dealing with recruiters when phone calls make you anxious

A reader writes:

I am a recent college grad on the job hunt. About two weeks ago, I posted my resume and number under a job board profile and got swarmed with recruiter calls and voicemails. The job hunt has brought out the worst side of my anxiety disorder and some things, like phone calls, seem insurmountable at times. I just couldn’t bring myself to call them back until my period of anxiety had passed.

It’s been a week to a week and a half since these recruiters called. Is it too late to call them back? What are your thoughts as to whether this could be considered bad etiquette and/or a waste of the recruiter’s time?

Also, is there a graceful way to ask recruiters to continue our communication through email instead of phone calls or would that come off as inflexible?

It’s not too late to call them back! You do need to acknowledge the delay, but you can do that by saying something like, “I apologize for the delay in returning your call — I didn’t get the message immediately (that’s a white lie, obviously, but it’s allowable in this case) but I’d love to speak with you about the X job if you’re still looking for candidates.”

It’s possible that they’ll have moved on with other candidates, so don’t be rattled if that’s the case. But in some cases they’ll still be looking and will be happy to talk with you.

Do be aware that some recruiters are notoriously terrible at calling people back and wouldn’t have returned your call even if you’d called them back the same day they left you a message, so don’t read anything into it if you don’t hear back from them.

As for asking if you can communicate by email instead of phone … not really. Recruiters are going to communicate with you by the method that’s most convenient for them, and often they’re looking for real-time conversation, not the slower back and forth of emails. You can try saying things like, “During the day, it’s usually faster to reach me by email” — but that’s going to be for things like scheduling interviews, not for real conversations about the job. (It’s also easier to request that when it’s because you’re working during the day; it doesn’t work as well if there’s no obvious reason for it.)

For what it’s worth, for most people the best way to get over phone anxiety is by doing more phone calls. It’s no coincidence that the number of people with phone anxiety has dramatically increased as phone calls have become less common. When you have to talk on the phone a lot (for your job, or because you live in 1987 and there aren’t other options, or so forth), it’s much rarer to fear or dread it.

You might be in a horrible middle ground where you’re getting enough calls to trigger your discomfort but not enough to make you comfortable with them — but really, the more of them you do, the more comfortable you’ll likely be. (I don’t mean to minimize anxiety disorders; they’re real and they’re hard. I’m just speaking to phone dread specifically.)

{ 135 comments… read them below }

  1. GS*

    One thing that really helps me with phone anxiety is to write out a script for what I want to say before I call, including things like a greeting, an introduction, the name of the person I’m calling, a couple quick points about what I want to say, and a sign-off. Then even if I’m feeling anxious during the call I have something to consult so my mind doesn’t go blank.

    Best of luck on your search!

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I do this routinely, and it helps a lot! I started it because I wanted to be prepared if I needed to leave a VM (and tend to ramble if unprepared) or if I had a tougher call and needed to hit the high points. Then, I got super busy and my memory started going to crap and it made sense to do it for all calls, even if it’s just a short post-it with a few bullets.

      1. Audrey Puffins*

        +1. I think half the problem with phone calls for me is that I feel like I have no control over them (I can’t see the other person so don’t know if they’re giving out unfavourable body language that I’d ordinarily adapt to in a face-to-face situation, for instance), but if I write out some kind of script or bullet point list in advance, then that helps the spirally part of me.

      2. Dan*

        Heh. I once picked up the phone, and the first thing the caller says is, “I didn’t expect you to pick up the phone!” And I was like, “well if you didn’t want to talk to me, why did you call?”

        I abhor long voice mails. I’m not an auditory person, so it’s really hard for me to process a detailed message. If that caller was expecting to leave a scripted voicemail that I was going to carefully listen and respond to, caller was mistaken. For cold calls, I skip them, and for internal calls, it’s a “I see you called. What’s up?” My boss is allowed to say, “listen to your stupid voicemail, that’s why I left it.” Anybody else gets to repeat themselves.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Our VM gets transcribed and emailed (sometimes with hilarious results), and I’d rather read them than listen to them. I got one once where a coworker insisted they needed to talk about “our dragon’s birthday pants” as soon as possible.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Oh, gosh, I can’t remember exactly what it was – something completely mundane like checking in on slides for an upcoming meeting. I am pretty sure “birthday” was “Thursday” but have forgotten the rest. It did get her a faster callback, though!

          1. Koalafied*

            Someone high up at my organization has a last name that’s very similar to a PG-rated stand-in for a curse word and whenever I get a call where someone says his name, the transcript inevitably substitutes his name for that word. I’m years in and still giggle every time it happens because I have a 5 year old’s sense of humor.

          2. Environmental Compliance*

            I absolutely love the VM transcribing service. I wish my current job had that! So much easier.

        2. Ermintrude*

          It’s rather discombobulating to have psyched oneself to leave a message then have to respond to an Actual Human Being instead.

    2. Bernice Clifton*

      This is helpful, too if you get voice mail so I don’t accidentally start rambling. Or say, “I’m breezy!” like a famous scene from the show Friends.

    3. Quickbeam*

      Great point! I am on the phone all day long and need to extract information from people who don’t really want to part with it. I write an outline for each call with key points I need to cover. That way I’m wasting everyone’s time less.

    4. Ivy*

      Came here to say this! I especially write a script when I think I may need to leave a message but will do bullet points and key statements regardless. I also make sure I have my resume / cover letter printed, my linkedin profile up, paper and pen available, and a quiet place to be uninterrupted. Being prepared makes it less fraught. You can also practice phone calls in general (call the pizza joint and order over the phone instead of online, call your older relatives — they’ll be thrilled, arrange a weekly call with an anxious friend and learn the joys of chatting with headset while you go for a walk or do laundry).

    5. Boop*

      +100 on having a script – the first time I had to order pizza by phone I almost hyperventilated, but when I figured out that having a plan in advance made everything less stressful it got much easier! My first job was almost constant phone calls for the first couple of years, so I got really good at having a plan when calling someone. Still left some stupid voicemails, but I’ve also gotten a few too so I figure we all do silly things!

      1. Kathlynn (canada)*

        Not the Letter Writer. I do this some times, took me months of ordering pizza like this not to feel extremely anxious about it.
        It helps with the “I don’t know what to say” part of my triggers. Sadly my phone anxiety has like 20 other triggers I need to work on. (I’m doing so, but progress takes time)

    6. CockrOPch*

      This method works great for me too! If I have any questions I leave myself some space on my script too so I can jot down notes about their response.

    7. The New Normal*

      I make announcements on my high school campus and everyone laughs at me for typing a script before I broadcast… but when one of them starts rambling and dropping “Uh…Uh…” when it’s their turn, they ALWAYS comment that they should have written it down first.

  2. Emi.*

    As a fellow anxiety-sufferer, I recommend The Anxiety and Worry Workbook — even if you don’t do all the exercises, there’s a worksheet specifically for exposure where you take stock of how you feel before making the call and then afterwards you write down how you felt and how catastrophic it wasn’t. IME it helps you get comfortable faster/get more comfortable than just gritting your teeth and doing it.

    1. Letterwriter*

      LW here, I’ve actually had that workbook in my B&N cart for months now, thank you for giving me the push to finally buy it :) It’s on its way!

