how long should you wait when a hiring manager doesn’t call you when scheduled to?

by Ask a Manager on February 22, 2013

A reader writes:

Could you please give your advice on calling etiquette with a potential hiring manager?

I had scheduled via email a time to speak with the hiring manager to address a particular point that they’d asked for clarification on after my first interview. In this case, the hiring manager had responded saying she would be available between X and Y hours, and when should she call me? I’d suggested a time and stated my phone number. I didn’t hear back and when the stated time came, no call. I waited 20 minutes before calling her. It turns out she had been caught up in a last-minute meeting and we rescheduled, so all turned out fine this time.

However, this isn’t the first time I’ve been faced with such a situation, and I’m really interested to know what the suggested etiquette is in cases like this. Do I assume the hiring manager is simply running late and continue to wait for the call, or that I should be the one to call? If so, what’s a reasonable “waiting time” before I call?

Aggggh, it’s so rude when this happens. It would be one thing if it only happened for truly legitimate reasons — which I’m defining as a situation where they’d do the same thing to a colleague or a client* — but it happens way more frequently than that, and sometimes they don’t bother to get back to the candidate to reschedule at all. It’s hugely rude.

The tricky part, of course, is that when it happens to you, you don’t know whether you’re dealing with plain old rudeness or whether they really might be legitimately caught on a call with their boss that they’re trying to wrap up, or what.

In any case, though, it’s not reasonable for you to have to sit around waiting and wondering for some indefinite period of time, so wait 15-20 minutes and then call them. Say something like, “We had a 3:00 call scheduled and I’m checking in since I haven’t heard from you. Would you like to reschedule or is now a good time to talk?” If you get voicemail, change that last sentence to, “I’d love to talk with you; I’ll send you an email to see when we can reschedule.” (And then do.)

And seriously, everyone involved in hiring — recruiters, hiring managers, HR — stop doing this. It’s rude.

* I will note that plenty of us manage to never do this to colleagues or clients, so I don’t totally buy that there’s ever a legitimate reason to miss a scheduled call without advance warning to the other person. But enough other people do it that I’m willing to allow the possibility.

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Carrie in Scotland February 22, 2013 at 7:52 am

Alison – I wonder if people are not seeing this or the other letter as more comments are coming in on the OP with the father question and this 1 and the other OP don’t have any posts! I think it’s rather strange….

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Meghan February 22, 2013 at 9:06 am

This one came through on my RSS feed in the middle of the night so I’m sure now that it’s morning, people will start replying.

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Ask a Manager February 22, 2013 at 11:01 am

Periodically there’s a post that gets hardly any comments and I end up feeling like I’m having a conversation with myself. It’s quite sad.

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Carrie in Scotland February 22, 2013 at 7:53 am

I’m sorry OP, that I don’t have any other additional advice to offer you but AAM, as always seems right on the money.
Good luck, I hope you get a hold of the manager soon!

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Jamie February 22, 2013 at 8:03 am

I can’t remember a time where I’ve blown past an appointment without notice – even in an emergency.

I’ve certainly been ankles deep in something and asked the receptionist to please shoot an email or call so and so to let them know we need to reschedule – which isn’t her job but it’s rare when I need the favor so she doesn’t mind.

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Sascha February 22, 2013 at 8:37 am

I’ve asked our receptionist, or even coworkers before, if I truly could not get to my email to let someone know I needed to reschedule. They appreciate ANYTHING. I know some people think, I’ll just have this wrapped up in a few minutes and I don’t need to reschedule or let them know, but I think everything takes longer than you think it will, so it’s better to just let the person know – even a quick email to say, I’m going to be a little late, but we’re still meeting. Or something. Anything!!!

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-X- February 22, 2013 at 9:33 am

In the last several years, there was one case where I did it. We set up the appointment when I was running out the door or something so I forgot to put it in my calendar.

Pretty bad, though was an honest mistake, not arrogance.

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Anon February 22, 2013 at 8:11 am

Follow AAM great advice, but also brace yourself for the fact that you may never hear from this person again. This just happened to me in the past two weeks. Haven’t heard a word. Keep placing applications in the meantime.

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B February 22, 2013 at 8:52 am

Unfortunately, I have to agree with this now commonplace nonsense. Especially when they ask to do a phone screen, you give dates and times, and then they fall off the face of the earth. It is rude and reflects very poorly on your company!

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Anon February 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

Word. All it told me is that I probably don’t want to work there.

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Matthew Doyle February 22, 2013 at 8:52 am

When I’m hiring, I try to do my best to never leave a candidate hanging. I know how nerve-wracking the whole experience is.

One thing that happened to me which was rather embarrassing was I got a resume via recruiter, scheduled a call… and realized 2 minutes before the call I did not have a phone number! Total oversight by me! I frantically called the recruiter and ultimately never made the call until I followed up the next day. Lesson learned… make sure you have contact information before you schedule your meetings.

