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I had a missed call from an unknown number. I want to call them back. Which is the best way to start the conversation? The caller may be an interviewer.

I just noticed I have a missed call […].

I had a missed call from this number […].

Is this right? Are there any suggested alternatives?

  • I don't normally call any unknown number back nowadays. Almost all of them wanted to sell something. Unless an interviewer told you earlier that she will give you a call, it might not be a good idea to even call her back, really. In case you really want to do so, "Hello. I got a missed call from this number. Did you call me?" is polite enough to start the conversation. – Damkerng T. Nov 22 '13 at 9:30
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The suggestions in comments are good, but I tend to identify myself so they don't have to ask (especially if you think it might be a job opportunity!) I'd go with something like this:

Hi, this is [your name]. I have a missed call from this number, and I just wanted to call you back and see what you were calling about.

This is a bit wordier and more informal than some other suggestions, but I tried to go with what I think I would actually say on the phone, not necessarily what was the most concise/formal. If you want to remember the clearest, simplest response (above is just me winging it, I don't have a plan of what exactly I'm going to say before I call back) then I'd go with this:

Hi, this is [your name]. I received a missed call from this number; may I ask what your call was regarding?

Note that I still introduce myself; I think this is very important. They can't possibly answer your question ("What did you call me about?") until you've provided this information; they have to know who you are to know why they called!

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A "missed call" is not very common in American usage.

We're more likely to say something like,

Hi, this is Anish, returning your call.

Or,

Hi, this is Anish, I'm sorry I missed your call.

If you don't know if you're talking to the person who called, you could say,

Could I speak to Jane? I'm returning her call.

Or if you don't know who called but only the number to call back,

I'm returning a call from this number.

Edit Regarding "missed call".

The meaning of this phrase is obvious (mostly, but see below) so you will not be misunderstood if you use it in America. However, telephone greetings are highly conventionalized, and the phrases I mentioned above are conventional expressions we use for the case you described. If "I got a missed call from this number" is conventional, it's conventional in an community that I'm not familiar with.

Google Ngrams also suggests that "returning your call" is a more common usage than "missed call":

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Obviously there's a lot of room for error in that these two phrases can not fill the same grammatical function, and books are not the best place to look for phrases that are mainly used in telephone conversations. Maybe someone with better Ngram-foo can come along and give an improved comparison.

Also, according to Wikipedia, the term "missed call" is used specifically for cases where the caller deliberately hangs up before the call is answered to convey a simple message without being charged. I don't believe this usage is common in America either. But if you are in a place where this usage is common, you might not want to use the phrase when calling a potential employer because it implies stinginess on their part.

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    Whoever gave the -1, please let me know what you found inaccurate or unhelpful about my answer. – The Photon Nov 23 '13 at 6:25
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    Overall, this seems like a pretty useful answer. But although I'm not the one who downvoted, I may see a problem: I think the bit about "missed call" being uncommon might not actually be true. It's easy to find examples of people saying or writing the phrase, for example on COCA or Google. If I may wildly speculate, I think some of those people (like me) may have phones with "missed call" lists, and the words might sink into their brains and come out the next time they talk about the subject. – snailboat Nov 23 '13 at 7:15
  • Piggy-backing on what @snail said (RE: "missed call"), the two-word expression is quite common (my office phone has a function where I can list "missed calls", e.g.). However, I agree with The Photon – in this context, I don't think "missed call" is used very often. That is, I'd be more likely to say "I noticed I missed your call" than "I noticed I had a missed call." Having said that, though, getting a call from an unknown number might be an exception, esp. when I'm expecting a call; since I don't know who called, I might say something like: "I saw I had a missed call from this number…" – J.R. Nov 23 '13 at 12:12
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    I agree with @J.R.; if I know the person who called I'm more likely to say "I was just returning your call..." But when it's an unknown number, I default to the "have a missed call" wording. – WendiKidd Nov 24 '13 at 2:13
  • @WendiKidd, My answer is based on my experience in a certain limited community of English users. I do not claim it applies across the English-speaking world, or even to the entire United States. You may certainly write an answer of your own if you wish. – The Photon Nov 24 '13 at 4:16
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As Damkerng T. said, both are okay. I'd just add a phrase to this.

There was a missed call from this number, may I know what was the concern?

Giving our name to the unknown person/number before they ask (such as Hey, this is Jack! I saw missed call from you. What was the matter?) is not proper as you may first want to know who called you than reveal your identity.

Here, by asking the concern first clarifies most of the things including why was there a call and who called it.

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    I would say, "I missed a call from this number,", not "There was a missed call from this number..." Moreover, "May I know what was the concern" sounds a bit stilted to me – I would not recommend using it, at least not in the U.S. Instead, I'd go with something a bit more straightforward: "May I ask why you called?" – J.R. Nov 22 '13 at 9:44
  • @J.R.please suggest a good alternative."I missed a call from this number," is fine.but If i want to know the caller,then which usage is good? – anish Nov 22 '13 at 9:47
  • A vague way to say it might be, "I noticed I missed a call from this number. I was wondering why you called – can I ask who this is?" If you want, though, you can reveal a bit more information: "I noticed I missed a call from this number. I'm also expecting a call for an interview, and I wondered if that might be you." – J.R. Nov 22 '13 at 9:49
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    The question asks how to best start the conversation. Shouldn't we suggest putting something like "Hi" first? Or do people jump right in like this? – snailboat Nov 22 '13 at 9:52
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    @snailboat is right; it's best to start with "Hi" or "Hello" on the telephone: "Hello. I notice I missed a call..." I assumed that was a given, but perhaps that needs to be stated explicitly for the sake of clarity. – J.R. Nov 22 '13 at 10:56

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