employers with rigid interview days and times

A reader writes:

What do you think about employers who have very limited days that they’re willing to schedule an interview with you? (For example, the interview absolutely HAS to be this Thursday or Friday. Usually in these cases the days are in the very near future as well.)

If I’m available (or if it’s easy to become available), I would go–but do you think it’s worth making big scheduling sacrifices (like changing travel plans) to interview with an employer like this? My guess is that they don’t really know or care how to find the best candidate, but I’m wondering if I’m being too hard on them.

It depends on what context they give you and whether or not they appear cavalier about it.

In general, employers should do what it takes to interview their top candidates. Hiring the right person rather than the almost-right person makes such a difference in how well that person will do once on the job that employers should be willing to be flexible on interview dates and times. It’s in their best interest not to put up barriers to their top candidates being able to interview with them.

But there are contexts where employers have legitimate reasons for not being able to be flexible with their interview windows — a decision-maker is going out of town or is in from out of town for the interviews or has really limited availability, or they’re involving multiple people whose schedules are difficult to coordinate, or they’ll lose a top candidate if they don’t make a decision quickly.

And of course, there are also some jobs that are low level, easily filled, and attract enough interest from enough good candidates that employers can be pretty inflexible on interview times and still have plenty of people to choose from. In that case, it’s a business decision: If they know they’re going to end up with hires they’re happy with from the pool of people who can interview when they want them to, there’s no real business need to do anything differently. (But this is a pretty narrow category; for most jobs, you want to be sure you’re getting the best person you can.)

But whenever an employer is being very rigid with their interview schedules, they should acknowledge their inflexibility, note that they understand it may be an inconvenience for you, and if possible explain the reasons for it. That’s especially true when they’re asking you to interview with very short notice.

If they seem to understand that what they’re asking isn’t ideal and can give you some context for why they’re asking it of you, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. It’s employers who are cavalier about it and don’t seem to realize how it must come across who are alarming — those are the ones who are more likely to also have little consideration for your life outside of work after you take the job.

 

{ 129 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.

    I think the worst is demanding you come in the very next day during business hours. For the second time in as many weeks. I mean seriously, I had only so many excuses to need time off.

    1. Malissa

      I agree! And if I can make it in, be on time and follow up! Having me sit in the lobby for 15 minutes past the start time of the next day interview really tells me all I need to know about an organization.

      1. Mike C.

        The one interview that really pissed me off was three straight hours of talking with four different people from 10:30 to 1:30 with no breaks in between. That was incredibly messed up.

        1. College Career Counselor

          That’s what we call a good start in higher ed! (I hope they offered you some water at least)

        2. Merry and Bright

          Ow! I am a bit of an interview lightweight. I have discovered that my maximum for answering questions about myself is one hour. After that my tank starts to run dry.

      2. Not So Evil HR Girl

        I do a lot of interviewing, and this is really important to me. We have managers who will often stroll up for an interview 25 minutes after it was scheduled to begin, who cannot be reached by phone (personal or work) or page while the candidate sits awkwardly in the lobby. I’m sure there are some people who just need work and will overlook this bad behavior, but I’m embarrassed by their uncorrected bad behavior.

    2. Joey

      Why do you need to provide an excuse to be off? Don’t you have the ability to request time off regardless of the reason?

      1. YandO

        No. I do not.

        Not to mention that a short notice is completely unacceptable. It has to be an emergency that now I have to come up with and lie about, which takes away my ability to do that in the future.

        Some environments are completely inflexible, which is why people are looking to leave

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger

          Also, some jobs are not very flexible by the nature of the job. I’m an elementary school teacher – me being out tomorrow would mean that the secretary would have to call around *right now* to find a suitable sub and I’d have to arrange sub plans (which are a LOT of work if I want the kids to still learn something that day). I have sick days and am encouraged to take them when I’m sick, but if I want to use one of my few personal days then either I need to arrange that at least several weeks in advance or else have a serious reason why I couldn’t (e.g. a family emergency).

          I know that a relatively inflexible schedule is just part of my job, and I’m okay with that – I get lots of other perks, from summer vacation to kindergartner-hugs on the playground – but it would be frustrating if a potential employer didn’t seem to understand that.

