candidate was a no-show for her interview, then wanted to reschedule

A reader writes:

I did a phone screening and an in-person interview with a candidate. I asked her to come back for a second interview with the team she’d be working with. We set an interview time over the phone and I confirmed it via email. On the morning of the interview, she didn’t show up, with no message about needing to cancel or reschedule. Later that day, I emailed her, basically saying “I assume you’re withdrawing your candidacy, I hope the reason you were not able to cancel or reschedule was not due to some type of emergency.” (So I didn’t feel like a jerk if she did, by chance, get hit by a bus or something.)

Candidate wrote back almost immediately and said she’s still very interested in the position, is it possible to reschedule? One line email; no mention of why she didn’t show up that morning. At that point, I was honestly confused — maybe she left me a voice mail with a completely legitimate reason for cancelling and I somehow didn’t receive it? So I wrote back and asked if she had tried to contact me to cancel the interview. She replied: “No, I did not call or leave you a voicemail. I deeply apologize. I hope that I can still meet with you and the team.”

I told her we’d decided to go with another candidate and she wrote back to say that was “unfortunate.” So, bullet dodged, I guess, but I’m curious if you have any idea what was going on here. If she got another offer or decided she didn’t want the job and that’s why she didn’t show up for the interview, why was so she eager to reschedule? If she still wanted the job but blew off the interview, why didn’t she at least make up a lie about why she didn’t show up? She was so matter-of-fact about not showing up but still wanting to reschedule that she has me half-convinced that I’m the unprofessional crazy person in this scenario.

Possibly not an answerable question, but none of my friends think my hiring stories are interesting. Thanks again for all the great advice you provide!

Three possibilities:

1. She’s just careless and rude and doesn’t understand that a cavalier “I’m sorry, can we reschedule?” doesn’t cut it here — that she’d need to provide an explanation of what happened (and sound mortified about it).

2. She had a reason for missing the interview but is inexperienced and/or socially inept enough that she doesn’t understand how to navigate that situation. Some people really don’t understand that in situations like this, it’s not enough to apologize; you have to provide an explanation too. They think giving an explanation sounds like an excuse and will make the situation worse. (Seriously, these people are out there.) It’s still a bullet dodged, since that kind of behavior can crop up in other problematic ways at work.

3. Crippling anxiety, which manifested in her not showing up but feeling she should try again when you reached out.

#1 is most likely, but #2 and #3 are possible.

Regardless, you of course handled it correctly. I probably would have also asked point-blank, “What happened this morning?” but I like to get really, really pointed with people who behave badly.

{ 121 comments… read them below }

  1. shawn*

    I wouldn’t have even contacted the candidate after the no call/no show. They most likely are no longer interested, but I certainly wouldn’t be interested in them. It would be a done deal.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I would have reached out like the OP did, just in case there was some understandable miscommunication (unlikely, since the OP confirmed the time via email, but I still would have sent that email).

      1. Anna*

        Indeed, there may even have been something fairly mundane that prevented the candidate from showing up: Murphy’s Law can kick in at any time — and, according to one of its corrolaries, it will kick in at exactly the wrong time. Cars break down, for starters. Or the subway has an epic fail after a slightly-worse-than-usual rainstorm the day before (this actually did happen to me a few years ago).

        That said, I agree that the candidate should have called in to say what had happened, just like you would call your job if something had a Murphy’s Moment. (I hade a very pleasant day at home after the subway had its post-rainstorm problems, but I called in before I did so.)

        1. shawn*

          I honestly don’t think it’s necessary to reach out to the candidate. They didn’t show up and didn’t let you know (even after the fact). If something personal/horrible happened of course I’m sympathetic, but my call at that point would probably be intrusive and most of what we are referring to here would force the candidate to withdraw anyway. Anything less than a catastrophic event would make not getting in touch an automatic disqualification from consideration. Reaching out to the candidate solves nothing (as it did with this situation). If anything, it puts the employer in a potentially awkward situation of asking what the deal is but then going “we’ve moved in a different direction” (because you wouldn’t try to justify hiring a candidate who no called/no showed). I don’t get what that accomplishes.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          My car wouldn’t start one time when I had an interview (turned out to be the battery, which was an easy fix), but darn it I called RIGHT AWAY and rescheduled. I didn’t get the job, and I always wondered if that was why.

    2. JT*

      Shawn – you really should make contact in case the mistake was on your end (or on both sides), or something spectacular happened like the person being in a car crash and still in the hospital or something.

      1. shawn*

        If you set the appointment up over the phone and confirmed via email there isn’t a mistake (at least not on my end). Plus, if the person got hit by a car and is in the hospital they aren’t going to want to hear about the interview they missed. Do you expect them to reschedule for tomorrow? If this ever actually happened both parties would most likely just move on.

        I could just be jaded. I’ve had no calls/no shows. Not tons, but it happens now and then. I’ve never once heard from a no show candidate that they were hit by a bus, are still interested in the position, and are available to begin working. The individual clearly, for whatever reason, is no longer interested in obtaining employment with your company. Trying to make contact with them just prolongs the inevitable. Move on.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Two other reasons to do it:

          1. If the person did get the time wrong, they’re going to show up unexpectedly and you’re going to have to interrupt what you’re doing to deal with them (not to interview them, but to explain they got the time wrong). I’d rather do that in 30 second in an email than five minutes in person.

          2. Sheer inquisitiveness. I love knowing what’s going on in situations like this. (I realize you might not share that particular inclination.)

          1. shawn*

            All of that makes sense to me, although the cynic in me says there was no mistake in the time.

          2. Rachel - Former HR Blogger*

            I have at least 15 no call, no shows a year. In the past 5 years I have never had one show up at another time. It’s no mistakes.

