when your interview is scheduled for 3:32, exactly

A reader writes:

My fiance and I put in for a Loss Prevention Manager position. We both work overseas with the military. This field deals with fraud, waste, abuse, and theft. We were both scheduled an interview for that position, which is just fine, but what we do not understand is the times we were scheduled. I’m not sure if this is some sort of trick for the upper people when interviewing candidates but I find it odd.

*I was scheduled for 15:32 or (3:32 PM).

*She was scheduled for 16:47 or (4:47 PM).

….why the 32 and 47 minutes after the hour? I don’t get it. Clearly they are aware of what they are doing but their intentions are what I’m interested in. I’m writing to ask you, and possibly find this out on my own, what you think they are up too. I would love to know before finding out I didn’t pass some sort of secret test I wasn’t aware of.

My first (and only) thought is that they’re testing your ability to be punctual, in a really precise and specific way.

It’s a little tricky, though, because most people show up 5-10 minutes early for an interview. In this case, these odd to-the-minute times make me think that if you feel like playing this game, you should still get to the location early to allow yourself a buffer, but not walk in the door until just a moment before the scheduled time. (And make sure your watch is calibrated to the second…)

But I find it odd and possibly off-putting. Anyone else know what this is about?

{ 28 comments… read them below }

  1. Martin Birt*

    Frankly this seems to be a bit of immature testing. In 30+ years in the HR business and more interviews than I can accurately count, I’ve never seen this. As a candidate for employment my antennae would be up. Are they going to treat me as an adult?

  2. Christopher Allen-Poole*

    I’ve actually seen this as a policy for *internal* meetings (and the company I can think of which followed this policy was lead by some rather intelligent fellows). It is done because people have a tendency to remember odd-ball times better than “1:30”. If this is one such place, then perhaps it is for internal issues not for the job interview process.

    Either way, show up so that you can walk in on time. It isn’t something to worry about.

  3. Kate*

    One thought that occurred to me is that the obscure times might not have anything to do with the applicants.

    Since we are talking about a military setting, it may be that the person who scheduled the interviews did so on behalf of a more senior officer, with competing demands on his or her time. So the organiser might have developed a very precise schedule for the interviewer, giving his/her senior officer exactly enough time to get from a to b to c, etc.

    If it were me, I would consider going back to the contact person and just double-checking that it’s ok to turn up 5-10 minutes before the allocated time.

  4. Katy O*

    Maybe they are trying to squeeze in a certain number of interviews in a day and each is only allowed 30 minutes with a few minutes in between. Or maybe they are just eccentrics who are messing with your head. Can’t wait to hear more.

  5. KayDay*

    This reminded me of my high school bell schedule, where we had 4 minutes between classes so all classes had weird times…something like 12:13 – 12:53. Perhaps they have some sort of pre-set schedule, as Katy O said, maybe 30 minutes per slot and 2 minutes buffer time.

    Still weird though. In my experience, people tend to round times down to the nearest 15 minutes (or 5 minutes, if they are more precise), so even if you say, let’s meat at 7:34, they will remember 7:30.

  6. Alan*

    Best way to be sure, call up and ask why…saves you thinking about this quirk rather than what’s really important and that’s preparing for the interview itself!

    I can’t see you being ‘marked down’ so to speak for just asking about the specific timings?

  7. Jo*

    I think you should consider how you would react if you only had the knowledge of your own letter & how you would act on that. ie you know they’ve done it deliberately but if you only had one letter you might consider it a typo or mistake? Therefore you would likely confirm the time with them.

    It may be some kind of test to see what you do when something doesn’t seem quite right. Might be a bit of a silly test but maybe a relevant skill for the field you are applying for?

  8. Henning Makholm*

    My first thought, perhaps silly, is that the strange times could be rounded from 15:32:30 and 16:47:30, in which case they would be scheduling interviews on multiples of 1/24 hour.

    Unfortunately, with 30/24 hours between the two known data points there’s no good way they could be part of a regular schedule that aligns with a whole hour somewhere in sight — unless each interview is expected to last only 12½ minutes and the interviewer goes home at 17:00 …

  9. EngineerGirl*

    If they are doing investigations, maybe it is a test that they notice the little things that are slightly “off”. I’m thinking of the book “The Cuckoos Egg” where the protaginist, Cliff Stoll decides to track down at seventy five cent computer accounting error. This turned out to be an unauthorized user that had spent 9 seconds on the system. By the time the story was over, it involved the N SA, a huge espionage ring in Germany, and the KGB.
    If you are trying to find root cause of an error, the little whispers matter.

  10. Anon Engineer*

    It could also be that this is 3:30 + 2 minutes and 4:45 + 2 minutes. The scheduler might build in a 2 minute break to allow for coffee/filing papers/calls of nature.

    What I find weird is the 30 past the hour and 45 past the hour. If they’re on the same day (the OP didn’t say) then that’s 1:15 between them, which seems long for 1 interview and short for 2.

    If the’re on different days, I’d call to confirm the time of YOUR interview, no mention of the fiancee, and go with a positive attitude.

  11. Aaron*

    I’d bet the first afternoon interview is 1:02 for some reason (no idea why)–and then the interviews are at regular intervals (1 hour interviews with 15-minute breaks, or 45-minute interviews with no break, etc), putting interviews at 1:02, 2:17, 3:32, 4:47.
    Or there’s a 2 minute break somewhere (for the interviewer to send some super-important daily e-mail, say).
    Or Chris is right and that’s how this company schedules interviews.