Worked out though, we ended up hiring the candidate.

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Long Time Admin February 22, 2013 at 8:57 am

As an admin, I’ve had more than one executive ask me to call someone because they’re stuck in a meeting (or whatever). I feel that if a meeting is running long, they have a break so people can check for calls, etc., and let people know what’s going on.

Good manners seem to be going the way of the button hook and buggy whips.

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Long Time Admin February 22, 2013 at 9:02 am

I posted before I read the comments above. It seems that people who frequent this site do have very good manners, and wouldn’t let someone just hang there waiting for a call. I think those of us who have been the one left hanging remember what it’s like and just don’t do that to others.

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ThatHRGirl February 22, 2013 at 10:07 am

Ugh, this happened to me last month (and I emailed AAM about it)… a hiring manager missed not one, we rescheduled it, and then he missed that one. I was particularly pissed because I had to schedule time away from my current job (using PTO, since HM couldn’t meet during lunch hours), drive off-site to a quiet location, and then sit there and wait 20 minutes only to have to drive back with no call.
When he finally did call me back, 2 hours after missed call #2 (when I was already back at work and had to scramble to find a private place to talk), he apologized for having a meeting run long and explained they were going to proceed with candidate’s they’d already had in the pipeline and that i’d be considered for future opportunities. WTF?

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ThatHRGirl February 22, 2013 at 10:08 am

wow, riddled with typos… my apologies! Cold medicine brain…

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KellyK February 22, 2013 at 10:15 am

WTF is right! I know it’s probably cold comfort, but if they can’t be bothered to cancel a phone interview when they’ve already picked a candidate, it sounds like you dodged a bullet anyway.

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ThatHRGirl February 22, 2013 at 10:48 am

Yeah not to mention I was interviewing for a job in the RECRUITING department where all they talked about was a “best-in-class candidate experience”. Yeesh!

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Anonymous February 22, 2013 at 11:05 am

Ah, I love those! I interviewed with a company for their HR/Recruitment department where they stressed giving each and every candidate a positive experience, keeping their employment branding positive, etc. The person I interviewed with said I would hear about a second interview within two weeks, no matter what. Three weeks later (after I followed up twice, via email) she finally said they decided to move forward with other candidates. I understand the “two weeks” is not a timeline set in stone, but I *do* expect when you say you’ll contact me no matter what (which I would think would be without my prompting), you’ll follow through.

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BW February 22, 2013 at 10:24 am

Luckily this has only happened to me once, and the person got an urgent international call at the last minute, which precluded them from calling me to let me know. I left her a message about 10-15 minutes in, and she called me back as soon as she was free. I’ve had some people call last minute to apologize something urgent came up and to reschedule. These things really should be few and far between though. If an HM finds themself in this position frequently, they probably need a lesson in Time Management 101.

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ThatHRGirl February 22, 2013 at 10:49 am

+1

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Jen February 22, 2013 at 11:01 am

I totally agree that it is rude to be exceptionally late for a scheduled call with a candidate. I can’t say that I have ever done that, however just to add to this information… when I had my first child, I went into labor a month early and had to leave work immediately. One of my co-workers tried to contact all of my appointments to let them know and reschedule them with himself for a later date, however many were not contacted until hours after their appointment had passed. Obviously this was an emergency situation and most candidates totally understood and rescheduled. However, when I got home from having the baby and listened to my voice mail messages… some of them were extremely rude and inappropriate. For instance, one candidate said that it was very rude that I blew her off and that if this is how my company does business, she wants nothing to do with us… so that being said, if you are a candidate and the HR person is running more than a few minutes late, be courteous because you don’t know what came up. Yes, my situation was extreme but in the HR world things like employee issues can pop up on a moment’s notice and really cause our day to get off track. Unfortunately, there are some HR people who are going to be rude and act like your time isn’t valuable, but give people the benefit of the doubt because you never know what happened.

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fposte February 22, 2013 at 11:31 am

That’s why “I hope everything is all right” is a great message when something doesn’t happen. It’s kind if something did happen and guilt-inducing when it didn’t.

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Anonymous February 22, 2013 at 11:05 am

Has anyone ever walked out on an in-person interview when the interviewer was late? Happened to me last week. I showed up right on time for an interview for a sales manager job, waited 40 minutes in a waiting room, meanwhile a guy who came in AFTER me (and I believe was interviewing for the same job) was called in. I really think the HR manager thought she could handle two interviews at the same time, or maybe she just double-booked. Doesn’t matter, I never heard an explanation or an apology.

In the time I was waiting, a few people walked past me, pointing at me and whispering to themselves. No idea what was going on there, but I’d seen enough. I left my paper application at the front desk, told the receptionist I was leaving, and walked out. They actually seemed shocked.

