HR missed our scheduled phone interview and didn’t respond to follow-up

by Ask a Manager on March 7, 2010

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A reader writes:

About two weeks ago, I received an email to schedule a phone interview with a large firm on the West Coast (they also have a branch on the East Coast, where I am located). This interview was supposed to happen a week ago on Friday. When our scheduled time arrived, I waited patiently for a call. I continued waiting patiently for ten minutes, after which I called to leave a voicemail. I had no response at all that day, so I sent off an email late Monday asking to reschedule. The HR contact had an autoreply saying that the person was away and that should there be an urgent message, to call him on his cell phone (number included).

Is this type of behavior normal? Should I expect any kind of closure from this quasi-interview?

Judging from my mail, it’s more normal than it should be. It’s obviously incredibly rude and inconsiderate, and it indicates that the employer is disorganized too.

You did the right thing by calling when they didn’t call at the scheduled time, and then by following up in email. I would follow up a couple of more times reiterating your interest in rescheduling. However, brace yourself from not hearing back from them, as may happen if they are rude, which we already know they are, and have spoken with enough other candidates that they’re now done with phone interviews. And for that matter, be braced for them calling you again two weeks later after you’ve already written them off. Because what you know about these people for sure is that they are going to be sloppy and unprofessional in the way they handle the hiring process.

Now, does that indicate that you shouldn’t pursue a job with them if they do get back in touch? I’d love to say yes, but the reality is that job-seekers don’t always have that luxury. It’s also true that it’s possible that this one person’s incompetence isn’t representative of the rest of the company. I wrote a couple of months ago about some options for handling this; you can read it here. Good luck!

{ 9 comments }

Deirdre March 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm

I realize that the majority of employers are probably rude but I would just like to suggest that perhaps something awful happened to the person who had scheduled the interview. It could also be possible that the person is no longer with the company.

I have over time had people not show up for interviews. I always call – and preface it with a 'concern' for the candidate. There have been times when candidates have been in car accidents or had a death in the family.

If you know anyone else in the company, or if there are other people in HR, it might be worth an email.

Unemployed Gal March 7, 2010 at 4:38 pm

“It's also true that it's possible that this one person's incompetence isn't representative of the rest of the company.”

It is possible that everyone else at the company is a top performer. However, a manager that permits the incompetent behavior of a single employee is a bad manager, and probably incompetent himself. If the company culture is complacent about performance, it’s only a matter of time before the good employees start slacking off too.

The OP’s best case for this company is that they finally fired that HR moron, and that’s why the OP never heard back.

However, competent departments have back up plans in case an employee has an accident/funeral/termination. Even if it’s just a secretary sending a mass email the next day apologizing for the inconvenience.

That’s two strikes against the company by my count. I wonder if they’ll go for three and lose the OP’s application, too.

NoCallBack March 7, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Thanks, AAM! You confirmed what I had been pondering for a while. The posts you linked to were also very helpful. I will definitely try to uphold a level of assertiveness that is both respectful and mindful of the other person.

@Deirdre – That was also something I considered as well. I also find it particularly difficult to express my concern as I am not sure what is going on/has happened — I sincerely hope that he has not encountered any unforeseen difficulties should that be the case.

That said–would either of you think it is appropriate to reach out via a contact made at a job fair indicating concern for said recruiter?

Thanks again!

Anonymous March 7, 2010 at 10:14 pm

I hope too that it wasn't something as stupid as a time zone misconnect. I've worked with people on both coasts (and between) and sometimes there is a mix up on exactly when the meeting is to take place. Worse – some places don't go on daylight saving time, so depending on the time of year their time zone could be the same as yours, or one hour off.

A competent HR person should know this, but mistakes can happen. In this case, with an out of office autoreply, something strange is going on.

I work for a great company BTW, but our HR department has been pretty lame in the past. I consider it to be the weakest part of the company. Unfortunately, we've lost some great people because of them. Fortunately, upper management finally noticed and is fixing it.

Deirdre March 7, 2010 at 10:25 pm

OP, I would definitely reach out to any contact you have at the company. Did you try the HR person's cell phone that was listed in the bounce?

Even with the strikes, I think it's worth trying to reach someone. It can't hurt. If you get answers, then you can decide if the job/company is worth pursuing.

TheLabRat March 7, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Since you've gotten good advice from everyone else, I'd just like to say, again, how much I hate phone interviews. I've never had one call at the scheduled time, of the 30 or so I've had scheduled over the years. My favorites are the ones that inform you via email that you should remain home for two days in the event they call for a phone interview (and that not doing so was immediate grounds for disqualification). Several departments of the State of California (Sacramento branches) pulled this when I was applying for administrative positions.

Seriously, there are not words for how much I have come to hate the idea of the phone interview. Which is too bad; reading how AAM describes the process, it sounds like a good idea that I've just seen executed poorly to redundancy.

Kate Hutchinson March 19, 2010 at 3:52 pm

I'm so glad I read this post… Just today I had a phone interview scheduled for 11:30. I didn't get a call, so I called the number (after ten mins) I was given by the scheduler, got voicemail. I combined some of your advice with comments, and left a message. I left my number and name, the name of the person who was supposed to call, apologized if it was my error in not calling them (although the email said they would call me), and also added I hope there wasn't an emergency on your end, I'd be happy to reschedule. We'll see how it goes!

Anonymous May 10, 2011 at 7:19 am

I was speaking to a recruitment agent about an interview with her exclusive client. This discussion went on for a week. A time and date was set, I went out of my way to ensure that all time zones were correct and I spent several hours due diligence.
The company didn’t call. The agent responded neither to emails or voice messages. The company didn’t respond to a wonderfully worded email.
I gave them another day and I told them my opinion in an email – no swearing or profanity, very politely pointing out the major fault in their hiring process. Lucky for them that they weren’t within striking distance.
I am sick of people dumping on me like this and I am not prepared to let it pass them by.

Anonymous February 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm

I’ve had about 20 interviews over the past two months. The most reputable company had the most irresponsible HR person contact me. #1, she suggested three times for a phone interview the next day and failed to respond to me when I immediately responded with a preferred time. She popped back up five business days later (no, she had not died!) and suggested another time. Due to the reputation of the company, I gave it another go. I interviewed, it went well, and then she said she would contact me with next steps to get me into the office for the next week. Then she disappeared again!

Another place suggested a time and then never confirmed but the day he suggested the time he emailed me to say something came up. I was annoyed but agreed to meet another day at a particular time on a particular day. ON that day, he wrote back to say something came up. I withdrew my app via email and then he replied asking me to reconsider. He did not even apologize! I finally did reconsider because he pitched the company hard. I did my interview with him and he was so arrogant and so cold. Since he’s the head of the HR group and he’s been there two years, it HAS to be representative of the culture- not just one bad seed.

Oh… another one? After an interview, the guy who interviewed me emailed me to ask me out. I mean – they never even got back to me about the job and all I get is an email from him asking if we can go out?

Unbelievable! Okay – that was a good vent session…

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