          There are lots of other jobs where coverage would be an issue for a short-notice absence: delivery person, receptionist, nurse, chef, pharmacist, etc. etc. etc.

          1. Kyrielle

            Dispatchers, anyone in a service industry especially if they’re low-staffed at the moment relative to the workload, emergency services of all sorts, airplane personnel, people with overly demanding bosses….

            1. Liane

              Not to mention, a lot of people have zero to few days they can take off, especially if it involves calling in the next day (versus requesting ahead of time). For example at MyJob, we are allowed 3 call-ins in a rolling 6 month period. Any more & you get written up. Another 3 before any fall off, it’s a second-level write up. And at least I have paid time I can use to cover my call-ins. Many, many people don’t have paid time–because it’s either not offered or they had to use it–& cannot afford to miss many unpaid hours.

        2. NutellaNutterson

          Not to mention that if your last-minute absence is asking more of your colleagues, you’re essentially asking for a favor that you won’t be able to repay (if you get the job). That’s a pretty solid way to burn bridges. 14 years later, I’m still a little bitter about “swapping” holiday shifts with someone who knew they were leaving the company before their holiday shift would come due.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger

            This is a really good point. I know it’s harder on my coworkers (as well as my students) when I call in sick or I’m otherwise absent, so I want to avoid doing that if I don’t need to.

            Would I still go to a last-minute interview if I were job-hunting? Yes, if getting the job mattered to me. But I’d take it as a red flag if the school interviewing me didn’t seem to realize how non-ideal me doing that was, and if I had options would lean towards a different job.

      2. Mike C.

        Well at the time/place I was currently working there was an expectation that you give two weeks notice for vacation time or scheduled medical appointments, and missing too many days for calling in sick would trigger requirements for doctor’s notes and attract the attention of the owner. He’d then start poking around LinkedIn/Monster.com and see if there was any activity from you, among other creepy/stalkerish activities.

        1. Joey

          Id be tempted to make it look like I’m looking for circus or ice capades jobs.

          1. esra

            As someone who works in entertainment: There is NO MONEY in being an ice capades/kids show performer.

      3. NickelandDime

        You should read more letters written into AAM. Lots of stories about people that can’t take a bathroom break without their manager asking them where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing, much less call off without telling them exactly why.

          1. Helena

            That’s why this question is so strange. Being on this site for more than a few days seems like enough to know that everyone’s work situation is different, and loads of people can’t just take time off at the drop of a hat.

              1. Elizabeth the Ginger

                Reading more below, I see that’s not the case. I’m likewise puzzled, then.

      4. The IT Manager

        Some companies demand, sometimes for good reasons (like shift/phone coverage), people give a few days or weeks notice before they take vacation days. In those cases, lying about an illness or emergency appointment are the only option for very notice interview requests when you don;t want your current company to know you’re interviewing.

        In other cases, nosy people are just nosy, but if the cultural norm to share the reason why you want off and you’ve participated then you look suspicious when you can’t explain why you need time off all of a sudden.

        1. Joey

          Think about that for a minute. Does the reason you need time off with short notice really make any difference to the operations? And doesn’t that mean supervisors have to be in the business of determining which reasons are good enough and which aren’t? And doesn’t that penalize employees who are truthful and reward those who come up with more elaborate stories?

          IF you’re a manager these are the questions you should be asking your company to challenge that nonsense.

          Everyone is going to need a day time off with short notice every now and then- life happens. As an employer you’ve got bigger problems if you require employees to prove/justify that they really couldn’t have given more notice. Either you need a better back up plan or you don’t trust your employees.

          1. LBK

            I think we all understand that from an ideal world situation, but realistically not everyone works for a manager like that or has the level of influence to change it – might be part of why they’re setting up job interviews in the first place.

            1. Joey

              few people aren’t in a position to give feedback about how policies affect them, their peers, or their subordinates. Obviously if youre a good employee/manager you’re feedback will probably be more valuable.

              1. LBK

                I get that too, but in a situation like last-minute time off, I could see you not knowing you’ll be expected to give a reason until it happens, which you may not encounter until one of these last-minute interviews comes up. And giving feedback on policies or pushing back doesn’t mean they’ll change or that they’ll change instantly (ie in time for you to be able to take your time off without having to give a reason). We hear from people all the time whose workplaces have rigid, inflexible, stubborn management.

