recruiter sent me to the wrong address, then asked me to lie about it

A reader writes:

I’ve recently started a job search; I’m a C-level executive assistant. I’m in NYC so it’s easiest to use a recruiter — I’m using three different agencies and they are all well-known and respected (meaning, not a shady recruiter like we hear about so often).

One of the agencies sent me to an interview but gave me the wrong address on the opposite side of the city! I gave myself plenty of time in case of subway issues, but when I arrived they told me that the person I needed didn’t work there. I panicked and called the agency — the recruiter said sorry, gave me the correct address, and asked me to tell the people there that I had subway trouble and not to let them know I was misdirected. I didn’t want to burn bridges with the recruiter, so I did what she asked.

Of course, I was not asked back for a second interview (for the first time in my entire career). The more I think about it, the more annoyed I am. She is the reason this interview did not work out for me; I was 20 minutes late because of her. To me, 20 minutes late to an interview is inexcusable; I’m surprised they bothered to see me at all.

I’m curious how I should have handled this. Did I do the right thing? If I had blamed the recruiter, she would have “lost my number” and I’m sure I’d never get another interview through her. And who’s to say she wouldn’t have accused me of lying if they called her on it? What should I have done in this situation?

Oh, clarification because I can see someone asking this — I did do my research before the interview. I didn’t know it was the wrong address because they do have an office at the first address I went to — but the executive office is in the building across town.

That recruiter just showed you something important about how she operates: that she’s willing to lie to cover up her own mistakes, and that she’s willing to make you look bad to make herself look better. Those are not traits you want in a recruiter, so it wouldn’t be a huge loss if she penalized you for telling the truth by not working with you anymore.

I would have just told the employer the truth: that the recruiter sent you to the wrong office. Given their set-up, I’m sure they’ve had people make this mistake before. And if the recruiter called you on it, you’d explain that you weren’t comfortable lying … and could also point out that it would look far worse to look like someone who wouldn’t think to plan for subway trouble than to just explain what actually happened. Sure, she could still lie to the employer if they asked her about it, but you can’t control that — you can only control your own actions and ensure you’re acting in a way you’re comfortable with.

This recruiter sucks. Her agency may not be shady, but she is.

{ 55 comments… read them below }

  1. Wilton Businessman*

    It is never OK to lie, period. Besides, the people at the other office already know you showed up at the wrong place. If the two locations talk, you look like an idiot AND a liar now.

    The recruiter preserved her business relationship with the client and threw you under the bus (or train as the case may be) to do it. That says a bunch about the integrity of your recruiter.

    1. Lilybell*

      OP here – I only spoke to lobby security at the first building. It was a huge NY skyscraper with dozens of companies. The guy didn’t work for the company where I was interviewing – he just told me I had the wrong building and sent me on my merry way.

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        OK then, you just look like a flake who can’t manage their time (probably not a good quality for an XA). Either way, the recruiter put you in a bad position by asking you to lie. Unfortunately you took their advice and it probably reflected poorly on you.

        You’ve learned a valuable lesson here. IMHO, if your recruiter was any good, they would have called the interviewer, explained that THEY sent you to the wrong place, and you are on your way right now.

        1. Jenn*

          You should probably clarify that you’re saying the place OP was interviewing with might have thought she was a flake for being late – and not saying that the OP is actually a flake.

        2. Lilybell*

          Would you please stop with the name calling? Your underlying veil of condescension towards me is quite obvious and undeserved.

          1. Amouse*

            OK then, you just look like a flake who can’t manage their time (probably not a good quality for an XA). Either way, the recruiter put you in a bad position by asking you to lie. Unfortunately you took their advice and it probably reflected poorly on you.

            The first time I read it Lilybell because of how it’s phrased that was my reaction too but I agree with Jenn. I think what he meant was: “Ok then (to the interviewer you were late for) you (probably) looked like a flake etc.” Wilton please correct me if I’m wrong. He was saying it in terms of how you may have come across by showing up late with the excuse about the traffic etc. not anything personal about how you actually are. I think this was a phrasing issue.

            1. Wilton Businessman*

              Yes, I am talking about from the employer’s perspective. We know the whole story, but the potential employer doesn’t.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t see name-calling here. Wilton Businessman is explaining what this would look like on the employer’s end, which is reasonable, not saying that the OP actually is a flake. I think that’s clear from the comment and the context.

  2. books*

    Yiiikes. What you should have done was have the first address call the second address and let them know that you were there and were making your way across town as fast as possible, then (depending on time of day obvi) jumped in a cab and apologized profusely.

