realizing you want to reject a job candidate after already inviting them to interview

A reader writes:

I am new to the hiring process, on the employer side, and want to make sure I am following proper (and legal) etiquette.

Is it appropriate to reject applicants based on email responses to an interview invitation?

After narrowing the applicant pool, I sent emails to qualified applicants requesting an interview. Resumes were emailed in the beginning, so I believe this was an appropriate method of communication.

Based on the responses I received back, there are a few applicants who I would like to reject and not interview after all. These responses included serious grammatical and spelling errors or the applicants asking me to give more details on who I was. The name of the company, as well as my own name, was included in all correspondence; however, they would send responses such as, “Can I ask who exactly I am interviewing with again???” (they actually included three question marks) and “I’ve applied to so many companies, can you give me more information on your company?”

Based on these responses, I can already tell these are not individuals I want to hire. Can I rescind the invitation to interview or do I need to continue the process, knowing they’ll receive a rejection?

You can absolutely rescind the invitation. There’s no need to spend your time interviewing someone who you know you won’t hire, and frankly, it’s kinder and more considerate not to waste their time either if you’re sure you won’t hire them.

When I’ve had this happen, I’ve sent an email back saying something like this: “My apologies — we’ve had a change in plans on our end and won’t be able to proceed with the interview after all, but I wish you all the best in your search.” If you’re pressed for an explanation, you’re not under any obligation to provide one; it’s fine to be vague and say “we’re moving forward with candidates who better fit the needs of the role.” But if you feel like explaining, there’s no reason that you can’t be transparent and say something like, “For most roles, we’re looking for candidates who display strong attention to detail and are resourceful. Your response to my interview invitation was enough out of sync with our style on those fronts that I don’t think this is the right match.” (Of course, if you do that, prepare yourself for people to argue with you. You’ll have to decide if you feel like taking that on or not.)

By the way, you implied you weren’t sure what the law might require in this regard. The law doesn’t require you to follow through on interviews once you’ve offered one, or to spend time with candidates who you know you won’t hire. Hell, the law doesn’t even require you to treat people fairly (not that there’s anything unfair about your decision-making process here). It only requires you not to discriminate based on race, sex, age (if over 40), religion, disability, or other protected characteristics.

It’s perfectly reasonable and legal — and smart and even considerate — to rescind an interview invitation when you’re sure the person no longer stands a chance.

{ 224 comments… read them below }

  1. LBK*

    Maybe I’m not as sensitive having not done much hiring, but those types of questions don’t seem particularly egregious to me, especially asking who you’d be interviewing with. Three question marks isn’t great, but the question itself doesn’t sound bad to me. Often you’re emailing with an HR rep or assistant prior to the interview, not the hiring manager themselves, so maybe they don’t realize you’ll actually be the one interviewing them.

    I know you (a general you) have such limited information during the hiring process that the significance of each moment along the way is amplified, but I’d also consider giving the benefit of the doubt if someone otherwise seemed like a really strong candidate instead of nixing them immediately.

    1. hildi*

      I read it as the person was asking what company they were even interviewing with? I also read it the way you did at first (thought they were aware of the company, but just asking for the specific person they were going to do the interview with). But I read it again and it seems to me the applicant doesn’t even recall the name of the company OP is from.

      1. jag*

        I’d check the outgoing email to make sure it is 100% clear the the OP’s company is telling the applicant their company name and, ideally, the name of the people that applicant would be meeting with. And no, the domain name of the sender is not enough info if that is all there is.

        If this info isn’t clear – either in the email signature or other information in the message sent to the applicant, then the applicant’s questions seem entirely reasonable to me.

        1. hildi*

          I totally agree with you on this. The outrage on OP’s behalf is probably justified if the OP included all the identifying information in the body of the email. But if it wasn’t clear, then maybe the applicant doesn’t need to be skewered quite as badly.

        2. AndersonDarling*

          Does the email signature contain graphics? If so, then the company name may not be visible when received.
          Also, I’ve applied to “Jenny Credit Union” and received a response from the parent company “Super Bank of the World.” I had to dig deep in Google to find out it wasn’t spam.
          It just strikes me as odd that the applicants had good enough resumes and cover letters to be invited to an interview, but responding casually would automatically throw them out of the pool. Did the invitation email address the candidate by their first name, end with a “Thanks!” or have any other indication that the conversation was casual?

          1. Anonsie*

            That’s what I came in to say– I’ve had people’s signature blocks vanish or come up as weird attachments (some that can be opened, some that can’t) depending on how they’re included in the original email. If the letter writer is counting on that to be the big indicator for the recipient, she should be aware that they may not be received, especially if she seems to be getting a surprising amount of people asking who she is.

          2. amy*

            That’s assuming they wrote the CV and resume all on their lonesome. Most people I know get a friend / partner / professional to help (aka do it for them)

            1. Noelle*

              Wow, do people really do that? I’ve had people look over my resume and suggest edits, but I can’t imagine having someone write my resume or cover letter for me. It seems like it would backfire pretty spectacularly.

      2. BRR*

        I’m not sure we can know which way they meant without further context. If it is person or people I wouldn’t boot them but if it was company I would.

        1. Helka*

          I think the tone of the “who will I be interviewing with” question is a good reason to boot them (assuming they are not fresh out of school and expected to be learning professional norms on the job). There are ways to ask for information like that, and there are ways not to.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      And if someone wants to reject a candidate because he/she is asking reasonable questions, maybe that candidate wouldn’t fit in there.

      I know if I asked “who will I be seeing tomorrow?” and I were disqualified for asking that, it would be a good thing, I think. Wouldn’t want to work there.

      1. Alternative*

        Yes, but “who will I be seeing tomorrow?” is a perfectly normal and professional way to write the question, and “Can I ask who exactly I am interviewing with again???” is not. Most candidates are on their best behavior during the hiring phase, and if that’s the best they can do, no thanks.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          I think it’s the “…again???” part that’s most telling. The candidate apparently was told at some point who the interviewer would be, and now doesn’t remember.

          1. CanadianKat*

            Possible, but since the OP hasn’t mentioned it, it’s not likely. The candidate could also have replied: “I’ll be delighted to attend the interview. Can you please tell me the names of my interviewers again? I wasn’t able to write them down when you called me about my interview earlier today.”

            For some jobs, the response may be fine. If the OP were looking for an expert car mechanic, they may overlook their written communication style over their other skills. But if the OP is looking for an administrative assistant, and there is a large enough pool of candidates who have answered in an appropriate manner – why not cross this one off the list?

    3. Koko*

      When I was hiring, that kind of response would give me serious reservations. I expect applicants to only ask questions they don’t already have the answers to. Considering they found the job opening and applied for it, and that the manager’s name and company name are in the email and presumably Googlable, the candidate is perfectly capable of figuring out on their own what the company does, and most likely what job they applied for.

      I would probably overlook, but remember, a candidate who said something like, “This is so embarrassing, but I can’t seem to find the original application materials I sent you, and I’ve applied for a few similar jobs. Could you send me a copy of the job description so I can be sure I’m prepared for our conversation?” A dashed-off, “What job is this again??” or asking me to explain what the company does tells me the applicant doesn’t have a lot of motivation to find answers for themselves–which, considering I hired for a small nonprofit where people had to be self-starters and capable of routine internet research, was a major dealbreaker.

      1. Nicole*

        OP Here. I am hiring for a small nonprofit, this position (Office Manager) will be 2 out of 2 employees (myself included). We most certainly need a self-starter and an individual that is capable of research and tracking down information. If the applicant cannot keep track of their own resume submissions, then I feel that they most definitely could not manage the office. Located in a relatively small town, it would not be very difficult to find information on the organization or myself. In fact, most candidates are notified of the job opportunity via friends and family. Also, found the three question marks extremely non-professional and quite honestly disrespectful.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          Your reasons to drop these candidates are valid, and I believe you have a much better chance of finding the kind of employee you need if you keep your standards high.

          You are the kind of employer I would have liked to work for.

  2. Helka*

    Oh man, those responses kicked in my secondhand embarrassment so hard! I’m just sitting here cringing for them, trying and failing to imagine actually sending a question like that to an interviewer.

    1. OhNo*

      Ugh, me too! I’ve definitely had the “wait, what job was this for?” moment in the past, but it never even crossed my mind to ask the person contacting about the interview what the job was.

      This is why you should keep some kind of documentation of the jobs you apply for! I like spreadsheets and job postings & descriptions in a word doc, myself.

      1. soitgoes*

        Well lots of Craigslist ads are super vague, and then you get emails back that indicate that you’re interviewing for a completely different position. I can think of a lot of scenarios where entry level candidates who are limited to non-networking methods of job searching would have legitimate reasons for asking what job they were interviewing for.

        1. Colette*

          But the OP is providing her name and the company name in the original email. Assuming the applicant knew the company name when they applied (which is the case much of the time), it’s on them to record or remember what they applied to, and to look up information about the company themselves.

          1. soitgoes*

            I’ve had interviews with companies that were subsidiaries of larger businesses – I couldn’t google the company itself, but later on I was able to google the larger corporation. and again, signing an email with your name isn’t the same thing as saying, “I will be interviewing you.” I realize I sound weird and maybe paranoid here, but I’ve had these things happen with companies that were well-established, so I’m not jumping on board with thinking that the applicants all screwed up, especially when so many of them seem confused. Was there a bait-and-switch in job titles and responsibilities between the job posting and the interview invitation? Does a google search of the company bring up a website? And does that website look legit? I’ve actually never worked for a small business that had a website under its own LLC name. They all sold items through sites like eBay and Amazon under aliases.

