employer keeps rescheduling our phone interview – should I even bother?

A reader writes:

I am very frustrated. For the second time in two weeks, I’ve had my phone interview cancelled by the employer, just hours before the interview time. This is after twice staying up to “study” and getting bad sleep due to nerves, and also scheduling child care for my baby during the interview.

The woman emailed asking to postpone again, and frankly, I don’t feel very nice about it. What should I say? I’m not really sure I want to work at a place that has such little respect for other people’s time.

Yeah, it’s really rude and inconsiderate. And unfortunately, it’s not that unusual. Too many employers act as if candidates should be grateful that they’re even considering talking to them, forgetting entirely that they’re not doing candidates a favor by interviewing them; that candidate may turn out to be someone who they’re ultimately really eager to woo. It’s incredibly short-sighted, not to mention just a crappy way to treat people.

As for whether you should take this as a sign that you don’t want to work there:  Is the interviewer the hiring manager or someone else, like a screener in HR?  If it’s the hiring manager, you should absolutely be wary, because you can expect this kind of disregard for your time when you’re working for her, and I can promise you that it’ll be even more frustrating then. But if it’s someone in HR, it’s not as conclusive. I mean, obviously no organization should let anyone function that way so it might be a red flag in that regard, but it might not actually indicate much about what life in a different department would be like.

If you’re still interested in the job itself, I’d reschedule and then stay alert for additional red flags during the rest of the process. And once you’ve set up a new time, I’d say this to her: “I’ll be planning other appointments around our call, so would you please let me know as soon as you can if you end up needing to move it?” It won’t guarantee you courtesy, but it’ll at least prompt her to realize that you’re a person with your own schedule commitments.

{ 33 comments… read them below }

  1. CH*

    I had this issue with my current employer. Although, he wouldn’t actually let me know he wasn’t going to call.
    I had given my home landline number because I didn’t want there to be issues with hearing (although I later found out that he was using a mobile), so had to wait in for these calls. I was never given a specific time just “before” or “by” a time. I stayed in all day for 3 days but never got a call.
    Then one day I was told it would be before midday. After yet another missed appointment, me and my OH went out for lunch. At about 2pm, I had a call from the agency telling me that he tried calling “ten minutes ago”!
    I was frustrated but went home and finally spoke to him. I still work there now and not much has changed.
    I was told by one of my colleagues that he was kept waiting for 2 hours for his face to face interview!
    I’m a contractor and now it has gotten to the point that I won’t get paid for last weeks work despite me telling him there was a deadline for authorising it and the importance – it’s my money!

    So, after all that, you are lucky that she is letting you know but it is still totally unacceptable. However if you do end up getting the job and accepting it, be prepared to get use to this sort of thing.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For what it’s worth, in that situation I strongly recommend saying something like, “Can we narrow that down? I’ll be in and out that day (or I need to schedule other calls that day, or whatever) and I don’t want to miss your call.” If you ever find yourself waiting at home all day for an employer’s call, something wrong is happening.

  2. Anonymous*

    I think people often forget that an interviewee may also be a potential customer in the future. If you do not respect them as a job candidate, why the hell would they come to you later on as a customer? Where someone has a choice, they will opt to use the services of another company…perhaps one who treated them better when they interviewed for a job.

    In fact, the above can apply to the employer-employee relationship in many cases. I used to work in a grocery shop, and the manager there thought that swearing and screaming like a child throwing a tantrum was the best way to manage his staff. I couldn’t afford to leave the job at the time, but I made damn sure to buy my groceries elsewhere for the duration of my employment. Call me petty and vindictive, but I haven’t returned to give him my custom even though I left that particular workplace years ago.

    1. ncd*

      This is a great point. Not only do my bad job candidate/employee experiences inspire me to take my business elsewhere, but they also inspire me to tell everyone I know to do the same.

    2. Suzanne*

      So true! I got a position through a well known temp agency a while back, and it was one of the worst jobs I’d ever, ever had. I have now told anyone within shouting distance to avoid this agency like the plague as well as the company they placed me in. Glassdoor.com, you are my friend! I wrote up terrible reviews on both places.