    2. Keyboard Cowboy*

      +1 – this workbook was my “prescription” from my psychiatrist and helped me manage my anxiety really well without medication. Obviously that won’t work for everyone but I think it’s a great resource.

  3. Anax*

    Alison, does your advice change here at all if the phone dread is disability-related?

    Trouble with phones is especially common for autistics, and it feels… not great? … that this means autistic folks will generally have more trouble interviewing well, even if the job will not require phone use. I’m not sure if there’s much to be done about that, but I sure wish there was, both personally and from a fairness perspective.

    (For me, it’s not about anxiety – I physically have trouble hearing and understanding people when there’s background noise or a bad connection, and while I lipread in person or over video, I can’t compensate that way on the phone.)

    1. Anax*

      (Also, of course, anxiety disorders in general are very real! Just wanted to mention that there are several sorts of disability where phone calls are technically possible but very difficult, and that difficulty won’t improve with practice.)

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I wonder if there’s assistive technology that might help, especially with the background noise. I’m sure it wouldn’t be perfect, but better is good too.

      1. Anax*

        I do have some nice noise-cancelling headphones, which help quite a bit! It’s panel interviews which are my nightmare, because speakerphone tends to pick up a lot more background noise and reduce audio quality, and I can’t do much about that on my end. Hopefully, folks will be willing to do video interviews the next time I’m interviewing.

    3. Ray Gillette*

      It would be totally reasonable to explain your situation and request a video call. Describe the need how you did here – you have a hard time understanding speech over the phone, especially when there’s background noise or a connection issue, and video calls allow you to lipread.

      1. StrikingFalcon*

        Yes, I agree. Because also with a disability-related difficulties with phones, you specifically want to screen for jobs where either there are no phone calls (or there is some form of assistive technology available, if there is anything that would work for you). Also, in general, asking for accommodations for a disability is a different ballpark (legally and practically) than dealing with a preference, however strong that preference/the reasons behind it are (I’m assuming here based on the letter that OP’s anxiety is normally manageable, and they can usually manage phone calls but got overwhelmed).

        Realistically though, even with a disability-related request to avoid phone calls, you will miss out on jobs because some recruiters and managers don’t accommodate you.

        1. Anax*

          What makes it awkward is that I’m USUALLY okay via phone – but I have no way to know in advance if the connection will be bad, the interviewer will have loud coworkers in the background, or what have you. As such, I’m always afraid that it will sound like I’m being a special snowflake, and while even a “fake sounding” request for accommodations SHOULDN’T affect hiring decisions… well, we all know that’s not always the case.

          I admit though, I definitely chose my career partially because I knew phone calls would be few and far between. I had a college job where among other things, I ran a hotline, and it was pretty miserable.

          Hopefully video capabilities are ubiquitous enough now that people will be willing to do a Zoom call instead of phone. Before 2020, I hadn’t seen much video use, so it did give me pause.

    4. Lucien Nova*

      As someone who is autistic and has terrible phone anxiety on top of it, as well as trouble hearing anything if there’s any background noise, interviewing over a phone would basically be my worst nightmare. I agree it would be really nice were there some way to mitigate all of that, and sympathise with your being unable to compensate without seeing the person’s face.

      1. Anax*

        Agreed – god, I had SO MANY panel interviews via phone with bad connections, strong accents, and detailed technical questions, and it was a nightmare. I hope something comes up with assistive technology; I’m honestly really hopeful that 2020 will make video interviews more doable, so at least that’s something.

        (Not, of course, that it’s bad for people to have accents; it’s just harder for me to understand when I’m already having trouble hearing – and in an interview setting, I’m always worried that every “sorry, I didn’t hear that?” or pause to process will sound like I don’t know what I’m talking about.)

    5. ...*

      I think its perfectly fine to say you use lip-reading to help communicate can we do email or FaceTime? Im sure they’d hop on a quick FaceTime call with you.

    6. Roeslein*

      That’s a really good point. Also, having worked in a number of languages, I find that when you’re at that weird “fluent but not yet near-native” stage of mastering a language, voice only can be much more difficult to understand than real-life conversation or even video due to the lack of visual cues. For example, I find voice-only technical conversations with German clients to be a nightmare, and sometimes I even miss important information, but I have zero problem with video or in person.

      1. Anax*

        Oh goodness, I can only imagine. I’m not fluent in any languages other than English, but I definitely have more trouble with very strong accents when I’m already having trouble hearing. It’s harder to guess what’s being said when the pronunciation isn’t quite what I expect, so it’s harder to fill in the blanks which I didn’t hear. I assume that’s part of the issue with audio-only in languages you aren’t native in, too.

  4. Mind of Quicksand*

    OP — all I can say is that I feel the same way and can relate.

    Allison — what about anxiety disorders that are triggered by the fact that I have a speech impediment (the speech impediment is also triggered by anxiety and debilitating, completely hampering my ability to communicate via spoken speech). What kind of recourse would you recommend for someone who has a lot of difficulty with phone calls, especially with strangers? Is it still not reasonable to ask for accommodations?

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Oh that chicken and egg thing sucks. Do coping methods/treatment to help tame the anxiety help?

      I personally would be fine with written communication, or take a short break to give you time to cope if verbal communication was needed. Not everyone would of course (some people are jerks!) but there are good people out there who will accommodate.

    2. Rachel in NYC*

      When I was preparing to interview after grad school, I did another round of speech therapy. I hadn’t been in it for years but it made me more confident and helped me remember to slow down, focus.

      It made phone call interviews a little easier. Still didn’t like them. Still don’t like calling people.

    3. theletter*

      It’s never a bad idea to set up a practice interview, and you can always do it with a peer or a trusted relative. You could trade practice interviews with a fellow job hunter, and try to make it fun and silly if that helps. A ‘smiling’ voice can make a huge difference in an interview.

      A great recruiter will make you feel comfortable on the phone. If you click with a hiring manager, that will always ease tensions. So, if you are feeling anxious on a call after a few minutes of talking, consider whether there’s something potentially toxic or unsettling about the job or the interviewer. An interview is a two-way street, not a contest you have to win to prove your worth.

      1. Ermintrude*

        I worked at a phone marketing agency to help a friend for a couple of weeks several years ago. Whilst she was training me, she said to talk to people as though I was inviting them to have me sit on their laps and feed strawberries to them. Lo, I have a friendly, confident adulty voice.
        As opposed to my usual bratty, smartypants voice. :-9

  5. Nanani*

    Eh, I don’t think it’s true that phone anxiety is new now that phones are less common, any more than left-handedness increased when schools stopped forcing all kids to use their right hands.
    People in 1987 didn’t have a lot of other options so they couldn’t realistically say “I prefer email/slack/carrier pigeon” but that doesn’t mean they didn’t experience the anxiety.

    I feel its important to push back on intergenerational narratives about spoiledness and recognize that some methods of communication really are hard for a lot of people.

    LW, practice and scripts might help, or you might decide you only want to work with recruiters who’ll do non-phone communication. Only you can weight the pros and cons.

    1. 1987*

      No one is saying “spoiled” here. When you do something 20 times a day, you typically become less anxious about it. It’s not an intergenerational narrative you need to push back on, it’s literally just about getting more comfortable through constant use.