            1. Nerd Girl*

              “I’ve had interviews with companies that were subsidiaries of larger businesses”

              I currently work for a company like this. I started as a temp and during the interview the manager referred to it as “Chocolate Teapots LTD”. She gave me my start date and the company address, which I misplaced a day or two before my start date (and found again the morning AFTER my first day of work!). I googled the company and couldn’t find it, but I found a similar sounding “Vanilla Teapots INC” on the same street and thought they were associated. Nope. It turns out that “Paper Straws LLC” was the correct company. I never would have thought they were part of the same company if not for a helpful receptionist at Vanilla Teapots Inc. She said a lot of delivery people made the same assumption and she was able to point me in the right direction. And I made it there in time too!

            2. Colette*

              This might be an industry thing, because I’ve never applied to a company that didn’t have a website (at least not since the internet became common). I’d also assume that if I got an email from someone asking me to come in for an interview, they were the person I should ask for when I arrived. Maybe they’re not the person who will be doing the interview, but they’re the person whose name I have, so they’re the one I’m going to ask for.

            3. AW*

              And does that website look legit?

              I’ve applied to a couple of jobs where the company/organization web site was…not great. It really does make you second guess whether it’s legit (especially if the company/organization is in IT).

              Kind of a tangent but weird domain names do the same thing. There is an American bank which, I kid you not, has a domain name that looks like this: bta21390481 – That’s not the actual domain, I can’t remember it, but it’s literally three letters followed by a series of numbers. Hence why I can’t remember it. I could not, and still can’t understand why a BANK would have a domain name that looks like a trap.

              1. marci*

                I have been to many company websites that looked graphically beautiful, but I seriously could not tell what industry they were in. Have an outsider check your sites for feedback.

          2. Artemesia*

            As noted, if it was on the ‘letterhead’ as she stated, the recipient may not have received it. This kind of fussy graphic stuff often comes in as attachments that won’t open or don’t get opened because of conservative approaches to opening attachments. She should at least make sure her signature includes her title and her company. One response like this — blame them. More than one response like this — look at how you are communicating.

            1. Anna*

              One is an aberration.
              Twice is a coincidence.
              Three times is a pattern and indicates the problem might not be on their end.

            2. Erin*

              As long as the OP has the name of the company and the job title in the body of the email, as well as in her signature (as text, not graphic) I think she’s done everything she can. I worked as a corporate recruiter for two different Fortune 100, house-hold name companies. I would email candidates something similar to this:

              Dear Firstname,

              Upon reviewing your application the Account Executive position with Famous Company, I would like to schedule a 30 minute telephone interview. What is your availability for a call later this week? I’ve attached a copy of the job description and look forward to hearing from you soon.

              Best regards,
              Erin Lastname
              Corporate Recruiter
              Famous Company

              The job description also had the name of the company. I would get a small but noticeable percentage of candidates emailing back, “What was the company?” or “What was the job again?” Sometimes you can only do so much.

              1. Erin*

                Oh, I’m pretty sure I made it clear that I would be the one doing the initial interview, but I can’t remember exactly how I phrased it. I haven’t been in that role for a couple of years now.

        2. OhNo*

          Even if that’s the case, there are more professional ways to inquire than to say, “I’ve applied to so many companies, can you give me more information on your company?”. For example: asking for details on the job duties, title, or place in the org. structure during the interview, confirming the interview appointment with additional details (e.g.: “I would love to come in for an interview about the X role!”, to which the interviewer can respond if there is a miscommunication about the specifics), even asking for directions if you have completely forgotten what company it is (this is what I did).

          Even if they have a good reason to forget, it still looks bad. I think what really makes me cringe about this one is it really gives the impression that the candidate just doesn’t care about the company – not only did they apparently forget that they applied there, but they don’t even seem to want to put in the effort to do their own research on the organization.

          1. Mimi*

            You would truly be shocked (or maybe not) at the number of candidates I interview who don’t do this basic research. It’s to the point where if a candidate can answer the question “So, what do you know about [name of company]?” with anything more specific than “Um, not much, to be honest….” I’ll hire them. Immediately.

            1. Michele*

              I work for a very large international corporation, and it takes no effort to find information about us online, but the majority of people that I interview don’t bother to do that. It is particularly bad because the position requires a certain amount of literature searching, and if someone can’t even google “teapot”, that doesn’t give me much confidence in their ability to do an in depth literature search.

            2. marci*

              You would truly be shocked by how well I’ve researched orgs and it manages to impress no one. (Unless your website makes no sense, which is sometimes the case.)

            3. Tina*

              When I first started job searching, I tried to research the companies a lot. That was a waste of time. No hiring manager I ever talked to quizzed me about my company knowledge. They wanted to talk about the specifics of the job.

              And honestly, when you think about how many people are interviewing for one position and how many jobs each of those people are interviewing for, that’s a lot of wasted hour memorizing facts about companies they are probably not going to work at.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’m going to do a post on how to research a company — what does and doesn’t matter. I think people take a very broad approach to it, but it’s really only a few things that you need to look at.

          2. Anon for this*

            Yes, this is my feeling. The sentiment isn’t necessarily bad, but the presentation really, really is.

          3. AMG*

            This is why you copy and save the job description in a separate folder with the cover letter and resume you submitted. Also log it on your tracker of jobs to which you applied, the date, responses, and any login to the job portal they may have. I just assumed that’s what everyone else does. How else do you avoid exactly this situation???

            1. Merry and Bright*

              Same here. Also, how would you expect to organise yourself and have information at your fingertips if you were appointed? All this is a good indicator of how professional a candidate really is.

        3. Mike C.*

          Yeah, I remember dealing with this. One company had a handful of DBAs and it was a giant pain in the butt.

      2. De Minimis*

        I had this happen once, but don’t think it was really my fault, I had been contacted through a recruiter about a position and then several months later an HR person from the client company contacted me out of the blue and started doing an on-the-spot phone screen. Of course, I did poorly so that was that.

        I’ve also had it happen when I applied with a lot of similar sounding employers over a short period…I know at one point I got confused because I’d applied for jobs with both county and federal human services agencies. They did not find out but it was a few days after I got a call to schedule an interview before I realized it was the county job I was interviewing for and not the federal one.

          1. LuvsAlaugh*

            I cold call phone screen all the time…..However, after I introduce myself and the reason for the call I always give them an out by asking if this is a good time for them or if they would like to schedule a call back. By the same token, I don’t expect that they have much company knowledge (some of them do, some research when applying) during that cold call. If I invite them in for a face to face. That’s a different story.

            1. De Minimis*

              I think had they called within the timeframe of my dealing with the recruiter it might have made more sense. This was literally months later. It may have even been the following year!

              Also, I’d never formally applied to this company, and only knew that it was connected to the recruiter because he’d mentioned the name of the company in the initial phone call.

              I’m okay with a cold call phone screen when it’s something I just applied for, like within a week or two.

          2. Merry and Bright*

            Agree. Interviews should be a professional two-way process. You wouldn’t just phone a company or pitch up at their offices and ask if it was a good time for an interview.

            It is different somehow for a recruitment agency but an employer should schedule.

        1. Stevie Wonders*

          20+ years ago cold call screening was very common, and of course disconcerting. The really fun ones were the east coast interviewers calling at 8 am their time, 5 am my time wanting to do an hour interview. Those went really well. Didn’t have the gumption/coherence to request a reschedule. Luckily, almost all are prescheduled nowadays, what a relief!

      3. INTP*

        I’ve asked the person contacting me but only when it was a phone call and they didn’t open by clearly explaining who they were. If I had an email signature I’d definitely search the company name rather than email back to ask!

      4. Elizabeth West*

        Me too, and I always made a PDF of the job description or copied it to a document when I applied, in case they took it down when they closed applications. I started doing that after one company called for an interview a month later and the job description I bookmarked had disappeared by then.

      5. VictoriaHR*

        Evernote web clipper. Clip the job posting into a “Jobs” notebook, boom, done. You’ve got the posting, the date you applied, everything.

      6. Merry and Bright*

        Same here. I might forget about the company in all the flurry but I would remind myself from my own records and/or by searching online. Not as if they are phoning and putting you on the spot.

  3. 42*

    While I completely agree that typos and grammatical errors and triple punctuation would make a hiring manager second guess themselves, I wonder if the confirmation email sent to those chosen for interviews was as clear and detailed as the OP thinks it was.

    Even if it seemed redundant to the OP, I hope the email explicitly conveyed “You will be meeting with X”, along with X’s title, how X would fit in relation to the company and the open position. Multiple applicants “asking me to give more details on who I was” makes me think that some key information was missing.

    If the OP is new to the hiring process, then maybe the issue in this case wasn’t entirely a case of initially ‘good’ applicants suddenly going off the rails.

    1. Colette*

      I think the OP does need to tell the applicant the name of the person they will be meeting with (so that the applicant knows who to ask for when they arrive), but their title & what they do at the company is not required. That’s something they can provide during the interview.