    1. Lilybell*

      OP here. That’s not how it works when you use a recruiter – the person interviewing is not given contact details and is never supposed to call the potential employer on their own; that’s a big no-no. I didn’t even have the name of the person that was going to interview me; I was just told to let reception know I was there. It was lobby security that told me I had the wrong office; I was not able to talk to anyone that works there.

      1. books*

        That comment was based on assuming you had seen a receptionist or someone within the other location of the company.

  3. LMW*

    I had this exact same thing happen! I had multiple interviews with my company–all of them at HQ except one, at a branch office late in the process. I was 20 minutes late due to them giving me the wrong address. Luckily, it was the final interview with the person who gave me the wrong address–so they couldn’t hold it against me. But it was still stressful and embarassing.

  4. Jamie*

    I don’t work with recruiters so I am not saying this is something you should take up the ladder – could hurt you in many instances, I’d think…but from a managerial standpoint I’d want to know if someone who reported to me was acting like this.

    Assuming the recruiter doesn’t care what the OP thought of her, I’m assuming she does care what the client thinks of her agency and it would have been so easy for this to fall apart. If, upon hearing the lie, they responded with “that’s odd – we got a call from our other office saying that you’d been there first” you’d have had to admit the lie and why you did it.

    Being branded a liar can kill a relationship with the client much faster than accidentally giving the wrong address.

    1. Jenn*

      Well, she could always have said she had “subway trouble”……going from one office to the other! Which would technically be true, but I agree with you.

  5. Jenn*

    Wow. Yeah, this isn’t someone you want to continue doing business with. I wouldn’t rely on this woman for anything after that incident, much less finding me a new job. Who knows what ELSE she’s lying about?

  6. twentymilehike*

    Being branded a liar can kill a relationship with the client much faster than accidentally giving the wrong address.

    You know that’s what I was thinking … The recruiter must have already been in hot water and was trying to save her ass from the wrath of, “you f**d up again>!?” or her job was already on the line. One mistake isn’t going to kill your career, but having a track record could.

    If this happened to me–and I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, just what I’d end up doing because I couldn’t help myself–I would tell the whole truth to the company and let them know the reason I followed along was because she was pressuring me and I was nervous and allowed my anxiety to get the best of me. And I guess you learned that you sometimes can fold under pressure. It happens to the best of us!

    1. Anon2*

      Eh, at this point it’s probably best to let it go. You really have no good options with the company now. 1) you lied. 2) you bowed under pressure. Either of those is not going to make the Op look good as a job candidate. Especially as a C level assistant where it’s important they act as a gatekeeper for the bosses. I can’t imagine too many executives would have found the pressure in this case to be extreme enough to understand folding – they’ll just be thinking of all the pressures the Op will be under to allow access or favors from people inside and outside the company and be skeptical the Op can fend them off appropriately.

        1. Long Time Admin*

          Actually, C-level assistants ARE held to incredibly high standards by their executives. C-execs do think of things like this, especially if they had ever had assistants who failed miserably at their job.

  7. Liz T*

    Yeah, a full 20 minutes late due to subway trouble? There better be a story there, one I can confirm on the internet later. That means, assuming you left at least 10 minutes leeway (which is less leeway than I usually leave for an interview), your subway was delayed for 30 minutes. And you never thought to hop in a cab.

    This recruiter is terrible at lying.

    1. Anonymous*

      And you never thought about the fact that not everyone can afford cabs. The OP is looking for executive positions, so they probably can. But a lot of people will be reading this article and “taking a cab” is not advice that a lot of long-term unemployed job seekers can use.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Liz wasn’t attacking the poster for not thinking to take a cab. She was pointing out several reasons why the recruiter’s request was dumb. But that aside, yes, people here will give advice that might not be applicable to every single person who reads it. It’s not reasonable to expect everything to come with a list of caveats.

        1. Lilybell*

          Ha, OP here. I have to laugh at the cab comments. I live in NYC! It’s 10 times faster to take the subway across town than a taxi. I would have been 45 minutes late instead of 20 if I had gone that route instead. But I know what Liz means, I didn’t take that as criticism.

          1. kristinyc*

            Yeah, a 20 minute subway delay (in a place in between stops, so you can’t get out and switch to a cab) is not that uncommon…

            @Lilybell – If you’re still looking, my company is looking for an executive associate for our founders (basically, CEOs, just not in title). We’re a popular online eyewear company in Soho… email me if you want more info.

            1. Greg*

              Ha, I just had to laugh at that, kristinyc, because (to me at least) it was very obvious which company you work for. Reminds me of the time a recruiter called me about a job with a “sports media company” that was located in Bristol, CT. I was thinking, “Why bother beating around the bush? You might as well just say, ‘Rhymes with Schmee-S-P-N’.”