Never heard from that company again, and it’s just as well.

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Ask a Manager February 22, 2013 at 11:17 am

Good for you. I would have done the same.

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Natalie February 22, 2013 at 12:34 pm

The one time I was kept waiting for an unreasonable amount of time (at least 30 minutes with not apology or check in) I absolutely should have listened to my instincts and just left. It was the most rambling, inappropriate interview I’ve ever been in and, of course, I never heard back from the company. So frustrating.

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Rose February 22, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Yes! That actually happened to me before. However, I didnt walk out (Looking back, I totally should have). However, the hiring manager wasnt just late, she apparently had something more important to do and she left AND didnt even tell the recruiter… she just took off… the poor, embarrassed recruiter had to come out into the lobby and stutter through an “explanation” however, it was clear she was upset and frustrated. I had been sitting there for an hour. When I was contacted to reschedule, I politely declined. About 3 months later I saw the recruiter post to LinkedIn that she had moved on to another position with another company… good for her. I wouldnt want to deal with candidates being treated that way either.

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katydid February 23, 2013 at 2:40 pm

When I was hunting for my first job after college, I was very excited about getting an interview with a big national company for an entry level position… until they made me wait for over an hour in the reception area for the interview to start. It was a mess- the receptionist had to call around looking for the interviewer, who wasn’t at her desk.

It was awkward sitting there for so long and watching people come in and out of the reception area, looking at me curiously. Finally the interview happened and the interviewer seemed uninterested and bored. Of course, I didn’t get the job.

A few months later (after I’d been hired somewhere else), I heard that the company was bought out by a very famous American competitor and most of the Canadian employees were let go (or transferred to the US). It made me feel better for not getting the job!

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Nyxalinth February 22, 2013 at 11:25 am

I did have a recruiter suddenly blow me off and not get back in touch with me for two weeks. Finally he contacted me saying that everything had been good to go, but then stuff had happened with the client and his manager had left him out of the loop about it. So I thanked him for letting me know, but that I had moved on, because I needed a job like yesterday.

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Kay February 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I’ve been stood up twice for scheduled and confirmed phone interviews in the past week. Both times I sent an e-mail 15 minutes after the scheduled time just to say, “Hi, I’m ready when you are, if we need to reschedule just let me know.” The first time I got an e-mail thanking me for my patience, pleading emergency, and rescheduling; the second time, the phone rang 30 seconds later. Both worked out fine.

I did have an experience many years ago where an employer kept me waiting in the lobby almost TWO HOURS for an in-person interview for which I had arrived on time (i.e. 10-15 minutes before the hour, with time to go drink water and use the restroom before seeing the receptionist). I was too young and broke to realize that for the giant red flag it was, but that job and I only lasted four months.

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AG February 22, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I was going in for a second interview for a job, this time with the department head. The hiring manager called me 45 minutes before the interview was supposed to start to tell me that the dept head was sick and had to reschedule, and she hoped I wasn’t already on my way. I of course was polite and professional said I hoped the lady felt better and could reschedule soon.

I was super pissed though! I of course had spent the entire previous day prepping, all morning primping, and was only about 10 minutes away when I got the call (and I lived about an hour away at the time, so it was not an insignificant commute and I had just wasted train fare). Who cancels at the last minute? I can only assume that the woman contracted norovirus and was suddenly projectile vomiting which is why she had to cancel so last minute.

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Allison February 22, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Well, I’d rather it be postponed than have to interview with someone who’s contagious, and probably miserable an cranky, which may taint their impression of you.

But at least they called. I once showed up for an interview for a fantastic internship, only to sit there for 15-20 minutes before the assistant showed up and told me she *thought* the interviewer was out sick, but wasn’t sure. Then I was told she’d call me to reschedule. She never did, and while I probably could have reached out to her to reschedule, but I decided they were so disorganized and I didn’t want to work for them.

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Diane February 22, 2013 at 6:02 pm

I’ve had two phone interviewers miss the scheduled time. I waited 15 minutes to call one, who’d written down the wrong time.

The other called 10 minutes late, rambled excitedly about how great I was, and scheduled an in-person interview. That was rescheduled. And to segue into the other day’s “gut” post . . . . I arrived 10 minutes early and waited while the receptionist tried to track down anyone from the hiring committee. The head of HR finally came to me, took me from one conference room to another looking for the interviewers, and the fun began. Half of the people whose schedules HAD to be coordinated weren’t there, or they left through my presentation. After six hours and lots of walking and talking, the hiring manager met me again and talked nonstop for the last hour. Talk about gut feelings . . . . I wanted to cry. This company was SO GOOD on paper, and such a mess in person.

