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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

3 Smarter Things to Do When You Miss a Recruiter's Call Than Panicking

If a recruiter were to call you while you were driving, what would you do? Well, if you’re anything like me, you might be tempted to cross four lanes of traffic and pull over as quickly as possible so you could take the call and (hopefully) land the job you’ve wanted forever.

While you’re probably more level-headed than this, I’m willing to bet that seeing an unknown phone number go to voicemail during a long job search has made you lose your cool on at least a few occasions.

It’s totally understandable to feel anxious when this happens, but here are a few smarter alternatives to consider whenever you happen to miss a recruiter’s call.

1. Take a Short Break Before You Return the Call

You might be thinking, “Are you crazy? Why wouldn’t I call back ASAP?” Of course, there’s an interview (or a job offer) on the line. And you shouldn’t wait too long to return the call.

But think about the racing thoughts you’re having about simply missing the call. When I was a recruiter, I was always caught off-guard when a candidate called me back completely panicked. I never ruled anyone out when this happened, but it did make some of the simplest conversations more complicated than they needed to be—and a few times, I had to repeatedly reassure the candidate that everything was fine.

So, before you frantically return the call, take a five-minute breather. Whatever the recruiter wanted to talk about won’t change just because you didn’t pick up on the first attempt, and it will also stay the same if you take a beat before dialing back.

2. If You’re Playing Phone Tag, Peruse Some Other Job Openings

Before I get into this, don’t panic if you get sent to voicemail. This kind of thing happens all the time, and most reasonable recruiters understand that the occasional game of phone tag will happen. However, once you leave your message, don’t let yourself stare at your phone, willing it to ring.

I know that it might seem rational to stop everything you’re doing until you hear back, and I’ve done exactly that my fair share of times during some long job hunt. Why risk missing the call again by getting caught up in something else, right?

But here’s the thing, until you’ve been offered a job, you should still consider yourself a job seeker, with added emphasis on the word “seeker.” While you might be waiting to hear back about your dream position, there are plenty of other opportunities you might be missing out on if you sit and wait for a callback.

How do I know? Well, if I had waited around for other companies to call me back, I probably would’ve missed out on the listing for my position here at The Muse.

3. And if You Are Sitting by the Phone and Not in the Mood to Job Search, Be Productive

It’s difficult not to be distracted by silence when you’re waiting for a recruiter to call you back. And I get it—sometimes the anticipation is so great that you just can’t find the motivation to keep looking for jobs. You’ve had a lot of long days so it’s perfectly fine to do something else.

What should you do instead? Maybe there’s a book about your craft that you’ve been ignoring for a while. If that’s the case, go ahead and take the time to pick it back up again. Or maybe there’s a hobby you haven’t had the chance to indulge in lately. If that’s your reality, this might be hard to believe, but I’m going to let you in on something that really worked for me: Do whatever it is that you haven’t had the chance to do lately. You’ll be surprised by how productive it is to make sure you’re taking care of yourself, even though it might seem like there are plenty of things you should be doing instead.

Nobody likes waiting to hear back, especially when there’s a potential job offer on the line. It only gets more painful when you start playing phone tag with someone who you think holds all the answers. But rather than torturing yourself, remember that you will eventually connect. And your time can be much better spent doing anything else besides staring at your phone.

Photo of man on phone courtesy of Dougal Waters/Getty Images.