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In the April 23, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader waits too long for a truant interviewer.

interviewerQuestion

I arrived for a job interview on time and waited for the interviewer an hour and 15 minutes past the scheduled time. I finally left thinking, why would I work for a place that can’t keep an appointment? How long would you have waited? What if this was the only interview you had lined up?

Nick’s Reply

Don’t let your need for a job lead you to tolerate bad behavior from interviewers. I would not have waited longer than 10-15 minutes, at which time I’d ask the receptionist, “I’m concerned. Is my interviewer okay?”

Give the interviewer the benefit of the doubt

The receptionist will ask what you mean. You could ask whether the interviewer got hit by a truck. Or you could be more diplomatic. Respond in all seriousness with a hint of alarm:

“Well, our meeting was scheduled for a quarter of an hour ago — I’ve heard nothing and I’m concerned. Did something bad happen to my interviewer?”

This is a deft — if backhanded — display of respect for an interviewer who might be delayed because of a serious problem. It’s better than expressing your ire. Besides, there might be a perfectly acceptable reason for the delay, so it’s wise to grant the benefit of the doubt at this point.

Time to wave buh-bye

However, if you are not given a satisfactory explanation (and apology) and no one arrives to interview you, it’s time to shift your approach. You must use your own judgment, but I’d say to the receptionist:

“Could you please have someone from your HR office come out? I’d like to make sure my resume and job application are removed from your files. I’m not comfortable with my information in the hands of a company that can’t keep an appointment.”

buh-bye

I’m not kidding — that’s what I’d say. It’s a test. What will the employer do?

Because you waited so long, they owe you an exceptional “right” to this wrong. A responsible employer who blew the appointment will go out of its way to demonstrate regrets for your inconvenience — and thereby salvage the interview and your respect. But if you’re given lame excuses without sincere apologies, and the gaffe is not somehow corrected immediately (or at least compensated for), then you’ve put a good stake in the ground.

Wave buh-bye and don’t look back.

If anyone suggests your demand to be removed from the employer’s files is unprofessional or risky, tell them you demonstrate high standards of conduct and expect employers to do the same. Then ask whether they believe your time is valuable. You deserve an answer.

Your host’s reputation is on the line

If I seem cynical and intolerant, perhaps it’s because I’ve seen employers disrespect job candidates too much. Life is too short to waste time on people who don’t do what they say they’re going to do. While delays and even no-shows are sometimes unavoidable and forgivable, the responsible employer will make appropriate amends on the spot. That’s why it’s important to give them a chance.

We all need to get real. If the employer does’t apologize profusely after you’ve waited an hour and a quarter and doesn’t act to correct their behavior, I’d forget about that job. Human Resources managers are the first to tell us to mind our reputations, and this cuts both ways. In this case, the employer’s reputation is on the line. I’d tell all my friends how I was treated.

Whether this is the only interview you’ve got, or one of ten, it doesn’t change the character of this particular employer, and it doesn’t bode well for what life would be like working there. Please think about that.

For more examples of interview missteps by employers, see Dissed By HR: Can you top this? and How employers waste your time.

What’s the longest you’ve waited for an interviewer? Is an hour too long? How would you handle this situation?

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39 Comments
  1. To answer how long you should wait for an interviewer, think about how long you’d wait for a regular business meeting.

    If I’m waiting for a meeting to start, at 10 minutes after the start time, I’m calling whoever is running it. If I don’t hear back by 20 minutes, I assume the meeting has been rescheduled or cancelled. In this day and age, people have numerous time constraints, including other meetings. If you start waiting an hour for a meeting to begin, everything is going to get backed up and thrown off schedule.

    In this interview situation, I would have asked the receptionist/called the person after 10 minutes to see if there was a problem or hold up. If there was no response, I’d wait another 10 minutes. At that point (20 minutes total), I’d tell the receptionist or leave a voicemail with something like this: “This is Chris. We had a meeting scheduled for 10:00 am, but it appears something has come up to delay you. I’ve got another appointment that I can’t miss, so I’ll be heading out. Sorry we couldn’t meet today. Please call me at your convenience to reschedule.”

    Then I’d leave…..and would not come back that day at all.