        2. Anonymous*

          Once I had an interview scheduled and confirmed via email. I left work early, changed into my interview outfit, showed up 10 minutes early at the location of the interview. When I checked in at the front desk, the receptionist said, “you canceled your interview!” Apparently another candidate with a similar first name to mine had withdrawn her candidacy earlier in the day, and the receptionist, who kept the executive calendar, mistakenly canceled MY interview instead. The hiring manager had already left for the day so I had to come back a few days later. Everyone apologized profusely but it goes to show that a mistake can happen on either end EVEN with a phone and email confirmation. I did get the job by the way, and worked there for three years before getting laid off at the start of the recession (in Aug of 2008, almost four years ago – wow!).

        3. JT*


          No, clearly it’s the opposite, though they are pretty clueless how to achieve that.

          1. Anonymous*

            Where I work we had a former cabinet minister of a country show up at my office with his assistant a week early. I saw the email exchange setting the meeting up and there was a tiny ambiguity about what “next Thursday” meant – whether it was the Thursday next week or the first Thursday after the email exchange on a Monday. Both sides were at fault for not including the date.

            Errors occur. Maybe rare, but they can happen.

        4. The Editor*

          As a side note, I once had a candidate who actually _was_ hit by a semi truck on his way to the interview. He handled it so well that I eventually did hire him.

          Just thought I’d mention that it does happen.

    3. Rachel - Former HR Blogger*

      I agree. For some reason at my business we get a ton of no call, no shows (we’re talking 1 in 10 interviews, no joke). This is after I have phone screened them, called about an interview a few days after the screen so they’ve had time to think about it, and sent them an email confirmation about the date and time. I guess I see it so often that I don’t really care why they didn’t show up. If they don’t contact me, why would I waste time contacting them. I make a note in the file so if they apply again in 2 years (which happens) I know not to bother.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        I could understand if the jobs are in a call center or something similar to that. The candidates probably found other entry level minimum wage jobs. I agree compeletely with you way of handling it.

        For more professional jobs, though, this doesn’t make sense at all. But then, so few people act in a professional manner these days.

    4. Stells*

      It depends on the company too. Our policy is to file the documentation of the rejection notice to every candidate who we were considering for the position. In cases like this, an email like what the OP used is preferable in case of an OFCCP audit or a lawsuit of some kind because it shows the (legal) reason for turning down the candidate in the file (versus trying to find or explain in long after the fact in a document discovery period).

  2. AD*

    Let’s say the candidate claims some sort of personal or family emergency. Then what do you do as the hiring manager? It seems pretty callous to ask for documentation, but it also seems naive to give a free pass to anyone who invokes those excuses.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If the candidate is strong AND seems mortified/apologetic, I’d probably still interview them — but I’d be on high alert for other signs of problems (lateness, flakiness, not doing exactly what they say they’ll do by when they say they’ll do it). In fact, I’d probably intentionally ask them to email me something after the interview and see how long they take / if they do it at all, and other stuff like that. The bar would be a bit higher, and I’d be really scrutinizing them, but emergencies do happen.

      In fact, I’d have no problem with an emergency cancellation if they called/emailed me ahead of time. It’s the not calling/emailing that would have me worried (although there ARE emergencies where that could be unavoidable).

      1. AD*

        If I were on the candidate side, I’d probably also go back to my references and let them know about the situation. A brief “I know Suzie was really excited to interview with you; it’s really unfortunate that her grandma died right in the middle of this process” would be far better than “grandma? what grandma? I haven’t heard anything”.

      2. Dan*

        I agree. Stuff happens. I’m willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, but only if they make it a point to let me know, and I’ll also be “on high alert” for further signs of flakiness.

        Writing someone off outright just seems callous…

      3. rdb*

        There are, indeed, emergencies that preclude contacting interviewers ahead of time – but I feel it’s incumbent on the prospective employee or his/her designee to contact the interviewer as soon as possible. When my former bosses were interviewing, we didn’t contact no-shows; unless they called or emailed us, we wrote them off.

  3. Corey harlock*


    Awesome as usual!

    One thing I encounter a lot these days as an excuse is a “family emergency.”

    I mknow that sometimes this is a legitimate excuse but it is being used so often that my first impulse is that it is just an excuse. it seems to be the “catch all” for any occassion:
    Why did you leave your last job- take care of an ailing parent.
    Why did you miss our scheduled interview – sudden illness of a family member
    Why did you miss your start date? – had to leave suddenly as there was a family emergency
    You said you would be back for your interview with the client on Friday? – Sorry we had to extend our stay as a family member fell ill.

    Like I said, I really want to be sympathetic but there sure does seem to be used a lot!

    It is sad when real life tragedy is twisted in to a handy excuse!

    1. Dan*

      Yeah, a lot of people abuse it. But, we’ve all got families, so it’s an excuse that we can all relate to. I find it difficult to not be supportive when faced with the “family” excuse. Even then, the flakes are easy to spot when they’re having family emergencies all the time.

      1. Natalie*

        I think a lot of people use “family emergency” for personal issues they’d rather not get into. Assuming the employee is generally good, it seems respectful to me to not pry.

        1. fposte*

          I think it’s a different issue when you’re talking about an employee, somebody with a known track record who presumably has earned some slack. With a candidate, I’m going to want more than a vague “family emergency,” especially if you’re talking to me after the fact and at my initiation. So even if the OP’s candidate had mentioned a “family emergency” in her response, that wouldn’t have been enough for me to reconsider her.

          The more you blow it, the more weighty the reason/excuse has to be. For an apologizing out of towner who’s five minutes late, I can probably deal with “I got lost in the one-way system.” For somebody who blew off an entire interview and never contacted me, there needs to be either a hospital or a natural disaster (or a mistake on our end, of course) involved to stay in the running.

