.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Yes! I agree the caller should ask. If you pick up the phone, it can still be awkward to say it’s a bad time to talk if other coworkers are around. It’s easier if the caller let’s you respond with yes or no answers.

        2. LSP*

          Off-topic, but I just started re-watching The Wire, and your username is brilliant!
          That is all.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I certainly wouldn’t want to make the person who is making me an offer wait unnecessarily, so if I were desperate to leave I’d probably want to give them an answer then and there, although I might also ask to discuss the details later because I couldn’t talk right then. But that’s easy to say in an online forum, I don’t know if I’d have the presence of mind in the moment.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The phrase everyone should memorize: “I’m very interested but I’d like to think about it at least overnight. When would you like me to give you a answer by?”

          1. sam*

            but even this could be difficult to say if you answer your phone from your cubicle and your boss is suddenly hovering over you.

            Especially if you have one of those bosses that gets written about here that will fire you if they find out you’re even thinking about looking for another job.

            1. OfficePrincess*

              In an area where others could overhear, I’d probably modify Alison’s script to something like “Oh, that sounds great. I’m in the middle of something now, but could I get back to you later today/tomorrow/by the end of the week?”

          2. tw*

            I’ve said some polite version of “Thank you so much! Would I be able to get an official offer letter before committing?”. Is that okay?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That was also my first thought. When you’re calling to make the offer, are you first asking if they have time to talk, or if it’s a good time for them? Many, many years ago when I was job-searching, I once gave a similarly “terse” response, and when I said it wasn’t a great time and could I please call back later, the recruiter I was talking to got very defensive and cold with me. Pretty unfair.

      1. Allypopx*

        That’s unfortunate, but in this case the employee didn’t call back or respond to written communication, so I’m thinking it might be a different scenario.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          It probably is! However, if I got an email saying they’d moved on to other candidates, I might not respond to that either. Well, no, scratch that– *I* would, but when I was less experienced, I probably would not have.

          1. The OG Anonsie*

            When I was younger I would have just accepted the rejection email after the offer without replying even if I was surprised. Now I would say something, but Youthful Anonsie would have thought it would make me look worse to try to talk about it once they had sent me such a decision.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      All the jobs I’ve applied for have mailed and asked me to call them about the position by a certain time (same or next day), I assume because they would know that I would be at my current job when they called. OP might want to consider doing the same.

      1. Justin*

        Yes, my current job emailed and asked if I had time to talk the next day around x time and I made sure I was elsewhere. So maybe OP is cold-calling?

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          That would be my guess. When I got my last two job offers, the hiring managers emailed me and asked me to call back the next day between X and XX. No cold calling, I could be in a place that was comfortable for me, that kind of thing.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        Yes, that’s how it’s always worked for me. I usually get an email from the hiring manager asking to schedule a time to talk. Then we have a mutually-agreed-upon time to chat, so we know it’s a good time, and that’s when she will make the offer. Perhaps the OP is running an usually high risk for catching the candidates at the wrong time by calling out of the blue instead of scheduling a time to talk?

    3. AnotherAlison*

      Mine too. . .may not apply to this particular candidate, but it could be the case with others. Wouldn’t make sense to penalize someone for not being outwardly happy or emotional when you have no idea what the person is doing when you called them. They could be at work, asleep, in the drive thru, working out, etc. Unscheduled calls seem to put a lot of people off these days.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I agree with everything you say, except regarding the unwanted calls, this is generally true except when you’re job hunting, I feel like you need to be on your A-game.

        1. JessaB*

          Especially if it comes over as caller unknown. I don’t normally take those calls, but if I’m job hunting, I know I have to. But if you have no idea why you’ve been called and they don’t know where you are/what you’re doing, it’s kind of on them to make it clear that they KNOW you might not be able to talk.

          Now in this case the OP has a non responsive party. I’d just move on because the person had the chance to respond again and refused to. The OP did kind of give them the benefit of the doubt, they blew that out of the water when they didn’t call/text/email back.

          1. kmb213*

            I’m actually the exact opposite of you – I tend to take “caller unknown” calls less when I’m job hunting. I figure any company I actually want to work for would 1) leave a message and 2) not negatively judge me for not answering my phone, particularly if it’s during “normal” working hours. I’ll answer if I’m already in an ideal place to talk (ie, at home alone watching TV or reading), but I won’t if I’m at work, driving, somewhere with a lot of loud people, etc. Of course, I return the calls promptly once I can be alone in my car or in a room at home (typically within the hour, always the same day unless the call comes in at the very end of the business day, then the next morning). I’ve found it keeps me much more “on my game,” but YMMV.

            1. Another person*

              Oh goodness yes, every reputable employer I’ve ever dealt with has had no problem leaving me a message asking me to call back about X position, and I do that as soon as I have the opportunity to get to a quiet place.

              I don’t understand why so many people think they have to move heaven and earth to answer every single call they get whether or not they are in a position to talk (or listen if they’re someplace loud). Any reasonable boss understands people might be busy if they are calling them without a scheduled appointment, and the few who might not understand are not the kind of boss I’d want to work for!

    4. CaliCali*

      This was my thought too. They’re at the other job where they can’t really talk or let on any sort of reaction. The first thing to do would be to ask if it’s a good time to talk.

    5. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      Even so, not being able to have an open conversation doesn’t mean you can’t be warm and enthusiastic. One could very easily go, “Oh, hello! I’m sorry, this isn’t a good time to talk; what’s a good time and number to call you back at?” or “Oh, it’s so good to hear from you. I can’t take this call right now, but could I call you back when I’m free at noon?”

      Neither of those would raise a single eyebrow if overheard, and neither of those is indifferent bordering on rude.

      1. fposte*

        Agreed, but it’s also a level of on-your-feet thinking that not every inexperienced worker will have. Deer-in-the-headlights is pretty common.

        I don’t actually think that’s what happened here, and I think it’s good advice for people to think about going forward. It’s just something not everybody can muster in the moment.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I agree with what you’re saying in general, but for the OP’s situation in particular, it seems the ability to think on your feet would be a part of the job, and that’s why she has concerns.

          1. The Final Pam*

            I feel like this isn’t a situation that would pop up a whole lot at a new job, though – they may be a lot more comfortable on their feet as a function of the job rather than “I sure hope I don’t get caught by current boss.” I’m a total introvert and I’m terrible at phone calls in my personal life, but if the job switch is turned on I’m pretty great at customer service / professional phone calls.

            1. Annabell*

              Yeah, I feel the same way. I answer calls from my wife/friends/family a whole lot differently than I do calls from colleagues.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                My spouse gets a lot of “What”s and “Yeah”s from me when I answer. It’s typical for him to call me, then get a call he has to answer, hang up, call me back, and repeat the cycle once more before we actually TALK to each other. I get a little rude with him, but I wouldn’t be that way with anyone else.

        2. anonderella*

          Yep. Inexperienced worker, here. Light phone usage is %100 ok at my job, so when I took a call the other day at work from a strange number, it wasn’t a big deal. They happen, I ignore them, no one answers when I return the call, and I’m always so curious if it’s solicitation or what. So I answered, one time. No big deal.

          At first.
          My sputtering through “Ah! Ah! Ah!” (a la Tina from Bob’s Burgers) with “No Thanks! I’m No Longer Looking Thank You!” might have set off some alarm bells – thankfully, I am very low on the company radar thanks to some higher-up reorging (whew! Also, no longer taking calls from unknown numbers at work).

      2. The OG Anonsie*

        True that it’s possible, though in my toxic jobs those things would have absolutely made my bosses start scrutinizing me. I think fposte’s freeze up is more likely, generally speaking, but either way there are a whole lot of very benign reasons why people might not be able to give you the full “I’m warm and enthusiastic” reaction any time you call them unexpectedly.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          You really think there’s anything to scrutinize in those sample scripts? Maybe I just haven’t had a toxic enough job, but any scrutiny could easily be deflected – “Oh, just someone who might be interested in buying some of my old books/CDs/teapots,” or something like that.

          1. The OG Anonsie*

            Oh yeah, 100%. Everything was a case for scrutiny in the toxic holes I’ve been in. They were always trying to figure out if you were leaving for a new job (or pregnant, at one place) so being overheard putting off a call you sounded excited about during work hours could have easily started the witch hunt.

            The worst place I ever worked, my boss was in ear shot of me. She would intently eavesdrop on every call I got and would email me comments while I was on the phone so I would see them but the person I was talking to didn’t know she was talking to me. Sometimes she was furious that I was taking a personal call, sometimes she didn’t seem to mind. Super volatile. You better BELIEVE this made me tense as all hell on the phone. The times I got unexpected personal calls (so I couldn’t step away to take them somewhere else) I would mumble in the hopes she couldn’t make it all out and get off the call as fast as possible. Probably sounded insane.

          2. Lily Rowan*

            Even in a nontoxic office! I should apparently take more random time off, because a team member was like, “Oh yeah, I assumed you were interviewing when you took that one day off.” Not that it was bad, but there is more scrutiny/gossip than you might think!