    And if the person does call, I’d make him or her reschedule to make it convenient for me. As Nick noted above, the employer should be demonstrating regret and trying to make things right. The employer should apologize and say, “When would be a good time for you to come back in?” If they employer simply says something like, “We have a slot at time/date,” refuse it with some excuse that you have a prior engagement. An employer trying to make it up to you would do things on your schedule, not theirs.

    • Something I forgot to add:

      If you’re in the situation where you’ve had to travel enough to stay in a hotel for the interview, it might be a little different. I’d still wait only 20 minutes then head back to the hotel. I’d maybe wait an hour or two at the hotel for a call. If I didn’t get one at that point, I’d make arrangements to return home.

      In that case, however, I’d be very cautious if the employer was paying for my travel expenses as part of the interview. I would document all of this and send an email to the company detailing what happened and that I was returning home because the interview didn’t take place. I’d also include some language like, “I assume my travel expenses will be handled per your normal interview policy.”

      I’d also make one final call where I talk to an actual live person to give them one last chance. However, I’m betting this would be a highly unlikely scenario. But you never know in this day and age.

    • @Chris: Those are two very good suggestions. Always make sure you communicate with a person about the problem before you leave (and save their name and title), and if your visit involves expenses make sure you document what happened. Follow up in writing when you return home or to your office.

  2. This article brings back many memories of past job interviews where the interviewer was very late. I will give you 2 stories.

    First scenario was that I took 1 hour train ride into NYC (after driving 20 minutes to the train station) and then spent 45 minutes traveling downtown on a very hot summer day. I arrived on time and was given a job application and a NDA to sign. I thought why a non disclosure? I waited 15 minutes and asked where the interviewer was. She said he will be with me shortly. 10 minutes go by and I get up to leave and she asked where are you going? I told her I am going home. She immediately gets up and tells me the CEO will see me now and brought me to his office where he is on the phone. I am sitting there while he talks to his wife about personal matters. I got up to leave after 5 minutes and he hung up fast with her and told me it was all a test to see if I would leave. I told him I did not come here to play games and I value my time. I then asked is that why you make applicants sign a NDA? He laughed and smiled. I told him that I did not sign one or fill out the paperwork (the look on his face was priceless that the receptionist never took my paperwork) and I will tell everyone what your company does to job applicants. Since then the people I told won’t work for him.

    2nd scenario was when I was flown in for a job interview in Missouri with a large company and the hotel they put me up in was one of the most run down I have ever spent a night in. The next day, the hotel shuttle took me to the company bldg which was over a half hour away and I sat for an hour in the lobby until I was told they would not be able to interview me until the afternoon. I went back to the hotel and called a cab and went to the airport and tried to get an earlier flight back but could not. The company did not reimburse my travel for the interview after I contacted them. My credit card company billed the company directly after I told them what happened and I did not get a charge for the hotel. I spent a lot of $$$$$$ at that time with this Credit Card company and was surprised they did that to keep earning my business! Now that is how to treat a customer!
    I never heard back from the interviewer or received an apology!

    • @Donna: Your cc company is a great contrast as an example of a company that does the right thing without any prodding. Good for you for taking an assertive position both times.

  3. A great past job started off with a late interviewer. I was waiting in the conference room and told that he was on his way. After about 45 minutes he made his way into the room and had a bad case of the shakes. He mumbled a bit and attempted a few questions. I got the job. He went back to the bar “for medicinal purposes”.
    Because the HR admin kept me informed about his lateness, I didn’t mind waiting.
    A year later, I got his job after he left for “health reasons”.

    • File that one under, “Well, there ya go!”

      • Nick, whenever I try some of your ideas, which are very reasonable, potential employers look at me strangely. Getting up and leaving is one that I would expect to get strange looks.

        Where did some potential employers get the idea that they hold all the cards? For example I get calls about contract work all the time. “No, I have a permanent position.” It is as if everyone applying for a job is desperate. I am not desperate.

        The thing is one should not need to put up with this kind of stuff even if economic times are bad.