      1. 42*

        I don’t understand the logic behind not providing the position and title of the person with whom someone will be interviewing ahead of time. I’m thinking back now, and I can’t recall a single time I didn’t know that information prior to my interview, ever.

        1. Colette*

          The company could provide that information, and often they do, but it really doesn’t change anything for the applicant and they’re not obligated to provide it in advance. That’s the kind of thing that will totally throw you off if you put too much weight on it and it changes at the last minute (if the person who was supposed to interview you is sick or called away and someone else has to fill in).

          1. 42*

            “…doesn’t change anything for the applicant”? Respectfully and completely and wholeheartedly disagree. Lots of nuanced info to be had.

            And thinking on it more, if I -didn’t- get that info with my interview invite, I’m almost certain I’d follow up my confirmation asking with whom I’d be interviewing. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, and still wouldn’t.

            1. Colette*

              What does it change? How would you prepare differently if you believed you know who you’ll be talking to? What would happen if there was a last minute change?

              1. 42*

                Absolutely nothing would happen if thy made a last minute change.

                And there would be many subtle ways that I would prepare differently based upon who is interviewing me. If I were meeting with HR or a recruiter, my language and focus might be slightly different than if I were meeting with someone who is fluent in scientific language/theory etc.

                1. Colette*

                  But your language is in the interview – when you know who you’re talking to – not in your preparation.

                  I think too much focus on who you will be interviewing you can lead to having a preconceived notion about what questions you will be asked, which is more likely to hurt than to help. Is it nice to know? Sure. Should it substantially affect how you prepare? No.

                2. Anon for this*

                  Yeah, I agree. The way I’d think about my answers to questions and the questions I’d prepare would differ to some extent based on who my interviewer was, and I’ve also found it useful to look them up on LinkedIn to see what their background is.

              2. Cat*

                We have bios in our websites and candidates often review them and ask specific questions about our own work and background. Not necessary but nice for them that they can probe into that in the questioning portion of the interview. If there’s a last minute substitution that’s fine (and often acknowledged by everyone) but there’s absolutely nothing wrong–and often much to be gained–by being able to ask “so how did you find X aspect of the job given they you have a background in Y”.

              3. Anna*

                It’s a respect thing. To say it’s completely unnecessary to provide that information implies the person being interviewed is not worthy of the info. It also helps to know who people are. When I interviewed for my current position, I wasn’t told I was being interviewed by the two highest ranking people at my office, and a student. It was a bit shocking when I was interviewed by those people and would have given me some information on who I would be answering to and what to expect from this organization.

                1. JB*

                  I agree. You know a lot about the candidates because you have their resumes, but they don’t know anything about their interviewer. Plus it allows the candidate to ask different questions, as 42 mentioned. You don’t have to provide that information, but I think you should, and I can’t see any reason not to in most situations.

                  Same with cold call interviews. You the interviewer are prepared for the interview, but the poor applicant isn’t. I imagine that there are some jobs that this makes sense for, but not most.

              4. La munieca*

                It may not change the way that candidates will answer questions about their own experience, but it certainly changes the questions candidates ask of the people interviewing them. When I go into an interview, I’m looking for evidence that I want to work there, and each person I meet with can offer different pieces of that answer if I give them the chance to answer the questions best suited for them. For example, in my last job search, I had questions for my future manager “how do you measure success in this role? How would you describe your management style?” that were different from the questions for the exec director, “what are the biggest challenges and opportunities for this organization in the next year? Will budget cut X affect this program? How does Y politician view our program?”

                1. Elsajeni*

                  But couldn’t you plan out those questions in advance even if you didn’t know who you’d be meeting with, and then choose which ones to ask based on who you’re introduced to at the start of the interview? Even if you know you’re supposed to be interviewing with the person who would be your direct manager, focusing all your preparation on what you’d want to ask that specific person is a recipe for trouble if it turns out that she’s out sick and someone else will be stepping in, or the interview goes so great that she wants to have you sit down with the executive director right away, or there’s any other change of plans.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Me neither. I think that’s important information to have– provides context. A conversation with HR is usually going to be different than a conversation with the head teapot analyst.

        3. MaryMary*

          It sounds crazy, but the person scheduling the interview might not know who the interviewer is. At OldJob, for a while we had a pool of people who would interview entry-level hires. The recruiter would schedule the interview and then see who in the pool was available and willing to do the interview. Sometimes, there were last minute switches if someone had a client emergency come up.

        4. Mirabella*

          I’ve been in that position more than once, just a recently as last month. An assistant set up the interview, but quite intentionally didn’t tell that I’d be talking to the senior partner at the law firm. When she walked me out she whispered that they never mention his name because it tended to make people nervous. And she was right, he’s a pretty big deal in the legal community here and I would have been more nervous. He seemed like a nice guy and I would have liked the job.

      2. Sadsack*

        If you are going to provide a name, why not provide the person’s title, so the interviewee has some context? I’d want to know with whom I am going to be speaking, and it doesn’t seem like a big deal to provide that information.

        1. Colette*

          Sure, they could provide that information, but it’s not unreasonable for them not to. Maybe the title doesn’t make sense outside of the company, or it is misleading, or they just don’t want to provide it. It’s not a big deal for them to provide it – but it is a bigger deal to think you’re entitled to that information.

          1. Zillah*

            I feel like “entitlement” is a weird word to use here, because it’s not any more wrong to want some information about your interviewer than it is to want that information about the company or the department you’d be working for. I mean, I don’t think it’s necessarily a huge deal to not provide it, but I do feel like failing to do so without a good reason is a little rude to the candidate.

            1. Colette*

              It’s not wrong to want it, but it is wrong to think you are entitled to get it.

              The thing is, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to provide information in advance. For example, if I were interviewing people to join the team I’m on, my title would give them absolutely no information about what I do in relation to what they’d be doing. I don’t think the employer needs to explain or justify why they aren’t providing information in advance.

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                I feel like I must be living in an alternate universe. I’ve never been involved in a hiring situation, either as candidate or interviewer, where the names and titles/responsibilities of the interviewers weren’t known to the candidate.

    2. Jen RO*

      Honestly I don’t even see why they should tell me who I am interviewing with. I was usually told to show up at X time, it’s an interview with the hiring manager/HR, and that’s it. No names, no specifics, and I don’t see how having specifics would help. I’ve never had a problem finding my way by simply saying “I have an interview at 2 p.m. for the XX position”.

      1. Anna*

        It helps because almost every interview I’ve gone to that didn’t provide that information one of the first questions I was asked after saying I had an appointment was, “Who with?” When I can’t provide that information, who looks like the unprepared chump? Me. Not the person interviewing or the HR. Me. And if I’m there to make a good impression, that is automatically starting me out on the wrong foot.

        1. Jennifer*

          Hah, the HR department just tells us where to go (note: HR has nothing to do with the interview/hiring after notifying me I got an interview), I have no effing idea who I am meeting with or how many people before I walk in the door.

      2. Alternative*

        Specifics can be very helpful – so you have a chance to look up the person and their role and background ahead of time. You can find out professional experiences you may have in common, or industries they have spent time in, maybe even personal things like you are from the same hometown or went to the same university. I would prepare for an interview with a CFO with background from a big 4 firm, differently than an interview with someone who founded and started their business from scratch, for example. I agree that it is not a must to have names and titles ahead of time, but it is certainly helpful.

      3. Neeta (RO)*

        Yeah, same here. The only exception was with a Skype interview, where I was told that John Smith would be calling me.

        Like Jen, I would be told the type of interview HR/technical and then I’d just show up stating I was there for an interview for X position. Sometimes they’d ask my name.

        I can see Alternative’s point of view as well, but most of the time people were strictly interested to talk about the advertised position.

      4. Pennalynn Lott*

        I’m imagining how horribly it would have gone if I’d showed up for my interviews at IBM and Microsoft with only the information, “I have an interview at 2:oopm for the outside sales position.” There would literally be no way for the receptionist to ascertain who of the thousands and thousands of people on campus I was supposed to be meeting with.

        Also, I’ve been interviewed by people tangentially related to the position I’d applied for, because the departments worked together on occasion. By knowing their name, title, and department ahead of time, I was better prepared for the types of questions they asked me, plus I was able to offer up meaningful questions of my own, allowing for a much more productive interview. Going into those interviews blind would have been a death sentence.

    3. Bunny*


      Most placed I’ve had interviews with, the email notifying me of the interview has been very explicit. I’m talking something like “With reference to your application for Chief Tea-Cosy Knitter at Chocolate Teapots Ltd, London Branch [REFERENCE NUMBER], advertised on $Job Site. We are pleased to invite you to an interview at London Branch on $Date at $Time. Your interview will be with [“Myself/Name of Interviewer”]. Upon arrival, please visit reception and ask to be directed to the Knitting Department. Address and contact number for London Branch are below:”.

      Which, honestly, I greatly appreciate. Because while I do my best to be organised and to keep a clear record of my applications, the simple truth is I apply to multiple jobs almost every day, from a dozen different websites including the individual websites of the employers themselves. And if I’ve applied for a dozen different “office admin” positions in the last week, or applied to more than one position at a company, or applied for the position a month or more ago (more common than you’d think!) it helps to have as much information as possible even just to help me narrow down which vacancy on my spreadsheet they’re referring to.