  3. YALM*

    That’s horrible.

    Assuming it’s thea hiring manager that’s blowinga you off, if you really need a job–any paying job–then stick it out but keep looking. If you’re not in that situation, run.

    I could not imagine doing that to a candidate unless I’m on my deathbed or without an amazingly good reason. Still, I’d be irked with a candidate that kept trying to reschedule, and a candidate should be equally irked with me if I behaved this way.

  4. Erik*

    I had a similar experience with a company a couple of years ago. I was supposed to have a phone interview with the manager of a software group.

    The manager never called me. I contacted the recruiter, who informed me that they were in the middle of a software release at the time. Okay, fine. However, that didn’t go over well with me. I rescheduled a second time.

    This time the manager called, but 10 minutes in, he had to stop and deal with some issue. He told me contact the recruiter to reschedule.

    I told the recruiter that I was no longer interested in the job because he wasn’t being considerate of my time. Although I know that things do come up and I can understand, but if you’re expecting me to take time out of my busy day, then I expect the same from you as well. Couldn’t one of his folks have handled the issue? In any case, I declined and moved on.

    This type of behavior can tell a lot about a manager, and the company as well. I use the entire interview process as a “window” into an organization. If I don’t like it, then I run for the hills. This strategy hasn’t let me down.

    1. bill*

      if you’ve worked in software you might understand what can happen when you have a new release, a bug (especially a production blocker). It takes immediate precedence. It might have been an understaffed company so the manager had to take on the role of a support technician, otherwise lose a client…one shouldn’t make snap judgement.

  5. Wilton Businessman*

    Managers that don’t set aside dedicated time for hiring are making a big mistake. If you are interviewing with me, I expect _your_ undivided attention as I will be giving you mine.

  6. Anonymous*

    For once, I actually disagree with the crowd + AAM. Things do sometimes pop up that cannot be avoided and a software release (or a major bug) do trump a phone interview…especially in tech.

    I always call the candidate immediately and apologize profusely (and reschedule at their convenience) but it’s not always indicative of a manager who doesn’t respect peoples’ time. It doesn’t happen a lot that we need to reschedule and when it does, it’s a last resort but I would give the company the benefit of the doubt and see things through. Think of it this way…would you rather have a phone interview rescheduled so the interviewer is prepared and relaxed? Or would you prefer to have your interviewer racing to get through the call because something popped up that is a priority?

    I’d say if the recruiter/HR manager is super apologetic (and mortified), don’t hold it against the company.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree with you, actually. Things come up, people get sick, etc. But in the OP’s case, the interviewer did it twice in a row, which to me says it’s an issue of inconsideration. (Unless she was mortified and apologized profusely, but it doesn’t sound like that was the case.)

    2. Charles*

      “Things do sometimes pop up that cannot be avoided and a software release (or a major bug) do trump a phone interview…especially in tech.”

      I call bullsh*t! A software release is not something that “pops up.” it should be something that is planned. (I’ve been involved in too many software rollouts and releases to believe that they are things that just happen.)

      As far as other things that “pop up,” yea, things do happen unexpectedly; but happening more than once is a red flag to me. It is a sign of possible poor management; especially time management skills – if there are always “fires to be put out” then better planning needs to be done.

      That the interviewer TWICE wasted the job seekers time , IMO, speaks in a very loud volume that “you, job seeker, don’t matter!”

      Would this interviewer have done that twice to a paying customer? the answer, hopefully, is “not likely.”

      You can bet that this person would make sure that the meeting with the paying client was rescheduled to a time when things would not pop up. Do the same for job seekers.

    3. Kim Stiens*

      They could also be interviewing with someone like me… I’m still fairly new in my role in general, but recently hiring came to me as well, and I can definitely tell you that it’s much, much harder than I thought it would be. I would feel very bad if I had to reschedule an interview twice (and luckily, I haven’t had to), but I could see it happening, especially if I really had a lot going on one week and still needed to be moving the hiring situation forward.

      I know that when you’re unemployed waiting for responses, time stretches forever (I’ve been there). But on the hiring side, things can go super fast and you can end up in a situation where you realize something you put off for the next day actually needed to be done a week ago.