        • @Kevin: I live to get strange looks. :-)

        • @Kevin: Prospective employers believe they hold all the cards and they can treat candidates badly because for many years, especially during the Great Recession, they did hold all the cards, or at least most of them. There were more applicants than jobs, so the market was the employers’ market. They behaved badly then and got away it because the job market was tipped in their favor. Now the job market, at least for some people, has swung the other way, and employers are complaining that they have vacancies and can’t fill them. Many have not changed their bad behavior, acting as if they hold all the cards. The difference is that now candidates have better options, so they’re ghosting employers and walking away when they encounter bad behavior.

          You’re right–no one should have to put up with this kind of behavior, even during bad economic times. I still think it comes to basic respect and courtesy. If I’m delayed on my way to an interview, I call and let them know, and ask to reschedule because I don’t assume they’re willing to wait for me. They’re busy, may have others to interview, meetings to attend, work to do. But that’s my responsibility if I’m delayed, or if something happens and I can’t make it at all that day. I would never not communicate with them out because that is how I was raised and taught.

    • I had the same thing happen with a late interview–the VP was late, but practically offered me the job on the spot. He was a desperate drunk too, the job was however a nightmare–and he was fired shortly after me.

  4. Another time waster (or maybe a crutch for interviewers who can never make it on time) is for the receptionist to greet you with “Hi! Miss Perky Name said you’d like to fill out some paperwork!”

    After the fiftieth or so time hearing the same tired greeting my response became “Gee, Miss Perky Name doesn’t know me very well.”

    I do sincerely hope receptionists have abandoned greeting candidates with tired lines like that. I have all the time in the world to do paperwork after the offer.

    There is always an exception: I received a call from a recruiter for a true emergency. A dozen of us were in the contract firm’s reception area at 6:30 AM, where the program manger greeted us with “In a half an hour the bus will take us over to the client site. It will bring you back at the end of the day to get your vehicles. In the meantime I need your name, phone number, email address and Emergency Notification on this 3×5 card, and attached to your resume. We hope to have you badged, a parking pass, and at your desk by 8:00. Coffee and doughnuts in the conference room!!” I can always do a 3×5 card.

    • The insistence on filling out papers in reception used to be very common. I learned along time in job search to simply not do it. It’s inconsiderate and downright rude. If the receptionist insisted, I’d leave my resume on top and say I’d fill out their application later, which never came. Once, I had to walk. Then I learned never to fill out an application until very well along (as in close to an offer). Leave no paper, especially an NDA, and in my area, don’t take any tests especially psychological.

      • I am reminded of the time that I arrived in reception for a job interview on time after a morning flight. The HR “toots” deigned to make an appearance and let me know that I would be waiting for about 90 minutes. There was a diner within ¼ mile; so in the meantime, I walked over there and had a cup of coffee. When the toots was finally ready, she presented me with an application package that I was to quickly complete in reception before the interview started. I should have taken the opportunity to have a full breakfast because these fine people (sic) did not let me break for lunch, and I was unable to have a meal until after my return flight.

        • I failed to mention that I had already been sitting in reception for about 30 minutes when the HR “toots” deigned to make an appearance.

    • “For emergency contact I always put doctor. A lot of good my mother’s gonna do me.” — Steven Wright

  5. Nick, ouch — your answer hurt my former receptionist heart! Please don’t play mind games with the receptionist. Mostly they are women, so I’ll use she. The receptionist is the person with the least amount of power and the most stress! She can’t go to the bathroom without begging for coverage or on a schedule that is contingent on another employee cooperating. She can’t tell the HR person what you said and keep her job. She’s caught in the middle and has no power. They write her up as meddling and critical if she passes along comments such as you suggest. Write a note if you must. Asking the receptionist to call someone up front from HR stresses out that poor receptionist, who has no power to make anyone do anything. HR gets mad and takes it out on the receptionist and she’ll learn not ever to do it again if she needs this job. She gets a backlash if she calls up someone from HR to speak to the candidates. Whatever you say may not be told to the person who screwed you over. But a note can be passed along without comment. Places like this expect the receptionist to take a bunch of BS and keep smiling. They don’t listen to her and aren’t interested in solving problems. So don’t play games with her or demand or ask she do something for you to appease your anger. She can’t tell you why this person is running so late or has blown you off. Write a note, send an email, but please don’t torture the receptionist!

    • Sorry, what Nick said is still true. If you as the receptionist see this happen more than once, that should be a clue to you to start looking because the company isn’t employee friendly.