      I definitely agree that grammar issues are a problem, but if multiple people are all asking the same questions of OP when invited for interviews, it might just be that there is some key information missing from the text body of the email they’re sending out.

  4. soitgoes*

    Maybe there’s a culture or industry aspect at play here, because aside from the insistent question marks, I don’t understand why these questions were so bad. If the OP hasn’t applied to a lot of Craigslist ads or gone on a lot of interviews lately, he or she might not be aware that these days it’s hugely common to arrive at the address and realize that the receptionist had no idea interviews were scheduled – and you don’t have a specific person’s name to give them. Or that sometimes a google search doesn’t bring up anything at all about a company. What’s wrong with wanting to be prepared for an interview? Were the ads posted on Craigslist (hence why the resumes were emailed)? If the answer is yes, I’d ask the OP to be a little more lenient with these candidates. They spend days combing through job listings that contain no information about the companies, many of which turn out to be scams. They want to make sure that they’re not showing up to a mass interview for MLM scams or insurance sales jobs. This isn’t your problem to solve, but it’s helpful to know why so many applicants come out swinging and wanting to know a real person’s name before going to the office.

    1. Helka*

      The problem here is that the OP has stated that their name and the company name were included on all correspondence; if the candidate can email the OP the question, they can get the company name and do a little looking for themselves! Asking the OP for that information is really lazy.

      1. soitgoes*

        Did the OP say that he or she would specifically be the person interviewing these candidates? Or was it more like, “Please be here at such-and-such time and place”? The person sending out those informational emails, even if they have signatures tagged onto the ends, are not always the person who does the interview, and I see nothing wrong with asking, “Should I ask for you at the front desk, or will someone else be conducting the interview?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to ask that question to managers who thought that the act of emailing or calling was an adequate indication that it would be them. I’m not trying to second-guess the OP here, but as someone who’s had to ask a lot of these questions before interviews, I can say that it’s because I actually needed the information.

        1. Burlington*

          But “Should I ask for you at the front desk, or will someone else be conducting the interview?” is WAY different than “Can I ask who I am interviewing with again???” Different in tone and in substance. There are definitely legitimate times to ask the questions you ask but the way you do it (and OP noted many misspellings, grammar errors, etc) is very important!

      2. De Minimis*

        Yeah, this doesn’t seem like a case where it’s a blind ad and the applicant doesn’t know the employer’s identity. Even if it were a blind ad it sounds like the applicant is given all the relevant information at the initial contact.

    2. Tornader*

      “The name of the company, as well as my own name, was included in all correspondence.”

      I think that was the main issue with questioning who the person or company was. Honestly, that would annoy me too.

      1. soitgoes*

        Then I wonder if company is easily google-able and if the OP said in plain language “Ask for me at the front desk.” Attaching a signature tag does not tell the candidates who will be interviewing them. I wouldn’t be going this route with my answers if several candidates hadn’t asked the OP the same questions.

        1. De Minimis*

          I’ve had a lot of interviews and many times I did not know whom I was meeting, I just knew to show up at a certain time and let the receptionist know I was there for an interview. I don’t think it’s necessarily a standard thing for a candidate to know ahead of time who will be interviewing them.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Me too, and while I tried to ask the person calling with whom I would be meeting, they didn’t always know. Which leads me to the following:

            As a former front desk person, I plead with you–please, everyone, let the receptionist know that you expect candidates or visitors! In past jobs, I’ve had people show up to meet with someone (interview, service call, or something else), and they didn’t know who to ask for, and I had no clue they were coming. And let the receptionist know if you will be in a meeting, etc. so he/she knows where to find you when they arrive. Scrambling when someone shows up for an appointment suuuuucks.

        2. MJH*

          There is a way to ask that question that sounds entirely more professional though. Like, “Will I be interviewing with you or someone else?” or “Could you tell me who I’ll be interviewing with so I’ll be able to ask for my interviewer at reception?” The way these questions are phrased and punctuated just seems to indicate someone who has trouble with professional correspondence.

          1. TOC*

            I’m wondering if OP is also getting some of these questions as the ONLY content in the applicant’s response. It’s not clear from OP’s question, but there’s a big difference between writing a few friendly sentences confirming your interest and interview time and then asking logistical questions, and responding to an interview invite with one sentence reading, “Who are you???”

            Applicants might be eager to respond immediately (perhaps from a phone, where writing long e-mails isn’t easy) rather than waiting to have the appropriate time and device to compose a full professional response. That’s not an excuse, though.

    3. Aunt Vixen*

      > Were the ads posted on Craigslist (hence why the resumes were emailed)?

      I would guess that the reason the resumes were e-mailed was that the ads were posted in the second decade of the 21st century.

      If the invitation to the interview doesn’t contain any helpful details but just runs something like “We were impressed with your resume and would like to meet you for an interview either next Thursday at noon or Friday at 3p” and that’s it, then yes, some follow-up questions are in order. But assuming the OP is legit when she says the name of the company is included in all the correspondence, then for the candidate to say “Wait, which one were you?” is, yes, a turn-off.

      1. soitgoes*

        Emailing resumes implies an open pool of candidates that saw a listing somewhere public. Online digitized applications don’t use the “email” terminology. I don’t know, I think that some leniency is a good thing when you’re pulling candidates from that sort of listing.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think you can draw any conclusions from the fact that they’re not using an online application system. I use emailing resumes for jobs I hire for because I prefer it, but it’s not a Craigslist kind of situation at all.

          1. Colette*

            Agreed. I’ve applied to plenty of jobs via email (all of which were posted on the company’s web site). It’s really common for small companies.

            1. Zillah*

              This is my experience as well. I’ve certainly had to fill out applications before, but emailing seems to generally be the norm in my field. I wouldn’t draw the Craigslist conclusion from the fact that the resumes/cover letters were emailed at all.

        2. Mander*

          Not in my experience. It’s very common for the application process to ask for an emailed CV/resume/cover letter. I’d say half the jobs I have applied for in the last 3 years have asked applicants to email their application materials, even if I first had to request an “application pack” from them.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But look at the examples the OP gave:

      “Can I ask who exactly I am interviewing with again???” (they actually included three question marks) and “I’ve applied to so many companies, can you give me more information on your company?”

      I’d read that as unprofessional communication even if there’s room to improve how much info she’s providing on her end.

      1. MJH*

        And saying, “I’ve applied to so many companies” might be true, but it certainly makes it sound like the candidate has been throwing applications out willy-nilly and hoping something sticks. Not really the best impression to make on someone, not to mention asking your interviewer to do the legwork for you in terms of company info. The company name is on the email–go look it up!

      2. soitgoes*

        I don’t disagree with you. I just think that, from the employer side of things, there often isn’t a lot of understanding of how these things appear to candidates. Every company thinks they’re the only one posting a vague Craigslist ad for a position that is slightly more prestigious than the one that is actually on the table.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That could be and it’s worth raising the questions, but I don’t think we should be assuming or implying the OP’s communications probably aren’t up to snuff when we don’t know that.

          1. soitgoes*

            I’m not really suggesting that. I sensed an element of “LOL, those are dumb questions to ask,” and I felt the need to pipe up and say, “Actually, I pretty much always have to ask these questions, and here’s why.” It’s very much the norm among post-recession millennials, who are depressingly accustomed to interviewing for jobs without even knowing what the company is called.

            1. Mander*

              True, but hopefully you phrase those questions in a way that doesn’t make it sound like you have blindly emailed your resume to a hundred different companies without making any kind of attempt to keep track of what you applied for, and using somewhat more professional phrasing. The first response read to me like the applicant thought the invitation to interview was some kind of spam.

              1. Lamb*

                If I was sending out interview invitations and they got mistaken for spam by even one applicant, I would want to take a second look at what I was sending.
                1) one applicant gave me the benefit of the doubt to check if I am spam; other candidates (more cautious about spam? Less urgent job search?) might be just discarding my invitation as spam without checking and I’m missing out on those candidates
                2) spam isn’t known for its professionalism; is there a glaring error in my template that I have overlooked? Am I too casual? Is there an information request that might set off people’s con-alarm?

        2. Texas HR pro*

          I sympathize, but I also know that I *have* been on both sides of hiring, so I am fully aware of how frustrating it is to be a job candidate, apply to blind or semi-blind ads on Craigslist, or get calls and emails from random people saying they got my resume off Monster, etc. I get it.

          However, I have also been exactly where the OP is. When I offer interviews, my email subject line is: “My Company Name, Administrative Assistant (job posting number you applied for)” and my signature block is not an image, but actual text of who I am, my title, and my company name… and I have still gotten people asking, “Which job was this again?” And I’m like, “Yup, you’re not my candidate after all.”

      3. jillociraptor*

        Yes. There’s a big difference between, “Will I be speaking with you about this role? If not, might I ask who will conduct the interview?” and what the OP’s candidate wrote, which just seems a bit put upon and irritated when it’s really not necessary. The second question is ridiculous, but the first question is reasonable on its face; the issue is much more how the candidate asked it.

        1. JMegan*

          Exactly, and also a big difference between “I’ve applied to so many companies, can you give me more information on your company?” and “I’ve done some Google research but haven’t come up with anything much, can you tell me where I could find more information about your company?”