      1. coldbrewraktajino*

        Less anxious or just better at managing the anxiety? As someone with anxiety disorder who struggles to drive and make phone calls, I think it’s more the latter. I’ve heard from so many people who empathize with my driving anxiety–driving still makes them anxious, especially at night/freeways/bridges. They just live in areas where my avoidance strategies don’t work, so they have better coping skills than I do. :D

        I do agree that exposure in controlled ways where you’re practicing those coping strategies can be very useful in tackling anxiety. The key is to do so thoughtfully though (like Alison and others suggest). Maybe jumping in the deep end of the pool helps some people; if you’re not a strong swimmer it’s okay to practice in the shallow end.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          I do not have an anxiety disorder. I do sometimes experience anxiety. It is much more common around things I do less often! Like, now that’s it’s fall, I was just thinking about how I have to get used to leaving the house after dark again. It just doesn’t come up a lot for me in the summer, so I get out of practice, and then it feels scary.

          I think it’s the people like me who are more likely to be anxious about phone calls now that they are less likely, not people with Capital A Anxiety.

        2. Anon Lawyer*

          I have an anxiety disorder and doing some things regularly (driving and phone calls actually being the best example for me) does more or less make the anxiety dissipate. Occasionally I still get worried about driving on the freeway but nothing like the ten years I didn’t have a car. Other things it didn’t and I needed professional help. Practicing in the shallow end of the pool is great (like call for pizza instead of online ordering is a good low-stakes practice as is writing out what you want to say). But I do think the modern online discourse veers too much to thinking everything is a true phobia where you need professional help to overcome it. Even if you have an anxiety disorder, that’s often not the case.

        3. EventPlannerGal*

          I think that “better at managing the anxiety” is a good goal, though. I think Alison is being pretty realistic that job-hunting, particularly through recruiters, may well require phone calls. If OP is a new grad whose number they’ve found trawling through job boards it’s very unlikely that they’re going to go to the trouble of only communicating through email – especially when the OP will have already taken a week and a half to respond by email, which (although entirely understandable) is not going to help make a case to recruiters that they can be relied on to respond quickly through email.

          Maybe they can eliminate the anxiety entirely, and to be honest I think that’s very possible if we’re talking about a bog-standard lower-case-a anxiety about phone calls as opposed to a full-blown phobia. But if they can’t. figuring out how to manage the anxiety is a good goal.

      2. Quickbeam*

        Yeah, I’m in my 60’s and I really hate the phone. I make calls all day long in my job an I have techniques to get what I need and get out as quickly as is polite. But I’ve never enjoyed it, even when it was the only thing.

    2. ceiswyn*

      In my early days of work everything was phone-based. I even temped as a receptionist and a cold-caller researcher for a directory inquiries firm.

      I threw up in the loos before starting work every morning. It was awful, and no amount of practice made it any better.

      You know what’s made my phone phobia better? Not having to make so many blasted phone calls.

    3. Kara S*

      I don’t think Alison was implying that modern generations are spoiled for being anxious talking on the phone or that phone anxiety is a new phenomenon. Rather that it makes sense that individuals who have to use a phone more often are less likely to experience anxiety because it’s a part of their day to day life.

      1. MayLou*

        I had quite a bit of anxiety around phones during my job search and when I started my job. A reasonable adjustment relating to my mental health generally was allowing me to access work coaching during work time, and we developed strategies like writing down the key points in advance, thinking through what I would do if something went wrong or the call took an unexpected direction, and practising the things I had to say most often. I am much less anxious about calls now, and make multiple phone calls every day, including answering a helpline where people are often in distress with complex circumstances to untangle.

      2. Kara S*

        And by “less likely”, truly meaning that. Of course a person who is a receptionist can still have phone anxiety (as the comment above proves!) but avoiding an anxiety trigger is only going to make the problem seem bigger when a phone call inevitably has to be made.

        OP, I find it helps to remind myself before a call what it is for. I also will ask myself what I’m afraid will happen and how likely that is/how I will respond in that situation. I find thinking through the conversation beforehand makes that initial fear of starting the call a lot smaller. If you are still really nervous, you could try seeing a therapist for just a few sessions to see if they can give you advice on how to manage this problem. I found getting a counsellor’s perspective on this phobia really helped me think of strategies to handle it. Good luck!

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      I don’t think it’s about being spoiled or not spoiled, but exposure to something is linked to anxiety/phobias and it’s notable that current generations have less opportunity to overcome fear of phone calls. I think the consideration is how much this limits OP versus doing some work on her anxiety around phone calls. If OP is more seasoned with in-demand skills, she will better be able to have her pick of recruiters (and it’s not clear to me if this is an internal/company or external recruiter). If she’s new to the workforce, she’s a bit more at the whims of how the company recruiter or headhunter prefers to communicate or risks not being considered or put forth for positions and letting anxiety drive that is going to limit job opportunities. (And the recruiter is only half the equation – they may be reluctant to present to the hiring manager or employing company someone who pushes back on calls or takes a long time to respond.)

      I’m really, really not a fan of the phone (and I’m a GenXer and have an anxiety disorder) and will default to email or IM, but there are times you have to use it and I think OP’d be better served by working to address the anxiety piece rather than continuing to avoid the phone. This is not to say it’s not hard – one of the best things about working from home is that EVERYONE is on the IM platform now by CEOO mandate – but it’s limiting and OP has to decide which is worse for her.

    5. SomebodyElse*

      What you are missing is that the phone experience was just different in 1987. People (not all) looked forward to having long conversations or to call their friends and family. It was enjoyable. It was part of growing up to hang out on the phone with your friends, it is the equivalent of texting and different apps today.

      It took me awhile to figure out that my interns didn’t know how to professionally answer their phone at work. It finally dawned on me that they probably had never called their parents at work and routinely heard the difference between a personal call and a professional call. Once I figured that out, it became one of my first lessons. I don’t think our interns are spoiled or stupid, I just think they had a different experience than I did growing up.

      I would still rather call and talk to someone than text or IM. And that doesn’t make me a dinosaur it makes me someone who is more used to a different form of communication.

      I do think the OP should try to desensitize themselves to their phone aversion. And I would suggest they start with low stakes ways to do it. Call for an appointment vs. online. Call a store and ask them what their hours are instead of getting it off the internet. Order food via phone instead of online. Call a friend instead of texting them. For most people this is the way to get used to and past the phone aversion.

      1. Wintergreen*

        There was a YA book I read in the early 90’s written by a very popular & known author I can’t think of who at the moment (maybe RL Stein ???) anyway… The story is told 100% thru phone calls between the characters. It was really clever.

        There was no way to desensitize my phone anxiety. A job that required many phone calls actually made mine worse. And I’m old enough to remember a time before wide-spread internet/text/IM availability. As far as I’m concerned internet, text & IM are true blessings. Companies that cannot do business in person or over the internet don’t get my business unless I’m desperate. During this pandemic, I have literally chosen which restaurant to get take out from because I could order online over having to call to place my order.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        “I don’t think our interns are spoiled or stupid, I just think they had a different experience than I did growing up.”