      3. Anonymoose*

        Frankly why aren’t we addressing that there is a pattern of their offer receivers being rude? I find that – combined with the complete avoidance of communicating further – really telling. As if the last link in the recruitment chain has totally FUBARed the process (sexually harassed the applicant, made racist jokes, or the actual job is so totally heinous that there’s tons of online data about how heinous it is and the applicants now treat it like the plague.)

        I would think recruitment would want to take a look at this particular pattern a little deeper, no??

        1. Bea*

          Sadly I was left wondering this as well. I’ve had similar times when despite my overwhelming experience and professionalism, I don’t waste my energy on a place I’m suddenly am aware of is a bad fit. I wouldn’t be comfortable with having a conversation with the person doing the offering because I’m just an outsider still and my experience is they don’t take criticism lightly. I’m not about to go down that rabbit hole!

    6. Another person*

      I am always afraid I will respond like that candidate if I pick up my cell phone and get a surprise interview or job offer while I’m at work in cube farm hell and am not able to speak freely. So I always let it go to voicemail and call the person back when I can get to somewhere more private.

      I can easily see how some people might just pick up the phone not thinking and get caught off guard, handling the job offer poorly because they don’t want to tip off their current boss that they have been job searching.

      But if they are interested in the job I can’t see why they shouldn’t make an effort by the next day either to accept or to establish a timeframe for making the decision.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yes, if you’re at work, I’d think one would let it go to voicemail (conversely the potential employer should respect that as well, after all, they probably don’t want you picking up personal calls during work anyway. Especially for customer service jobs).

    7. The OG Anonsie*

      Yeah that was my first thought. Trying to sound real flat is what I would do if someone called me about a job while I was at my current job. Of course this person later declined, but she said she’s encountered this a lot, which is a separate thing.

    8. former foster kid*

      yup, this exactly.

      also, a few weeks ago i got two job offers. the first was by email, the second a phone call literally 6 minutes later. i was jobless and growing desperate, and so relieved to get that email! so when the second offer called, my first thought was ‘oh no, how am i going to choose!?’

      the second offer immediately said, on the phone, ‘you sound less excited than we wanted. what’s wrong?’ and when i told them i had a competing offer, they got really pissy about it. that made the choice a whole lot easier.

    9. Jess*

      I agree. Whenever I’m calling someone about a job – if it’s to book an interview, check details, offer the role, whatever, I always say something like “Hi, this is Jess from XXX calling about the XYZ role you applied for. Do you have a moment to talk?”

      It’s not just if they’re at a current role – people might be driving or out and about in a loud environment etc. I’d much rather have a conversation with their full attention.

  2. KHB*

    Is the offer the first they’re hearing about the salary or other crucial aspects of the job, and are they finding those things underwhelming?

    1. Fiennes*

      I wondered about this too–or whether something about the interview process itself is turning candidates off. If there’s another individual who follows up with/coordinates with applicants, is that person being difficult, belittling or just irritating? Has the time frame for hiring gone on so long that candidates have given up & moved on?

      Like Alison said, one example of this could be a rude individual. Multiple examples of this suggest there’s a problem somewhere in the process.

      1. The OG Anonsie*

        Ooohh that’s a good point. Does this call come a month after they said they would be hearing within a week or something like that? Is someone else they deal with during the interview/recruiting process behaving in some way that makes them feel the need to be sort of shut off when interacting with the company? Whether or not some of these folks take the job after is a big part of the question.

        I tl;dr once sat through many rounds of hours of interviews for an internal position with a mix of some pleasant and some awful, hostile people. The process was time consuming and very unpleasant. They promised to follow up by a certain close date then went totally out of contact (no follow ups, no responses to applicant emails) for several months. I knew other people who had applied and interviewed and we all had the same experience. Eventually they started reaching out to people again without any mention of the months of radio silence, which… I definitely didn’t want the job, and I probably didn’t sound super jazzed at the surprise.

        1. JC Denton*

          100% this. I’m curious how long it had been since OP was last in contact with the candidate. My gut tells me that this call came out of the blue, several weeks – if not months – down the line. The candidate had probably given up hope at this point and was pursuing other prospects. Hiring managers seem to think they’re doing the candidate a favor by offering them a job instead of treating it like it is, a simple business transaction. So naturally they’re perturbed when the candidate sounds disinterested despite having been kept in the dark for sometime.

  3. NotTheSecretary*

    The OP says the job is customer service so it is possible these are particularly young candidates who may or may not be all that interested in the work. I had the same issue when I worked as a staffing agent for low-paying, no-skill factory work. They just aren’t going to be excited for the work and aren’t yet experienced enough to know that every interaction with potential employers matter. I often had to coach them on how to interact with receptionists, other candidates, and how to act while they were in our office/on the job site.

    I also had older, more experienced candidates act this way out of frustration with our (and others’) hiring practices. This I understood to a point, temp staffing agencies are notoriously awful to their workers and we were no different, but there wasn’t much I could do to change it. If you are in a position to make the hiring process better, perhaps look into that?

    1. mousie housie*

      Nailed it. I hire for a government program with a fixed salary that is abysmal – although candidates are supposed to be pre-screened and aware of the program’s limitations, many of them think that they can “wow” us into a better-paying or full-time role. They lose interest fast when we offer them the job originally posted and discussed throughout the interview.

  4. tw*

    I think I answered like this once when I got a call because the online status of my application was rejected, so I assumed they called to tell me they had gone with someone else.
    They offered me the job, but I had already accepted another and said so on the phone. I was also offered the job after just a phone interview, which seemed odd

    1. NotTheSecretary*

      That sounds like a bullet dodged, honestly. They don’t sound like they have their ducks in a row.

    2. JessaB*

      I’ve known a lot of customer service places that resume + phone call are sufficient, since you’re interacting all day on a phone. Face to face where you can see people’s intent is useless if they can’t handle tones of voice on a phone. So that’s not that crazy especially in a high turnover call centre industry.

      Some places are very tough to get into and they DON’T have turnover, but those tend to be more technical places or specialty ones. Your general call centre/answering service type operation isn’t an insurance call centre or a banking one where you have 6-12 or more weeks of specialty training and non disclosures and federal requirements because of money/privacy laws.

      A place where it’s a week or two of in a class, a day shadowing, and a day where you do the work and your shadow-buddy sits and points when you forget something, really doesn’t need or want a very in depth interviewing process, it gets expensive. In fact a lot of em are outsourcing em to temp companies, and then only hiring those that make it 6 months or so, if they haven’t cheaped out and gone to total temp labour.

  5. Elemeno P.*

    I recently was called with a job offer and the salary was much lower than I’d asked for. I still was friendly and professional on the call, but the hiring manager did note that my voice sounded less enthusiastic than I had earlier in the process. If this had happened to you a single time, I would think it might just be an inconvenient time for the applicant. The fact that this has happened multiple times make me lean toward something in the offer making the enthusiasm drop.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    My first thought was that this might be a retail, or similar, position. In my brief experience dealing with hiring in that context, we had a lot of candidates who did well through the process and then were rude/terse during the offer period. I think probing for feedback is a good idea, but I also think it’s ok to set a clear response deadline for when the offer expires.

    Rescinding the offer on the spot is a little intense unless you’re absolutely sure that the person is exhibiting animus, as opposed to simply being in an untenable situation (e.g., at work, sick, stuck with other people, at a family member’s side in the hospital, dealing with their kids, etc.). I feel like this tool should be reserved for immediate red flag situations, and your experience, OP, sounds like it could be a series of yellow flags.

    1. JM60*

      Or another explanation for the candidates seeming lack of enthusiasm is that that’s just their natural behavior, even when they’re excited, as is the case with me. Even if I’m very happy or excited about something, I often have to consciously act exited in order for people to realize that I’m excited. I’ll temporarily go out of the way to act exited during a job search to signal interest, but I’ll eventually stop because it’s a bit draining for me. Although this particular candidate doesn’t seem interested due to their lack of follow up, I could easily imagine that the letter writer would see me as a disinterested candidate, even if I was very interested in the position.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Still, though, if they need a particularly friendly phone manner for the position and they’re not seeing it on this call, it’s reasonable for the OP to have real concerns about fit for the job. It might be that you wouldn’t be right for that kind of job, based on what you’re saying.

        1. JessaB*

          Exactly, and people who have that presentation (stoic, reserved, quiet,) probably would not be applying for the “Salesperson needed, upbeat, etc.; Customer service rep wanted, happy, cheerful phone personality needed.” There’s a reason that job interviews (despite what some non-Alison managers think,) are supposed to work BOTH ways in determining fit.

        2. JM60*

          There’s a difference I think between friendly and charismatic. While being both is ideal, for most customer facing jobs, is possible to do the job well without being a naturally charismatic person. Saying “Oh, hi.” isn’t an ideal way to answer a call, but I don’t think it’s unfriendly nor do I think it necessarily signals lack of interest in the position when the person is recieving an unscheduled call or if the blue on their time. The LW being taken aback by this response is mostly what prompted my reply.