      Definitely be on the lookout for other red flags, as AAM says, but give them the benefit of the doubt for as long as is reasonable. :)

  7. Anonymous from 11:39*

    Disagree with you Charles. Things do pop up and in the real world (especially on a small team), they pop up frequently. The HR/scheduler called hours in advance so it shows that they were *trying* to be as considerate as possible.

    I’m horrified when this happens but it does happen and rarely, it happens twice to the same candidate and it’s mortifying. I hope this candidate gives them the benefit of the doubt and an opportunity to explain themselves. I always give candidates two freebies if they’re super apologetic. On the third no show/tardy, they’re out the door. I take the same approach when interviewing for a job on my own. And I’ll tell you…when candidates are really classy about things going awry, they get lots of bonus points.

  8. Jamie*

    ITA with Alison’s advice to differentiate between HR and the hiring manager.

    There are some great HR people out there, I work with one of the best, but some great jobs are hiding behind crappy HR screeners…and once you get past them, how often do you have to deal with HR?

    Well, unless you’re applying for a job in HR. In that case – be wary.

    1. Anonymous*


      If you had issues with our contract recruiter being sloppy, I’d tell you that you were making a mistake if you passed up our company because of her. Once you get hired, you never have to talk to her again :)

      But if it was our boss that you had issues with, well, he is the boss, and you won’t be avoiding him…

  9. Harry*

    The issue here sounds like the interviewee is too anxious about the interview and being stood up. On the flip side, you have more time to interview. I would view it this way, they are overloaded and that is the reason why they are hiring. I would just relax. This isn’t a sales gig they are trying to sell you.

    1. SAN*

      From my standpoint, rescheduling an interview twice is like rescheduling a business meeting twice. The business is saying to the interviewee they aren’t important and don’t value their time. Whether or not that is the business’ intention, that would be how I’d interpret it. On a personal note, I’m timely almost to a fault – so any place that reschedules twice on short notice isn’t somewhere I’d work.

  10. EHA*

    Going through something similar here. The only reason I am spending anymore of my time thinking about this is for the reasons some stated here—all of this has happened with the HR representative, not the hiring manager so maybe this behavior isn’t how the company as a whole is. However, it is beginning to border on (or maybe has crossed over into!) the ridiculous. Here is what has happened. First off, I got the initial phone call to set up a phone interview at 9:30 pm. I responded with time I’d be available the next day as requested and about 15 minutes before the time frame we’d agreed on was to expire, I got an email saying she needed to reschedule. Ok, so I sent her other times in the time frame she indicated that would work for me and I got absolutely no response to the email at all and no phone calls either. Several days go by and I get another phone call at around 9:40pm asking to set up the interview again and that she had been out of the office or something. So I got back to her letting her know the time she suggested worked for me. An hour before our scheduled phone interview, I got another email saying she needed to reschedule. So I think she has rescheduled three times now but I’m losing track! And the fact that she has called me twice at 9:30 pm or later seems very odd to me as well! I’m thinking she is extremely disorganized, overworked, unprofessional? I don’t know but something here isn’t right. I may give her one more shot but beyond that I’m moving on.

  11. Joe*

    Did they give you any indication of why they needed to reschedule? I know that in my office, we’ve had a horrible flu going around. I had to reschedule three phone interviews last week, because I was far too sick to make the calls. Almost half the people on my floor have been out sick at some point in the last week. And a week earlier, I almost had to cancel a phone interview at the last second, because the fire alarm went off five minutes before the scheduled time, and we had to evacuate the building. Luckily, it was a false alarm, and I was able to race back to my desk quickly to make the call.

    So stuff does happen, and if they give a good reason for why they needed to reschedule, I would cut them some slack. But they should be apologetic, and offer a reasonable explanation.

  12. Anonymous*

    Same thing has happened to me in past few weeks. The Dr asked me not to contact the office but him directly…twice he has scheduled an interview and cancelled both last minute but very apologetic. Last email was canceling apologetically asked if he can ask questions via email and to give him available times…so I did and a week has passed and nothing….what do I do? I really want this position and I’ve met w him once before as a customer… Suggestions???