    No matter what, I wouldn’t worry about it–show up a few minutes early, just as you usually would. Treating this as a test and trying to show up exactly on time seems like putting too much emphasis on this–make sure to be on time, and focus on the interview, not the start time.

  12. Mel*

    This is a GS position? Or something else on the civilian side of the government. These jobs and interviews are often 100% computerized – this is how the computer does it/did it or is programmed to do it. I would show up 5 minutes early as always and perhaps ask in the interview but youare making a mountain out of a mole hill and it sounds likes (based on your post) that you have military experiences so you should be used to it at this point. I don’t think I’ve ever had a normal clinic appt time on base in 11 years.

  13. Phideaux*

    Myself, I would just show up at the appointed time, and ask about the odd time at the interview. My concern would be so much about the time of the interview, but if I should get the job, would I have a weird, rigid schedule like having to be at work at 7:56, lunch at 12:03, go home at 5:05-1/2?

  14. Clobbered*

    Yeah, I am pretty sure this is an indication that they have an internal scheme of starting meetings two minutes later than the “ordinal” points so that people whose meetings finish at the ordinal points have two minutes to get to their next meeting.

    Alternatively (and I have seen this) they have a big interview day and are expecting boatloads of candidates through the door so they scheduled arrivals by the minute, not necessarily because they expect everybody to walk in at the right minute (nobody does that) but because it gives a natural order by which to deal with people (“who is the 3:47? Okay next, 3:48?”)

    Another possibility is that they are dealing with some totally brain dead scheduling software that won’t allow them to schedule three candidates at once, so they work around by adding an extra minute.

    Never suspect malice when incompetence provides a sufficient explanation. I doubt it is a mind game.

  15. Anon Manager*

    The more interesting question is what happens if you show up exactly on time and they are not ready.

  16. Anonymous*

    This made me think what if the applicant has some questions to ask; how would they know exactly how long the interview is going to last?

  17. Brian*

    Applying for a job that deals with fraud, waste, abuse, and theft requires attention to detail. Go ahead and ask about the odd time – it should be the first thing out of your mouth to break the ice.

    It shows you’re paying attention to those details and it gets the question off your chest.

  18. majigail*

    I work in a radio setting and there’s very specific things that people have to be present at the control board for usually at the half hour and hour marks. We’ll schedule volunteer interviews at these times, but give them a heads up that we’ll be a few minutes late getting to them. I can’t think of any parallels in lose prevention, but maybe there are some.

  19. Joey*

    Am I the only one that’s thinks it’s a little weird that both the op and his fiancé are applying for the same position? I know I’d feel pretty guilty if I got the job at my spouses expense.

  20. Anonymous*

    We use Lotus Notes applications for our email and scheduling meetings. It’s not uncommon, if you open the meeting planner at 8:47 to set up the meeting, that the choices you get to schedule with will be off…meetings that start at 9:17, or 10:32.

    It’s simple to fix, but perhaps an inexperienced person scheduled the meetings.

  21. Derrick*

    I think Aaron is on the right track. Because meeting (and interviews) tend to be scheduled back-to-back, they usually start two minutes after the start time. This not only accounts for human nature (i.e., people who tend to run late to meetings), but also accounts for “elevator time”–time need to travel between meetings and for meetings that run a wee bit over time. Not to mention the need for the occasional “bio break” or a quick minute to check voice mail or email. My guess is the odd schedule times is a quirky (and innovative) way this organization has decided to culturally encode the need to provide a buffer time between meetings.

    Personally, I think it’s a really cool way to solve for these issues, if this is the case. But eventually, folks will simply incorporate the buffer time into their thinking, and you’re back to square one. The root problem is the ability of the meeting (or interview) organizer to manage the time available to him or her.

    I worked at a company that mandated meetings be 20 mins, and could only start on the :00 or :30 of the hour. (Training and other “special” meetings were exempted.) The CEO was known to walk out of a meeting at the 20 minute mark, with the feedback to the meeting organizers to be more focused the next time.

    It seems harsh, but it worked. People were forced to ask what needs to be accomplished given such a “short” amount of time for meeting. The number of meetings was reduced dramatically. Use of collaboration technologies like Microsoft Sharepoint and Instant Messenger went up. The meetings that did occur were laser-focused and rarely went over 15 mins. When a meeting appeared on your schedule, you knew it was important and that you needed to be well prepared for it. Working for a different company now, I now see that this approach was about respecting people’s time. Disrupting people’s schedule with a meeting really should be because there is no other or better way to accomplish the work.

    The time constraints applied to interviews, too. Interviewees often said it was nice to have a break between interviews, and that the interviewers were well prepared and didn’t ask “BS” questions.

  22. Anonymous*

    A coworker of mine does this exact thing. Apparently it’s just superstition or OCD like people who need the volume on their tv or stereo set on an even number only.

  23. David*

    Everything went ok. I still can not figure out why the times but the interview was with an Area Manager & a Region Manager both of whom have a Military type mind set because they were military previously. The interview was intense and almost felt as though I was being interviewed because I just committed a crime as oppose to interviewing for a job. Thanks everyone for the comments.

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