          There are a handful of jobs which can’t be done effectively without being naturally charismatic. However, lot of people, myself included, have done well in customer service in spite of being naturally stoic.

      2. stephistication1*

        I have been described as “stoic” so I too have to make an effort to show emotion.

  7. Old Admin*

    My first impression was that this customer service job maybe is a not very attractive one (retail, call center, first level support etc.), one of those classic bread-and-butter mainstays you unenthusiastically hang on to until something better comes along.
    This doesn’t have to be any fault of the OP.
    My company has number of those less desirable jobs, and I’ve seen similar lukewarm reactions from applicants who just needed a little more time to get the better job offer. If we paid better/had better hours, reactions would be quite different.

    1. Chickaletta*

      I thought this as well. I suspect that call-center jobs are a last-resort type job for a lot of people, and if it’s the one and only job offer they’re getting it can be quite disappointing. For people on unemployment, doubly so, because isn’t there a rule that if you turn down a job offer that you can’t collect unemployment anymore?

      They should be acting more professional, yes, but sometimes it’s hard to mask disappointment.

      1. Biff*

        I’m on California Unemployment, which says you can turn down unsuitable work, but some states do nothave that aspect. So if you apply for a suitable job, and they offer you phone work, you have to take it. :(

        1. JessaB*

          Yeh in Ohio, unsuitable pretty much means you can’t physically do it (I can’t do factory work,) or you can’t reasonably GET there (it’s 50 miles away, there’s no bus and you don’t have a car.) It doesn’t pay enough is NOT sufficient to turn it down and they tell you that when you go to their mandatory “sit down and let us teach you how to find work” lecture, if you’ve been off more than x time.

          Some places unsuitable means if you’re a lawyer you can turn down fast food, but it’s got to be pretty egregiously out of your wheelhouse (IANAL but I can turn down fast food because my disability means I can’t do standing-up work.) Not to mention it’s bloody hard to get a fast food job because people are not leaving them, and they have such an incredibly long list of applicants they can pick and choose. NB I chose fast food not because it’s a low class or last resort job, but because it’s plentiful and the most often suggested job to people who do not have one.

          Ohio is pretty strict about what you can and can’t turn down. On the other hand since you only have to apply to x jobs, you try to at least apply to things you can hopefully stand if they make you take it.

          1. Bea*

            Here the jobs have to be within your skillset. My dad was laid off of mill work a decade ago and they all weren’t hiring (BS, mills are always hiring but only if it’s young male labor). They never ever made him look at or take a retail or fast food job, he had only ever done lumber milling and could have learned, he’s a brilliant man but they didn’t require that. Thankfully it was so close to his retirement age he was able to float with my mom’s income until he could draw his pension.

      2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        You do have to accept suitable employment or become ineligible for unemployment but the rule varies from state to state. For instance, in my state you only become ineligible for eight weeks after turning down an offer. After that you could collect again if your account is still open.

      3. Princess Carolyn*

        Both of the states I’ve collected unemployment from have that rule about turning down a reasonable job offer, which is why I was careful to avoid applying for call centers and other jobs where I’d be qualified enough to potentially get an offer. Either the job was a good fit and one I’d actually want, or it was something totally out there like truck driver (I’m a writer/editor) so I knew they wouldn’t bother calling me.

        Often, that’s what’s going on when you see applications from people who aren’t even close to qualified for a position – especially if there’s nothing in their materials that would explain even an interest in a similar position or industry.

  8. Cambridge Comma*

    OP, have you considered (once it is established that it is a good time for them to talk) talking with them a little before making the job offer? That way, if something is off about their manner, you don’t need to make a job offer at all and no need to rescind arises.
    I’m assuming it’s unlikely that someone responds politely with enthusiasm when talking with you in general about the position and suddenly switches when you offer them a job.

  9. Consultant*

    Add to that, that it might be a connection issue.

    For some reasons I frequently don’t hear much when people call me (poor reception although I’m in city center). I may not sound interested because of that. I’m just very focused to understand what the person is saying.

  10. Ty*

    I’d be curious as to what level of customer service job we’re talking about to give it context. Reactions from the people you get applying for retail, fast food, or other types of jobs would be very different from the ones expected from applicants for a possibly entry level but still corporate job.

    This strikes me as the reaction you’d get from a teenager applying for retail.

  11. MissGirl*

    My go-to reaction to questions is no. Even when it’s things I want to do, I have this initial moment of anxiety about saying yes. For a long time, I didn’t quite understand this about me. Even when I would say yes to something, my tone would convey displeasure. I couldn’t understand why people questioned me when I clearly said yes. Now that I’ve realized this about me, I’m better about shutting down my knee-jerk reaction to let the proper emotion out.

    I recently got a job offer that I wanted but needed time to consider it because I was interviewing at other places. When the recruiter’s number showed up on my phone, I didn’t answer because I knew I needed time to process the emotions so the right one floated up. I had panic, excitement, fear, and then I called her back. Had I answered in the moment, I think I would’ve been too flustered and freaked out to express excitement but also request time to consider. I accepted the job a few days later. Sometimes life doesn’t hand out moments to process.

    1. Happy Lurker*

      My SIL has an automatic “no answer” on all calls (except her immediate family).
      I watched her pick up her phone and not answer a job offer call. Both her husband and I were beside ourselves that she refused to pick up the call. She replied. “I want to see what they say and think about it, before I respond”. She flippin brilliant – every so often she has a nugget of wisdom she shares with me, and I think about it for a long time.

      1. Kindling*

        That’s a great idea in theory, but a lot of employers are hesitant to make a job offer over voicemail (there was a letter a few days back from one of them). So she’d probably just get a voicemail asking her to call them back, which she doesn’t need to mull over.

        1. MissGirl*

          I didn’t get the offer over voicemail, only the message to call them back. I knew an offer was probably coming so I could prepare. Conversely, most companies don’t reject via phone only email. That said, there’s a difference in not expressing excitement through tone and being more rude. If the OP’s candidates are being rude, that’s definitely a reason to reject.

    2. kmb213*

      I’m with you – unless I’m in ideal conditions (at home reading or something like that), I don’t typically answer calls from prospective employers when I’m job hunting. Of course, I return the calls promptly, but I like to give myself 3o or so minutes to n0t only get myself somewhere quiet and private, but also to mentally prepare, have my notes in front of me, etc. And I wouldn’t want to work for a place that would negatively judge me for not immediately answering my phone .

  12. HR Manager*

    I’ve had this happen once before but during a scheduled phone interview, not a job offer. The candidate was very rude and terse when I asked for her and when I introduced myself, the whole tone changed. That raised a big red flag for me. In the end, we ended up hiring her and my red flag was not unfounded. She was rude to most customers (unless she knew them already). It was an act she put up after she found out she was about to start a phone interview.

    Lesson learned in my case. Probe more and don’t ignore red flags especially like this for customer service positions.

    1. Junior Dev*

      I’m just wondering what you mean by rude and terse. There have been times when I’ve been getting prank calls because someone posted my number on 4chan, or when I’ve been getting debt collector calls on medical debt, that my default assumption to a call from an unknown number would be that I probably didn’t want to talk to the person. I was never hostile but probably have come off more harsh than I’d want to towards someone i actually would like to communicate with.

      1. HR Manager*

        As in when I said is this Jane Doe? There was no answer. When I said, ‘hello? Can you hear me’, the response was uh-huh. Then I asked again, may I please speak with Jane Doe and after a long pause the reply was ‘what do you need’ and so on and so forth.

        1. Laura (Needs a New Name)*

          Ooh that’s exactly what you would have gotten from me. I’d answer because I was expecting a phone call but if I heard “is this X?” I would assume I had answered a spam call. You should know who you are calling! I would either be hostile or just hang up. For a professional call, I expect “may I please speak with X?” or something similar.

            1. Construction Safety*

              What ever happened to identifying oneself first when calling?

              “Hey, this is CS, is Fergus there?”

              1. AnotherAlison*

                I’m thinking phone manners might need more instruction in the workplace going forward. My kids are 19 and 12, and admittedly, we never formally taught them phone etiquette, and I don’t think they informally picked it up, either.

                These days, kids’ calls are mostly cell phone-to-cell phone to people they know. They call their friends directly. They never have to field a house phone call from a stranger & get me or their dad to talk to the caller. It’s not an excuse for bad manners, but I think that we take it for granted that people know how to behave on the phone since people over 25 probably grew up with a home phone.

              2. Jojo*

                (I fully realize that the scenario I’m about to post is not most people’s experience, I’m not trying to derail with *But This Special Situation* stuff)

                I work in mental health, and I can’t always introduce myself when I call somebody – depending on the release of info situation – though sometimes I just give my first name, because I pop right up on google as a therapist in the area with my full name. I get SO MUCH hesitation and suspiciousness when I call asking for someone! I understand it though, because I feel the same way when I get a call like that. I always think, “oh, did I just win a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas?”