          The first implies that the candidate has no idea who they’re applying to, or that they’re massively disorganized – neither of which is something you want to say to a recruiter, regardless of how true it is.

          The second version of the question indicates that the candidate has done some research but would like to do more, and asks the recruiter for a small, specific piece of info which can easily be provided. (Oh, of course, our website is ABC Teapots dot com, and there’s lots of information there!) The first version implies that it’s the recruiter’s job to do the research for the candidate, which is outside of professional norms.

          It’s not about the content of the questions, but the way they’re asked. Which I think can definitely be a deal breaker for certain types of positions.

    5. Nicole*

      OP Here. This was not my first email correspondence with the applicants. I followed up with an email after each resume was submitted. The job was not posted on Craigslist, just in our local newspaper, which also included the name of the Company and my own name.

      1. Lamb*

        (Saw this after I posted above)
        To my mind, the fact that you originally acknowledged the résumé actually makes it more likely that some applicants would assume you were HR or support staff if that was their past experience. Still unprofessional phrasing on their questions though.

  5. SRMJ*

    one thing that really bugged me when I was job hunting, and may not be pertinent here at all, is I applied via Craigslist to a lot of places that didn’t list their company name in the ad. I don’t know why companies do this, and I don’t think they were scams, either. So then if I got a response, there was a chance it was from a company I didn’t know I’d applied to, and then sometimes there’d be no reference to the position. So this company’s like ‘come in for an interview!,’ and I’m like…wait, what job is this? Having applied to a lot of places, it was pretty obnoxious that they didn’t provide a frame of reference after posting a job on Craigslist in that way.

    1. voluptuousfire*

      My favorite ads on CL are the ones that make no reference to the company name or even industry but put “don’t call about this job!” in the ad itself, not the little disclaimer at the bottom of the Craigslist ad.

      1. De Minimis*

        I’ve mentioned this before…when I was job hunting I got several legit interviews from these type of ads. They usually at least listed the type of business but that was as far as it went.

        They all were very small companies that usually had a single admin/receptionist person. The job market in that city was very tight, and any job ad got literally hundreds of responses. Leaving a phone number or giving a company name where someone might be able to find out the phone number would have resulted in a ton of calls [even if you say “no phone calls” a certain percentage will always call for whatever reason] and would probably interfere with the ability to conduct business.

        In general, I just had an idea of what I’d applied to, and usually tried to be extra aware for a while if I’d applied to one of these. But…when I did get a call from them they were always pretty clear about who they were and what the interview was about, so there never was any real confusion. It probably helped that the jobs I was going for were all generally about the same.

    2. nona*

      Oooh, Craigslist.

      A local restaurant is posting on CL, providing no phone or email contact information, and requesting that people only talk in person. They have not provided the restaurant’s name or address.

        1. De Minimis*

          The only thing I can think is that they would contact the people who responded to the ad using the Craigslist site itself, but even that makes no sense…send a response through Craigslist letting them know where the restaurant was and that they needed to show up in person? Or maybe they would give contact info at that point. I can totally see why a restaurant wouldn’t want to just put all their info out there because they would be the last people who wanted all these random applicants showing up, but it would make more sense to just give an e-mail address and then respond to the applicants that seemed the best fit.

          That place I used to live, restaurant jobs were the worst of all as far as getting crazy numbers of applicants, there would be stories in the news any time a new place was opening and they would have something like a thousand people showing up.

  6. Not a rocket scientist*

    The three question marks is possibly overkill, but wouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker for me. I see that sort of over punctuation from senior colleagues all the time, and in my industry, it’s not at all unreasonable to assume the person scheduling your interview is not going to do the actual interview. We typically have someone who works in HR set up interview times, arrange travel, etc, but then candidates actually interview with technical staff, the people they will be working next to if they get hired. “Give me more information on your company” would be a huge deal breaker though. I expect people I interview to at minimum know what my company’s flagship product is, and bonus points if they can talk intelligently about our market positioning vs the competition.

    1. Iro*


      Is unneccasarily abrasive.

      But I think the bigger deal breaker for the OP was the fact that they were asking these questions despite them being clearly marked in her communication. As someone who has to deal with people flipping out and CC ing all their bosses with questions like this, when the answer to their inquiry was actually in the email they responded to, I really wish more HR people would weed these candidates out.

    2. MaryMary*

      I have clients who are very sensitive to phrasing and punctuation (“Let me know if there’s anything else you need!” got a coworker into hot water once), so ??? would be a dealer breaker for me from a candidate. I’m not your friend, and you’re not texting me. Communicate professionally.

      1. Nicole*

        OP here. I too found the use of the three question marks extremely unprofessional and thought the same as you, I felt as if a family member was upset because I didn’t answer a text in a reasonable amount of time.

  7. Iro*

    As someone who hates dealing with these types of emails at work.

    “Why is this number SO WRONG???!”

    In response to a report I sent out, and it turns out they aren’t even looking at the same report they responded too and the report wasn’t wrong they just had filters on and … sigh ….

    I would totally love if HR had screened these people out before they made it into the company. If they think it’s appropriate in the interview, they will do it at work though. My experience is that people who write like this don’t have a lot appreciation for others, or presume they are too busy to bother with good grammer or to even read the entire email before blowing whistles.

    1. Isabelle*

      I feel the same way, I would be really thankful if we didn’t hire people who do that in the first place. Being able to find all the information in an email including attachments or a report shouldn’t be optional. It’s part of the basic skills all office workers should have.

      I have someone who constantly asks me questions about something already clearly written in the email they’re replying to. They do this to everybody they communicate with. Some people already asked them to please read the email in full before asking for clarification. Others replied with the previous mail quoted with the relevant information highlighted or enlarged. I’d be mortified if someone did that to me repeatedly but it had no effect on them. Our internal email style is short and to the point so there is no excuse. These people are just lazy and want others to filter the information for them. I’m with OP on this, and I wouldn’t want to interview these candidates.

      1. Natasha*

        Thanks for reminding me why I’m glad my new job will be predominantly NOT in the office. I cannot stand this. It’s like, read what I said before responding. How is that not common sense? I also agree that the lackadaisical use of grammar is a bad sign for future behavior, particularly in a team environment. If you can’t take the time to find your answers, or at least communicate appropriately and professionally with the hiring manager, I can’t expect any better down the road.

    2. nona*

      Or they just aren’t very good at communicating in writing. It happens.

      Not my client, but I know someone who had a client who communicated in CONSTANT CAPS LOCK



      Caps lock person was a very nice person who was not great at writing. That might not be a big deal, depending on the job and workplace.

      1. Koko*

        I have worked with this person. He would reply to my emails and then type his responses in all caps, sometimes in a different color, throughout my original email.

        “What do you think we should do about Chocolate Project X? KEEP GOING The numbers are showing less strong revenue up front, but a longer tail over time, so it may win out yet. THANKS

        Meanwhile, we have a PR crisis happening with the new model, which may be prone to melting. Several customers say they have been scalded and we’ve recalled the product but we’re still doing damage control. ISSUE A RELEASE –
        WE TESTED

        The worst was when we’d be on a thread with multiple people and he would do this to multiple people’s emails, so you had to read back through an entire thread in order to see what earlier emails he may have commented on and then figure out the best way to respond to his responses so that other people could see them.

  8. Dasha*

    OP- are a lot of people having this problem or just a few bad eggs? If so, maybe make sure your email signature, graphics, etc. are working. Also, I once had an invitation for an interview with a company but there were two companies in the same city with the almost the same name (talk about confusing) so I had to get clarification on which one they were.

    1. Meg Murry*

      I think before OP rejects these candidates outright he might want to run his/her email script past someone else to make sure it really is as clear as he thinks it is if he’s getting multiple interviewees responding this way. I know in general we are supposed to take the word of the OP around here, but multiple responses like this might indicate that OP could be a little more clear, especially as she indicates she is new to hiring.

      For instance, “Thank you for applying to Chocolate Teapots, Inc. Based on the resume you submitted, we would like to bring you in for an interview for [position title] with Bob Smith, the chocolate teapot hiring manager.” is much clearer than just “we would like to bring you in for an interview”

      Also, if your job posting has been taken down, you are hiring for multiple similar job descriptions or your company isn’t easily google-able, including the job description of the job you are hiring for and/or a facts sheet about the company wouldn’t go amiss, and might help avoid this silly emails you get from applicants.

      Last, for some silly reason gmail likes to truncate my emails by cropping off signatures with a little box with … at the bottom I have to hit to see the signature. If OP’s “clear information” is all in the signature block, something strange might be happening on the recipients side to make it not so visible, which is why I suggest putting all the most important information in the text of the message.

    2. Nicole*

      OP Here. Not all the applicants responded poorly. In fact, I received quite a few responses in about 15-20 minutes.

  9. Allison*

    I would only ask to be reminded of something if the detail was discussed over the phone. To be fair, people should probably be writing things down while on the phone, but sometimes things get lost. In this case, however, candidates seem like they can’t be bothered to go back and re-read previous e-mails to find the information themselves.

    That said, at least they’re asking. When I was a youngin’ I definitely went to interviews forgetting the name of the position I was interviewing for (I sorta knew what it was, but the actual job title would escape me) and I was also guilty of walking into the reception area completely forgetting the name of the person I was supposed to speak with. I absolutely deserved to be rejected for those jobs! I wish someone had told me to know the exact name of the job, and know the name of the interviewer, even if it meant writing it down and checking it before entering the office. That would’ve made a huge difference in the way I presented myself.

