how do you handle bad employer behavior while job searching?

Back in August, I posed the question: How late is too late for a job candidate to arrive for an interview? It generated interesting comments from interviewers on how much lateness they’ll tolerate and why, and from job seekers with thoughts of their own.

Yesterday, a reader named bawigga contributed this comment:

To flip the tables a bit, as we speak I’m waiting for my third round interview call with a company. Every call I’ve had with this company is late. The first was a no call/no message. The HR rep said they got busy and rescheduled for the next day. That time they called on time. The second round was half an hour late calling due to timezone differences. Now I’m on the third round call and they are exactly 1 hour past call time. The HR rep is in EST, interviewers are in MST and I’m in CST. This is a very reputable company in my industry, but this is starting to throw up some red flags for me.

Part of me wants to think that these are busy people who have to take time out of their busy schedules to interview potential candidates, but at the same time, this could be a reflection of how meetings and punctuality is all the time at this place.

I’m a big believer that the way you’re treated during the interview process tells you something about how you’ll be treated as an employee. Maybe this isn’t intentional rudeness, but then it’s incompetence/disorganization. It doesn’t bode well.

On the other hand, it’s possible the problems are confined to HR and wouldn’t impact you much working in some other department if you got the job. But I’m pretty skeptical that a great culture would produce this.

So what do you do in this situation (assuming you have some options and aren’t desperate, which is going to have to become my standard disclaimer in this market)? Part of me thinks the answer is to go through the process with them, patiently putting up with this, and if you get the offer, you can address it then as you think about whether to accept or not. Why not say, in a conversation about the offer, something like: “I always think you can learn a lot about a company’s culture by their hiring process. I noticed that scheduled calls with me during this process were nearly always significantly late, and sometimes didn’t come at all. Mistakes happen, of course, but how common is this kind of thing in your culture?”

It’d require a certain ballsiness and a willingness to irk them, but I’d love to see the results … especially if a lot of candidates starting calling employers on behavior like this, once they got to the offer stage.

{ 24 comments… read them below }

  1. Andrea*

    My brother recently went through a similar situation with an employer, and did, in fact, call them on it. The response he got was generally positive (which is to say they agreed they had treated him poorly but that it wasn't a normal thing), and he went forward with the offer and started to work at his new job just last week.

    The best thing about his having done so is that at least his new employer knows that he notices such things, and hopefully, they will deliberately treat him better in the future.

    So at the moment, it seems that this approach worked out well. However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this kind of thing definitely has to be handled tactfully and calmly, and perhaps only when the treatment has been quite bad. One failure to return a phone call – especially if they eventually get back to you – might not be worth it. But a demonstrated history of disorganization during the application process, or a lack of respect for your time as a candidate, would be cause for me to say something to somebody.

  2. Anonymous*

    One time, I was interviewing for a receptionist/administrative assistant position. Just out of school, trying to find work in a terrible job market. I'd had other similar jobs before, but nothing directly related to my career. This wasn't really, either, but I was looking for ANYTHING. So the interviewer is going over my resume and he says, 'So have you had any REAL jobs?'

    I couldn't decide if he was misreading my resume, or being an asshole, so I said, 'I like to think ALL of my past jobs have been "real" jobs.'

    I guess I'm glad I didn't get that job.

  3. Elizabeth*

    I'd think that the time zones were the problem, except that Outlook eliminates the timezone problem. If you are using some sort of conferencing service (Gotomeeting or similar) this will use Outlook as well. I don't think this is the reason. I think it's cultural and a clue that you don't want to work there. Your promised raise will take weeks/ months. Imagine the nightmare with payroll or benefit problems. This seems to be a gift of foreshadowing, and a company to stay away from.

  4. Becky*

    I went through a hiring process that lasted 6 months from first call to start date. During that time there were weeks when I had no idea what was going on and I interviewed with a number of people who had nothing to do with the job I applied for.
    I accepted the job and it has turned out well, but AAM was right: the hiring process was certainly representative of much about the company culture that still drives me nuts – disorganisation, lack of communication, painfully slow decision making involving far too many people.

  5. Class factotum*

    I had a similar situation where the director (not HR – HR was mostly fine, although they put us in a hotel far from downtown without any transportation for a weekend visit – what was that about?) who was conducting my phone interview blew me off at least once and maybe twice (it's been over ten years) without any notice.