                1. The OG Anonsie*

                  Are these cases where you know they’ve said you shouldn’t identify yourself when you contact certain phone numbers? That’s especially rough, I always wondered how difficult it was to get through when people had to make calls to patients with that request.

              3. New manager*

                I was just goingt o say this. When calling for professional reasons, I always open with “This is X from XYZ company”. I also find that when people say “is this ___?” it is often a sales or spam call.

              4. Havarti*

                When I pick up the phone at work, I tend to say “Good morning/afternoon, Teapots Unlimited, Havarti speaking.”
                If I’m calling, I say “Hello, this is Havarti calling from Teapots Unlimited. I’m looking for Jane Doe. Is she available?” If the person identified themselves as Jane Doe when they picked up, I don’t bother asking that and just go straight to why I’m calling after identifying myself. “Hi Jane, how are you? I’m calling because…”

                At home, I go with a stern “Hello?” when I pick up because 99% of the time it’s a telemarketer. The remaining 1% are acquaintances of my parents who are generally incapable of identifying themselves:
                Me: Hello?
                Person: Mr. Havarti Sr.? (Hi, I can’t be bothered to abide by the rules of phone etiquette)
                Me: Who is calling please? (This is basic phone etiquette 101. Get with the program)
                Person: Is Mr. Havarti Sr. there??? (I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear you)
                Me: Who is calling please??? (I need to know if you’re someone he likes or not)
                Person: ……Are you his wife? (Why won’t you let me talk to him, you big meanie?)
                Me: Who. Is. Calling. Please. (Seriously, why is this so difficult?)
                Person: Can I talk to Mr. Havarti Sr.? (Maybe 3rd time’s the charm)
                Me: He’s not available right now. Can I take a message? (Fine, I give up. You win, rude person)
                Person: Never mind *hangs up*
                Me: Dad, someone called looking for you.
                Dad: Who?
                Me: Dunno. They didn’t give me a name.

                My favorite is when they do call back, they always say they must’ve dialed the wrong number because they got this completely different person that wasn’t my dad. I’m forbidden from answering the phone at home now. Which is fine by me. :)

            2. Laura (Needs a New Name)*

              For a variety of reasons I do not answer that question unless it is clear that the person is calling for me and that I want to confirm that they have reached the correct number.

                1. Laura (Needs a New Name)*

                  I think if you called me you would find my phone manners acceptable and I’m just not describing them very well. If someone calls me and I answer “hello?” and they say “hello?” I will respond “hello” again, but I don’t provide additional information. If they ask “Is this X?” I will say “may I please ask who is calling?” but I do not provide additional information. If they said “can you hear me?” I would say “I can hear you” (I would not say “yes” because there is a phone scam going around where spam robocallers try to get a recording of your voice saying “yes” to use to authorize phone-based purchases) but my tone would not be overly pleasant. Someone who wasn’t following general good phone manners would probably be quite surprised by the contrast in my tone/responses if we eventually got to the point where I realized “OK, you are someone I was expecting to speak with and you just gave me no indication that you are not a robot or other problematic phone call.”

                2. The OG Anonsie*

                  Sure, but I’m not going to be super sweet about it because changing to terse and apprehensive has really cut back on how often weirdo scam callers keep calling me. Being warm and asking who it is can apparently be enough to confirm that yeah, this is the person they’re looking for. It’s infuriating and it’s happening to a lot of people I know lately, ugh.

                  Aside from that, though, the easiest solutions is to just say who you are first when you call someone like you’re supposed to. If you just flat ask who’s answered the phone and they’re hesitate or terse, I don’t think you have a ton of room to be offended.

                3. (different) Rebecca*

                  I was also going to mention the phone scam. I won’t say “yes” until I know for a fact that it’s not a scam call.

                4. LBK*

                  If they ask “Is this X?” I will say “may I please ask who is calling?” but I do not provide additional information.

                  FWIW, this is kind of a pointless dodge because no one responds to a wrong number by asking who’s calling. If you’re not X, you’re not going to wait to find out who’s calling to see if you want to speak to them or not. You’re just going to say “Nope, this isn’t X, wrong number” and hang up.

                5. (different) Rebecca*

                  It’s not dodging being the person, it’s dodging saying the word “yes” on tape. The scam is that they’re playing a script in the background selling you something and taping the call. When they get you on tape saying “yes” you’re de facto agreeing to pay for whatever it is they’re selling. It’s on the borderline of legal, and the FTC usually prosecutes, but not before they’ve sent you a bill for whatever it is you “agreed” to.

            3. aebhel*

              For professional calls to a workplace phone, sure. But I never get professional calls on my personal cell, which means that 99.9% of the time, if someone calls from an unfamiliar number and asks if I’m aebhel, it’s a scammer, and that’s overwhelmingly the case for the people I know. That’s the main reason I don’t identify myself when I answer unfamiliar numbers (although I might change that if I was actively job hunting).

              I’ve always understood good phone manners to be that the person calling should identify themselves, especially if they’re calling in a professional capacity.

              1. aebhel*

                (also, I should note that a part of my job is calling patrons at home, and I have never had anyone identify themselves proactively when they answered the phone, so I don’t think this is a generational thing)

                1. Michelle*

                  I was taught to answer the phone with, “Carr residence. This is Michelle speaking. Who may I ask is calling?” Let me say that I absolutely never answer that way, because in the age of cell phones it’s ridiculous and cumbersome. But my grandmother still does a shortened version of it.

            4. The OG Anonsie*

              Wildly different experiences on this, though. I get scam calls to my cell all the time and professional calls very rarely in the first place. Almost all of the scammy calls start out “is this The OG Anonsie?” Since I stopped confirming who I was up front when this happened (often I just hang up) the number of new scam calls I receive has dropped quite a bit. On top of that, usually with a legit call they’ll identify themselves before asking if it’s me. “This is Joanne from Contact’s Company Inc., I’m looking for The OG Anonsie?” I’m also typically expecting them to call in a specific timeframe.

              If I changed my approach I’d be dealing with more of those creepers, and considering how exceptionally rare it is for one of those calls to be someone I actually need to talk to (I can think of maybe two instances in years it’s been a professional contacts starting out with a cold “is this you”) there isn’t a good reason for me personally to change it up. If I was job hunting and knew I might be getting unexpected calls I’d actually talk and try to sound neutral, but it would be with reservations.

              1. Zombii*

                FYI: If you’re in the States, you can register your mobile number on the national do not call registry (donotcall dot gov). It used to just be for landlines but it says you can register your mobile now too. I don’t get telemarketing/charity calls and I very rarely get scam calls (I think they buy a lot of the same lists, so).

                1. Elfie*

                  In the UK, it’s the telephone preference service (landlines and mobiles), you can also register your address on the marketing preference service (much good that does!). Also, take your address off the electoral register (anyone can buy the electoral register, IIRC). You’ll still appear in the edited electoral register (so, for official purposes, like voting), but people can’t then buy your address.

                  Being on the TPS doesn’t completely stop cold calls, but at least you can say you’re on the TPS, and to remove your number from their database – they generally hang up at that point, especially if stated in a particularly stern tone!

            5. Falling Diphthong*

              My phone number is the same as a popular extension at the Senior Center. (Think I am 555-1212 and they are 555-0000 X1212.) I have the same first name as the person at this extension, so “Is this Falling?” doesn’t actually help.

            6. LBK*

              I also think that if you’re in the midst of job hunting, you should loosen up your phone skepticism a little bit; yeah, you might end up being friendlier than you intend to a few telemarketers, but you also avoid weird, cold conversation starts like this with people on whom you’re trying to make a good impression.

              There’s generally a 0% chance I’m answering a call from a number that’s not in my contacts, but I’m much more responsive and friendly when I’m job hunting and therefore expecting/hoping for calls from people I don’t know.

          1. calonkat*

            I think many people are uncomfortable identifying themselves until they know they are talking to the correct person, however SOMEONE has to identify themselves first, and it seems logical to me that the person placing the call has that burden, rather than the receiver (who may be a wrong number.)

          2. Meg Murry*

            Yes, every spammy call I’ve gotten recently has started with “Is this Meg?”

            I understand not identifying the company immediately, in case it *isn’t* the person you are trying to reach answering, and you don’t want to give it away, but I have seriously been getting 20 random robo-spam calls a day (many of them spoofed to be local landline numbers), so any call that doesn’t say “This is Jane Warblemath, may I speak to Meg please?” I assume to be spammy.

            I have a polite, “On” voice I use for answering my desk phone at work, and for known callers on my cell phone. Everyone else gets a much more guarded response – and it might be downright terse if I just answered a bunch of spam-bots, or fake collection agencies or if you just woke me up.

        2. JessaB*

          Um, yeh. Me too. I would not be so open to an unknown number and someone who did not say “This is So and So, is this Jane Doe?” At least start off giving me a reason to want to talk to you. Or make sure you’re calling from a number that shows your company on the caller ID.

          I have the double issue of having a Florida phone number on an Ohio phone. Which means I get wrong numbers, sales calls, dunning calls, etc. from people in Florida and 100% of them are errors, because people I do business with and are not friends with or are my doctors, have my landline.