        This, exactly. I have had to supervise a few interns and when it comes to phones there are so many things that are just… different. One girl thought she’d broken the phone because it kept making this weird noise when she picked up the receiver – she didn’t know what the dial tone was, because mobiles don’t have dial tones and she never used her family’s landline. Most of them have never come across the concept of an extension or an outside line. As you say, they don’t really know how to answer the phone because they’ve never done it and they never make phone calls to businesses and therefore don’t know what you’re supposed to sound like – of course I give them the script before letting them answer any calls, but even then they often have a hard time not sounding actively suspicious of the caller because they sort of default to assuming that any unknown call is from a scammer/telemarketer. It’s not their fault, it’s just how things are now. But the best way to deal with it is practice.

        (I actually saw a TikTok a while back of a girl asking her different-aged relatives how they would mime a phone call. Most of them made that pointer-finger-and-pinky sign that you hold up to your ear like a landline reciever, except for the youngest sister who held her entire hand up flat to the side of her face, like a flat smartphone. Things are just different now.)

      3. Koalafied*

        Wow, elder millennial who low-key hates phones calls here… we had cell phones by junior year but half of us paid per text message and we had to type with numbers so texting just wasn’t a big or common thing. The HOURS I spent in my bedroom with the door closed talking on the phone to friends and cute boys. Calling or being called by a friend wasn’t scary back then because it didn’t have the context of “this was important/serious enough that they called instead of emailing or texting” that voice calls imply nowadays.

        Calling boys in the other hand made me nervous! You had to talk to their parents half the time to ask for them! Hi, I like-like your son? I remember one boy from school choir who sung to me on the phone and I melted.

        Thanks for that trip down memory lane. Nowadays I too dread phone calls, routinely avoid all unnecessary ones and have a “smile and dial”/rip the band-aid off approach to necessary ones. Sometimes I’ll wait till I have several phone calls I need to make and then block off an hour to power through them one after another. It’s one of those things that’s always worse in my mind than it is in real life, before the call is even over I start to feel relief.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        I recently discovered my middle-school-aged children don’t know basic phone manners. Both of them had to call someone this week and didn’t even know the basic, “Hi, [name], this is [caller], calling you back/calling you about [activity].” We will be working on that stat. Plus, now they’re with their dad and me 24/7 on work calls, and we both definitely have a “work voice”, or so we’ve been told.

        1. Pennyworth*

          My daughter only identifies herself by her first name when making calls for appointments etc. I have told her that ‘Hello, my name is Mary’ is not very helpful, but she always waits for them to ask what her last name is. Every single time.

      5. WS*

        Oh, no, I was born in 1974 and I have always hated phone calls. Fortunately I got online quite early (1994) and have been thrilled that the rest of the world caught up! I do agree that there’s fewer opportunities to desensitise now, and I trained myself out of work phone anxiety by writing scripts for myself, but I’ve never got over that sick feeling while talking on the phone.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It’s much more common. It’s not a spoiledness — it’s a lack of practice, just like Alison says. 30 years out high school and I can still rattle off a half dozen phone numbers for friends back to grade school.
      My teenage daughter’s friends’ families don’t have land lines, a lot of families won’t give a cell phone to a pre-teen, and no kid wants to get their friend’s PARENT when they want to gossip. So she hasn’t made enough phone calls to get comfortable with it. It’s also been strangely hard to get her friends with cell phones to call our land line. (One eventually called and asked me to have her return their texts… which had been sent to the land line.)
      I had a sneaky idea of how to get her to make some practice calls — on nights she asks us to do takeout, she makes the call to place the order. Built-in immediate reward.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Incidentally, I’m also realizing that *I* don’t like talking on the phone as much. The old hard-wire lines of my childhood may have been a little staticky, but we always could tell someone was still there.
        What I’ve come to dread about cell phones and Skype chat and Teams is when I wind up a comment and ask what they think and….they’ve been disconnected at some point. Because when they’re not talking it’s total dead air. Awkward.

      2. Clisby*

        Oh, gosh, back before we let our son have a cellphone, I told him he could always have his friends call our landline if they wanted to get in touch. He said, in a voice bordering on horror, said, “But you or Dad might answer !” (Yes, son, that’s what people usually do with landlines – answer them when they ring.)

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Back in the dark ages, when I was a kid and cell phones didn’t exist, not only did my mother answer our landline, but she and I sound very, very similar on the phone and many of my friends ended up having a very confusing conversation with her assuming she was me. Most of the time, she’d clue them in and say something like, “Hi, Mary, this is actually Ms. NAM! and I’m not sure what the math homework is, but hold on a second and I’ll let you talk to NAM! – she probably knows.” But sometimes, she’s play along and mess with some of the ones she knew better.

  6. bunniferous*

    I used to have HORRIBLE phone anxiety. Alison is right-if you can just power through and keep doing them you will eventually get over it. About half my job is phone calls now, and I have no issue with them at all!

    I think for me the dread was getting the call started (breaking the ice) but getting more and more experience at it made me better at that. The idea to write out a script is an excellent one btw. I also make sure any information I might need to give the person I call is right in front of me so I don’t have to trust to memory. Remember, these recruiters WANT to talk to you!

  7. These Old Wings*

    I work in advertising so I have to make a lot of phone calls. When I was younger, I also got anxiety about calling people, particularly because a large part of my role is negotiating, which I have always felt uncomfortable with. But it’s so true that the more you call people, the less anxious you will be. So I think the best thing for you would be to step out of your comfort zone and force yourself to make these calls, and I promise it will get easier for you. Good luck!

  8. Random commenter*

    Is it normal to post your contact info to a job board? I’m used to only providing my resume and contact info when I’m applying to a specific position.
    It seems to me that it would attract a lot of unwanted contacts.

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      It depends on the job board. ZipRecruiter allows job seekers to post their contact info. Indeed on the other hand requires the job seeker to accept a recruiters message before the job seekers contact info becomes visible.

    2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I was going to suggest not posting a phone number on job boards as well. I might be jaded, but my experience with recruiters and temp agencies (personally, and through the ones that I had to screen when I was a receptionist) is that the vast majority of them are almost spammers, and a lot of them have contact quotas and resume quotas. They’ll call you for the sake of marking a call down on their chart, or for getting a copy of your resume for their database. Some of them will even collect resumes for their database, and then blanket submit them for jobs without your permission, and if you happen to apply for it on your own, they’ll throw a fit and demand the company pay their placement fee when you accept.

      I moved over 3 years ago and updated my resume, LinkedIn, etc., and I am still getting recruiters soliciting me for jobs in that state, thousands of miles away.

      It’s hard when you’re early career and you think these are the Important Professional People Who Can Magically Bequeath You A Job And Get You Out Of Crappy Job Hell, but…they’re sketchy, and you need to be careful.

  9. voyager1*

    LW: I would try and figure out why calls from recruiters is so anxiety producing. When I have gotten calls from recruiters I usually get excited and a little nervous. Being a little nervous is normal, but if if your anxiety is so bad you can’t answer a call or feel overwhelmed, you need to see a professional.