                It’s odd to me that you’re struggling to reconcile the idea that some places won’t change their bad policies, and some people work at those places; if everywhere had great rules and/or managers who were great at responding to feedback, AAM wouldn’t need to exist.

          2. doreen

            Yes, Joey, sometimes the reason does make a difference. Not to the operations, but to people’s willingness to run short-staffed. My employer requires a certain amount of coverage per job title/location and if too many people in my title/location have requested off tomorrow , then I won’t get approval. I’m free to take my chances and refuse to give a reason, but if my request is then denied, I’m stuck with the denial. I really don’t think I’m better off if my manager can’t decide that he’s willing to run short-staffed because my boiler blew up even though he’s not willing to do that just because I want Friday off.

            1. Joey

              If they want a reason give it to them. Just don’t feel bad about making it sound worse than it really is.

              1. Doreen

                I wasn’t clear – managers don’t want a reason. They’re fine leaving it at ” we’re too short-staffed so you can’t have tomorrow off ” . I don’t see the downside to having the ability to ask for reconsideration based on an emergency of some sort.

                Most of the time I can take off on short notice- but not if the other 2 people who can cover for me are both off.

          3. Mike C.

            I find this interesting, because we seem to be finding each other on the opposite sides of the “is-aught” discussion than is customary.

          4. Deni

            Your comments are so rude I could not just sit and read them anymore. I don’t know what group you work for, but in my industry, there are no days off. If you try, you aren’t a team player. Sure, my company offers generous packages and vacation, but just try taking them. It’s the nature of this industry. It must be nice to work in a company going nowhere, but when your company is getting ready to go public, there will be no doctor’s visits. The last job I worked in called me a liar when I told them I was taking my husband to the hospital. He suffered heart failure and I had to bring in a doctor’s note as if it was the flu. I quit. Wake up little boy. And grown men should not go by “Joey.” You aren’t 12 even if you act like it.

      5. esra

        With a day’s notice? That has needed a reason at any workplace I’ve been in.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Really varies by role though. Most places I’ve worked that would have been fine for most positions, if your workload allowed it that particular day.

          1. esra

            I guess so. I’ve been everything from junior scrub to department manager, working at big corp, small corp, and wee nonprofit. No one ever would’ve been okay with me coming and just saying I won’t be in tomorrow.

            I guess you could pull sick/personal days, but that will only get you so far.

            1. CrazyCatLady

              Same here. I could get away with it once, for sure, but it would certainly make people suspicious if I had two last minute days off (especially if they weren’t consecutive).

            2. Joey

              Most professionals I know can take their PTO whenever they want as long as they’ve got their work covered

              1. Elizabeth the Ginger

                But there are so, so many types of jobs that are difficult to find last-minute coverage for. It’s not an abnormal work situation at all.

                1. Elizabeth the Ginger

                  And your comment is a bit of an “ouch” to me as a teacher, because it feels like a suggestion that teaching is somehow less “professional” than a job with a more flexible schedule.

                2. Joey

                  Hi sorry to say this but I’m sure you already know the teaching profession is hugely disfunctional. It doesn’t surprise me in the least bit that theres not a good plan in place for teachers to call in with short notice.

              2. esra

                My industry is designers, programmers, printers, marketing, it’s never been okay. Even though a lot of what I do isn’t collaborative, it would still be major eyebrow raise to just say you’re taking a PTO day, no matter what your role. I can’t think of a place I’ve worked where anyone could do that unquestioned.

              3. The IT Manager

                Most professionals, by which I think you mean white collar office type, is by no means everyone.

              4. Elizabeth the Ginger

                Wow. No, I don’t agree that “the teaching profession is hugely disfunctional”. Some schools are, but not the profession as a whole (just as some law firms are dysfunctional, some tech companies…).

                My school does have a good plan for me to call in sick – but the very best plan can’t get around the fact that my job involves being in a certain place at a certain time, with a big group of people, teaching curriculum that I’ve personally developed. At some jobs, an employee could be gone on short notice without an impact either because that employee could do the work later, or another employee could cover the work and do it just as well. But I can’t tell 40 children to stay late at school tomorrow so we can do the chemistry lab we missed today. Nor can a colleague just step in and teach my curriculum for me on short notice; I’m the only person at my school who teaches this combination of grade level and subject matter. Add in that our substitute teachers, while excellent, don’t know the kids as well as the teachers who work with them every day. The result is that, although things will be okay, the children will get a slightly lower quality of education for that day that I’m gone.