      Heck, if half of what you said as far as the abuse and negativity of passing on feedback is true, you should already be looking for another job yourself!

      It’s just a job, there are a lot more important things in life.

    • @Kathy: Receptionists are a company’s first ambassadors to the world. When a company blames its ambassador for the company’s poor behavior and reputation, a receptionist should find a better employer – because the company doesn’t respect the receptionist any more than it does the guests it invites through its front door. What you are describing is abusive employers. Receptionists deserve better.

  6. I think it is the pinnacle of rudeness and arrogance to leave an interviewee sitting there without so much as an update. Yes, things happen sometimes. The interviewer got into a car accident and didn’t make it into work. The interviewer got stuck in traffic and was horribly delayed. The interviewer got sick and didn’t go to work. The interviewer had a sick child and had to stay home/leave early to pick up said sick child from daycare/school. The interviewer had a death in the family. We get it, stuff happens that is beyond your control. The interviewer had a meeting that ran way too long. But with all of the technology today (smartphones, texting, etc.) there is NO excuse for not communicating with the interviewee, or at least with HR or the receptionist so she can notify the candidate of the delay or cancellation. But to leave you hanging is unprofessional and speaks volumes about how much they value YOUR time.

    I’d give them 15 minutes, and if no one comes out to tell me that there’s been a delay and would I mind waiting, or giving me the opportunity to reschedule, then I’d tell the receptionist or HR that I’m leaving. Depending upon how they treat me, I’d seriously rethink interviewing there.

    Delays happen sometimes. It is the lack of communication and lack of courtesy and respect for me and my time that I find harder to tolerate.

    I did have a job interview years ago in which the interviewer was MIA, and I later learned because her kid had to go to the hospital. But she had called her boss, who passed along the message to HR, who in turn passed it along to the receptionist so she could tell me. That was different. I’d waited for a little more than 15 minutes, and when I’d asked the receptionist if my interview was still on, she had no idea. She checked, and nothing had been cancelled, but then she learned that the interviewer wasn’t in yet…and only after the interviewer had called in was there communication. I was rescheduled for another interview, which went well even though I didn’t get the job.

    It shouldn’t be hard to be courteous, but today courtesy seems to be a lost art.

  7. Late or no-show interviews, unless for very good reason (the interviewer had a personal emergency, it’s 9am and they commute), are 9 times out of 10 disasters. Chris’ 10 then 10 minutes is a good way to go. I had the nominal co-founder (son of the key founder) of a company no show on me twice for a phone interview. The first time I called the HR person who tried to locate him, without apparent success. The rescheduled interview also was a no show that the HR person could not explain. I sent an email to him copying in the HR person pointing out in no uncertain terms his lack of professionalism in the fairly tight knit healthcare community. Several months later, he was out after new investors came in.

    There’s more to this story as senior people in that company’s marketing management approached me some months later on a position. After phone interviews with one of their new people, her boss no-showed on me and she went on medical leave without any word back to me. He wasn’t long for the company and she lasted there for another two years. Too bad as they work in an interesting area of healthcare, but they have had their challenges.

  8. In September 2013 I received an email from a recruiter describing a contract position at Citizens Bank. The pay was good, but it was covering for a maternity leave, which usually means when it’s over, it’s over. But the recruiter assured me there’d be a good chance for a long-term relationship, so I decided to go for it. I landed an interview with the woman I’d be temporarily replacing, it went very well and she had me come back to meet with her manager. I arrived right on time for this at 1pm. The guard at the security desk in the lobby attempted to call her to inform her I was there, but he kept getting her voice mail. For twenty minutes I waited while the security guard continued to try to reach her. Just as I took my keys out and began heading towards the exit she finally appeared; she had some ditzy smile plastered across her face and was completely oblivious to the fact that what she did was extremely rude, she barely apologized (“I couldn’t find a meeting room for us, ha ha”), we sat down and she proceeded to go on and on about how she just doesn’t know what she’s going to do without the woman going on leave because she just can’t function without her!!! And all I could think of was that episode of “Seinfeld” where Elaine was interviewing for Jackie O’s old job and the woman behind the desk just kept going on and on about how there’s no replacing Jackie O. Then she went into lecture mode about how when this gig is over don’t expect any long-term work relationship. I then briefly explained my work experience and skill set, and went into further detail about how I’d meet with clients, learn as much as I can about the project, complete a creative brief, etc., after which she said something (I can’t recall the exact words) that indicated she had not paid attention to one word I had just said. I pretty much lost it at this point by responding with, “I just told you that’s what I do.” Mercifully, this “interview” came to an end immediately after that. Total interview time: ten minutes (I drove one hour each way for this).