    On a somewhat related note. I have to disagree with AAM that using a phone (to talk) means you are old. People need to be able to communicate more then one way in this day and age. When even making jokes about people being only able to communicate via a phone by talking, it does have a dose of ageism in it. I know plenty of older folks who can use a smartphone as well as any young person. I would also add if you only can communicate via text or email, that is on you and not society to change.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “I have to disagree with AAM that using a phone (to talk) means you are old.”
      …?? I didn’t write that and definitely don’t think it. To the contrary, I think the phone is a really important work tool for many jobs.

    2. MayLou*

      The point about 1987 was that back then, phone calls were pretty much the only long distance instant communication method, not that people who are from 1987 like phones and people who don’t like phones are young.

    3. Deliliah*

      My particular brand of phone phobia is that I fear tripping over my words and sounding dumb to the person on the other end of the line. Looking/sounding dumb in front of people is the crux of all of my social anxiety.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yeeeeessss. And I will replay any stupid thing I said/did on loop in my head long after everyone who witnessed it has forgotten about it.

      2. Researchalator Lady*

        For any social anxiety-based sort of phone phobia, cognitive-behavioural therapy could really help (as opposed to just exposure). There are self-help workbooks (New Harbinger is an excellent publisher and they have the Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook), and online programs have also been shown to be effective, as well as one-on-one or group therapy.

        I don’t really have phone anxiety, but for important calls where I have known who I would be speaking to I have printed off a letter-sized headshot from LinkedIn or a company website and put it at eye level so I have a face to put to a name. If I had a chance to practice my “script” I will say it to the headshot and it made it easier on the actual call.

        Hope this helps!

    4. Aquawoman*

      I’ve been working full time since 1991, and in 1991, I had less phone anxiety than I have now because I HAD to use the phone a lot. Avoiding the phone meant not doing my job. In my current job, we use a lot of written communication on platforms that were not available in 1991.

  10. Anon nonnie non*

    I don’t get the same phone anxiety as you OP, but dealing with several phone calls all day long and constant calls triggers me for some reason. I feel the pressure to answer each one and give them all the same time and attention, when i might not be able to (at the time).

    1. I would suggest taking down your profile from job sites and directly applying to jobs you see open. This will lessen the amount of calls you get. I had to do this once, because I was getting upwards of 10 calls a day, when I was job hunting. I still saw success with applying to jobs.

    2. Do not apply through temp agencies. Use indeed or apply directly on company’s websites. Temp agencies try and get as many candidates as they can for a job and often times doesn’t always end up in you getting a job. (sometimes not always)

    1. Anax*

      re: 2 – I know that some temp/staffing agencies can also be quite predatory, providing minimal benefit but taking a nontrivial chunk of your pay for the duration of the job. (The ones I’ve seen do this in particular tend to seek out inexperienced foreign workers, who may not realize that this isn’t normal until a contract is signed.)

      I’m sure most agencies are reputable and sensible, but I would use caution, just in case. I had a lot of coworkers in my first job who really regretted their contracts, and it’s made me leery ever since.

      1. Danielle*

        This! I was going to say, OP is right out of college so I’m wondering if all the calls are legitimate jobs or just “headhunters” who get paid by the hire for MLM schemes. I got those calls a lot after graduating–people trying to get me to sell knives, work in call centers, install cable, sell magazines, other cold call sales etc.

        1. Ermintrude*

          I’ve done dodgy door-to-door and telemarketing jobs which were a waste of time mostly, but I got hella good at talking to utter strangers. Never again, though.
          Yeah, avoid that.

  11. MissBliss*

    My very first job interview, my soon-to-be manager asked if there was anything I wouldn’t do. I said I didn’t really like talking on the phone. Well, I get the job, and it’s 50% cleaning, 25% dealing with complaints, and 25% cold call sales! I got over that fear of mine real quick. Now, I get compliments for my customer service voice and manner when handling phone calls at work. You will adjust! Just bite the bullet and talk to some recruiters– you’ll do great. Good luck!

    1. The Rural Juror*

      I worked in sales for a long time, but I was dealing with repeat customers, so I never had to cold call. My coworker was the outside sales rep and she had to cold call all the time. I felt so bad for her. If that had been in my job description I would have had a really hard time with it. I was luckily dealing with customers who used our services often, so for me it wasn’t, “Hey! Let me persuade you use our services! Please!” It was, “Hi, S0-and-S0-Who-I-Speak-With-Regularly! What would you like to order today?” There’s a huge difference in those types of conversations, and trying to convince someone they need what I have to offer would give me a lot of anxiety. Cold calls are the worst.

  12. Anon234*

    This may or may not be helpful, but I had Horrible anxiety of one aspect of my job which was occasional but necessary to be good at. I would be in knots the night before and unable to eat thinking about it. There was no way of avoiding this task as it would have put me in violation of my contract. I’d go as far to say it was my biggest phobia for a few years. (Think doing presentations in front of a large crowd type thing when the rest of your job is spent in a lab) I almost gave up a much loved job because of it.

    Finally, I went totally counterintuitive and decided to do an immersion in just that aspect. It took about 6 weeks and I realized I not only didn’t fear it, but that I loved it.
    Is there any way of working with someone to do that OP? Some kind of desensitization course that isn’t too triggering?

  13. Bookworm*

    I am sympathetic, OP! I hate phone calls and while I don’t have an anxiety disorder, the dread is certainly understandable.

    Agree with the advice: best way to get over it is to keep doing them. You’ll probably find that after awhile, these calls often follow the same script and ask the same questions. So be prepared with stock answers (why are you interested in this job, how did you find it, what do you know about this company) as well as the occasionally weird question.

    And as Alison said: don’t take it personally if they don’t call you back. After leaving school I also tried working with recruiters on and off and have found that overall, this has never ever been an effective way to find a job. They don’t call back, they call at strange time, they don’t follow up and I even had one who clearly called me by mistake and had no idea who I was when I returned his call. So you may have to keep trying. Good luck!!!

  14. CareerChanger*

    I get a bit of phone anxiety, and FWIW, I was born in 1979. It was worst when an interviewer/recruiter would ask a question and I would start talking, and without any non-verbal feedback, I couldn’t tell if they were following…so I would just keep talking…and talking… It helped a LOT to write out scripts to common open-ended questions like “tell me about yourself.” Then I hit all the points and didn’t worry that I would miss something or repeat myself. When I got a new question, I would add it to my list and, after the call, write out how I’d want to answer it next time.

    If it’s helpful, maybe just know that even for people who grew up with the phone (and had jobs answering phones, etc.), talking on the phone can be a little challenging, due to bad connections, lack of non-verbal stuff, and sometimes humans are just awkward. It doesn’t mean you’re terrible at it!

  15. DoubleE*

    One thing that might help with phone anxiety is to build up your comfort level with some lower stakes calls. Order pizza over the phone rather than online, for example. You might also be able to practice your recruiter conversations with a friend or family member.

    1. Anon234*

      Yes! This!
      Call random companies and ask about products. (Providing yourself not wasting too much of someone’s time, of course!)
      It’s hard to fully escape making phone calks so dipping s toe into phoning strangers would be a good start.

    2. Smithy*

      I’m a huge believer in this. If the OP is only using the phone for job hunting, it’s going to feel far more high stakes than having a weird time ordering food or scheduling a doctor’s appointment. Furthermore, as a job seeker you inevitably have less power, whereas as a customer/client/patient/etc. there’s a different dynamic in place.