                1. Elizabeth the Ginger

                  This didn’t post where I meant it to – I meant it as a reply to Joey’s last comment above.

          2. Merry and Bright

            Yes, it depends. Some teams I have worked in have had a sort of buddy system where you and the other person aren’t supposed to be off at the same time. But it depends on the organisation.

            Incidentally, I have a paid leave day tomorrow. Allowing me to stay up to watch the UK election results come in. I am drinking lots of tea and checking in on AAM during the quiet bits. (I know how to live).

      6. Doreen

        I can request time off without giving a reason – but it might be denied for operational reasons ( usually coverage) . I can then give a reason and request reconsideration. If I really need a particular day off on short notice, I just give the reason when I make the initial request.

      7. Retail Lifer

        No. Someone else has to be here if I’m not, and I can’t find someone at the last minute most of the time.

        1. ExceptionToTheRule

          Yeah, co-workers get really tired of having to give up their days off at the last minute to cover for you.

      8. Lisa Petrenko

        It really looks unprofessional to all off the very next day multiple times in a short period. Depending on your job, you may be needing up other people’s schedules as well!

    3. Anon O'mouse

      No, the worst is demanding you come in the same day they’re calling you.

  2. Bee Eye

    Having done two interviews last year, I can tell you that it does take some coordination to get everyone together at once, plus we set aside at least two hours of time for each interview so we can discuss before and after. The process is very time consuming, not to mention our department is already short-handed, which is why we are hiring in the first place.

    Sometimes as a prospective employee you just have to burn a sick day and focus on the interview. If your employer is so strict already about not letting you have time off to deal with personal matters, it may be one of the reasons why you’re looking for a new job.

    1. Chocolate lover

      That has been my experience as well when I’ve been on search committees, that it’s tough coordinating schedules for multiple people. We were always able to give candidates at least a week, usually two or 3 weeks notice, but that’s because we had to plan far in advance to find mutual time. And then people would be frustrated that we took so long, but there just wasn’t much way around it.

      1. Bee Eye

        At my work, HR does a pre-screening so people have to come in for that first, then come back some other day to meet with our department. We usually have at least 3 people on the interview committee, including me (the supervisor over the empty spot) and the department director. I work in IT so our interview process also involves a pop quiz and some demonstration using a PC to show how to identify parts and perform some basics. It’s much more involved that just talking to someone for a few minutes.

          1. Phyllis

            Not to derail this thread, but you could consider addressing what pre-screening could/should be done over the phone like this in a future post? We’re a small employer with no dedicated HR & I have a feeling we could be more streamlined with some of our hiring doing this. Thanks.

            1. Joey

              Focus on the deal breakers.

              Do they have the ksa’s
              Can they work the Schedule
              Can they handle the Pace
              Are you in the same Salary ball park
              Do they have a record of achievement
              Do they have good reasons for moving jobs
              Do they have a record that leads you to believe they will stick around for a while

              1. Joey

                Ah one other thing I do is look for honestY/credibility. I look for answers that are consistent with what they wrote on their resume and aren’t misleading. For example a classic one is someone who quit a job for “lack of advancement” but was unemployed afterwards. Or stating they left a job because “it was a mutual decision”.

                1. Pennalynn Lott

                  What. Wait. Why is saying you left a job because “it was a mutual decision” a bad thing? I left a job after six months in a new industry because we both agreed it wasn’t a good fit for me, even though we’d both had high hopes when they hired me. They paid me two month’s severance because they felt just as bad as I did that it didn’t work out.

          2. Bee Eye

            I very much agree! People come in expecting a full interview and instead do a 15 minute “screening” and then have to reschedule to meet with the actual department. It’s a big hassle.

    2. Joline

      For the position I’m in now the interview issue went the other way – they called me two days before I was going on vacation for four weeks to try to schedule a phone interview. They tried to make it work while I was still in-country but couldn’t get the people together (needed to have specific people interviewing for union reasons). I ended up booking it for an anticipated slow period in my trip – interviewed over the phone from a resort town at a lake in Hungary.