    2. Student*

      You need to let go of wanting to know why someone is skipping something. “Family emergency” is the acceptable white lie this decade, but there’s always been some popular excuse. Accept it gracefully as it’s intended – “I want/need to go do something else, but I don’t want to hurt your feelings or give you unnecessary details. If there’s something extremely important that you need me for, I might be able to change my plans. ”

      Really, wouldn’t you rather hear the phrase “family emergency” than hear about embarrassing personal medical details, explanations about going to the bank because they’re only open during working hours, pleas to have time off to take a sick pet to the vet, and so on?

      If someone abuses their allotted time out of the office, address that problem without worrying about the motivations. Assume everyone lies equally about why they leave the office – some liars are simply better than others.

      1. Ivy*

        I feel like people get too into their work sometimes. If someone needs a reasonable amount of time off to do something then let them! Unless this becomes an overly regular thing, then quiet frankly its nobody’s business why you need to leave a little early. If you have any professionalism in you then you should just take these things at face value. “They said they need to leave for a family emergency, and I’ll believe them because the only reason I have not to is my own paranoia.” Also, it will make you a lot happier at work if your not over-analyzing every time someone has a “family emergency.”

  4. Ellen M.*

    I wonder if the the flaky would-be interviewee is very young(?) Not that that makes her behavior acceptable, of course!

    I have to wonder also how that applicant sees this whole scenario:
    “Oh well, that’s just ‘unfortunate’ that they went with another candidate” or “I really screwed up”.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I’m curious too. If it’s an anxiety thing, she’s pretty miserable right now, but what happened is nonetheless fair.

  5. Danni*

    I personally think of two scenarios:

    1) The candidate has a disorder (aspergers, etc) that causes ‘different’ social interactions. This is maybe far-fetched, but possible, in my opinion. Perhaps she didn’t realize an explanation was expected? Similarly, is she from a different cultural background?

    2) Perhaps the candidate forgot the interview time or had some other embarrassing reason for not showing up. She may have been too embarrassed to contact the hiring manager and then assumed her chances had been ruined so she didn’t bother following up or explaining. The OP says that the candidate immediately responded to the email and also says she was ‘deeply apologetic’. I think there probably WAS a legitimate reason but maybe the candidate also experiences anxiety, so the combination of having an unforseen event happen plus needing to explain it to someone else was too much.

    1. Anonymous*

      For #2, I’d just like to point out that there is a huge difference between saying you’re deeply apologetic and actually being deeply apologetic.

      To me, saying “I’m deeply apologetic” is a throw-away phrase that doesn’t necessarily indicate sincerity.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Actually, the interviewee only said she was “deeply apologetic” after the OP’s second email to her.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I meant to add that the fact that she didn’t initiate contact with the OP to apologize, and didn’t apologize immediately when OP asked her about it, makes me think that she doesn’t see this as a big mistake on her part.

    3. Ummm... no*

      Not everything is Aspergers. This is just like the “family emergency” excuse mentioned above – sometimes people are just ignorant or rude… not all ignorance is a medical disorder. I hate that people make-up excuses rather than just accept responsibility for their ignorance/rudeness.

      1. Anonymous*

        Yes, accomodations should be made for people with this disorder, but it shouldn’t be assumed that everyone who ignores social rules has Aspergers, just the same as every bitchy/angry co-worker should not be assumed to be bi-polar or have some other mental illness.

        Some people are careless, rude, and unappreciative of others time, end of story.

      2. Danni*

        Right…I didn’t say everything is Aspergers. The point of this question is to suggest hypothetical reasons, not try and figure out what happened. There’s no right or wrong here…

        I suggested Aspergers as an example, but my comment clearly shows that I was suggesting the candidate has some reason for not adhering to the same social conventions as the hiring manager. This could be medical, cultural, or personal.

    4. Anonybee*

      Yeah, my first thought was your #2– an embarrassing reason for not showing (hangover, for example?). The candidate may have assumed that, on missing the interview, she had totally blown it (true), which could explain why she was silent after the miss but responded immediately when prompted.

      1. Ellen M.*

        “Oh, you were *hungover*? Why didn’t you say so?! Sure, we’ll re-schedule that interview for you, right away.”

    5. Flynn*

      I’ve done number 2. It was for a one on one test at university a couple of years ago, which we were supposed to sign up for on a sheet on an office door; the office was hidden away and I couldn’t find it, and when I did, all the times were full up (there were a couple of spaces in the days I’d missed). I was too mortified/shy to ever approach the lecturer about it, so I lost about 20% of my mark.

      And I’ve got a friend who’s even worse and *definitely* has anxiety issues, but is also a very smart person I really, really enjoy being around – I’ve spent years ‘training’ them that I’d rather hear they were going to be late/not come, than have them just not show, and then that I’d rather hear WHY. They’re successfully working now, and take it very seriously, and I like to pretend I had a hand in that. But I was seriously worried about how they’d cope. I can EASILY see them freezing up over going to an interview and then not daring to say anything. Actually, they lost a (casual) job that way – I’m pretty sure the employer never noticed, as their hours were changed, but they never arranged new ones and then was too scared/embarrassed to go back in and ask.

  6. Anonymous*

    A big red flag that I see here is that the candidate emailed back “almost immediately” indicating that she had access to either a phone with internet, or a computer, both means of communication that could have been utilized to get in touch with her interviewer either before or shortly after the missed time.

    In this age of constant communication, I would find it suspicious if a candidate didn’t communicate an issue immediately (unless, of course, they were injured or some other EXTREME circumstance)

    If something comes up, get in touch with the person you’re meeting with immediately! It’s not that hard.