          It’s normal in this day and age of ubiquitous caller ID, to take unidentified calls as being scams, dunning calls, etc. Because most of the people that you know are in your contacts book and will show up. Most businesses have their names show up.

          TL;dr: ESPECIALLY if your number does not come up, identify yourself first, because the person with the phone is not likely to be forthcoming, not knowing who you are.

        3. SSL*

          If you are not identifying yourself first, an unknown call asking for someone by name is usually a telemarketer which causes an immediately guarded tone from me. Anyone who starts a call with “Is this xxx” will not get an effusive answer. It is just plain rude not to identify yourself first. That is phone etiquette 101. If your call began with “This is yyy from company zzz. May I speak to xxx?” then you will get an appropriate welcoming tone.

      2. many bells down*

        I tend to be suspicious of unknown numbers as well, because my ex changes his cell number every few months – I never know if it’s him calling. And there was a period of about 6 years where I was constantly getting calls for a woman with my last name and first initial, about remodeling her house. So I probably don’t always sound very chipper when answering an unknown call, especially if I’ve recently had one from one of those.

    2. Michael Carmichael*

      Given that this was a scheduled phone interview, I can see where it would be a red flag.

      But – for any unscheduled contact – I wish everyone would identify themselves when calling. “This is Imelda Marcos from The Shoe Galaxy, calling for Michael Carmichael regarding a job application” will work much better than “Hello? Is this Michael?” as an opening. Because in the latter case it’s going to be some aggressive salesperson from SlugsBGone calling to know whether I have scheduled my garden treatment and not taking “I don’t have a garden” for an answer.

      1. JessaB*

        True, I forgot about the “scheduled” part, that would flag for me as well. But then if I had a scheduled call, I’d probably ask for the number and put it in my phone with JOB INTERVIEWER CALLING as the contact name. I’m fussy that way. But if it was scheduled it’d still be nice to be “This is Jessa I’m calling regarding the job is this Sally?” because if the number was one that Sally did not have control of, like her office or something, I’d think she’d TELL me that, so I’d be discreet. After all, the potential employee is the one providing the number to call.

        1. The OG Anonsie*

          Oh poop, my eyes glossed entirely over “scheduled.” That’s a different ball game.

          1. SSL*

            I missed the “scheduled” part to. However, I have had the unfortunate occurrence where I was expecting an interview call, and a telemarketer called my phone at the same time I was expecting the interviewer to call. So it still behooves the interviewer to identify themselves so that the person knows whether they have the right person before getting stuck being engaged in a conversation when they want to keep the phone line available.

      2. mousie housie*

        That seems like an awful lot of information to give out before you know that you’re speaking with the right person. What if it’s a shared line?

  13. BoppingAlong*

    From the phrases OP has mentioned, my guess would be that she is at her current workplace and her boss is within hearing distance.

    1. writelhd*

      That could definitely be a thing to watch out for. Especially if they have a nosy or toxic boss.

    2. Another person*

      That was my first thought, but if the candidate was interested (s)he should have called the OP back later to follow up.

      My boss regularly listens to me on the phone and then asks questions about who I was talking to and/or offers unsolicited commentary! And I’m a professional employee with decades of workplace experience. So I let calls that I suspect are for interviews and job offers go straight to voicemail and call them back from a conference room when she’s off micromanaging someone else.

  14. Jesmlet*

    Theoretically you could call them to touch base and see if they’re still interested (and check if now is a good time to talk) and if so, at that point you could offer them the job. But do try to make sure they have all important info before you make that call, namely salary/wage. Younger applicants don’t always know how to navigate that conversation and they deserve the time to be able to think through all the aspects of the job before being put on the spot for an answer (or a tactful way of delaying an answer).

    I’ve had two substantial FT jobs since college – the first called me early in the morning to offer a position and ended up waking me up (it was the day after my b-day and I was a teensie bit hungover) so I’m sure I sounded god-awful and I hadn’t had the chance to think through the salary stuff so I just accepted on the spot. The second sent me an email with an offer letter along with benefits and salary info and I was very grateful to have the time to get composed and respond properly.

    1. Sled dog mama*

      This was how my current job made the offer, called and asked a bunch of questions like how did I think the interview had gone was I still interested etc. then made the offer. It was nice because it also gave me insight in the corporate culture and made me feel that they cared about getting the right person for the job not just a person (because I knew they were desperate to fill the position).

  15. Bork*

    Serious question – how excited should a person be when accepting a customer server job?

    I mean…if I applied to be a cashier at a pizza parlor or as a CSR at AT&T…do you expect the person to be jumping for joy on the phone? I think back on my first job (major amusement park) and subsequent jobs and I was excited to receive those offers, but I’ve heard “unenthusiastic” responses from people when the job is a “downgrade” for them. When this happened at my last job, I was offended! It’s a good job with great benefits, perfect of a recent grad school grad. But for some of my first jobs…yeah…I feel you.

    1. HR Manager*

      No-one’s saying someone should be jumping for joy but there needs to be a level of professionalism. Which to me means not sounding terse, or rude.

      Not responding to an offer email when the candidate said they would is also rude. If the tables were turned, would the candidate understand their contact at XYZ company has a lot going on and thus hasn’t responded? Probably not. They would be bad-mouthing XYZ company.

    2. Amtelope*

      It’s not that you honestly have to be excited, but part of a customer service job is being able to project an upbeat attitude even when you’re really thinking “I hate this stupid job, and I hate it that I can’t find a better job than this.” No one expects that when you say “Hi! How can I help you today?” you’re really, honestly eager to help the person, either, but you’re supposed to do a decent job of faking it — a certain amount of emotional labor is involved in the job description of customer service work.

    3. TheBeetsMotel*

      You need to respond politely and professionally, as this is a company offering payment for your labor.

      That doesn’t mean it’s somewhere you necessarily want to spend the next ten years. But while you’re there, you need to act professionally. How will you manage that if you can’t muster a professional response to the initial offer?

    4. calonkat*

      If they applied for the job, it’s not unreasonable to think they might WANT the job.

      I really object to the idea that customer service or cashier positions are in some way not worth caring about. We all need customer service reps at times, and cashiers a great deal of the time! These are some of the people who make life better for all of us! Working at a fast food restaurant in my 30’s wasn’t my best life plan, but I was grateful for the job at the time (and certainly the paycheck (minimum wage part time was way better than no wage at all).

      1. Temperance*

        I don’t think it’s that lower-level jobs aren’t worth caring about, at all. I worked lower-level jobs through high school and college, and for a time after. I worked my butt off, even while working at really undesirable places, like a gas station and a Denny’s. I wouldn’t want to do that now, though, which is not disrespecting the people who do.

        I think it’s more of an issue when you’re a person with an education, who worked really hard to earn a degree, and you either can’t get hired into your career of choice or you might have been laid off, and now you’re back to the kinds of jobs that got you through your degree program. The kinds of jobs that you worked your tail off to get out of.

    5. (different) Rebecca*

      I agree with Bork. The last retail job I had was with the NH liquor commission, and I was hired in interview. I was glad to have the job, because I needed money, but my level of enthusiasm to be signing paperwork *right then* was at the level of “oh…okay…”

  16. Allison*

    How was she on the phone during the interview process? If she seemed great then, and now seems to have pulled a 180, I’d wonder if she was having a really bad day. That can happen during a job search, whether someone’s unemployed or trying to leave a balls awful job. If you left the conversation with an understanding that you’ll circle back or they’ll call you, see how she sounds during that next call, she may explain why she sounded terse or uninterested.

    I’ll echo that going forward, you should ask questions like “how are you today?” “is this a good time?” or “is there any reason why you’re hesitant?” to get some context for their tone.

    1. Evan Þ*

      Please don’t ask “Is there any reason why you’re hesitant?” If I have a paranoid boss who’s in hearing range, I definitely won’t be able to say that and my evasive non-answers will probably only make you think worse of me. Or, if I just got painful personal news (e.g. got diagnosed with something, or heard that a relative was hospitalized or died), I don’t want to say that to a relative stranger on the phone, and having to censor myself at a direct question like that would only make me feel worse.

      “Is this a good time” or “how are you today” are much better, but even there, you need to remain alert for someone trying to tell you “My boss is listening – please call back later!”

  17. Something else for this one...*

    I’m… sort of on the other side of this? I’m expecting a job offer I don’t want. I went to the interview and made all the right noises, but as I walked out it all really hit me ‘Did he really say I’ll be working 50+ hour weeks plus sometimes weekends? How often do I need to drive all over the state? I don’t think I can handle this…’ I was so unsure of the whole thing I didn’t send him a thank you email for the interview – but then he sent me one! One of my references reached out and said the guy really liked me, which I’m sure he thought would cheer me up but sent me into a spiral of stress. I’m recently unemployed, so I feel like I should take a job offer if it’s given – but I would take it knowing it would make me unhappy and possibly mess with my health (enough stress can trigger a condition I have). So I have been spiraling in shame/guilt all weekend. My best thought is to try to re-negotiate for shorter hours when I get the offer to see if we can’t work something out. I am dreading this phone call – and am probably going to sound pretty shaky despite my best efforts. I guess my point is that there are a lot of emotions that can go into turning down a job – especially if you need one.