    3. Retail Lifer

      I’m job hunting, don’t get sick days, and have used up all of my vacation time with an upcoming trip, a medical procedure, and some doctor’s appointments. Even if I get called in for an interview at some point, I probably can’t even go.

    4. Chris

      Yes. This.
      My organization tends to have pretty low flexibility on dates for interviews. We always do a panel interview and, in order to coordinate everyone, the interview date is often set 6 – 8 weeks ahead of time (as soon as the position is listed), so that we can insure that all the interviews are available. I think we have the luxury because we tend to get a lot of applicants and there is a “how bad do they want it factor”. I do believe, however, that we make reasonable exceptions for the top candidates.

      1. Lisa Petrenko

        So you want a desperate candidate, not the best candidate. Got it. What’s your company so I know never to do business with you?

        1. TGIF

          I work as an in house recruiter for a company like Chris and see a ton of benefits to this system. As other posters have mentioned, it takes a huge amount of coordination to get the right decision makers to meet 3-4 final candidates. We do through prep sessions and debriefs before and after. We also inform candidates of our search timelines well in advance, even during the initial phone screens they’re given a heads up on the dates we’re looking to do panel interviews. We have a huge focus on candidate experience and assessment and strongly disagree that a set up like this implies desperation or distinction.

          And these are not low skill high volume jobs – in fact, this is more essential for high level jobs. If you have a sales VP with two open jobs of his own and is part of the interview panel for two other jobs, if you as a candidate cannot show up on the set dates, you might not have another chance to meet him for three weeks. Or your assessment would be over the phone. As Chris said, we do accommodate by using video conferencing or arranging for the candidate to come in later than the other finalists but it’s not ideal.

  3. Not Today Satan

    In my experience this tends to happen with cog-in-machine jobs where they’re used to high turnover and don’t really care about getting the best fit. I also imagine it might happen if there’s a front runner and they just want to check off a box saying they interviewed a few other people.

    1. SevenSixOne

      …or to say they TRIED to interview other people but just couldn’t get the schedules to line up.

  4. Catlady

    I recently had to do an interview on a day that I also had my final exam. Imagine me studying for my final and my interview at the same time. Even then I felt unprepared for both and I got an A- in the class, I know that my anxiety over the interview really impeded on my test score.

    Anyway, I mention this because they told me on the phone that they were doing interviews on THAT day. I wasn’t really given a choice to interview any other day because it was a panel interview. I consulted my father and he said that most likely it takes a lot to get those people to have corresponding schedules so I should try to go that day if I could. On top of that I got an upper respiratory infection that weekend and had to take a cough suppressant before the interview.

    I actually understand their reasons for being stringent about that day, but then a friend of mine, who also applied for the same job, told me they called her the same day I interviewed for an interview with her! So they were much more flexible than I assumed.

    Neither of us got the job, it was reposted, btw.

  5. PEBCAK

    I have also seen this happen when we already have a good candidate or two, and someone comes up last-minute who we’d also like to talk to. We want to get the new person in ASAP so that we don’t leave the others hanging for too long. There’s really no good way to explain that.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger

      I actually think you could be honest there. “We have already interviewed with some strong candidates for the position and were getting ready to wrap up our search, but your resume really intrigued us and we couldn’t pass up the chance to talk with you. Our timeline is really tight – would you possibly be able to come in for an interview on Tuesday? I’m sorry for the short notice.”

      I’d feel flattered to get a note like that, and also compassionate towards both the employers and the other candidates. I’d also take it as a good sign that the interviewers were trying to be decent towards the other candidates.

  6. Extronerd

    Usually this has been the result of trying to coordinate a lot of difficult schedules. However, the WAY in which it’s approached is everything. For the last two jobs I’ve had, I’ve gotten a “we know this is really short notice, but (next day) (day after) (sometime soon) is when all our decision-makers have availability. Can you make it?” When it was clear that they knew it was a bit of an imposition on me, it made me want to prioritize the interview.

    1. Lisa Petrenko

      I would see right through your sweet talk and tell you I want available even if I was. Never appear desperate for a job and never be a pushover about scheduling interviews. If they expect you to drop everything, imagine how they will treat you if you get the job. “I know your husband is getting a heart transplant today, but we really need you to drive across the state today to meet with this client. ..” yes that happened to me, and yes that is how they pressured me for the interview as well. Never. AGAIN.