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Erik February 22, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Generally, I give them about 5-10 minutes after the scheduled time just in case they’re getting out of a meeting, going to the bathroom, getting coffee, walking to their office, etc.

After 10 minutes, I assume they flaked out and move on. I’ve had this happen to me more times than I can remember, and I keep a list of idiot hiring managers who failed Time Management 101.

I know that stuff happens, but at least have the courtesy to send an email, or even better, call me. I’ll be more than happy to reschedule. I appreciate those who reach out and do this.

It seems as if people are failing to respect other people’s time, and that’s very poor judgement.

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Kaitlyn February 22, 2013 at 11:34 pm

I recently had a hiring manager miss a phone interview because she was at the DMV. I waited twenty minutes and sent her an email. She finally called me over an hour after our call was scheduled to apologize and to say she had stepped out briefly. I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone who thought a trip to the DMV would be brief. To add to it, I had a second round interview with her a week later and was told I would find out the following week. It’s been going on week 3 (I know I know, things come up. But that first call tells me this isn’t a very punctual person).

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cncx February 23, 2013 at 5:33 am

One lesson I learned the hard way is that a company who does not respect your time as a candidate will not respect your time as an employee. I think most people would let one mistake slide, but with one employer, I think the hiring manager flaked on me three times. Then when I finally got the job, she was never available for meetings and then complained I needed too much supervision. If I were to interview for a job again, I would not take a job from someone who couldn’t even run an interview process smoothly.

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Chocolate Teapot February 23, 2013 at 7:03 am

I allow for the “quart d’heure academique” as the French put it. Basically up to 15 minutes to allow for urgent communications, trips to lavatory, pinning down colleague who makes the Yeti look like a regular in the gossip pages.

But I have had the people who don’t call when they say they will. In one case I had passed up on an excursion, so I was mightily cheesed off.

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Christine February 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

I completely recognize that last-minute things can crop up. I try to give the person the benefit of the doubt, especially when they genuinely acknowledge the inconvenience. However, when that is your first impression of a prospective employer, it’s hard to not be wary.

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Lisa C October 11, 2013 at 12:42 pm

I’m currently waiting for the hiring manager to call me and its been 40 minutes. I already work for this company in a different department and I’ve talked to this particular hiring manager before about the same job. But was told at that time the “my availability” didn’t work. I’m a bit confused about calling her back because i work at the department that would connect me with her extension and I don’t know her last name. My manager isn’t working today to clarify with. We just call her Brandi. Guess I’ll hope she calls. A little frustrated.

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Shirley November 21, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I was contacted by a recruiter at a large company yesterday about an entry-level job I applied for through their web site two days ago. They wanted to set up a phone interview for a few hours later that evening, but I was not available since I had to be at my current job and said that I had to work. We rescheduled for this morning at 10 am but I never got the call. After 10 minutes I called and got the voicemail, so I left a message. At 12:30 pm I still had not heard anything, so I called and left another voicemail message, clarifying the time again and seeing if we could reschedule or how we could proceed from here. The recruiter didn’t give me an email address or any other contact information, so I have no other way of getting in touch. I’d like to think there was some kind of emergency or miscommunication, but part of me is afraid they just went ahead and hired someone else. Ugh so aggravating.

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Rachel C December 9, 2013 at 2:22 pm

I am waiting on the 3rd (yes third!) scheduled phone interview with a hiring manager from abroad who is now.. oh let’s see… an hour late for our interview. I can’t call the manager because it was all set up through a recruitment agency so i do not have the contact phone. It’s been a nerve wracking week! First time this has ever happened to me…

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Confusedandseekingemployment January 30, 2014 at 8:31 pm

This just happened to me today. I went for my first interview with the company on Monday, had the second interview on the spot and then was told that I would get a call Thursday (that would be today) to schedule the third interview with the VP, who was on vacation. I realize now that that may have been a nice way of saying, “We’ll call you”, but at the same time it seems like an oddly specific time to give for a brush off. Anyway, working hours have come and gone and alas, no phone call!

Not only did both interviews go extremely well but they indicated I was a shoe in for the job. I realize some people in hiring situations are just really nice in person and don’t want to leave people with a bad taste in their mouth about the company but….I would rather just know if I got the job or not rather than agonizing about the job for days or weeks and expecting a phone call that never comes. Now, I’m not even sure I want to work with someone who doesn’t follow through on their promises (it’s a HUGE pet peeve of mine). I plan to call tomorrow (Friday) but what would AAM suggest in this situation?

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Lemonade February 25, 2014 at 2:34 pm

This just happened to me as well! And, this is the third time the phone interview has been rescheduled. At least for the first two times, the recruiter contacted me in advance to let me know something came up, and was quite apologetic about it. However, with this time I actually had to rearrange my schedule to allow for this phone interview, so I’m a little annoyed that I got stood up.

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