      Recently, I’ve been ordering food for take away over the phone – and in thinking about it, it’s a unique experience in being prepared and speaking slowly. Having my order ready in advance, thinking about speed and clarity of speech, etc. – all of that goes into it and the worst thing that can happen is that dinner is a little off.

    3. Dave*

      I do think the practice might help. I would try to find a few family members that you can call and know about the anxiety to help see if this is something that can be helped by doing it over and over. I would start with just chit chatting and then maybe set up a practice work call / mock interview. Depending on the severity I would also suggest considering a therapist to help sort through some of this. One question to consider is it just the phone or is talking in the general with strangers? There are jobs that exist that let you do your work and you only have to interact with a few people who you deal with regularly you just have to dig.

    4. whistle*

      I think this is a very useful suggestions for the OP. My parents had me order pizza or whatever when I was in high school to practice talking to strangers on the phone. It’s a low stakes scenario and afterwards you get pizza!

  16. Ealasaid*

    I get anxious about phone calls too! With this, as with a lot of anxiety-inducing things, I sort of pretend I’m acting – I am playing the part of someone who isn’t anxious about the thing. That plus a script and practicing basics beforehand makes it a lot easier for me.

    1. Stuffie*

      This helped me a lot with my own phone anxiety. Now, when I talk on the phone I put on my “phone voice,” which I’ve modeled off of the phone voices of a former boss and my mom. My boss at my first professional job spent most of the day on the phone trying to get people to do things they didn’t want to do (grassroots volunteering), and my mom used to work in company collections back in the 80s and 90s and literally spent all day on the phone asking people to pay up. Needless to say, both of them have voices like butter. I listened closely for tips.

      Anyway, I started out making sure I had a little script every time I called people, and then I’d fill in with comments that sounded like my phone voice models would make them. After a while, I didn’t need a script every time, though sometimes I still use them for important calls.

      So, despite my own social anxiety and introversion, I’ve found developing this alternate phone character has been really helpful, to the extent that I’m sometimes shocked by how professional I sound. It’s possible!

      1. Ermintrude*

        Surprising yourself – ditto. That’s my Adulting Voice. If I’m not careful I burble, and Adulting Mode helps to cut that down.

  17. Elenia35*

    Yeah 1975er here and I hate the phone still. I worked in customer service for years! People used to scream at me over the phone! But I just muscle through it. I will never love it though but I don’t fear it.
    When I was a teen I talked on the phone ALL THE TIME. What happened?

    1. Deliliah*

      1981 here. I never learned how to talk on the phone. My best friend had to teach me how to have those hour-long conversations because I’d talk for three minutes and then say, “Okay, I should let you go….”

      My first career-type job was as a reporter and that involved a LOT of phone calls. After that I went into retail for several years – which was a lot of phone calls. I got okay at making them, and even received compliments on my “phone voice” but I still absolutely dread having to talk on the phone to this day. I’m very fearful of sounding like an idiot and that fear and over-cautiousness often leads to me tripping over my words and then I believe I sound like an idiot and it just becomes a terrible cycle.

    2. voluptuousfire*

      When I was a teen I talked on the phone ALL THE TIME. What happened?

      I was just thinking this the other day. Hours long phone calls with friends but now calls are no longer than 15 mins. My BFF and I text all day now.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        We have better methods of communicating now. Phone calls tied up the phone line (and, in the 90s, the internet/modem line), and they were entirely synchronous. Multitasking while on the phone was generally rude. Now, I can text my spouse, and he gets it immediately (like a call) but can respond to it at his leisure (like an email). Best of both worlds. Text isn’t perfect (the Key & Peele misreading tone in texts sketch is a favorite of mine), but, as someone who grew up in the 80s/90s, it’s much better than the phone for social communication.

  18. Jessen*

    Would it be possible to roleplay recruiter phone calls with someone? Or just ask friends/family to call you and chat on the phone? That might be an option to help with anxiety.

  19. voluptuousfire*

    OP, why not try a service like Google Voice? I have a Google Voice number and it has an option for the person to announce who they are and you can choose the option of accepting the call or sending it to voicemail. This way it gives you the moment to figure it you want to take the call or not. You can always say you were on the other line or something if they ask about the delay. I have my GV number on my resume and when I had my info up on Indeed or whatever, it did seem to cut back on the spam calls. I also use it for anything that requires a phone number that may be public–loyalty programs, my orders, etc.

    For me, I hate when interviewers cold call or call to set up a screen because getting them directly is a crapshoot and playing phone tag frustrates me. Luckily pretty much 100% of interested parties email me instead of call.

  20. cheeky*

    Honestly, now is the time to get used to the phone and overcome the anxiety. Yes, anxiety makes this hard, but it’s in your best interest to work hard on overcoming it. Write a script for the call, practice making and taking phone calls. I was the same way when I was younger, especially with cold calls, but repetition and necessity should eventually strip the anxiety away.

  21. Malty*

    Don’t know if this resonates OP but for me the root of my phone anxiety – a lot of social anxiety – is that they will be rude to me or make fun of me and then I’ll feel bad. I’ll go to order a takeaway and they’ll reject my order, or I’ll ask the price of an item in a shop and they’ll tell me it’s on the website you idiot, or order a taxi and they’ll tell me I should have booked one days ago everyone knows that. Something about the disembodied voice and the fact they can just say something mean and then hang up just triggers a fear part of me. So whenever I feel that anxiety rear it’s head I just try to remind myself that if that did happen, it wouldn’t be my fault, it would be a totally crazy thing to happen! Just because my anxiety tells me something horrible is going to happen doesn’t mean it’s likely or justified, and in fact of the majority of phone conversations I’ve had that I didn’t want to, very few were that level of unpleasant. Odds are in your favour

  22. PB*

    I have also had terrible phone anxiety since childhood, and use the phone a lot in my job. One thing that always made me nervous was feeling that I had to keep the conversation flowing, so I would end up responding to something without thinking it all the way through. A coworker once gave me the advice to take a second to think if I needed. Like if you were face to face with someone and needed a moment to ponder what they just said, you might say “hmmm” and break eye contact for a second before making eye contact again and continuing the conversation. I’ll say something like, “hmm, give me a sec to check on that,” embrace the few seconds of silence and think about what I need to say, then return to the conversation. If it’s appropriate for the situation, you can also always say “let me look into that and call you right back.”

  23. T. Boone Pickens*

    It depends on the job board. ZipRecruiter allows job seekers to post their contact info. Indeed on the other hand requires the job seeker to accept a recruiters message before the job seekers contact info becomes visible.

  24. Georgina Fredrika*

    I’ve done phone banking a few times in the past year for different things and the first call is definitely WAY WORSE than the last call. In between them, so many people don’t answer that by the time I get to the end of my calls, I’m happy if anyone picks up!

    If you want to get back to a recruiter on a set day, it could help to start off by making lower stakes phone calls first, like calling a friend or two. Even just getting yourself used to that awkward anticipation of them picking it up can be useful in evening out your nerves.

  25. Tiny_Strawberries*

    One place to practice phone calls; call your elected officials about something that’s important to you! Often you’ll just end up leaving a message, but you sometimes you end up talking to someone, and while it’s definitely important it’s not going to reflect poorly on you if you’re not super eloquent.