  7. Amy R

    I had a company call and tell me that they only had one day for interviews (which was the very next day) and that if I couldn’t make, I wouldn’t be considered. Well, I coujdnt make it due to a family obligation.

    They called back 2 hours later and magically had more availability later in the week. I ended up with an ofer, but turned it down bc the CEO was a jerk and they lied about offering health insurance.

  8. YandO

    I am always surprised by inflexibility some potential employers show.

    Would you want me to be an employee who takes random time off on short notice? Would you want me to an employee who answers personal calls on company time? Would you want me to an employee who does personal assignments during work hours?

    Then why in the world do you put me in the position to be that type of employee towards my current employer?

    One benefit of looking in a different time zone is that most of my interviews can be scheduled outside of my working hours. Even then, I’ve gotten some push back. “It’s just a call!”. Yes, and how do I suggest I make that happen? I don’t get lunch hour or breaks. Not to mention that I would really like to not have to do an interview in my car.

    Assignments on Tuesday that are dues Friday also rub me the wrong way. There are days I work 11 hours straight + 2 hour commute. I can barely feed, clean, and sleep myself.

    Rant over.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think, though, that particularly for exempt jobs, employers tend to assume you have some control over your time. You’re in a bad situation that isn’t quite typical.

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      That sucks. I’m sorry. Here’s the thing, though: I have plenty of good candidates, and I’m not all that willing to do interviews outside of business hours, on the weekend, or during time with my family. So interviews are going to happen during normal working hours 99% of the time. You might have one of those jobs where you have no choice but to lie and call in sick for interviews.

    3. hbc

      YandO, I’m hiring someone who skyped his interview with me from the backseat of his car. You may not personally want to, and that’s fine, but it’s probably a non-issue for the employer.

  9. Joey

    There are a lot of weird circumstances that can pop up too. For example if you are the only candidate who can’t make it youre not likely to get flexibility. Sometimes there are deadlines to get someone hired for whatever reason, usually related to budget. And if you aren’t that strong a candidate to begin with you aren’t likely to get as much flexibility.

  10. Dustbunny

    I think it depends on your industry a little as to what is the norm. I work in the UK charity sector. Interviews are almost always panel interviews, which means coordinating several schedules. Normally interviewers will just pick a day or two in advance- if you’re lucky, you’ll get options within those days, but I’ve often just been assigned a time with no sign that they can be flexible.

    1. Lisa Petrenko

      Sounds like is skip the interview since they are probably such noogies about time once you get the job. This mamma han’t the time for it.

  11. De Minimis

    My worst…all the candidates were scheduled to come in during the employer’s lunch hour. If you couldn’t be there at 11 that day, you were out of luck. There were two different interview panels and then a final one-on-one with the department head. It was structured to where you had about 20 minutes at each interview. I assume there were two other people, but I never saw them. Ended up not getting the job.

  12. AVP

    I think you’re being a little hard, at least on some employers, but I might be defensive here because I just did exactly what this letter was asking about. I did phone interviews on

    What happened was, someone unexpectedly resigned, in a position that I can’t leave open for months on end without causing total disaster for myself in terms of stress and work/life balance. She gave a nice notice period, which I highly appreciate, because it gave me literally one week to post a job ad, read all the applications, phone screen and interview in person. Interviews had to be either today or tomorrow, no exceptions. After that, everyone who’s involved with the replacement decision, including me, leaves the office on a project that will have us out for at least the next two weeks, possibly four.

    I know I might be overlooking someone great, but at this point in our schedule, the chance of missing someone amazing is less terrible than the chance of not having a hiring decision made before we leave. Thankfully, all of the candidates I wanted to meet with made it work and I think we’ll get someone great. I tried to compensate for the scheduling insanity by being super polite and professional in all other ways, and by being apologetic about it. I would have been happy to explain the circumstances if anyone asked, as well.

    I should mention this is a low-level job. For a higher level position it would have been a different story, but there also would have been a longer lead time and less of a need to fill it immediately.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      But that’s exactly the kind of exception I talked about in the post, and you were apologetic about it, which, as I said, makes it not alarming.