    1. Anon for this*

      I had a series of interviews a few years ago where I applied to a position with one department at the institution and, without any kind of notification that they might do this, they put me in a pool where other departments could also contact me. This was not actually a problem per se, as I needed a job and would have been happy doing the same kind of work in any department. But, because I had no idea it would happen, I was kind of knocked off balance when the first of these departments called me. And I don’t think they knew what had happened, either, because they seemed to start from the assumption that I’d chosen their department on purpose. I tried to be as poised as I could in that first phone call–not sure I succeeded, as I was quite confused to even be getting this call–and eventually in the interview I did ask if there had been a pool (by that time I’d been called by 3 or 4 additional departments).

      (I actually got hired by the one I’d applied to on purpose. I did interview with several others, though.)

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I had something similar for CurrentJob: I applied for one job, and I was called and told they weren’t going to interview me for it, but they had another job that I was qualified for, if I was interested. I was interested, but I went to the interview having never seen the job ad, and was a bit unclear as to what it was I was interviewing for. In retrospect, I should have asked for more information when first told about the job, because it was awkward asking later on.

  10. Ann Furthermore*

    I could see where if someone has been job searching for awhile, they could have trouble keeping track of every place they’ve applied, even if they’ve got a fairly organized system of recording where they’ve put in applications. I think the OP’s issue is with the applicant’s tone. It comes across as kind of dismissive (or it does to me, anyway) which is not the way an applicant should be behaving. Rather, they should be on their best behavior.

    If I got an email that said, “I’m so sorry, but I’ve been unable to find anything in my records about applying for a position with Chocolate Teapots, Inc, and nothing in my Google search is ringing any bells. Would you be able to provide me with some high level details about the job posting that will jog my memory?” I wouldn’t mind doing that. These days, when it takes so long to find something, many people have multiple applications out at once, and it has to easy for something to slip through the cracks. Even the most ruthlessly organized person drops the ball now and then.

    On the other hand, a message like the OP got just saying, “I’ve applied to a ton of companies. Who are you again?” has a tone that implies that the applicant is doing the OP a huge favor by agreeing to come in for an interview. No thanks. Someone who conveys that attitude in an email is not someone I want to pursue any further.

    1. Helka*

      Absolutely agreed. I tend to be a pretty forgetful person, but if I realize I’ve forgotten something important, I certainly don’t come at looking for a reminder like that!

    2. Jen RO*

      Personally, I would never risk sending an email like that to a hiring manager, and I would reject a candidate if I got an email like that (even phrased as politely as you did). As a candidate, I’d much rather interview blind and find a way to pry more information out of the hiring manager. As a hiring manager, my reaction would be “Have you been resume-bombing all the companies who are hiring?”.

      1. SRMJ*

        When was the last time you were job hunting? People send out dozens and dozens of resumes and get no response. The economy still sucks and that seems unnecessarily punitive and short-sighted.

        1. Zillah*

          Right – but we’ve also discussed here that resume bombing is generally not the most effective way to job search, for a number of reasons. And, while it may be understandable to apply to everyone hiring for anything when a candidate is desperate, it’s also understandable that a company will hire based on need and skill level rather than sympathy, so you want to get your best foot forward.

          1. SRMJ*

            I wasn’t advocating resume bombing. I was saying people can put out dozens of resumes/applications (to promising jobs, I meant) and hear nothing. And as we all know from reading this blog, sometimes hiring takes forever. So maybe you hear back from one you applied for a couple months ago, before and after which you’d applied to a bunch of others. Your application materials can be thoughtful and targeted to the company and you still hear nothing.

            1. Anna*

              Precisely. I cannot tell you how many jobs I applied for and was actually interested in when I was job hunting and there were times I couldn’t remember what the job was when I was contacted. Luckily I was usually able to track information down before the interview, but there were a couple of times I was called for an interview and had no idea who I was talking to or about what job.

        2. marci*

          I have been contacted months after a posting closed. Sometimes the subject line has been so vague I would come close to deleting it.

    3. Muriel Heslop*

      Well-said. I don’t mind if applicants have questions, but a lack of professional correspondence reflects poorly on their writing skills and their decision-making. The candidates I hire are almost all graduate students (primarily doctoral students) and I occasionally receive email responses with poor grammar/professional writing skills. Since that is a significant part of their potential duties, that is a huge screener for me.

  11. MM*

    I think it’s fair to consider whom exactly you’re interviewing and for what type of position before trashing their applications based on this. I don’t know the details of the OPs particular industry, but in my field, sometimes I get responses like this from students or entry-level applicants who are new to the working world and simply don’t know any better. Let’s be honest – a lot of the info out there for new jobseekers is out of date and not exactly current on etiquette. Unless there was something awful (and I agree, not at least trying to decipher what position/company the interview request is referring to before blurting out “what company is this” isn’t fantastic), I would still give them a chance. Three question marks at the end of a question is not an immediate dealbreaker for me. You could be missing out on your best candidates this way. They could be nervous, or inexperienced.
    If it’s an applicant whom I think should have some experience in their field, however, I probably would re-evaluate their fit for the position.

  12. some1*

    From the applicant side, I feel like email might be too casual, not urgent enough, and too difficult logistically for inviting someone to come in and interview. I would much rather have an employer call me so we can agree on time/date/place sooner. Every time I have been invited to interview by email, it ended up being one of more than one yellow flags and I ended up turning down the job.

    1. Colette*

      I think this is a personal preference thing. I’d rather get an email (which gives me time to look up my records and remind myself who the company is and where they’re located before responding) than to get an out-of-the-blue phone call and have to respond instantly.

      1. MM*

        I agree. I have no preference either way. Even if I did, I don’t think this is an indicator of whether or not they’re a solid company.

      2. Helka*

        I’m with you. Getting the information over the phone lends itself to me losing it, mis-recording it (Are you on E. Queen St or W. Queen St or E. Queen Ave or…?) or otherwise getting something wrong. An email is searchable and assuming it’s correctly typed, doesn’t lend itself to miscommunication of basic info.

        1. some1*

          I definitely like getting a confimation email with all of that, but for me it’s always been easier to agree to the inteview on the phone.

      3. Zillah*

        I agree. Personally, I hate being called about interviews – we sometimes end up playing phone tag and it’s difficult for me to check my schedule, which is on my phone.

      4. Stevie Wonders*

        In pre-email days during intensive job search, often desperately racked brains when company called out of the blue to set up interview or quiz about my interest, particularly weeks after initial contact (companies moved slowly then too). Definitely prefer email so I can gather my wits before replying.

    2. voluptuousfire*

      I find my experience is the opposite. Usually whenever I’ve been called for an interview with a direct employer, it’s never worked out. We played phone tag (with me leaving messages saying I was also reachable by email and left my email as well as my phone number) and we never got a chance to establish a time and date. Spending 3+ days trying to establish contact with someone by phone in this day and age to me seems incredibly inefficient, especially for something that’s easily handled by an email.

      1. some1*

        Huh. I have never played phone tag setting up an interview by phone, just by email-tag when it was by email.

    3. fposte*

      Our entire hiring process is conducted through email, and I don’t think that’s unusual. The first time we talk to somebody is during the phone screen.

    4. Koko*

      I don’t think I’ve ever been called by phone to schedule an interview! It’s always been by email and I’m kind of surprised to hear anyone still uses phones considering all the logistical obstacles. I’d be concerned that scheduling would just be difficult over the phone. Unless I’m at my desk when the person happens to call me I’m either going to hope I have paper to write down the available slots they’re offering me and a call-back number and name, then ask to call back once I’ve checked my own availability, or I’m going to be trying to fumble with checking the calendar on my phone while simultaneously on the call and hoping I’m not pushing any buttons that make noise in the person’s ear. Neither of those is ideal for me. I’d much rather get a list of times available, have all the company information right there in the email, have my calendar immediately available to check it against, and then be able to reply accepting the interview. There’s so much potential with the phone for me to have misheard a time, a phone number digit, a person’s name.

  13. Ask a Manager* Post author

    So far, all of the comments have focused on whether the OP is right to be rejecting these candidates. Anyone have thoughts on the question she’s actually asking, about whether and how to reject people if you realize after inviting them to an interview that they’re not going to be right after all?

    1. Colette*

      I think your response is right on. Be polite (but vague – no need to get in an argument about whether you should interview them). Be prompt – let them know quickly (but I’d let some time pass between their response and your rejection – maybe the next day). And don’t think you need to justify your decision to them (but put a copy of the email with your hiring materials so that you remember why you decided to pass).

      1. De Minimis*

        I agree with all that. Especially wait till the next day, as an applicant I would hate to think I was interviewing and have the rug pulled out from under me later the same day. I wouldn’t wait a whole lot longer, though.

        Though if it’s a situation where the interview is supposed to be the next day then that gets a little problematic.

        In writing the e-mail I think I would just be polite but keep my comments very short, don’t give an opportunity for it to become more difficult than it already is.