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you really want the job and aren’t turned off by this, just follow up and tell him that you’re still very interested, understand he’s busy, and ask what you can do to help make it easier to talk.

  13. Anonymous*

    So I was contact thru a professional networking website to be recruited for a position for a large corporation.
    We had an email conversation for a couple days and then the HR manager asked to schedule a phone interview. We settled on Friday at 11. At 1125 I received an email asking to reschedule and when worked for me. I was glad they contacted me and replied with days and times on Friday, Mon and Tues. They contacted me after 6pm on Friday to schedule for Mon at 1pm. (an hour before I said I was available). I said yes, no problem! I used the time to prepare more and found someone to tend to the kids so I could be focused.
    At 1:30 I sent the HR manager an email stating that I had cleared my scheduled until 3pm that afternoon and asking if they would let me know when I could expect to hear from them.
    I have not heard back. I am realistic, I understand things happen. On Friday it was probably over scheduling, and perhaps today they are out sick? I am trying to remain optimistic. I do not want to write off the job, it is perfect. Because its HR and not a hiring manager, I tend to take it less personally. But I am disappointed and not sure what I should do next, if anything. Should I call in the morning if I have not heard back via email? I do not want to seem too eager, but because they sought me out, I am confident that they do want to speak to me.

  14. Anonymous*

    I’m currently in that situation. I’m on the West Coast and applied for a job on the East Coast. It’s for a very small consulting firm. I have the education, i.e. graduate degree, and two years experience, so it’s not like I’m applying for retail.

    I had a great first phone interview and then I was supposed to have a a second interview by phone with the president of that organization. Well, he had an emergency meeting in Moscow and it looks like he would be there for three weeks. They said I should hear from them the 1st of July, but I am wondering if I should send an e-mail, letting them know I am still interested. I have obviously applied to other places, but really would like this one.

  15. Wesley*

    Here is just the opposite situation – I did get the second interview after a phone interview except here’s the thing – I don’t know why. The phone interview did not go well. My technical skills were not up to the job requirements. I chalked it up to good experience and thought I’d never hear from them again. Now it turns out next week the managing director is fling in from abroad and will interview me (among others, who I assume have better tech backgrounds). I am preparing as best I can but just do not get the angle here at all. I am not currently employed and underqualified. Perhaps they are thinking they might be able to pay me half of what a qualified candidate would demand and give me intensive training as well as have me in ongoing classes to get my tech skills up to par? I’m not sure how much sense that would make.

    What to think?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Could be all kinds of things — bad interviewer, employer that’s unclear on what they need, a belief that you could be easily trained, or the thought that you might be good for a slightly different position. Remember, you can ask them questions too to figure out if it’s right for you!

  16. Anonymous*

    This is really late from the original post but I could understand having something come up twice unexpectedly, especially if there are multiple people involved in the phone interview process.
    Some places are required to have the EXACT same environment set (no divination). When you have a team interviewing and one person is unexpectedly ill, or has a family emergency then the person interviewing that day will not have the same chances as those who had the full team present. Is it odd to have it happen twice? Sure. Is it possible to have it happen twice? Yes.
    I work in a business where I had two appointments scheduled for the same day cancel because both had surgeries that were needed, but not on their schedules the week before when we made the appointments. They wanted to see me, but sometimes life trumps what we have scheduled. It didn’t make me happy, it ruined my plans, but when you are dealing with people, you kind of have to learn that sometimes you aren’t the only one involved.
    Just keep that in mind. It might not always be the situation, but until you know otherwise I wouldn’t write off an opportunity.

  17. Casey*

    I had a headhunter do me this way last year. On the third time, I sent an email reminding him that he was one of *many* headhunters already out there and told him not to contact me anymore.

    He sent an apology letter and “I’m sorry you feel that way … I want to work with you” that I promptly put in the trash file.

    I would just move on. When I was a kid, I told one company (playing this game), that I was no longer interested because I got a job offer from NASA. It was a lie at the time but ironically, 3 months later, I was working at NASA.

    It might just me, but I interpret such actions as some kind of strange, narcissistic behavior and just move on.

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