              (Oh, and just to clarify, that wasn’t meant as a criticism of kristinyc at all. Her post just reminded me of that funny story. I actually think her offer to the OP was an incredibly nice gesture.)

              1. kristinyc*


                Yeah, I meant for it to be sort of obvious so she could figure it out. Or, just clicking on my name would take someone to my blog where my most recent post is about where I work. But google probably wouldn’t make that connection instantly.

          2. Melissa*

            I live in NYC too…since when is it ten times faster to take the subway than a taxi, especially cross town? Perhaps during rush hour, I suppose.

    2. Zed*

      “Yeah, a full 20 minutes late due to subway trouble? There better be a story there, one I can confirm on the internet later. ”

      We must not take the same subway!

    3. Andrew*

      And exactly how would you confirm this on the Internet ? Do you really believe a 20-minute subway delay is newsworthy enough to be reported by anyone, including the MTA?

    4. sara*

      I’m not sure what city you’re in but i’m from NYC and travel extensively on the subway. Sometimes the subways get stuck in between stations so there really is no way to get out of hte train and take a cab. Also, cabs are expensive. Chances are, most people looking for jobs can’t really afford cab fare esp if it’s all the way across town and that can easily go upto $50! Also, unless it’s catastrophic, subway delays really don’t make the news.

    5. Laura L*

      Unless your train gets stuck between stations for an hour for no apparent reason….

      (This didn’t happen to me, but it happened recently in DC.)

    6. Liz T*

      Dear all: a 30-minute subway delay is in fact uncommon. Delays often FEEL that long, but they’re usually a few minutes, occasionally longer. (If you live on the L or G, you should know to leave EXTRA extra time.)

      Services changes would be on the MTA website; in the case of enormous straight-up clusterf@#ks, people in the office would be talking about it already, as it would’ve affected someone else. I think we’ve talked about this in the past regarding traffic jam excuses. (Remember that guy who advised us all to INTENTIONALLY be late?)

      Sometimes a cab is slower than a subway; sometimes it’s not; it depends on the trip and the time of day. It’s true that not everyone can afford a cab, but that’s another question your interviewer might be silently asking.

      Do not impugn my understanding of NYC transport! I will, apparently, respond with lots of condescending semi-colons.

  8. twentymilehike*

    There better be a story there, one I can confirm on the internet later.

    Ooooh … maybe it was a test!

    Okay … maybe that’s a little far-fetched, but it could happen, right? Actually, now that I think about it, probably not …

    But it could still happen! :)

    1. twentymilehike*

      Well, hell, I can’t seem to actually “reply” to anyone’s post today … I think you guys are smart enought to figure it out though :)

  9. K.*

    I had a recruiter tell me the wrong time for an interview – she told me to be there at 1:00, she told the company I’d be there at noon, so to them I was an hour late. I waited in the lobby for a while and then called the recruiter, who immediately realized what she had done, called the people I was to speak with, and owned up – “Completely my fault, I told her 1 PM.” They did end up squeezing me in, and when I apologized they immediately said “Oh, it wasn’t your fault.” That’s a recruiter with integrity. This one? Has none.

    1. Anon2*

      Exactly. As soon as the recruiter knew they’d sent you to the wrong address she should have been on the phone with the client to let them know she’d made that mistake and you’d be late. It’s ridiculous that she asked you to lie for her.

      1. books*

        Concur. As AAM said in the original response, this firm may not be shady, but your recruiter was.

    2. AgilePhalanges*

      I can’t help but think about the disparity between how much damage each party would bear by accepting the blame. If all other things would be equal, I can see why the recruiter would at least ASK the interviewee to lie. But it’s not equal–the interviewee looks lik a flake and is most likely completely out of the running for being late to the appointment and having an excuse about traffic/subway/whatever. However, the recruiter could have called the company and explained the mistake, and would have had a teeny-tiny ding on their professional polish but (unless there have been a series of similar mistakes, as others have pointed out) wouldn’t have even lost a client, most likely, and even if they had, it wouldn’t have affected the recruiter on a personal level to nearly the extent that the job-seekers has now ben affected. The recruiter should have totally just owned up to it.

  10. Meg*

    I am employed now by a firm that supplies the staffing to a federal client. I had my in-person, final interview on site at the client’s location, which is rather secured and really large. My interview was scheduled for 11am, I was to meet the hiring manager of the firm in the lobby at 1045.