      1. AVP

        oh, I didn’t mean that you were being too hard on employers! I took that lead from the last line of the OP’s question. What you said was spot on. I thought it was funny though that sometimes these examples can seem far-fetched if you’re the person who wants the job and has never done hiring (“really? Everyone is going out of town on the same day for a month?”) but they are totally true to life.

  13. Neruda

    I agree that sometimes it’s just the cultural norm. I work in education in Australia and in my state, the interview day is set, and people just take the interview time they are given. Changing interview times too much (i.e. To another day) is almost unheard of. Things move quickly though, and offers often happen within a week. That may also have something to do with the fact the applicants have to complete a key selection criteria with their application so you’ve got quite a bit of information before you even begin interviewing. I’ve only ever changed one interview, to the day before, and that’s because I was flying in from interstate (at my own cost). Private industry is completely foreign to me!

  14. Dan

    I think those kinds of employers suck.

    My ex and I were planning on going out of town one weekend, and the day before a potential employer calls her up to interview *the next day*. I’m like “screw that, you don’t want to work for a place like that.” She had missed the call by a couple of hours, and when she called them back, she got the “oh, all of our interview slots are filled! Thanks.”

    Those people I have *no* patience for.

  15. Shell

    Ugh, I hate this. I mean, I can understand that there often are reasons companies can’t give enough notice for all the reasons mentioned above. But the last time I was in this position, the HR assistant called me at 5:10 in the afternoon and wanted me to come in early next morning. For various reasons I couldn’t make it with so little notice but I offered a phone interview that day or an in-person the day after. And I would understand if they couldn’t do it for whatever reason, but–BUT–she never got back to me. Even though she promised she would at least check in with the powers that be and get back to me.

    I finally got a response from her three weeks later in response to my email inquiry, and she just said the position has been filled.

    Ugh.

  16. L Veen

    In my experience with the (Canadian) federal government, it’s always like this. Every interview invite I’ve always gotten specified the date and time. You can ask to reschedule if you’ll be traveling or getting medical treatment or for religious reasons.

    A few months ago I was on the hiring committee for a competition. One of the candidates asked to reschedule her interview because her father had died, and our HR demanded proof. She had to submit his obituary before they agreed to reschedule.

      1. L Veen

        Unfortunately, it seems to be considered an acceptable way to screen candidates. We pretty much have to interview all applicants who demonstrate that they meet the criteria stated in the job poster, and sometimes that can be a significant number – so when candidates cancel (or get cancelled on because they can’t/won’t provide “legitimate” proof that they can’t make the dictated date and time) the reaction tends to be “Whew, one fewer candidate to interview!” and not “Crap, we might be missing out on a great hire!”

    1. K.

      And she actually did it? I’d withdraw my candidacy right then. I wouldn’t submit an obituary to a company I actually worked for, let alone one I was just considering.

      1. Shiarah

        I had to submit my grandmother’s obituary as “proof” to my employer once, when I asked for a single day of bereavement leave for the day of her funeral. I also was directed to take my laptop and phone TO THE FUNERAL “in case of emergency,” because one of my teammates was out that day to attend a wedding–despite the fact that four other teammates, all of whom outranked me in title level and experience, were in the office that day and were perfectly capable of handling anything that may have come up.

        Yeah. I left that employer as soon as humanly possible, and that incident was among my top 3 reasons for leaving.

          1. Shiarah

            Oh, the usual: I was obscenely underpaid (the next position I accepted nearly doubled my pay and benefits), and the environment and culture were horrible. I tolerated those things for a while in the name of building up experience, but a couple of jerk moves from leadership ultimately led to me jumping ship as soon as I could. I wasn’t the only one, either; by the time I left after just under two years in that role, I was the longest-standing member of the department, including my manager. The company has since been bought out by another firm.

        1. AcademiaNut

          I had to provide a copy of my father’s death certificate to my employer. But that was for the paperwork for the standard two-week bereavement leave for a parent, which is *not* part of the standard vacation/sick leave.

          They actually have a table with number of days as a function of relationship.

          1. Hlyssande

            At my company, it’s 3 days for immediate family and one day for non-immediate family.

            Immediate family is defined as siblings and parents only. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins…1 day. Actually, I’m not even sure we were allowed a day for a first cousin.