    2. Cat*

      I have to say, every time I’ve ignored my instincts regarding a candidate’s pre- (or post-) interview written or phone behavior and gone ahead with them anyway, I’ve regretted it. I think people who are strong candidates tend not to set off those kinds of alarms, probably because they’re approaching communications about administrative matters with potential employers with enough care that they come off, at worst, as neutral. The people who don’t are people who (a) know this is an important communication that (b) is actually kind of hard to screw up because it’s about mundane details, but (c) do anyway, and that doesn’t reflect well.

      However, this is in the context of hiring for writing and communication intensive jobs. I think, perhaps, it would be an unfair standard to apply in other contexts, though I don’t have experience hiring for those positions.

      1. jennie*

        This is absolutely true and it makes it harder to give the benefit of the doubt or second chances when they so often blow up in my face.

    3. Joey*

      Yes. I’ve done the same- rescinded interview invited based on less than professional behavior.

      Although I haven’t given the specific reasons because if you need to be taught basic professional etiquette im not going to put a bandaid on something that needs major surgery.

    4. esra*

      I would actually lean away from giving any kind of feedback. People are going to be upset at a rejection when they thought they were going in for an interview. I think your script for a vague response is best.

    5. soitgoes*

      I think it depends on the position and the level of experience/education that she’s asking for. If it’s an entry-level position with no educational requirements, she might have to get used to people who aren’t great writers (we see variations of this a lot here – the ever-popular “How come I’m only getting middling applicants for this $9/hr job that involves physical labor and crap hours?”). Certain jobs attract certain types of people. OP needs to be realistic about what she can expect from her applicants, and if a lot of them aren’t expressing themselves in a way that she finds acceptable, she needs to require more qualifications or offer more money.

      I also wonder about how hiring is generally done at her company. Sure, it’s easy enough to send out an email saying, “I apologize, but the position has been filled internally and we are no longer able to meet with you,” but if it’s not the norm, I wouldn’t do it. If the company typically interviews 10 people each time there’s an opening and OP is trying to streamline the process so that she’s only doing 5 interviews, I don’t agree with what she’s doing. She’s not following through on the process. She’s adding her own criteria on the fly to eliminate people who have already met the company standards for an interview.

      1. Zillah*

        I think that this is reading a lot into the letter that isn’t there, and frankly, that interpretation is highly dependent on ascribing poor intentions and incompetence on the part of the OP, which I don’t think is fair.

        1. soitgoes*

          It’s a matter of perspective, I suppose. I don’t think it reflects well to invite someone in for an interview and then cancel it. That’s unprofessional to me, especially if the OP is citing the applicant’s lack of professionalism as the reason for canceling the interviews, especially since, if this is a sore spot for the OP, it’s bound to happen every single time there’s a new job opening.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            But it’s rude to take up someone’s time with an interview when you know you won’t hire them. It’s not unprofessional to cancel a meeting that you realize will no longer lead to the outcome both parties want it to.

            Also, I don’t think it’s bound to happen every time there’s a new job opening. Most job candidates don’t write emails like the ones the OP quoted here.

    6. AVP*

      Back in the day when I was first hiring on my own, I had a few people like this and I was embarrassed that I missed their initial cues of unprofessionalism, and went though with the interviews anyway. I’ve since realized what a waste of time that was (both for them and for me)and learned from that. I’ve also realized that candidates have friends read over their resumes and occasionally cover letters, so there aren’t necessarily always hints until you start talking directly.

    7. AnotherTeacher*

      The advice Alison gave seems spot on, and I’m glad she posted this question. I was surprised at the comments scrutinizing the OP’s reaction to these emails.

      The OP’s writing suggests a level of formality that may be the norm for the workplace. If the replies don’t reflect the kind of communication skills that are expected, it is likely the candidates are not good fits for other reasons.

    8. LBK*

      I think it’s one of those things that’s almost impossible to do “right” because it’s so transparent. Anyone but the densest candidate is going to realize their communication efforts were what got the interview rescinded, so being as polite and vague as possible seems like the right way to go to not add insult to injury, which betters your chances of not get a nasty follow up.

    9. fposte*

      I think it’s a valid choice for the reasons stated (and I think we’ve had other examples in the past where it’s happened).

      But I wouldn’t do it for my hires (it wouldn’t even be allowed for some), and it’s interesting for me to think about why. There’s an internal component to my hiring, in that I’m going to be seeing these people whether I hire them or not; I also often get interesting information from interviews about future possibilities even if I don’t want to hire them at the moment, so I don’t think it would be a waste of time. Really, though, it’s the first, and I’m trying to figure out why it seems reasonable and time-saving to withdraw an external interview but a brutal thing that’s hard to get over if it’s internal. Not sure why yet, but it really does.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Interesting. I think it does feel much more baldly like”I thought you could be right but then someone better came along” or “you totally turned me off in recent interactions” when it’s an internal candidate. But I’m having trouble articulating why it feels so much more that way.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          I think it’s because for an internal candidate, you probably feel like you should have already had those cues based on prior work interactions before you ever got to the extending-an-interview stage.

      2. Zillah*

        I don’t know, that makes sense to me – internal candidates aren’t strangers, so you both have more invested in the relationship. To make an imperfect dating analogy, you’d probably approach a break up with your partner of eighteen months differently than one with someone you’d just been on a few dates with.

        1. Elsajeni*

          Yes — or, maybe a little closer, you’d approach turning down a date your best friend wanted to set you up on differently than turning down a total stranger messaging you on OkCupid.

    10. Stevie Wonders*

      I see no reluctance by companies to rescind interview invitations even after scheduling. But annoying when company says they want to interview but never follows up with actual invitation!

      Other than for the practice, I don’t want to interview with a company that likewise doesn’t want to. Just say no and let me know. Don’t leave me in the dark with no response when you change your mind.

  14. Joey*

    For those of you saying the questions aren’t all that bad really depends on the expectation of the position.

    If the op is requiring even a little experience in a professional setting the questions come off pretty immature.

    Now if the op is hiring for folks with no professional experience then yes, they’re probably to be expected.

  15. voluptuousfire*

    For the “who are you again?” candidates, I say give them a shot if they’re otherwise a really strong candidate. Tone can easily be misread in an email and if they really end up being as bad as anticipated, chalk it up to experience. For the grammatical errors and such, I can definitely see rescinding the invite. Whether it be lack of attention to detail or just poor grammar, it’s really not putting their best foot forward.

    1. Cheesecake*

      A strong candidate is also strong in communication skills, or at least strong enough to write a professional response. OP’s examples is not what you can easily misread, it is an attitude/comms issue.

  16. cake batter*

    OP, I know the feeling. I recently emailed a handful of individuals to invite them to interview, and one in particular immediately stood out as someone I Would. Never. Hire. based on initial contact.

    I sent an email inviting this person to interview and suggested a few possible times, and then I left my office for an hour meeting. When I came back to my desk, I had an email response from this person, plus 4 missed calls (2 each on my desk phone and work cell) and multiple voice mail messages. This person was “SOOOO excited” to be invited to interview and could come in “ANYTIME, any time of day, plus before or after work!!” Obviously, I don’t want to ding someone for being excited, but the level of enthusiasm and overzealous calling/emailing was a serious turnoff. It was like I had asked someone out on a coffee date, and they had responded with a marriage proposal and a request for matching tattoos.

    I wish this post had come out a couple months ago, because I gladly would’ve used Alison’s line above and just canceled. Instead, I felt obligated to follow through with the interview, which made me feel even worse because I was 1) wasting my time, and 2) getting their hopes up. I felt especially guilty when notifying this person they hadn’t been hired after the interview, because the whole meeting was a gushing “I would LOVE to work for you / this is my DREAM job” session.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      Oh, the worst! I had that happen to me last summer. My stock phrase is: “We’ve decided to go in another direction.”

      I had to come up with something on the spot when a candidate stopped by to drop off an updated resume while wearing a bathing suit cover-up, and smelling like pot. This was 6 years ago and I still get occasional emails from her, wondering if we are hiring.

      1. marci*

        I hate the phrase, “We’ve decided to go in another direction.” It’s code for, “We don’t like you.” Come up with something else.

        1. Elsajeni*

          But any phrase you could use in this situation would be code for “We don’t like you,” or something close to it. I feel like “We’ve decided to go in another direction” is about as far as you can go toward face-saving for the candidate — allowing them to interpret it as “We’ve decided not to fill the position” or “We’re promoting an internal candidate instead” or something like that — without outright lying.

        2. MM*

          It’s not always. Maybe they really did like you, but they had another candidate they liked just as much. You usually can’t pick two – you have to pick one. And unfortunately, for whatever reason, it couldn’t be you.

  17. VictoriaHR*

    As a corporate recruiter, I find that, in general, applicants do not typically respond very professionally to that initial email. My first email is typically something like:

    Subject: PositionName Req#

    1. VictoriaHR*

      Doh stupid browser. Ahem…

      Subject: PositionName Req#

      Body: Hello! Thank you for applying to the PositionName position with CompanyName (Req#)! I’m very interested in speaking to you about this opportunity. Please email me with several dates and times that you’d be available for a 30-minute phone interview. Thanks, Myname, Recruiter, CompanyName, PhoneNumber, EmailAddress, Disclaimer.