    Yes, it was a huge red flag I should not have ignored because the job turned out to be a nightmare, but I had been looking for work for over a year and was desperate. I worked at this place for a year and a day and in that time, my department of 15 had over 100% turnover, so it wasn't just me.

  6. Unemployed Gal*

    I agree with Elizabeth and the others. Just as the candidate is on his best behavior to sell himself to the company, the company is also on its best behavior to woo the candidate (unless they think that the candidate sucks). If this companys most impressive effort involves screwing up something as simple as a phone call three times in a row, imagine how crappy the communication will be when youre an employee and they dont care about impressing you anymore.

    Time zones are not that confusing, and a company large enough to span multiple time zones should have figured out how to schedule around them by now.


  7. Anonymous*

    The most likely outcome of following this advice is that you'll be labeled a whiner and won't even get an opportunity to hear an offer. Better to keep your mouth shut and weigh your options if you get an offer. Doesn't mean you have to accept it. And just getting the offer will do wonders for your state of mind if you do get an offer and decide to turn it down. If it makes you feel better you can always tell them why ur turned it down.

  8. Anonymous*

    Question for everyone – I have been through 2 in-person (multi-party) interviews with a company, the second one being two weeks ago. The HR Director called me yesterday morning, but I was unable to pick up. Her message simply said to call her back, which I did 10 minutes later (left a message) and again 5 hours later (no message). As of this afternoon I have still not heard back. I'm not sure how to take this – move on because she just forgot to ultimately deliver the bad news, or hang on because she's busy but trying to make an offer?? So confusing – if I had heard nothing, I would have just moved on…

  9. Anonymous*

    This has happened to me so many times! One time in particular, I was interviewing by telephone with a company in Portland, OR. I live in Boston, MA. I waited and waited… then finally called the interviewer myself. She claimed she tried calling me several times, but I didn't answer. Yeah right. What happened is that she dialed 503 as an area code, which is what is Portland's, as opposed to 508 for Boston, which is also on my resume!

  10. Natalie K*

    I had a similar situation happen to me and I do believe the interviewing process is directly related to the companies culture, but in this economy you cannot be too picky.

  11. Tara*

    As a former recruiter, and I think a very responsive one, I can say that mistakes happen. I once had to formally reprimand an assistant who couldn't get time zone issues right and got one candidate's scheduling wrong three times. Of course I wasn't going to tell the candidate this. I was, however, very apologetic and made a point of saying that this was in no way indicative of the way we did business as a company, but I appreciated their tolerance/flexibility, etc. Then I made extra sure to follow up with the candidate promptly on process steps, and talk with him personally when he was declined for the position.

    In other words, mistakes happen. If the interviewer apologizes and is sincere (you will know, believe me), then I think it speaks well for you as a candidate that you can have some tolerance for imperfection. If, however, they blow it off, or don't acknowledge it at all, then I agree with others who have said this may be an indication for how things are done. Even in this economy, it's in your best interest to make educated decisions about the type of company & culture you're getting into.

  12. Anonymous*

    Good info but sometimes the selection process wont even commit the quality of professionals at such point interview assessment will help to deliver higher selection rates. any comments?

  13. Unemployed Gal*

    @Kerri: I would assume it took clueless HR 30 minutes to realize that EST and CST are different and that they missed the call.

  14. Anonymous*

    My advice…pay close attention to _who_ is the one who screwed up. In my company, the HR recruiter that brought in me and most of my co-workers was horrible – getting dates wrong, showing up late, leaving reference checks for the last minute and then blaming the candidate – but her behavior had nothing to do with the people I work with. I've never seen her again. Notice if who makes the mistakes is a boss or co-worker, or an admin or HR person you'll never have to work with.

  15. TheLabRat*

    Phone interviews have become an instant red flag for me at my level of employment (just your basic admin asst.). I have never once had one call me on time, nor even bother to call to reschedule. They just randomly call me at the wrong times.

  16. Anonymous*

    I know that employers think in this job market they can treat people however they choose. I for one am sick of it!!!!

    Recent experience: 2 telephone interviews, progressed to a face to face. It was 3 hours long with 3 different people. I followed up a week later to get an update. I was told they would make a decision within a week, and I would be notified either way.