    1. Sal*

      Last year I turned down a job despite being unemployed. (Terrible commute, hard hours to make work w/ childcare options, position doing same stressful thing at the job I just left, and pretty low pay.) A few months later, I got a job with a great commute, doing something different (and less stressful), for 2x the pay. The hours are longer but are doable with childcare. Other, more interesting positions/orgs also reached out to me in the interim. If you have the money/resources to be even a little picky, do. I would not have applied for the current position if I had accepted the first job. This was after light job searching already for over a year and hardcore job searching for over 6 months (before I became unemployed).

    2. calonkat*

      Discuss your concerns if they call. It is better to continue looking than to take a job you will not be able to do.
      I had a similar issue when I was unemployed for a long time. Had a job offer that initially sounded doable, but it involved driving all over (and in the midwest, that can be quite the trek). Fine in summer (when I applied), but I started thinking about winter, and my young child and day care. It was not a position I could reasonable accept as a single parent. It all worked out, though it did take some time. But I’m still glad I didn’t take that job. It would be fine for me NOW, but then it just didn’t make sense.

  18. Machiamellie*

    When we’ve hired for customer service (entry level min wage) positions, often people apply and go through the process because the state/unemployment requires them to. They don’t actually want the job. This may be one of those instances.

    1. Mononymous*

      And if that’s the case, they often lose unemployment benefits if they turn a job offer down, which could impact enthusiasm levels quite a lot.

      1. Gen*

        Yep if you turn it down you get cut off, if they rescind the offer you don’t. I knew a guy who went to ridiculous lengths to interview well then say/do something strange that would lead them to decide it was a culture fit issue.

      2. Allison*

        Yup. It’s a tough situation to be in. In my state, you need to engage in 3 job hunting activities on 3 separate days of the week. They don’t all have to be applications, followups, e-mail inquiries, and interviews all count, but I can see how if someone’s been hunting for a while, they might start applying to just about anything that looks realistic for them, and then hope the employer doesn’t actually offer them work, because they’d rather hold out on unemployment a little longer for a job they actually want.

        1. Liane*

          Some states are pretty liberal with the definition of “job contact” or “job application.” When I applied for unemployment, the UI employee who went over the information told me, “If you go into a business, ask if they are hiring, and they tell you to go to the website, that counts.” So I guess if I did that and then went to the website, that would be 2 of my 3 required contacts. I wouldn’t do that unless it was in the instructions. (One of the major grocery chains in my area does some of their hiring this way: Every so often, they’ll have a job day where you apply online and then walk-in for an interview on that date.)

    2. Fiennes*


      If this is indeed the case, then OP’s company needs to refine its selection process to identify which candidates have genuine interest.

    3. many bells down*

      Also, my ex has to prove that he’s job-hunting to the Department of Child Support Services so that they don’t find him in contempt for non-payment. But he only takes jobs that pay him under the table so that he can pretend he’s unemployed and can’t pay.

  19. Malibu Stacey*

    I’m wondering if it’s someone who did need a job but didn’t realize how much they were enjoying their free time until they got an offer? “Ah, so I guess the Summer of George is over”

    1. Lizzle*

      Lol! I don’t know if that’s a reference to something specific, but I can totally see that!

  20. nnn*

    In addition to the possibility that the candidate is at work, I also wonder if it’s possible she’s somewhere in the middle of something, like in line at the grocery store or taking her child to the doctor or something.

    I think given the prevalence of cell phones, at a minimum “Is this a good time to talk?” is required before dismissing a candidate as unhireably rude.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      Still doesn’t matter, in my book. You can politely and warmly tell the person it’s not a great time to talk and tell them when you’ll be free, even if it’s not a good time for the conversation.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        It is polite to ask even if the call is scheduled. Take for instance my recent job hunt, I had a phone interview scheduled about 2 minutes before the phone call was scheduled all h*** broke loose when one of our machines went down, fixing those machines is my job. I was trying to get the machine back up and my phone rang for the interview, I have never been so grateful for an understanding interviewer. I was frantic because the machine had gone down in the middle of a patient procedure (no bueno, because it can screw up dosage if we have to abort a treatment) and at that point I was still figuring out what was wrong with the machine so I din’t know if I would be free in five minutes or five hours.
        I’m not sure that I could have told anyone anything politely and warmly at that point.

  21. Gen*

    My thought initially was that they couldn’t talk but given it’s happening repeatedly I’d also wonder what kind of time scale is involved? Back in the day I’d get calls for retail/barwork months after I applied, often with no feedback in the meantime so my response would be ‘huh’ and rather flat in that I couldn’t even remember applying or I’d long long since gotten another job. Perhaps these candidates have applied to multiple places and already have better offers and don’t have the experience to know to be polite about it

    1. motherofdragons*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. If it’s taking several weeks between interview and job offer, candidates might have forgotten or assumed they didn’t get the job. Especially early in careers when you don’t realize this is pretty typical. And/or, if candidates are applying to a ton of jobs at once, they might need a beat to remember which company you’re calling from. I can definitely see a younger me having this reaction just because my brain’s whirring frantically trying to remember who and what and where.

  22. Lily in NYC*

    I find this is surprisingly common with some lower level positions. I am still gobsmacked about a phone conversation I had with someone last week – she didn’t say a word after I explained who I was. Just silence. So I said: hello? And I just get a “uh-huh” back. I’m not as nice as OP -after a few more painful sentences with her I basically said “never mind!” and hung up.

    1. Allison*

      Yikes, and I thought I was bad on the phone! At least I say “hello” (I know, people used to say “Lastname residence!” but even growing up with a landline my parents didn’t say that, nor did they make my sister and I say it). Especially when I’m job hunting, I try to answer the phone with a friendly tone and at least some enthusiasm, because you never know who’s calling – and if it’s a scammer (like “hello? . . . Oh, sorry! I was having trouble wiiith myyy headset!” That call doesn’t make it past “hello?” anymore. Or someone calling for Steve, and then saying “oh well maybe you can help me,” I don’t even let them go into the pitch, it’s bullpoop, bye) I just hang up and move on with my day.

      1. Wheezy Weasel*

        Not currently job hunting, but went through my phone and I’ve had over 50 missed calls from telemarketers and scammers in the last month, and I’m really cautious about giving out my number. If I was job hunting and had to deal with these ‘can you hear me, is this Wheezy’ calls 3-4 times a day, I’d be pretty subdued if not downright hostile when answering the phone if someone doesn’t state their name and company first, but only because it’s a classic scammer technique to confirm the person’s identity and then launch into the pitch.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I know how to conduct myself professionally on the phone and I always identify myself and my company in my first sentence: As in, “Hello, my name is Lily and I am calling from the Mayor’s Office to speak with XX about her job application”. If someone thinks I’m spamming them after hearing that spiel, then they are welcome to hang up on me and not go further with their candidacy. I’d consider it a bullet dodged.

  23. Big10Professor*

    Timing? How long are you waiting before calling these people back? If it’s a low-level customer service job, and you are waiting more than a week or so (without setting the expectation it will take that long), they’ve probably written the job off in their minds.

    1. Michael Carmichael*

      This is the first thing that came to my mind! How long is the gap between the interview and the offer? If it’s a while, the candidate might have written you off (as Big10Prof says above), or even forgotten what company you are with or what the position even is.

  24. Teena*

    This actually happened to me! I was waiting to hear about a full-time teaching job (my first) when my mother called to tell me my grandmother had died. I was very close to her, it was unexpected (she slipped and fell), and I was terribly upset… when the phone rang again, and this time it was the job offer. I accepted the job, but I could tell the principal was taken aback at my lack of excitement. I was afraid to try and explain because I knew I’d burst into tears. The next day when I showed up for the job, the principal sat me down to ask if I really wanted this job, and I burst into tears anyway (sigh). Fortunately he was awesome and understanding and it all worked out. Things like this really do happen!

  25. Dan*

    OP — to your specific question, “Is it ok to withdraw an offer on the spot because someone doesn’t seem bright and bubbly on the phone?”

    Here’s my take, having worked in customer service roles, albeit not phone based: When you have a pre-scheduled appointment with someone, you have every right to judge their phone demeanor. After all, when they’re on the clock, they’ll know when their shift starts and be prepared for it. They know when you’re calling, they have some time to get their head in the game and give you their best.

    But if you call them out of the blue, especially to give them an offer? I’d suggest that yanking an offer based on their demeanor is a bit unfair, because you’re judging them based on characteristics that aren’t representative of their working conditions. Second, if they’re considering multiple offers, or have a lot of things on their mind (sorta happens that way when you’re job hunting) your job may not be at the top of their list, and you’re asking them to fake some enthusiasm on the spot. Some people may not be good at that. And while you may only want to hire people where your job is at the top of their list, many companies have to hire their second choice candidates, so it’s not fair to extend the same courtesy.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, that’s an interesting differentiation. I think there are positions where I wouldn’t agree–higher-level positions like director of development, that kind of thing–but for retail or similar early-level customer service, I think you’re right.