      I’d say on average, the followup emails contain the information that I requested maybe 30% of the time. Often they don’t sign their name, which is annoying because I send the initial email out of an applicant tracking system, so a.) I can send the same email to multiple people on a requisition, and b.) if their email address is not, I have no clue who they are. Especially if their email address is Yeah, that’s helpful…

      That’s why I always put the requisition number in the email, so that hopefully when they respond without telling me who they are, I can go look at all of the applicants on that req and try to match up the email address. When I’ve got 300+ applicants for one job, that’s totes fun.

        1. VictoriaHR*

          Sadly, I’d say most people do not :( 99% of the time I bet they’re on their phone. If it were me, I’d save all job-hunt-related emails until I was at a PC and could respond appropriately, but in this day and age that isn’t something that most people do.

      1. Erin*

        I completely had that experience myself when I was a corporate recruiter. It’s so frustrating. I would also get voicemails from candidates (who I’d never spoken with before or contacted) along the lines of, “Hi, it’s John, I’m calling about the job, call me back.” Ok, John, without a last name, phone number or the name of the role, there is no way I can possibly figure out who you are.

  18. AW*

    frankly, it’s kinder and more considerate not to waste their time either if you’re sure you won’t hire them.

    This 100%. Time spent in an interview for a job you can’t possibly get is time better spent at:
    * your current job
    * job hunting
    * interviewing for a job you *can* get
    * doctor appointments
    * literally anything else

    Have you ever gone to a doctor’s appointment only to have to wait long after your appointment was supposed to be, finally gotten into an exam room only to wait for another long stretch of time, and, when you finally do get to see the doctor, they basically just shrug their shoulders at you? No exam, not even a full 15 minutes of discussion of the problem, just “I don’t know”. It is INFURIATING. You’ve just wasted a lot of time and money and you’re no closer to solving the problem you came in with.

    If you interview these people you’ve already decided won’t be hired, you’ll be making them waste a lot of time and money when they won’t get any closer to getting a job. Worse is if they’re able to tell that you’re just going through the motions, which is adding insult to injury.

    Furthermore, you’ll be wasting your own time and the time of anyone else who may be conducting the interview with you.

    I honestly can’t see a benefit to going through with the interviews.

  19. Ali*

    I just had this happen to me…sort of.

    I do keep records of my job search, and I applied to a company back in December and had given up on them a while ago, thinking they’d hired someone by now and would never be contacting me. But today, the person setting up interviews e-mailed me and said that I’ve been selected to interview for Job #1. However, according to my records, I had applied for a different position (Job #2) and I just e-mailed her back to clarify which job it was I was interviewing for. Job #1 sounds interesting to me as well and I’d interview for it if that’s what they wanted to consider me for, but now I’m wondering if I did the wrong thing by asking her to clarify. I’m still interested in working for the company, but it’s been a long search (eight months) and now I’m worried I am going to have my interview invite rescinded.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      I assume your email said something along the lines of what you put here, e.g. “According to my notes I applied for position X back in December, is it correct that you want me to interview for position Y?”

      I think as long as your email didn’t say, “But I applied for Job #2???!?!??” you’re probably OK.

      Good luck!

      1. Ali*

        Yeah that’s about what it said. I told her my notes said that I interviewed for position X, but she told me I’d been chosen for position Y, which I honestly do not remember applying to at all or being asked to be considered for.

        I try to be meticulous about my job applications, but can honestly say I never expected to get a call back about a two-month old application. The woman who sent the e-mail didn’t reply to me yet, so I’m hoping to clear this all up tomorrow.

        1. Mander*

          I once got a call offering me advice about a position I had applied for over a year previously. I never heard anything about it at all, not even an acknowledgement that I applied in the first place. The person who called wasn’t asking me for an interview but was calling to give me feedback on my application and how I could do better next time. Which was great except I didn’t even remember applying for the job, let alone what I wrote in my cover letter!

  20. Cupcake*

    Interviews often require that the interviewee take time away from their current job, possibly burning a sick or vacation day. If you’ve already made up your mind (for whatever reason) don’t waste that person’s time just to save face yourself or in an misconstrued attempt to avoid hurting their feelings. Alison’s answer was spot on.

    1. some1*

      Yup, and unemployed people miss out on the chance to schedule an interview where they could get hired, or spend the time job searching or networking. Ntm, the gas or transit or parking $ they are out.

  21. Taylor*

    I definitely do not condone this, but in my experience, I’ve had a handful of places ask me to come interview, then when I confirm my availability, I never hear from them again. (And I happen to think I’m very professional and this reflects in my emails.) I’ll usually follow up with another email and a voicemail if I have a number, but yeah, I think the “ignoring” route is an option (a crappy option, but an option nonetheless).

    1. Nutella Fitzgerald*

      Nooooo don’t do this! It is not an option unless you have irrefutable evidence that karma is not real.

      1. Karma*

        A company did this to me after I was in the final three for an paid internship, took a tour of their site, and went out to lunch with the people I would’ve been working with. It was a very nice experience.

        They said they’d let me know about the final decision in a couple weeks.

        Well…they didn’t. Aside from the thank you right away, I sent a polite follow up/”has a decision been made?” email after two weeks and received no response.

        I accepted that I hadn’t been picked, though I was disappointed and also ticked off that they’d taken me so far and then just cut off communication completely.

        Then one of the people I had lunch with saw me at a career fair the next year and was very interested in me. She mentioned an opening coming up around my graduation that “more closely matched my area of interest”.

        I did get on their interview list, but when I got the offer for the job I currently hold, I had no qualms about simply cancelling the interview with them.

        I certainly would’ve seen what they’d had to offer had the email lapse not happened, that’s for sure.

        They’re actually in my current employer’s client network, in a strange twist of fate, though I haven’t been picked to go out to their site yet :).

        (To be fair, I heard a local rumor that their HR person had been fired around that time, so it’s possible some honest mix up was made during that process. But it still gave me a bad impression of a company I had otherwise really liked.)

        1. Karma*

          (Not to imply that I would’ve gotten the job for sure had I’d interviewed – in fact mixing that with the slow/n

          1. Karma*

            *non-existent communication was my rational reason for not even going through with the interview to check!)

            Ack, sorry. My phone keyboard is NOT behaving lately

      2. Susan*


        I wish I could “like” your comment. Haha.

        I’m sure this falls under AAM’s mantra that, sure, not sending rejection emails is increasingly common but it’s the decent thing to do.

    2. Stevie Wonders*

      This has happened to me more than a few times, and not just recently. So when a company wants to interview I try to get in fast before they change their mind.

  22. Cassie*

    Glad to see this question and answer. We will be hiring for a position in the next couple of months and good writing skills is essential for the position (it’s amazing how staff and faculty (and students!) have such difficulty writing clear and concise emails). I’m inclined to send out interview invites by email because I prefer email over phone and it’ll also give us a chance to see how they write emails. I think the question with the 3 question marks is a little too casual and it’s a little odd to have the word “again” at the end of the sentence – did the OP already tell the person who they were interviewing (and the person forgot)? Or is it one of those phrases like “tell me your name again?” even though the person didn’t say?

    I know I will feel bad if I have to un-invite someone based on their email, but it would be the ethical thing to do and not waste anyone’s time. My friend had a similar situation where a candidate didn’t respond to the initial interview email and sounded completely uninterested when she finally got a hold of him on the phone. On paper, he was a good candidate, but he was completely wrong for the position (which became clear in the interview).

  23. JustMe*

    Funny thing happened to me similar to this. Just on Monday I received an email from a company rep asking me to reply to his email if I was interested in an interview/training session. He did provide 2 links, 1 to the company website and the other to a training company. The links had no information I found useful. The training company did show classes, but with a cost. I had gone to ‘job interviews’ years ago where it turned into a info session on how to sell vacuums for the company (sales), I don’t want to entertain these type ventures. He did list his number in the email, so I called for more info upfront. I was very exact in letting him know I just wanted to ensure I had enough information before I responded with +1 on my participation. I asked if there will be a training cost – this was not in the email – he said no. I asked when this would take place, he said Sat. I asked was this a professional dress type event, he said business casual. I’ve never had a Sat. interview so I thought to ask about dress. With this I told him I would reply to the email, but had he simply provided this information up front I wouldn’t have needed to call seeking more information.

    I’m still a little leery about this. I’m going out of curiosity though.

  24. Ms Information*

    Can I up the ante on the question a bit? What’s the best way to handle a situation when the candidate’s answer to the first or second interview question is so off base it’s clear they will not be hired? This is in an institution with a very formal hiring process including an all day process, panel interviews, scripted questions, etc. So far I’ve never figured out a way to cut the process short and haven’t seen any others manage it either. Maybe this is for another thread.

  25. GraceT*

    I’m a recent Physical Therapist Assistant graduate and I’ve been applying for jobs. Most places use a contract company. So the job ads may not list the name of the actual place of business or even the setting (outpatient vs nursing home/assisted living). It may just say “PTA job in X City” and give no job description. I got a call a month after I submitted a resume to an ad like that. The rehab director who called me had to tell me the name of the facility and what kind of setting it was. I knew nothing beforehand, but luckily the guy was nice enough to explain all that without me having to ask.
    Not saying OP didn’t have a right to want to reject candidates if the names of the company and interviewer were prominently displayed in his email (I would be annoyed, too), just giving an example of a situation to show sometimes applicants aren’t given any prior information.

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