    1. Ummm... no*

      EXACTLY! Most of the world, or at least the U.S., has immediate access to phone, email, and texts – being unable to communicate with someone just doesn’t happen ~ or at least it is VERY rare. Even if you were having a true-blue family emergency, it takes less than 60 seconds to say – via any form of previously mentioned communication to say, “I’m sincerely apologetic but my four year old fell and broke his/her arm, we are in the ER right now. Is there anyway we can reschedule? I’m still very interested in this position and am absolutely mortified to have not been able to make appointment at 10.”

      1. KellyK*

        Not everyone has a smartphone, and there are still areas with crappy cell phone reception. I’m not talking about outer Mongolia, either. I have very iffy cell phone reception at my house, and although the area where I live is quasi-rural, we’re also within a couple hours’ drive of two major cities. And my parents, who live in rural PA, have dial-up and even worse cell reception.

        I also wouldn’t fault someone for not calling while they’re sitting in the ER waiting room. Even if they’re able to stop worrying about the ill or injured family member long enough to realize that they should call about their interview, it’s not exactly a quiet spot, and there might not be an opportune time to step outside and make a phone call.

        That said, I agree that if you have a major emergency, you need to call your interviewer *pronto* when the emergency has passed, explain the situation, and be really apologetic. But I wouldn’t treat, “I’m in the ER right now. Can we reschedule?” any differently from “I am so sorry I missed our appointment yesterday. My son broke his arm and we spent the whole afternoon in the ER. Can we reschedule?”

        1. Anonymous*

          In this particular case though, the candidate responded to communication from the interviewer “almost immediately”, meaning she did have access to some method of communication to initiate the first contact – she just didn’t bother.

      2. Emily*

        Can you imagine the parent of an injured or sick four-year-old completely forgetting about an interview—and all other people, places, and things in the world—while they were in the ER with their child? I can see that person getting home hours later, feeling the adrenaline wear off, and suddenly getting another shot of it when they realize they’ve forgotten and missed something important.

    2. Long Time Admin*

      Boy, I hope I never interview with you. Cut people a little slack. It won’t kill you.

  7. JfC*

    I think 2 is very likely if the candidate is young, especially if she’s mostly been in customer service roles. In those roles, I was very much trained just to be effusively apologetic, and not to “make excuses.” I remember being pushed into the same sort of dynamic with teachers and coaches.

  8. Liz in the City*

    Depending on what time the phone interview was, it could be as simple as she slept right through it and was way too embarrassed to say so (as someone who has accidentally set my alarm for 7 p.m. instead of a.m. once or twice before, it can happen). Since the interviewer has all of the power in this situation, the interviewee probably thought it would make her look worse if she said, “um, I made a dumb mistake,” not realizing that by not owning up, it hurt her chances even more. Just a theory.

    1. Anonymous*

      I don’t think it was a phone interview…the letter writer states it was a third interview to be conducted in-person with the team the person would be working with. Actually sounded like this girl had the job nailed down until this happened.

    2. Laura*

      I agree. If it was a morning interview, something stupid like sleeping in probably happened. She was probably mortified and didn’t want to make up a story, so figured all hope is lost, and let it go. But when you wrote back, she was ecstatic that maybe she had another chance.

      Either way, probably better that you didn’t give her another chance. I have made silly mistakes (like oversleeping) before. I am quick to contact those who are important, and either tell the truth or make up a “small lie” depending on the situation.

      1. Anonymous*

        careful with the “small lies” – they can make you look even worse if you get caught in them.

        I once had a candidate say she missed an interview because the train she was on going into the city was stuck for hours in a tunnel with no cell service. A legitimate excuse, if it weren’t for the fact that the train she claimed to be stuck on was the same one I took into work that morning.

        1. Ummm... no*

          Haha! Am I the only person who still lives by “Honesty is the best policy!”?? I just had a working meeting today where I was speaking with several partners and I told them that my biggest fault in business is my honesty. I don’t believe in keeping secrets – it ALWAYS eventually is found out, so just start with the truth!

    3. Ariancita*

      This is exactly what I was thinking happened. I’ve overslept too because of stupid alarm setting errors. And unless you’re already established somewhere, it feels like the worst excuse you could possibly give. (It’s actually a terrible excuse even when you are established–it’s mortifying and feels unprofessional and flaky.) If that happened to me, I’d probably still call or email the interviewer and profusely apologize (though not sure I’d give the real reason) just because it’s the right thing to do, but I’d assume my chances were gone. If OP is younger/less experienced/has anxiety, she might have assumed her chances were gone and not bother with a professional courtesy call/email.

      1. Emily*

        I immediately thought embarrassment, too. She thought her chance was shot, and so when the OP contacted her, she was either too surprised, or still to embarrassed, or afraid that her excuse would be dismissed or criticized, to say more. She might have been able to respond so quickly because she was sitting at her computer trying to figure out what apology she could possibly write, how much to say or not to say, etc.

        It’s true, there are people who think that apologetic explanations will sound like excuses. I think some people are raised that way, in homes or at schools (or trained in jobs as JofC pointed out) where no apology is ever good enough. Apologizing gracefully is a challenge for a lot of polite people. That doesn’t mean it’s on the OP to divine that or resolve it or even to point it out—I think reaching out was the right thing to do, especially for the OP’s own peace of mind.

        Isn’t it interesting that this is the second conversation about apologies that’s come up at AAM in as many weeks?

  9. Charles*

    Hey, we could all speculate till the cows come home as to why the job seeker did what she did (or in this case, didn’t do what she should have done – sent notice that she couldn’t make the interview).