    2. Purest Green*

      Fully agreed (with the exception fposte mentioned), and everything you’ve said here is useful for OP to consider.

  26. WellRed*

    But it’s happened with other candidates, plus even if this candidate was having a bad day/unable to talk, they never responded to the follow up email. I think the problem is with some aspect of the interview process/job/salary.

  27. writelhd*

    Most likely this has no bearing on your situation at all, but I will point out that my husband has aspergers syndrome and has *terrible* phone tone. He usually answers my call with a monotone and actually kinda annoyed sounding “Yeah?” And even the “hello?” I get on occasion sounds kinda like he doesn’t understand why I’m bothering him. I have definitely tried to coach him on this. He claims he understands the problem and doesn’t do it when employers call…but I don’t know if I believe him. He’s not applying for customer-facing jobs where phone tone will be a huge aspect of his job. But yeah, I live in a lot of fear that this otherwise smart, dedicated, thoughtful person is being judged and denied opportunities because of this anyway because it is pretty blatant, in a situation where it’s hard to unravel if this is just neurological differences of someone on the autism spectrum or if it is something he might be capable of working on. So, I guess just realize things like that are out there too.

    1. getitright*

      He’s being judged on something that he needs to fulfill a role. The vast majority of jobs require people to be functionally pleasant when dealing with HR.

      Either he improves his skills so that he can perform that role, or he lives with the consequences.

  28. DevAssist*

    Alison’s response is great, and what I was pretty much thinking.

    However, I feel like OP has valid concerns. Phone manners seem to be becoming something of the past. I work for a popular Teapot Painting Academy and when I call people that have filled out an application for our program (because they have further steps to go through before they are accepted), the conversation often goes something like:

    “Good Afternoon! This is Dev Assist from Teapots R Us! Is this Ms. Sminglehoffer?”
    (completely devoid of any perceivable emotion) “Yeah.”
    “I noticed your application is incomplete. In order to finish it, please do X and Y.”
    (devoid, again!) ” ‘kay” *hangs up*

    If that were an every now and then thing, I’d write it off. It seems to be that 8 out of every 10 calls I make will go that way, though.

    1. Dan*

      I mentioned in a previous comment that there’s a difference between a pre-scheduled call and calling someone out of the blue. You’re right — in our personal lives, we use the phone less and less. I know that when someone calls my personal number, my first take is that it’s an intrusion and that person has a lot of nerve. Text and email work fine, TYVM. For business contacts, sure, text is probably out, but email is still good.

      I’m also wondering what kind of responses you *need* from this person. Are you asking questions, or just giving instructions?

      1. Gen*

        Even though I’ve worked in three separate inbound call centres, including one handling emergency calls, I find unexpected calls to my personal number terrifying and I personally know a lot of folk younger than me who have similar phone anxiety. Years of customer service training has given enough muscle memory to answer in a perky way but I still sound a bit ‘off’ because I’m shaking and trying not to cry. I haven’t had a job offer by phone since 2004 thankfully and have had everything by post or email since then.

    2. DevAssist*

      To Dan and Gen-

      That article describes what I’m talking about a bit. If someone starts out hesitant, I will ask if they would prefer I call back at another time. If they say no and continue to talk as I described, I assume they are apathetic or have severe phone apprehension.

      My calls usually require some dialogue, as clients normally have questions about our applications and they need to very clearly understand how to apply.

  29. JamToday*

    The OP mentions that this has happened multiple times before, so I’m inclined to start thinking that s/he is the common factor in all of this. Is the job a good one? Does it pay well, are there benefits, and hours conducive to having a nice life (or at least not a terrible one?) Are you calling them during working hours when they’re on the clock somewhere else? Who are you targeting when you interview and hire? If its a crummy entry-level job, and you’re hiring people at a low wage, you should not only not be surprised by lack of professional skills, but should be prepared and willing to be a mentor. Be a little more generous with your expectations up front, and help them develop skills they’ll need to succeed not just in your environment, but also to move up and out in the world.

    1. Jesmlet*

      A lot of these things can be outside of OP’s control though so I wouldn’t necessarily put it on OP. Customer service positions are often geared toward people with less work experience so this is going to happen more often in OP’s position than with others. Definitely agree with the last sentence though. They should be as open as possible so that the applicants can make an informed decision and not be surprised by anything later on.

    2. imakethings*

      Exactly my thought. It’s customer service. As a customer service alum, I can *totally* understand a lack of enthusiasm. I got paid peanuts to be yelled at all day.

  30. Shadow*

    The only time I’ve ever heard disappointment was when I hired for warm body jobs or when someone was hoping I’d offer more.

  31. boop the first*

    Ha! Sympathy on both sides. These are the kinds of jobs I end up with, and the search is really demotivating. Often these jobs have strange interviews, where the interviewer pulls a sample list of questions that really don’t fit the job, like: “Why do you want to work for (company)?” And the answer is usually “Who WANTS to?” But you can’t say that so you have to make something up. It’s soul-killing. And makes interviews just dreadful.

    I got a job that I really didn’t want and I was pretty non-enthusiastic. I don’t think I smiled once. It was after a month of interviewing (and failing – at crappy jobs!) so I was pretty depressed. But the manager didn’t have the illusions of grandeur that other places did, he didn’t bullshit, didn’t ask the egotistical questions. He needed a warm body and my arms worked, so… He offered me lower pay and a shift that ended at midnight and nothing else. I had no other choice. But I did the job well for nearly a decade so… take from that what you will.

    1. aebhel*

      “Why do you want to work for [X] company?”

      “Well, I understand that you pay money…”

  32. the gold digger*

    Or she could just have had a root canal and thought the Novocaine had worn off enough so she could speak but then discovered it had not.

    As I discovered last week when I was drooling into the phone.

  33. Interviewer*

    If you’re getting plenty of good candidates, and got this reaction multiple times, something in the interview process was a huge turnoff. You should review your questions and your comments, as well as talking to everyone involved in the interview process for those candidates. Consider how you or your colleagues discussed the workload, what the team is like, what their work environment looks like, what their experiences with customers will be, how much training they’ll receive, etc. Did you give them the potential pay rate? Did you talk about benefits? With this kind of reaction at the offer stage from just hearing your name on the phone, I’d seriously consider that something in the interview process kills their interest immediately.

  34. Ramona Flowers*

    I don’t disagree with any of the comments but I know I sounded really weird when my now-manager called about my job. I thought the interview went badly and was dumbfounded to get an offer.

  35. Roscoe*

    Part of the problem, I think, is employers expecting people to have a certain level of enthusiasm for the offer. But there are plenty of reasons why not. As mentioned, they may not be in a good place to talk. Or other things could be on their mind. Or the pay sucks. Or they just aren’t enthusiastic people. Maybe OP should temper the expectations a bit. You obviously met them before, and they seemed good enough at that point. I wouldn’t rescind the offer right then based on just not getting the expected response. Now in this particular case, it sounds like they didn’t want it, but if you offered, let them turn it down as opposed to you rescinding

    1. imakethings*

      I think this goes well with Allison’s frequent posts re: employees expecting to find dream jobs and employers expecting prospective employers to be omg-so-excited about the prospect of working for them. This is an exchange of duties for money, and in CS you really have to view it as such to survive.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not that you have to be all rah-rah about it; it’s that you need to not sound actively unenthused, which sounds like the case here. It’s not unreasonable not to want to hire someone — especially for a phone-based customer service position — who can’t sound reasonably pleasant when you call to offer them a job.

      1. imakethings*

        Oh I totally agree. But I also think OP may need to examine some other aspects of her hiring process and expectation if this is a frequent thing. I worked in CS and was great on the phone with my employers and my customers. Still, I went home and cried every night bc CS is hell underpaid emotional hell.

      2. Dan*

        I think what we’re talking about is the expectation that someone is going to sound all chipper when they receive a phone call out of the blue. I’m happy to sound all pleasant when you call to offer me a job, if 1) I know you’re calling 2) To offer me a job. Call me out of the blue, and my mind sometimes doesn’t work as fast as I want it to. I’ve actually gotten calls for job *rejections*, so it’s not a given that a phone call is going to be for an offer… and that’s if I remember what area code and three digits your company phone system uses.

        This can all be solved with an email that reads, “Can we set up a time to talk about an offer?”

        1. JM60*

          I agree.

          I don’t think that how a person sounds when recieving an unscheduled phone call on their time is indicative of how they will sound speaking to customers on the job. However, if they’re rude during the call, then that’s a red flag.