    After getting home, I told the recruiter what had happened, especially with her being so nasty to me; he said to not take it personally because she treats everyone that way (I often find myself wondering just what kind of world are we living in where someone this socially stunted is able to (1) be hired and (2) remain employed). I brought up the “don’t expect any long-term relationship when this gig’s over” issue which he said just wasn’t true…whatever. Never heard back. One month later, I got an email from the same agency for the same job, except that it had changed to part-time and remote. I emailed back explaining I believe I’ve already interviewed for this job back in October and, since they didn’t hire me then, that there’s no point in submitting me. The previous recruiter called me and told me that NOBODY was hired. It was right at that moment when I first began wondering just what the hell is going on in America…

    • Sighmaster,

      Sadly this experience you had is becoming the norm. I have had many job interviews similar to this where the job remains open and no one hired. I think either this company must be looking for the purple unicorn ? or the job is fake just to collect resumes and get salary info out of applicants.

      Donna

      • Yes, to your point about fake postings- I saw a job-posting online from my recruiter’s agency that I thought I was perfect for. I asked her why she hadn’t presented this great opportunity to me when we spoke the previous day and she chuckled as she admitted that it was fake, an attempt to “see who is out there” resume-wise. She said this as though it was business as usual. I don’t know if she ever thought how misleading/deceptive this practice is because she is too “green” as a recruiter, too young in general, or simply didn’t care.

        • Did you find a new recruiter after that?

          • Yes, she was the third “recruiter” I had from this agency while on a contract … in nine months’ time. I didn’t put much faith in her ability to help and her tenure wasn’t long. Unfortunately, in the pharmaceutical biz, most positions are contract-to-perm, obtained only through a “recruiter;” a disinterested resume-pusher (usually, not always) and most likely, under the age of 30.

        • This guy explains why companies advertise and interview people for fake jobs, something to do with fooling the credit rating auditors, https://youtu.be/MKuMFe0iCLw

          I’d also wager they’re selling our data to Google et al for a penny a pop…

        • Consider how regulated the hiring process is (even though HR works around the regs all the time), but how unregulated recruitment advertising is. Here’s an interesting example of how one firm, ZipRecruiter, got busted for posting illegal ads:

          https://www.asktheheadhunter.com/10787/hr-ziprecruiter

  9. Of course, this shows a negative work environment and the receptionist should book on out of there. But for now, she’s stuck in this job and it shows real insensitivity to just say she needs to get another job. She’s making probably $30,000 to 36,000 a year and maybe has a family to support or maybe can’t afford to quit her job without another one first. It is not that easy for the receptionist to leave her work and go to another interview someplace else, let alone take personal calls at the front desk to arrange for this other interview. And you might just be surprised to know how many receptionist jobs suck. It’s an important job but management doesn’t feel it takes real skill nor does it require a decent salary. I am no longer a receptionist but I have worked in several places where it was a terrible and abusive environment and worse at the front desk. Just trying to foster a better perspective on getting one’s point across to a late or no show interviewer rather than expecting the receptionist to fight this battle for you.

  10. The methods of timing the interviewer, as Chris outlined in his posts, are useful in jumpstarting the meetings or interviews.

    Once in the late 1990s, I was told to appear at the company on the 4th of July, for overwhelming accounting work that needed to be done in the office. I was skeptical about the real need, as I thought it could be easily accomplished the day after the holiday. Five of us showed up, as mandated, and the comptroller was not there. One temp got angry after we waited for more than an hour and repeatedly called his cell phone, with no response. The temp left, and we then decided to go, with a written note on the desk for the boss. As we were leaving, lo and behold the “timely” arrival of the boss who got angry at our decision. We stood up and explained our reason for the unfortunate timing. He made us stay for five hours to finish the work. Soon after, the President fired him the following month for other accounting irregularities.