    Did I even get an e-mail or a post card? NO. If that is how they treat people, I don't want to work there.

    So, I wrote a letter to the CEO. I doubt that it will get to him or if it does that he will read it.
    However, I said my piece!

  17. Anonymous*

    I had a good internship offer and they asked me when a good time for an interview would be… and then they never called back, after I responded with my free hours available.

    This had never happened… It confused me to the point where I waited the whole week and nothing came by. So I sent them an email, politely saying I was now going to be busy but was open to rescheduling for the future, and pretty much wrote them off in my head. Did I do the right thing? I don’t know. Doesn’t matter.. Its too late to take it back any way haha!

  18. DIY Madam*

    Today, I was stood up for a telephone interview. I called the admin who coordinated the call and she was surprised to hear the the call wasn’t in session. She spoke to the hiring manager and other staff member who were supposed to call me and had tons of apologies and they rescheduled for a couple hours later. Of course, I accepted the new time. This has never happened to me before and in this case I really don’t think that it was a malicious act on their part, but it does make you question the people involved and the organization as a whole. We shall see what happens next. Thank you for allowing me the chance to vent.

  19. looking for a job is a job*

    I received an email to schedule a phone interview during a two-hour time window that is convenient to the HR. I replied with my time preference. When it was time for the interview, there was no call. I called her after five minutes, she said she didn’t receive my email reply and she was busy at the time. Then, she rescheduled her time with me again for the next day. I wrote her an email to confirm our time immediately after the call and she confirmed the time in the email. When it was time for our rescheduled call, there was still no call. I called her again after waiting for 5 minutes. It was put into her voice mail. I emailed to follow up with her but no response thereafter.

  20. Missllah*

    In my experience the hiring process is farily indicative of the company culture. I am currently waiting over 40 minutes for a scheduled telephone interview. The hiring manager, never greeted me in any of our e-mails. She just started writing, and she never signed them either… Just an auto message with her phone number and title.

    Based on that, I should have guessed it.

  21. x*

    I received a phone call from a hiring manager asking me to come in for an interview for a large company. I showed up on time and told the receptionist who I was and that I was there to meet with the hiring manager. She gave me a deer-in-headlights look and told me to have a seat. A bunch of people came in the receptionist’s area and a guy said, “She’s not in today” (referring to the hiring manager). I saw and heard them talking on the phone with the hiring manager, and finally the guy came out and told me, “Yeahhh…..she’s not here. Her kid got sick and nobody had your resume to call and cancel. She’ll call you next week to reschedule.” I thought it was odd that she couldn’t forward an email (which I sent her the day before since she requested examples of my work) with my contact information, or even my resume, to the receptionist to call and cancel the interview before I drove 30 miles that morning. I politely thanked everyone there and left. I sent an email that Monday (the interview was supposed to be on Friday) saying that I hoped her child felt better and that I would like to reschedule the interview at her convenience. No response. I called the next day to see if I could reach her at her desk but there was no answer so I left a voice mail. No response still, so on Friday I called and of course, no answer again. I left another voice mail (all very polite). It’s not Wednesday – almost two weeks after the initial interview – and I still have heard nothing. I find this so rude and I’m very annoyed I was blown off before I even had the interview!

  22. Nolan*

    I have been scheduled three times for a telephone interview with someone who is part of a hiring team. I have interviewed with all of her colleagues and she is the last person for me to talk to in order to get to the next stage.
    The recruiter’s assistant has assured me each time that the phone call is going to happen. After the second no-show telephone interview I very diplomatically asked what the timeline was for the hiring of the position. The only response I got was to have the telephone interview re-scheduled a third time, only to have a no-show AGAIN.

    This is pretty frustrating as it is a huge company and a great opportunity for me. All of the other people I interviewed with were great, this one woman supposedly keeps committing to the interview but then doesn’t follow through! I spent the weekend assuming that they had just moved ahead with someone else, until I heard from the recruiter on Monday who wanted to reschedule.

    I’m pretty frustrated, and will once again send a diplomatic email to the recruiter who set up the interview. Makes me wonder if this is some kind of weird test because it’s hard to believe the anyone would be so rude three times in a row!

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