    1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Sometimes I write a script, and make sure to call after 5:00 or on a weekend, so I can just read the script into their voicemail. (I don’t have phone phobia, but I do sometimes trip over my own words, and the script helps with that.

  26. Wintergreen*

    OP, I get what AAM was saying when she wrote “for most people the best way to get over phone anxiety is by doing more phone calls.” but anxiety is weird. I really struggle with phone calls and always have, even when having jobs that dealt with a lot of phone calls. Familiarity did not lead to any more ease or comfort when dealing with calls. At times, it even made it worse. So, if it doesn’t help, maybe it will help knowing there are other people like you out there.

  27. fellow recent grad*

    I’m in a similar boat as you OP! Job searching out of college and facing a lot of phone calls (mainly informational interviews). It’s really tough and I dread talking to strangers on the phone.
    Here are some things that really help me pick up the phone:

    1. I write down what I’ll say! A lot of these conversations will follow a script, or have common questions. So write down what you want to say, especially the “Hi!” and “Goodbye!” parts. I’m still working on how to end calls without being too abrupt or dragging it out.

    2. I practice saying my script out loud! “Out loud” is the major point here. I started doing this for presentations. I find that actually talking through my script from #1 helps work out little “how do I phrase this” issues. It’s a bit like muscle memory for talking, and it helps with my blank panic-brain moments too. Practicing is also my chance to make all the silly mistakes without an audience.

    3. Even if the person on the other end turns out to be a jerk, I try to go in with attitude that the person wants to help me. From what I’ve seen so far, people are pretty forgiving of mistakes and also pretty forgetful. I get the sense that the majority of calls end with a vague “that person was nice” or “friendly person” impression, unless something REALLY extreme happens.

    I hope you can find some of this helpful.

  28. Mellie Bellie*

    Oh, man, I hate talking on the phone. Part of it is because the phone part of every smart phone I’ve ever had is just, not that great a lot of the time. I have trouble hearing or the phone breaks up and I end up talking over the other person. Ugh, it’s the worst and I’ve never really gotten over it, although obviously, I do it all the time. Ask me to speak in public or argue before an appellate court regarding major case-making or breaking issues? Not a problem. Ask me to call in a pizza order and it’s A Thing.

  29. LN*

    For anyone who gets nervous and rambles on voicemails (me), it’s often possible, even if not stated, to hit # after recording and re-record the message. Even when I have a script or bullet points laid out, the second time around usually goes better!

    Starting with a voicemail (e.g., intentionally calling after-hours, if you’re sure it’s an office number) can also be a way to ease into practicing phone calls for those who hate them.

  30. JO*

    I have a related question (sort of). I am job searching (very casually), but I am extremely hearing impaired. I simply cannot hear to talk on the phone, even using hearing aids. Can I somehow request a different method of contact?

  31. LunaLena*

    I used to get phone anxiety, until my job in college required me to answer phones all the time. After a while, it became much more routine. One thing that helped was knowing I had the ability to say “hold on one moment while I look that up” while actually I was taking a moment to calm myself.

    Later, when I worked in a call center and had to make outgoing calls (to make it worse, I worked in the Collections department of a major credit card company, so people were almost always angry to hear from me), it helped to remind myself “what’s the worst they can do? Yell at me? It’s not like they can reach through the phone and slap me. If they get nasty I can just hang up and make a note of it on their record.”

    Nowadays, since it’s common to get voicemail, I also often rehearse a voicemail script in my head before I make the call, so if I do have to leave a message I have a list of bullet points to mention. And if someone actually answers, I already have a concise idea of what I need to talk about. It cuts down the moments of fluster and blanking out that comes with talking on the phone.

  32. Letterwriter*

    Hello, LW here! I wanted to drop in and thank Alison and the commentors for all the great suggestions and encouragement, I appreciate them so much. It’s really comforting to know I’m not alone in feeling this way, thank you for sharing your experiences. I do currently use scripts for phone calls, but my head was spinning trying to come up with an explanation for why I was getting back to recruiters so late. An Alison-sanctioned white lie is just what I need going forward, thank you again!

    Something I should have mentioned is I have an auditory processing disorder that makes it difficult to communicate over the phone. I enjoyed reading takes from commentors who have similar negative feedback relationships with phone calls due to speech impediments and sensory issues (or as someone well phrased it, a chicken and egg situation). Based on Allison and others’ suggestions, I will definitely make more low-stakes calls so I can live out the worst-case scenario of repeatedly asking people to repeat themselves and mishearing. This has also been a wake-up call for re-addressing my anxiety so I can become more functional in the workplace, and will be going back to therapy so thank you all again! :)

  33. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    If you can figure out WHAT specifically about phone calls produces the most anxiety you might be able to mitigate some of that discomfort:

    Not knowing what to say: others have mentioned writing a script, and that can help if you are the one cold calling another person or have a very specific goal for the call — ie. making a dentist appointment. But that might not really work for a phone interview because they have their own agenda that may not match your script, but it’s good to have your resume and cover letter in front of you if they ask you about it. If your profession is one that uses a portfolio, have it in front of you for your reference even though the interviewer can’t see it.

    If it’s not being able to talk to a person and see their face, can you take the phone call in front of a mirror and “talk” to yourself or have a buddy in the room that you pretend to talk to so you get the “feedback” of facial expression and body language?

    If it’s more that you are anxious about your voice — I think I sound like one of the Chipmunks over a microphone — then practice slowing down and keeping your voice lower. Take thoughtful pauses of about 2 seconds instead of rushing in with an answer like you’re trying to beat a buzzer.

  34. 867-5309*

    If you’re resume is being posted that publicly that it’s resulting in several calls for jobs you haven’t already applied for, perhaps remove your phone number and just include your email? Obviously when applying for a specific job you’ll want your phone number on there.

  35. JSPA*

    Blame “bad signal” and “delayed processing of voice mail.” It explains both why you were slow to respond, and why the phone is a bad choice. It’s also a thing that legit happens. My phone often sends calls to voice mail without ringing, where they then disappear for several hours before I can see that they’re there, and as much as a couple of days, before the contents can be retrieved. Give them options, and respond fast and well to those options (text, chat, email) and you may well get away with it.

    1. JSPA*

      And actually, if you next say that “It’s often hard for me to make sense of the audio that comes through,” they may assume that’s specifically due to bad signal. They don’t need to know–certainly not at this stage–that some of the static is between your ears and your conscious comprehension, rather than between their phone and yours.

  36. Jady*

    I’ve had to deal with recruiters a lot. In my personal experience, normally only one phone call per recruiter is mandatory. I expect it’s a part of their screening process.

    Once I’ve had that initial phone call, they’re more than happy to continue the conversations and arrangements over email, especially if you’re quicker to respond to that than playing phone tag. (I get so many spam calls that I never answer my phone, I’ll always call people back who leave a message.)

    However, in most cases the recruiter will then arrange the real interviews, which will usually involve more phone calls and/or video calls and/or in person interviews.

    I’ve had anywhere between 1-4 for a single job. (Phone, Video, In Person, then another video, and lots of emails everywhere in between.) You won’t be able to land a job without getting some calls, unfortunately.

