I received an email on one of my job applications around 4:45pm. The HR Manager asked that I called back to her in regards to the position because she would like to "discuss the position and my qualifications." As I applied through a generic job board, I had not left a phone number for her to call back.
I was at a very busy coffeeshop, but looking at the time-constraint in the evening, I called her back immediately anticipating that we would schedule an interview at the company sometime the next day.
The call did not go to the voicemail and she picked up the phone immediately. She asked me if I have time for a few question, which I said yes to. Minutes into the conversation, I realized she was giving me a full-blown interview, asking me questions like "Why do I like this industry?", "When was the last time you turn a customer's experience around?"
I was so taken back that my answers were less than impressive. Furthermore, everyone around me sitting at their laptops were looking and listening to me, causing me unnecessary stress by these personal questions.
I apologized and told her I was not prepared and not in the correct state of mind for the questions, suggesting that I would much prefer to meet face-to-face. She seemed very annoyed, saying "You were the one who called me" and "You said you have time for questions". She also stressed that this was not an interview but only a few questions to know me better. (?)
In the end she said she would take my call again the next day. Although I did the best I could for her questions, admitted mistake, learned from the experience yesterday and apologized repeatedly, I have a feeling she would not call back. When asked the time frame I would get a hear back, she said she could not tell, and there is a chance I won't hear back at all.
I had read all about stress interviews - getting seated in a broken chair, pretending to be completely uninterested, etc. Yet, I feel that I should have a right to be prepared to better connect my strengths and ability to the job.
This struck me as a very bad experience. Any chances of recovery? Should I give up or avoid this company altogether?
I'd move on. It's clear that there was a miscommunication here, but I can understand why she expected you to be ready to answer questions when you called her back; it sounds like she had asked you to call to talk about the position, not to schedule an in-person interview. (Many employers, myself included, do phone screens first and don't want to spend time on an in-person interview until that initial screening has indicated it would be worth the time.)
I don't think this was a stress interview (although it clearly ended up having that effect, unintentionally!). Rather, she assumed that if you were returning the call, you were prepared to talk. At that point, the best thing to do -- if you didn't feel you could proceed with the phone interview -- would have been to apologize and say that you had misunderstood, thought that she was calling to schedule an interview, and that you weren't currently somewhere where you could talk for long.
You said you feel that you "should have a right to be prepared to better connect your strengths and ability to the job." In hiring, you don't really have a right to anything, other than to not be subjected to illegal discrimination. Aside from that, employers can be as fair or unfair as they want (assuming they're non-union, non-government). But in this case, I don't even think that you even confronted unfairness -- just a misunderstanding. And as I've written before, little things necessarily take on disproportionate importance during these screenings, because the employer has so little information to go on.
The best thing you can do here is to move on with a better understanding of how to handle this in the future. Good luck!