    But, to me, the bottom line is that the OP acted professionally and didn’t jump to conclusions such as “what a lazy, unprofesional, bum” the job seeker is. Afterall, there could have been a legitimate reason for what happened. Following up the way the OP did was the correct thing to do.

    OP, as a job seeker, I say thank you!

    1. Ariancita*

      Except the OP is specifically asking for speculation in order to try to understand what might have happened.

  10. Wilton Businessman*

    I would have reached out…once. Maybe I marked the time down wrong in my calendar, maybe they did. Maybe they just blew me off. Maybe they got deported, who knows. But I would want to close the loop and let the person know I was expecting them and they didn’t show. They’d probably be done in my book unless it was my fault or they really did get hit by a bus.

  11. ES*

    Obviously I don’t know if this contributed at all (and the person handled it poorly by not contacting the interviewer as soon as possible), but I am so tired of the “explanations are excuses” line of thought. And it’s not just teachers and coaches who believe this line of reasoning – it’s bosses too. None of us live in a bubble, and despite our best intentions, stuff happens that can occasionally mess up our plans, not to mention we’re all humans and make mistakes sometimes.

    1. Anonymous*

      I agree with this so much! There is a big difference between making an excuse (I woke up late, but it’s because my husband always sets the alarm and he forgot I had to be up an hour earlier than usual, so it’s not my fault!) and an explanation (my car was rear-ended while I was driving in and I had to speak to the other driver and police and get checked out by paramedics)

      I would also be more inclined to give someone a second chance if they owned up to a personal mistake because that is the type of person I want working for me, I would rather have that then someone who constantly has a reason for why they were late or didn’t complete that report I needed two days ago.

    2. Katie*

      This might be one of those “lies your business teachers told you”. I had two different teachers tell us to do the same thing, apolegize, but don’t give an explanation/excuse. They said it would make you look unprofessional. One also told us that we should call the hiring manager to schedule an interview (without being called first) and drop our resumes off in person. So obviously I didn’t get much from that course….

    3. KellyK*

      I definitely agree. I see “making excuses” as trying to make it not be your fault (even when it is, or is partially), while an explanation is a simple “here’s what happened.”

  12. jmkenrick*

    I have no idea what happened here, but I can testify to the fact that people like the ones Alison described in option #2 exist.

    I used to not give reasons for missing class, being late, ect. even when I had legitimate ones, becuase I always thought it sounded like an excuse. My junior year of college a professor called me out on it, pointing out that it made it sound like I missed things for no reason. I’ve since gotten better, but I still always feel like I sound insincere when I give my explinations for why I’m missing something, even if it’s totally legitmate.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      How to explain: Say what happened, apologize for it, and stop talking. Going on and on trying to explain every detail only annoys people and makes them suspicious.

  13. Lilybell*

    How timely! We had someone scheduled to interview yesterday and his cab got in an accident on the way here. He wasn’t hurt but the driver was (he’s going to be ok) so the police needed him to stay for a while to be interviewed. He called and kept us updated on the progress and showed up about an hour late with blood on his shirt. I felt so bad for him. But the good news is that so far he’s the best candidate we’ve seen.

    1. Anonymous*

      Wasn’t there a post a while back about folks who feel sick at the sight of blood? Guessing that isn’t you! ;) Good for you to think more highly of him rather than less!

      1. K.*

        In that situation, if a candidate came in and said “My cab driver was injured in an accident on the way here,” and I said “Oh no! Is he all right?” and the candidate replied “I dunno, I left to make it here,” I’d think less of him for just ditching an injured person.

        1. fposte*

          Well, I wouldn’t think worse of them for not knowing the outcome per se, but if they left even before the first responders got there, I’d be pretty flummoxed, I agree. Fortunately it sounds like that isn’t at all what happened with Lilybell’s candidate.

  14. jennie*

    In our call centre, no call no show for a shift is grounds for immediate termination so we have a policy that no call no show for an interview means you can NEVER be hired by the company. Sounds harsh but attendance is very important to the business. We are very understanding and flexible with those who need to reschedule interviews and even cancel at the last minute but no contact means blacklisted forever.

  15. RJ*

    I had a phone interview scheduled during the workday for an internal position. (The hiring manager was offsite.) Five minutes before the call time, our fire alarm went off and the building was evacuated for about 30 minutes. This was before the ubiquity of cell phones, so I was truly mortified when I got back to my desk and had two voicemails from the manager. She was understanding and rescheduled. It may have helped that my excuse was readily verifiable by about 200 other employees.

  16. Anonymous*

    I’ve accidentally no-showed two interviews–one because the hiring manager neglected to tell me which building to go to (they had two corporate campus buildings downtown and another in the burbs). I tried to call and find the proper address, but it was a large bank with an automated phone directory where you had to enter the last name–and it turned out she was in the directory under her maiden name, not the married name I was using. There was no way to search by department, no way to reach a human operator, etc. I had no email address for her–she had said she’d email me directions and never did. It was completely mortifying! But I told her exactly what happened when she finally reached out to me and we rescheduled.

    The second time was somewhat similar–it was a second interview with a large company, and I assumed it was at the same location as my first interview. But when I showed up at the front desk, my interviewer wasn’t there–turns out they were at a branch office. Luckily, the front desk people figured it out for me pretty quickly and I drove over there, arrived a 30 minutes late, and eventually got that job.

    Of course in both these cases, I profusely apologized and explained as soon as I was able to get in touch. Embarrassing as it was, it never occured to me to not get in touch with them.

      1. Anonymous*

        Nope. Not in either case. And of course the first one never bothered to let me know I didn’t get the job after the interview (Even though at the end of the interview she said something like “I really like you and think you’d be a great fit for the team. Just let me talk to HR and you should hear from us this week.”).