    I’m a millennial and I used to have massive phone anxiety, but it really does get better with practice. My first job required a lot of phone calls and video meetings. I still don’t LIKE them and always prefer email anywhere possible, and most of the time other people do too because it’s just convenient for all, but there’s no avoiding calls forever.

  37. Why isn't it Friday?*

    Hi OP! I can so relate to having anxiety over phone calls. I also wholeheartedly agree that making more phone calls is the best way to tackle this problem. I interned for my congressman in college, where my main responsibility was answering phone calls. That experience is helpful to this day in my career.

    I also second other commenters’ suggestion that you prepare bullet points for each call. You also mentioned having an auditory processing disorder. I’m a visual learner, and it’s very hard for me to retain things people say to me orally. I’ve learned to carry a notepad around and take detailed notes while people speak. I explain to people that I’m not necessarily taking notes on the conversation, it’s more that I’m processing the conversation.

    Also, if people start asking you questions and you don’t know the answer, just say you’ll look into it and get back to them. I have never had a client have a problem with that response.

    And just remember to be kind to yourself! I’m an attorney and if I start beating myself up about sounding stupid on the phone, the worse I stutter. What you say is worthwhile and has value. Good luck!

  38. KT*

    I have no anxiety with phone calls but my main issue with them is that I might mishear or misremember details such as names, phone numbers, addresses, or amounts of money, and am not always in a place where I can write them down.

    Even if I can write them down, I might transcribe wrongly due to call quality, caller accent or unusual spelling (e.g. yesterday someone called me and gave me a street address to go to next week, we had a bit of back and forth so I could spell the street name correctly, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to find it with the GPS – the street name was an uncommon word: Pentland – “so, that is P – E – N – T?”, etc.)

    At the end of the call I always ask the person if they can email or text me the specific detail (street name, phone number, money amount, etc.) so I have a point of reference other than my own (occasionally erroneous) note taking.

    I requested an email with the address details but did not receive one, so the day before the meeting I will call to confirm it. Last thing I want is to go to the wrong address (or transfer the wrong money or to the wrong account or whatever can go wrong when you are giving details orally only).

  39. Green Goose*

    As someone who prefers phone communication and has to call both internal and external people for information pretty regularly, can people with phone anxiety give me tips on how to make them more comfortable on the phone?

    1. WS*

      Speak slowly and calmly. Identify yourself and the purpose of the call ASAP. (“This is Green Goose and I’m calling to [ask X].”) Offer to email or text questions if they’d prefer (when this is possible), or ask them if they’d like to call or email the reply to you later.

    2. Ayla*

      I find it’s useful to pretend the other person is in the room, which means I have all of the facial expressions that I would normally use when talking in person (like smiling). It makes me sound friendlier on the phone, I think!

    3. Matt*

      If possible, schedule phone calls as you would schedule meetings, and include some written information regarding what your inquest is about. Nothing worse than a phone call out of the blue.

  40. stitchinthyme*

    I started a job search last spring, but ended up deciding to put it on hold until the pandemic is over. I have some phone anxiety too, but during my brief period of looking, I mostly managed to get through a couple of interviews (some video, some phone) without too many issues. However, there was one problem that I am not sure how I should deal with in the future, and this post reminded me of it.

    I’m hearing-impaired; I have a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other. They work pretty well, though my hearing will never be normal again. My devices are generally not obvious when I’ve done video interviews, and I didn’t really have too many problems understanding the recruiters and hiring managers I spoke to…except for the ones who had heavy accents (mostly Indian). There was one conversation with a recruiter where I understood maybe a quarter of what he said to me, and it was incredibly frustrating. I had to ask him to send me the job listing over email, because nothing he said about it registered.

    So I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do about this when I resume my job search, aside from just not answering recruiter queries from people with obviously foreign names. I know, this sounds horribly racist, but I have huge issues understanding accents that are very dissimilar to my own. It’s not their fault or mine; it’s just a consequence of the fact that my hearing is not great and I have trouble in certain situations. (I also have issues when someone uses a word or phrase that’s unfamiliar — basically anything I’m not used to can sometimes be hard to understand. However, in normal conversation that only happens once in a while.)

    1. fork&spoon*

      It’s understandable to have trouble with unfamiliar accents. I don’t have much trouble with Indian/East Asian-accented English because they’re very common where I grew up. But I have a ton of trouble with European accents (British/Irish/etc) since I hear them a lot less often. My American and UK friends tend to have the opposite problem from me because of their experiences.

      What helps me is just exposure. Listening to videos and shows where people speak with accents helps my brain get used to the different sounds used. Even better if they have subtitles.

  41. pillowten*

    If your reason for not talking on the phone is disability or anxiety that’s totally fair. If your reason is you simply don’t like it and refuse, that’s spoiled.

    Those people are out there who have no problems but simply refuse to do the phone. I worked in a restaurant once where everyone would refuse to answer the phone. They can’t all have had anxiety or disability. They would say they just didn’t like the phone. Right, well it’s your job.

    I personally hate the phone for many reasons but I can do it if I have to just fine. I do agree practice helps some people. I also find privacy helps – don’t talk on the phone when people can hear you, if you can help it. It also helps to have note taking in front of you, either computer or paper.

    1. Ermintrude*

      This like is the setting for a video game I’m playing. The game is set in a paranormal building with weird phenomena that messes with digital technology. It’s quaint. There’s still phones though.

  42. Ermintrude*

    I don’t know if this is of any help to the OP, but making phone calls to enquire about and apply for jobs helped me get over my phone-anxiety. I was ‘unsure and think I’ll stuff up’ rather than inherently anxious about phone calls though.

  43. Fabulous*

    Ooooh I understand phone dread! I’m not typically an anxiety-prone person, but I remember in one of my first jobs they sprung it on me one day that they wanted me to start covering reception and I had a full blown panic attack in front of my manager at the time.

    A couple jobs later, I was hired as a scheduler for a finance rep, which I had assumed I’d just be taking calls and managing the guy’s calendar. Nope! First day they had me start making cold calls to set up appointments with near strangers so the guy could try and sell them insurance. All while the trainer stood over me. Somehow I managed to avoid another panic attack and got the job done, but man.

    All this to say, I echo what everyone else has been saying – the more you do it the less anxiety-producing phone calls will be.

  44. Darcy*

    I agree with the commenter above that there’s a huge difference between a true disability/panic disorder and “talking on the phone is uncomfortable to me”.

    Someone once told me “people do business with people, not with electronics”. In other words, deals don’t close based on an email or a text – if you want to sell a product (be it a widget or yourself as an employee), the phone is the best way to make that connection. You cannot sell yourself via a computer screen.

  45. boop the first*

    I get unbearably nervous just listening to my spouse order take out over the phone. Pretty much nobody calls me except scammers, so I’m a major screener. If I apply to a job, I put that job’s number in my contacts so I know when to answer.

    Thing is, I used to have to answer phones and call customers for work and it wasn’t nearly so bad. There’s something about Not Being Myself that changes everything. Like how some people enjoy the wearing of masks in public now, you gain a little confidence with the anonymity. I wonder if there is a practical way to harness that for phone calls?

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