    I was told by the hiring manager to “take the shuttle when [I] get off the Metro.” Neglected to tell me there were multiple shuttles, and the one I got on was NOT the one I needed. Ended up taking me around and around and then we came back in, got stopped by security and I had to spend 10 minutes getting a visitor’s badge. Got on the RIGHT shuttle, but was about 4 stops away at 1045. I called her on her cell, explained that I had some shuttle issues, and was on my way. Great timing, because she was running late herself.

    It’s right at 11am when I get to the lobby and she had just gotten there herself, and we go looking for this conference room that they told her to meet in. 11am turns into 11:15, and it’s almost 11:30 by the time we find the right conference room. It wasn’t held against me though, they were so laid back and understood that it was confusing directions to the conference room (I interviewed with the same two people I had my phone interview with).

    Interview went fantastic, I was told afterwards walking out by the hiring manager that I nailed it and the people were eating it up. That was Friday. Monday, I was called because they wanted to extend an offer, and for her to submit my salary for negotiations. After a day of negotiations, I accepted the offer Tuesday evening, had official documents Thursday (yesterday).

    SO tl;dr I wouldn’t have lied for the recruiter. I think it ultimately cost you the position. The others telling you to call the client directly and let them know you were at the wrong address… I take it you didn’t have the client’s direct contact (I know I didn’t… anything I had to send to the two people I was interviewing with, I had to send to the hiring manager and she would forward it to them). Your recruiter is shady, and I would be hesistant on working with her again.

  11. Lilybell*

    Hi, I’m the OP. Thanks to everyone for their comments; I love reading them. I didn’t want to make my letter to Alison too long, so I left out the part about the actual interview. There’s no way I would have accepted the job if they had offered it to me. My gut told me to run – it was obvious the boss is disorganized and thrives in a chaotic atmosphere, which is not my cup of tea. So I wasn’t all that broken up when I didn’t get a 2nd interview. It’s more that my pride was hurt because I usually interview really well.

    I’ve decided to ask the agency to assign me to another recruiter there and I’m going to tell them why. If that ends up affecting me negatively, I guess I’ll manage and just use the other two agencies I’ve been working with. I think the agency will want to keep me happy because they will get a good commission off me (I’m on the higher end of the salary range for these positions).

      1. Lilybell*

        Thank you! The search is actually going very well. I’ve turned down two offers because the salary was too low; I’m so lucky that I already have a good job so I can afford to wait until I find the perfect match (I’m only leaving because I know my beloved boss is about to quit).

    1. fposte*

      Well, I’m glad this happened with a company you ended up not being interested in anyway, rather than damaging your start with a good opportunity.

    2. anon*

      “I’ve decided to ask the agency to assign me to another recruiter there and I’m going to tell them why” – thats a great idea, I hope that works out well for you. If you feel inclined, it would be nice to hear how it goes. Good luck!

  12. Recruiter*

    I am a former Recruiter, I specialized in Executive Assistant positions (if you want the name of a great agency in NYC, let me know!). Basically, the Recruited doesn’t care if YOU get the job. She only cares that she places the person who gets the job. She preserved her relationship at your expense.

  13. Steve G*

    I’m sorry you were bullied into lying. Just be honest. I wouldn’t even call it “standing up for yourself,” because someone messing up an address doesn’t seem like the end of the world to me. Better luck next time.

  14. Grace McQuillan*

    This happened to me over here in the UK. I traveled from Bristol (south west) to London (south east) via coach for the interview. Went through to south west London and turned up at the head office to be greeted by a confused receptionist who had no idea about any interviews. Luckily I had the email from the recruiter on my phone and showed it to the staff. I was told the recruiter had given me the wrong address and I had to come back. I said I wasn’t going to be coming back as I bad traveled across the country to get here and booked a day of work with my current employer! I was given a different address trekked it back across London and nearly three hours late did my interview and got the job. I had paid £30 for a cab and another £20 as I missed my coach home. The recruitment agency finally paid this back to me after they tried to get the company to pay for it! I told them that was not goig to happen. I don’t think that recruitment agency has been used again but that’s their problem!

  15. Judy*

    Once a recruiter sent me to an 8 am interview to a company that had several buildings. I printed out the email with where she gave me the details, time, building and who to ask for when I got to the lobby.
    I arrived 10 mins before the interview and checked in with the receptionist. She said, xxxx doesn’t work in the building, he works in building x. She said it would take about 10 mins to get there.
    I asked her if she could call him or leave him a message that I will be there shortly.
    When she called xxxx, he told her that he only had on his calendar a phone interview with me and didnt have time to see me ftf.
    When I got home I immediately called my recruiter. I dont know for sure if she tried to reschedule it or not but never heard from her again.

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