        And for the second one, the one I took, I definitely should have taken it as a red flag!

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      First one; their fault. Second one; your fault. Confirm, confirm, confirm!

  17. AJ*

    I’m not usually late to anything, so this time when I was sticks out. It wasn’t a big deal because it was just a meeting with someone I had met before about some retirement accts, but I can imagine the same thing on the way to an interview. My husband had told me the wrong intersection & I didn’t double check. He had met with the guy before, but the office had since moved. After driving around for 5 minutes, I called him & learned where to go. Then I was at an intersection with no u-turns. Being late, I decided to u-turn anyway & got pulled over. I ended up being 15 minutes late instead of 15 minutes early. Had it been an interview, I probably would have called, but I could see why some people might not want to. At my age, I know we all do dumb things, but I can see how a younger person might not want to admit not double checking an address for something important AND making an illegal driving manuever. It would have been a valid explanation, but not one that particularly helped me look good.

  18. Original Poster*

    Hi everyone, OP here — thanks for your responses, as I said above, I was baffled by this situation and was curious what the community thought. To answer some folks’ questions:

    – I emailed her because I wanted to offer the position to the candidate who DID show up for her team interview, so I wanted to make sure the loop was closed with the no-show.

    – I guess I could have been a little more direct in my email, but I was trying to give her the room to at least say something vague like “I had a personal emergency” — if someone wants to keep the details of what held them up private, I get that, but it seemed odd that she wasn’t even able to say “something came up.” If she wasn’t able to communicate that because of anxiety or some other barrier, I feel badly about that, but I don’t know if I could have done anything else other than say “Did something occur that prohibited you from being able to attend this interview, check yes or no?”

    – All of her email responses came with a “sent from my Blackberry” type signature line, so I guess an excuse about not being able to get in touch might have seemed fishy ….

    – Totally understand why many commenters have said no call/no show = no chance; for background, I work for a social service non-profit and our entry level positions pay on the low end (even within our own field). One of the ways we try to close the gap is being very accommodating to staff members’ schedules and need to balance work/family obligations, so my instinctive reaction was to give her the benefit of the doubt.

    In conclusion, although I’m sure anyone reading AAM already knows, don’t blow off interviews without calling, especially if you work in a small, quasi-incestuous field. One of my colleagues at a partner organization is hiring right now; we’ve had a lot of overlap in our applicant pool and we compared notes along the lines of “I already made an offer to that person, don’t bother calling them” or “that person’s salary range is out of your league.” The candidate who blew me off applied for a position at this organization as well and I definitely passed this story along.

    Thanks Alison for posting my question, I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s responses!

    1. Anonymous*

      Wow, I really hope you don’t say “I already made an offer to that person, don’t bother calling them.” Unless the candidate has already accepted your offer of employment making the request for an interview a waste of the interviewers time (in which case, I would hope they would turn down an interview offer anyways), it seems extremely unfair that you are stopping them from receiving other opportunities.

      1. Original Poster*

        Sorry, I should have clarified — I was referring to an offer that had been formally accepted, not just made. My colleague is about a week behind me on resume reviewing, so it was more of a “oh, I already hired that person, sorry.”

    2. Joey*

      If you’re insinuating that you put up with no call no shows to offset low pay you’re going about it wrong. Letting employees work different schedules that are agreed upon in advance is the way you can accommodate. Don’t put up with employees no showing/no calling.

      1. Original Poster*

        Not insinuating I’d give someone a complete pass on a no call/no show, just that working in this field has set my threshold for “reasonable family emergency” a little bit lower than someone who’s hiring for corporate-type positions.

    3. Rob*

      I think reaching out and seeing what happened was a great idea – after all, the candidate may have been laying in a roadside ditch somewhere.

      But her laissez-faire attitude about it just told you everything you needed to know about her. If she is like this when it comes to an interview, what is she like when it comes to anything else the job may require? You are making the better choice to go with the other candidate.

  19. Sydney*

    Just wanted to share a funny story that is related.

    Two years ago I applied for a blogging intern position with a small local company. The administrative assistant set up the interview for 9 AM on a Monday morning (I am not a morning person at all, but this was the only time she had). Well, I overslept. I woke up around 10:30 and called, apologized and asked if I could reschedule. Went in two days later and blew them away. I’m still here two years later, and I’ve been promoted.

    And I have a much better attendance record than that admin.

    1. Ariancita*

      Did you tell them you overslept when you called and apologized? Just curious how that conversation went.

    2. Long Time Admin*

      Maybe that admin has accrued more paid time off than you.

      But it’s good that you learned to get up in time for work.

  20. Anonymous*

    I’m “one of those” people who believes that not every apology needs an explanation. When someone is late to an appointment or forgot to call me, their explanation, to me, is arbitrary, mostly because I don’t really care. I’d rather them say, “I’m so sorry I’m late” and be done with it.

    However, I do agree that in a situation like this, an explanation is certainly mandatory.

    1. Anonymous*

      Yes, sometimes it is better to hear the person apologize for why they are in the wrong rather than give some excuse as to why they are in the wrong. I had a coworker who was constantly late – constantly as in every time she showed up – and every once in a while she came in with an excuse as to what caused her to be late. And then she offered up last minute excuses as to why she couldn’t come in. It was very frustrating, and I’m glad I can put this in past tense ever since she quit.

      Just own up to what you did wrong.

    2. Jamie*

      I agree that not every apology needs an explanation – in fact, imo, most don’t.

      An apology and correction of the behavior will usually suffice. It’s when it’s an unusual situation or repeated that the root cause needs to be addressed.

      No call/no show is an unusual situation and definitely needs an explanation.