  36. LQ*

    OP I assume you’re doing a phone screen, but are you doing some kind of skills test? We started doing something that was really eye opening for us. We have a very simple form on the computer that prompts the person to ask a few questions that are relevant to our business and takes them through like 3 simple pages each with a new question. Put the person in a room with a computer set up and call them and test their phone skills that way. It also tests if they are able to talk and use the computer at the same time. This seems to be a huge improvement to both having people understand what the job is (no really, you just answer calls all day while typing things) and to screening for candidates. We used to have a bit of an issue with not getting people who understood the phone part of it and people who weren’t really great on the phone, but this (like 3-5 minute test) made a really big difference in hiring. And it seemed to resolve some of the eh should we or should we not questions you’re having when you call to offer a job.

    1. Casuan*

      Being personable in person doesn’t always translate to other means of communication. I’m always curious/fascinated by this phenomenon!
      Also I’m often amazed that companies often neglect to teach basic phone etiquette; this should be part of Business Training 101.
      Skills testing should be Interviewing 101 for jobs that require said skills.

  37. Is it Friday Yet?*

    I’d really try to avoid rescinding an offer after it’s been put out there unless it’s absolutely necessary. I have a colleague that once had an offer rescinded after she had already given her notice, and word spread quickly. I would never apply for a job with that company, and I know many people who work in the same industry who feel the same way.

  38. Casuan*

    OP, do you normally call during normal business hours or during times when one might be otherwise engaged? If the latter, this could be a reason why the response is cursory or dismissive. Regardless of the time, often candidates will answer a call from a prospective employer for fear of losing out on an interview or job offer.

    I’m also curious as to how often this occurs with your candidates & how they perform if they accept the job.

    With one exception, I agree with Alison. Although I understand the OP’s reasoning & would be tempted to think the same as the OP, this is when I’d need to remember that there could be several reasons why a candidate might not respond as enthusiastically as one might hope.

    I disagree with “Or even, ‘I don’t want to misinterpret, and I’m having trouble reading your tone here.'” There’s nothing to “misinterpret” because you wouldn’t have a basis to know what the candidate’s normal tone is. And if the candidate is distressed in some way, the comment would come across as rude.

  39. Collarbone High*

    Since it’s a customer service job, another thing to consider is if the candidates are currently working retail/call center jobs at night, and you’re waking them up.

    I worked 4-midnight for years, and I can recall a couple of times where someone called me at 8:05 a.m. to schedule an interview, and I’m sure I made a bad first impression because I was yanked out of REM sleep and my brain was still in the mode of “What is that noise and how do I stop it.”

  40. JessaB*

    I am also wondering if this is the first contact. A lot of call centres are so used to screening applicants (it’s one of THE highest turnover jobs ever,) that they pull a pile of resumes and presuming they’ll pass whatever background they wanna do after the offer, they move fast. Are you calling people you’ve already talked to, or is this the first call?

  41. Kikishua*

    As part of the round up at the end of an interview I like to let the candidates know when they will hear (and stick to it) and ask them what is the best number/time of day to call. Protocol at my organisation is to phone all candidates who were interviewed – and I try to give the “sorry, not this time” ones a bit of feedback straight away re a good answer they gave (sometimes that’s difficult to find!) and one they could improve on. That also means I get a lot fewer emails asking for feedback. If they are internal, I usually arrange a sit down chat for feedback, after I give them the news. It always annoys me when people get fobbed off with “there was a stronger candidate” – because how does that help them to up their game?

  42. Stellaaaaa*

    As the job description, schedule, and pay such that you’re drawing from a candidate pool of people who don’t have professional experience and aren’t likely to have absorbed professional norms at home or through school? Is it actually a customer service job or is there an element of sales/commission involved? Was that information not revealed until the interview? That’s possibly the only thing that would make me not care about being rude to someone calling with a job offer.

  43. Letter Writer*

    LW here.

    When I first started working I tended to give the benefit of doubt (maybe I caught them at a busy time) but nowadays i can predict pretty accurately if someone is uninterested, as opposed to busy/thinking things through/etc.

    When an applicant is uninterested their tone is one of complete indifference and they respond to my job offer like a marketing call – a hint of irritation and wanting to hang up quickly. Without fail, every single one of these applicants would decline the job offer later or just don’t bother getting back to me.

    If they responded this way during the telephone interview I would not have progressed their application any further. It is a big red flag.

    In this particular instance, the applicant emailed me only an hour earlier with verification of her work visa. She also presented well during the interview both phone and in person. So I was a little surprised at her completely response. But then again I recruit for the hospitality industry and have seen all sorts of different applicants. I think Alison is spot on when she says some are just inexperienced or not professional enough to explain they are uninterested.

    Where I live our employment law says once a job offer is accepted we have an “employment relationship.” This obliges us to go through a costly, time wasting procedure to terminate them later. Hence my preference to rescind the job offer as soon as possible.

    I like Alison’s script so I will be rehearsing that for future reference. Thanks for posting my letter and the comments!

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      Hmmm, knowing that this is hospitality and not a more typical customer service scenario might change a lot of the answers you’ve received. What shifts are you offering the applicants?

      1. Letter Writer*

        The shifts are explicitly stated on our job advert, plus I mention this during telephone screening and again in interviews.

        I don’t think the shifts are relevant to my question, though, which was: would it be appropriate to rescind a job offer to someone who is rude and uninterested? If so, how can I do it politely?

  44. gladfe*

    I’m also curious about the script for the offer. Could anything in it be coming off as insulting or baffling, even if that’s not how it’s intended?
    My story that inspires this thought: I was once offered an overnight job at a big-box store. When he called to offer me the job, the hiring manager was incredibly self-congratulatory about the generous chance they were taking on me, to the point that it got pretty insulting. (I’d been working for several years and was completely qualified for the job.) My normal phone voice is friendly, bordering on perky, but I was so taken aback that I probably sounded a lot like the candidate in this letter.
    Now that I’m more older and more experienced than that guy probably was at the time, I’ll bet he was genuinely trying to be friendly and didn’t realize how it came across. But at the time it just seemed like a guy in a position of power being rude to me for no reason. Fortunately, I got a better offer from another job later that same day. I hope I called back to politely decline the big-box job… but honestly it was long enough ago that I’m not sure.

  45. T3k*

    I was on the other end of one of these calls once. My sleep schedule was off (was going to bed around 9am) so I submitted an application around 8am and prepared to go to bed. Imagine my surprise when I get a call 30 mins. later from that company. The guy had the courtesy to mention I didn’t sound enthused, but sleep-deprived me didn’t think to say “Oh, it’s because it’s almost time for me to sleep actually” though I’m not sure that’d have helped my case.

  46. Letter Writer*

    LW here again.

    I do understand sometimes the applicant might be busy or ill or maybe they took the call while they were at work (although in this particular instance the applicant was on a two week holiday from her current job from a different city for the purpose of job seeking here). In this case I would still expect the applicant to respond with something like “thank you for the call, I’m not able to talk through right now, can I ring back later?” That says they have professional telephone skills to respond courteously across different circumstances.

    If they don’t, I would seriously reconsider whether they are a good fit for the role.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      What country are you in? This is one of those situations where I sense American conversational norms might not be relevant.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Agreed. The use of the words holiday and ring you back make me think this is Europe or Australia.

  47. Biff*

    I just had a call nearly exactly to this.

    The reason I sounded “off” was because I’d applied for a job that was an almost decent wage, and involved work for which I was trained, and that interested me, and they were trying to talk me into working a different job with significantly less pay. I was not really happy about hearing about the ‘opportunity’ because even if it was inadvertent, it came across as totally sleezy.

    It might be good to make sure that candidates aren’t roped in by an ad for a “management trainee” position, or something that sounds like it’s a bit more experienced or more interesting than the general work, and they are getting offered a much lesser position.

  48. puzzld*

    When I was a tiny little girl just barely big enough to scribble a phone number on a piece of paper, we had two phone lines into the house (most unusual) I was trained to answer one line “Smith / Jones Auto repair, Puzzld Jones speaking” “Yes I can (get Dad, take a message, whatever)

    The other line was the family line. It was answered “Jones residence. Puzzld speaking. Yes Sir, Mrs. Jones is available. I will get her. Or No Sir. Mrs. Jones is already on her way in to deal with the work emergency.

    Now this was long enough ago that our phone lines were Filmore 3-xxxx.

    I just about kills me to answer the phone these days. Can’t even say Yes, or tell them who you are or get general ID of who is calling.

  49. Ruffingit*

    Not sure if someone else has covered this already, but a couple of things come to mind that may be worth thinking about from the employer’s side:
    1. How long is your interview process? Is this one of those 10 interviews with 14 different store managers on every day of the week kind of thing so that by the time you call with an offer, the candidate is like “Nope. Let me get off the phone ASAP.”

    2. How long between the interviews and the call is there? Have these people been waiting for months to hear from you so when you do call they’re like “Oh. It’s you. Finally.”

    Not saying either of these is this case here nor would it excuse rudeness, but just wondering if it’s something to consider.

  50. Suzanne*

    This happened to my husband. He got a call offering him the job he really wanted, but he was flat and ended the call quickly. The reason: Just five minutes earlier I’d given birth to our child and he’d been up all night while I was in labor.

    He called the hiring manager back a few minutes later to tell her he was really excited, but also exhausted. She understood.

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