    I follow through the timetable of waiting for 15 minutes in job interviews, doctor’s offices, etc., as a professional courtesy because my time is as valuable as theirs. The exception is the hospital emergency department.

  11. @Donna: That’s right – don’t have them hand you excrement sandwiches or dumb-*ass tests and put up with it. Walk. And not only walk, but tell everyone you know.

    And while not about the interviewer being late, but rude – if I might regale you…

    I was on an interview when my departure from a prior employer came up. Now naturally I did tell my side of the story – nothing untruthful! – but the guy said “Well, I know (who was the owner of the company) and I’ll find out what really happened.”

    I got up. He said “Where are you going?”

    “You just called me a liar.” And I walked.

    • Awesome! David Hunt, you are the man!

      • The look on his face was pretty impressive. Utter shock, as though I – as a supplicant – was just supposed to sit there and take whatever abuse he heaped on me.

        But this is part of a larger picture: as I said on another of Nick’s posts just now, employers hand candidates fecal-matter sandwiches and we’re just supposed to gobble them up, smile, and say “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

  12. On a related topic: How many times should you try to reschedule phone screens?

    Recruiter sets up a phone screen with a hiring manager at an organization that I’ve wanted to work with for quite some time. A half hour before the scheduled time, the hiring manager sent me (CCing the recruiter) an email request to delay the call for a day as “something came up”. I agree and a new calendar update is sent out to which I accept. The hiring manager never does confirm the rescheduled phone screen and, in fact, fails to call at the time *he* proposed. I’ve gone back and forth with the recruiter about this but, still, there has been no rescheduled call. Now… I’m wondering if this failure to even begin the process with the phone screen isn’t a red flag.

    I realize that sometimes fires need to be put out, but when I think back to the times when I was involved with interviewing candidates, a failure to meet or call a candidate would be viewed as reflecting badly on the organization and your reason had better involved something like fighting an actual fire or else you’d get your tail chewed off by a higher up.

    • @Rick: It’s an old canard of the business world that managers are very busy; too busy to meet their schedule commitments; too busy to talk to job candidates.

      Hiring is any manager’s #1 job. A manager is responsible for making sure employees do the work that needs to be done. If they don’t have the employees they need, managers fail and their business fails. That’s why hiring is job #1.

      You’ve realized the truth. That’s a red flag. I won’t even get into what it says about a manager that he disrespects others.

      Move on. There’s a better employer out there for you.

      • Nick,

        The most maddening thing about this is that the (outside) recruiter that set up the phone screen has gone radio silent as well. Too embarrassed to even respond to my request for a reason the screen hasn’t taken place or whether it’s ever going to take place? (My messaging has been *very* polite, BTW.) I should at least be able to be told that “Yeah, the hiring manager isn’t talking to *me* either”.

        I agree that hiring managers need to be, well, “hiring”. Leaving their team understaffed means they’re overwhelming the team with the work load that the empty positions should be handling, needing to turn down vacation requests because, hey, there’s work to do. God forbid anyone gets sick and increases the work load even further. Eventually, people start looking to leave. In fact, years ago I interviewed at a company that where the hiring manager admitted that, as a manager, how long he had open positions was part of his performance review for this very reason. If only this was more commonplace. According to the applicant tracking system at one company I applied to last July, they either *still* haven’t filled the position (my application is still marked as being “considered”) or they are *really* bad at updating the web site when positions are filled. Neither of those possibilities treats candidates very well.

        I just heard the monthly jobs report on the radio stating that unemployment was down to levels not seen since the ’60s. But they were quick to point out the reason for the decline was due to fewer people even looking for jobs. Hmm… could it be that job seekers are fed up with the way they’re being treated as candidates?

        • @Rick: Your closing statement is the very point. You could print and send a copy of this article and all the comments to your state and federal representatives. They seem content to believe there is a “shortage of talent,” when it seems clear there are enormous structural problems with how the employment system is operated.

          • A question I keep asking is “If there’s such a shortage, why are networking groups – which are motherlodes of skilled, educated, motivated, and experienced people – still meeting with large numbers of attendees?”

            • Their résumés no doubt show a one-month employment gap in 2008 or 2009. Or they can remember hearing the news of the JFK assassination, or even watching the first moon landing live.

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