  21. Charlotte*

    On the upside, having seen her behavior, you didn’t hire her. You dodged the bullet!

  22. Daisy*

    I think you handled this about as well as possible.

    I absolutely hate it when people flake and don’t explain why – professionally and personally. When I can’t (or don’t want to) attend an event (e.g., farewell lunch for a colleague in another group I hardly worked with and that I don’t care to chip in for – but is being organized by a closer colleage) I am good about offering a sufficient excuse (“thanks for the invitation, but I can’t make it that day. I will be traveling the rest of the week and have a lot to get done that day” – which was true). I still got pushback and further prodding on that one!

    On the other hand, when someone tells me they can’t make it or need to reschedule, it very rarely has an explanation at all and I don’t feel like it’s polite to write back, “oh why not?” (I usually go with “okay, no problem.”) This just happened when a friend said last week that she needed to postpone the Sunday brunch she’d invited us over for – no further explanation! If I were cancelling or delaying an invitation like that, I’d definitely explain why.

    I feel like I’m held to a standard twice as high (by my peers) than the standard other people hold themselves when it comes to excuses. It’s very frustrating! I know I’ve deviated from the OP’s issue quite a bit, but this stuff really bugs me!!

    1. KellyK*

      I don’t think any reason is needed for declining an invitation, but canceling definitely merits one.

    2. Cassie*

      I always decline invitations that I don’t want to go to (or am on the fence about), but if I say I’m going, you can bet I’ll be there. Even if I wake up that morning and change my mind. I have a friend, though, who always flakes out on lunch or trips. She either forgets or doesn’t offer an explanation at all. Very frustrating.

  23. Anonymous*

    Sort of related sort of not, I once had a interview where unfortunately, I arrived about 5 minutes late. What’s interesting is what happened next: the person I was to meeting didn’t come speak to me until 5 minutes before my hour time slot was over and then at that point asked me why I was late to the interview.

    1. Rob*

      That person probably inquired as to where you were right at the time of the interview, realized you were not there, and went and did other stuff. They also probably became aware of when you showed up and as a result, made you wait nearly the whole hour for them. Next time, be 15 minutes early ;)

      1. Anonymous*

        I think you are completely right and after that I was never late again but, I also think that I’m glad I don’t work for that person ;)

      2. Wilton Businessman*

        No, don’t be 15 minutes early, it’s going to tick me off. Be on time.

        1. K*

          We had a new hire show up a full hour early on her first day. Her boss wasn’t even in the office yet, nor was HR – so she sat in the lobby for ten minutes until her boss showed up, who was then annoyed because he hadn’t planned on her being there until nearly an HOUR after he arrived. Ten minutes early is fine… any more than that is a bit much.

          1. Esra*

            Five or ten minutes tops. As someone who sits near reception, it’s so awkward to have someone sitting, waiting, and staring for fifteen minutes or more. We’ve had people come in 45 minutes early and told them to go wait in the coffee shop downstairs or something.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I do ten minutes, because sometimes I have to fill out an application even though I’ve sent a resume. I can do it pretty fast, but that way I don’t eat up the time allotted for the interview if the person has a busy day. I rarely know if that will be the case until I get there.

    2. Anonymous*

      While I wasn’t 5 minutes late, I did have an interviewer make me wait 15-20 minutes past the beginning of the interview time because he decided to have his lunch. Yes, the interview was scheduled during the 12 o’clock hour, but with hindsight being 20/20 and with the way that interview went, he could have made the interview short and sweet and still eat his lunch in a timely fashion.

  24. fifthbidness*

    am i the only person who finds it odd that the interviewer hoped the no-show candidate had an emergency? stone cold, yo’.

  25. Anonymous*

    It’s awesome that you put Option #3 into the mix. A few years ago I was looking for a job and started getting anxiety attacks out of nowhere. I would have an interview scheduled that I was really excited for, get dressed up in my suit and have a total freakout and be unable to go. Generally, my excuse was, “I’ve accepted another offer and I’m terribly sorry for the short notice.” However, there was one wretched incident where I couldn’t even bring myself to call. Talk about mortified – I’m cringing just telling the story!

      1. Anonymous*

        Yup! This is why I tell anyone who has an anxiety problem that, should they have a panic attack in an interview, the interviewer probably knows at least one person with the same issue and will most likely not invite everyone in the office into the conference room to point at them and shame them out of the building! Worst comes to worst, they don’t get the job.

        On a related note, when I first graduated from college I was recruiting coordinator at a large tech company. I had scheduled a girl to come in and she called the morning of the interview to say that someone had broken into her apartment the night before and, without going into detail, said it was a very scary situation and she really wasn’t at her best. I was totally sympathetic and told the hiring manager, who decided that she was full of it and he contacted her to tell her he wouldn’t be rescheduling. I believed her and felt terrible!

        When I returned home that evening, I put on the news. One of the top stories was a young lady who had two men break in and rob her and her boyfriend at gunpoint. Yeah, it was the candidate. I couldn’t resist asking the hiring manager if he happened to catch the news that evening. I didn’t get a definitive “yes”, but I did get a glower for the ages!

  26. Cassie*

    This reminds me of an incident recently – I scheduled for this one student to meet w/ my boss at 10:30am one morning. At about 10:35, I walked past his office and noticed that he was in there alone – I poked my head in and asked if the student showed up. Nope.

    I was a bit curious, so that afternoon around 2pm, I sent her an email – just a brief “Hi – did you make the meeting today?”. At 10pm, she replied – she was very sorry, her phone had fell off her bed (she sleeps on the top bunk), she didn’t hear her alarm, can she reschedule?, and she’s very sorry!

    I’ve missed alarms before (not for interviews or important meetings, thankfully!), and I get that younger people these days are not that into email, but this? I emailed her back to let her know boss’s availability and she never got back to me. I’m not surprised. I also considered gently suggesting to her that in the future, she should send an email for missed appointments… but I wasn’t sure how that would come across so I didn’t.

    Oh, great, she’ll be joining the work force in a few years, and she’ll be one of the no-shows because no one ever told her it was unprofessional or impolite to not show up and not call or send an email!

  27. Anonymous*

    I’ve just got to add at the age of 18, I was in a horrible accident, one bad enough to make the news. I bothered to call my employer the same day to explain what had happened. RESPONSIBILITY. If a message is unclear ask for the clarification.

  28. Sharon Kirk*

    I agree it’s common courtesy to cancel if you’re unable to come to the interview. As a recruiter, I know how valuable a manager’s time is. I also follow up with a candidate the day before, making sure nothing has changed. The way this manager handled it was absolutely correct. Even though this candidate may have had issues preventing them from coming to the meeting, they should have communicated. On the flip side, I recently was invited to interview with a company. The week of the interview I contacted the recruiter to get details. She replied back and said sorry, she’d been very busy and the hiring manager was busy too (a family matter). She said the following week most likely was out but “stand by”. So, I waited almost 2 1/2 weeks to contact the recruiter to say i was still interested in the job. No reply back. So, communication fails on both sides. It really just boils down to being courteous which is get less comman these days.

  29. Liana L.*

    I have the same issues – people not showing for interviews. I used to just not contact them after that, but I am curious to know why they never showed up, and why they didn’t have the courtesy to at least let me know they couldn’t make it.

  30. Staffing Professional*

    I think the hiring manager went the extra mile. We should note candidate’s honesty when asked if they tried to communicate why they didn’t show up and they said no, they had not communicated. The manager showed concern and because no explanation was given, the right decision was made to eliminate this person from candidacy even though they were honest when asked.
    I’m not sure why some do not feel it’s necessary to communicate. It speaks of disregard for the manager and their team and the needs of the business. It’s mind boggling the candidate wouldn’t think this through since this would be someone they would work for. The manager is most likely thinking the candidate would be unreliable. They perceived risk in hiring this person, therefore moved to another candidate.

  31. nicolefromqueens*

    Yesterday afternoon I scheduled a 10AM interview for an entry-level clerical position. This morning my alarm woke me up as I planned, except what I didn’t plan on was stumbling into the bathroom to find my boyfriend in a LOT of pain and on the phone with the 911 operator. I’ll spare anyone who may be reading this the details, but this isn’t life-threatening, but it isn’t uncommon for him and he still needs to go to the ER. We rushed out and I forgot my phone. I forgot all about the interview until I was at the vending machine looking for my wallet, money change, ANYTHING, when I remembered I transferred into my ”nice” pocketbook for the interview.

    Needless to say I’m home now, wondering what do I do at this point, six hours after I was supposed to be there. I know I have a fat chance of getting even so much as an interview again, but I REALLY need a job! If my boyfriend wasn’t practially supporting me he probably would’ve had cabfare in his pocket to send me back to his place for my phone

    1. BGirl81*

      So sorry to hear that happened! I say you have nothing to lose by calling and saying, “I am absolutely mortified that I missed our meeting today. Someone that I live with had a medical emergency and I had to get him to the emergency room immediately. I am still very interested in the job, but I understand if you are no longer considering me. In any event, I wanted to sincerely apologize for what happened.” I hope this helps and let us know how it turns out!

      P.s. I really feel for your boyfriend – I have IBS and sometimes it’s like there is a vengeful gremlin in my gut. Hope he’s feeling better!

      1. nicolefromqueens*

        Thank you! I got another interview for Tuesday. Hopefully I’m now not in the position where I have to blow them away to get the job.

  32. Big Al*

    I’ve had many no-shows, and have reached the conclusion that it’s just part of doing business. Experience has shown me that out of every 10 interviews I schedule, 3 will be no-shows. I always give the benefit of the doubt first. I’ll call the candidate and say “I’m terribly sorry….I must have made a mistake on my calendar….I had us down for a 10:00 interview today….I hope everything’s okay….give me a call so we can reschedule”. That way, I take the first hit so that, if they had a legitimate reason for missing the interview (i.e. a family emergency), they won’t feel embarrassed to reschedule. If, on the other hand, I don’t hear back from them in a timely manner, I’ve got my answer – time to move forward.

    As with anything in business, hiring is a numbers game. You may need to interview 100 people to find the one key person you’re looking for, and yes, some people just won’t show. Beyond taking a minute or two for a courtesy call, I don’t let it slow me down. We can’t do much about people who have no respect for our time except to concentrate our attention on those who really want the position. Believe me, if I spent all my time trying to get into the head of every no-show, my business would be in the crapper!

  33. jd*

    I’m an hour from a re-scheduled interview, and probably shouldn’t be reading all this to settle my nerves!

    One day last week, I scheduled an interview at 10 a.m. and another at 2 p.m. I got to the 10 a.m. interview and they had me in hour-long meetings with 6 different groups of people! And my phone was dead. I had my charger and embarrassed myself by asking if I could plug it in somewhere. But the cord is bad, and it just never charged. They had me for lunch, and their secretary was waiting for me every time I tried desperately to get my phone working. But it didn’t, and I just didn’t have any time to make a call.

    I missed the 2 p.m. interview. I was so embarrassed that I might never have contacted them again, but they contacted me. So if you are still interested in the candidate, or just want to know what happened, sending an email couldn’t hurt. The recruiter seemed a little angry, justifiably, so I hope I’m not walking into a lion’s den! I apologized and apologized some more. I got here by asking Google whether I should apologize even more. :)

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