            So when my grandmother and cousin died on the same day…yeah, it was unpleasant. Fortunately I had vacation time to be able to fly down for the week and help my dad clean the house in prep for many people arriving for the funeral, but it was frustrating to say the least.

            Apparently it used to be 5 days for immediate family and 3 for non-immediate, but they changed it shortly before I started.

    2. LBK

      I’d appreciate that as a candidate. It would show me the people running the show are batshit insane and that I should flee, flee while I still can. Few companies give you such blatant signals of disrespecting their employees before the interview even happens.

      1. NickelandDime

        Right. Imagine working there and you have a death in the family. Would they force you to submit the death certificate?

    3. L Veen

      For the record, I went digging in my email for the message I received inviting me to take a written exam as part of the process for my current government job, and this is the wording:

      “Following the process mentioned above, you are invited to an exam at the date, time
      and location specified below:

      (date)

      Please note that this is the only exam date possible. Failure to confirm your presence and present yourself at the exam will be considered as a withdrawal from this process. Only the following reasons, upon demonstration of proof, will be considered for an alternate date: Death in the family, planned travel outside of the country, medical reasons, and religious reasons.”

      I’ve seen the same boilerplate, give or take a few words, for in-person interviews as well.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I wonder why only planned travel outside the country. If it was planned travel within the country, they’d expect you to cancel that?

  17. Fuzzy

    I had to do something similar for the job I have now–but they were kind of in a rush. It went from phone interview, to “can you come in this week,” to can you come in this day,” to “can you come in tomorrow,” to “I know it’s Thursday but can you start Monday.”

    Thankfully I was working nights so I was able to do everything *before* I had to go to work, but telling my manager on Friday that it was my last day was pretty uncomfortable, even for the service industry. If I was working 9-5 while applying for it, I wouldn’t have been able to get the job!

  18. grasshopper

    I had a request for an interview where the organization was doing interviews on one day only. It was a day when I was going to be out of the country. Knowing that they must have had difficulty scheduling the panel, I asked if there was any way that I could participate by phone or Skype or any other means that day except being in-person (knowing that I would be at a disadvantage to in-person candidates and dealing with an 8 hour time difference). The organization would only accept in-person interviews on the scheduled day. I was particularly disappointed in how rigid the organization was, especially since it was a social services agency dedicated to alternative housing for special needs. I know that social services definitely isn’t all holding hands and singing kumbayah, but there was no flexibility or accommodation for anything outside their schedule. It certainly didn’t give me a good impression of the organization or their work. I’m better off not being there.

  19. Amy Farrah Fowler

    I just recently started a position where I do a lot of phone screening of applicants (something I haven’t done much of in previous roles and didn’t receive a lot of training on). Because of that, I thought back to the interview experiences that were most positive in my past and based my strategy on those experiences. I send an email inviting them to a phone interview and give three blocks of time (usually on 3 separate days) about a week out and let them know if they have conflicts to let me know what some good times for them would be. The comments on this post are telling me that I’m doing the right thing.

    OP – I’m sorry that you’re having to deal with really rigid employers. I hope you find a position that is a good fit for you!

    1. Joey

      depends on whether time to fill is important to you. It’s sounds like you take a while from start to butt in seat.

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler

        I’m fairly new to this company, but from what I can tell, it’s a position that we’re always hiring for because we’re growing and that it’s more important to get great applicants than to have them start tomorrow.

  20. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

    So, it really is hard to get the right people free all the same time when we schedule interviews (in part because decision makers are moving around between location), so when we post a job, we list the dates that the interviews will take place, and say that people have to be available on those dates (which are usually about 4 weeks away, and we would be scheduling with 1 to 2 weeks notice). This seems to work pretty well. And yes, we will find another day for a really strong candidate. We are much more flexible with more senior positions.

    The other option is that only some of the people who need to have input into who we hire will be there, which holds up the process and means that candidates have to come in extra time.

    I’d like to know what AAM commenters think about this. We do not want to look like assholes; we also want to move through our hiring process with reasonable speed.

    1. Joey

      The decision makers don’t trust you to make hiring decisions without meeting them face to face? I get it when it’s convenient to want to meet a potential hire, but it sounds like they’re the ones making the whole process difficult

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

        I am the final decision maker. this is how our team prefers to interview. We are super serious about fit, and and we always want more than one persons input. I’m curious about how it might be perceived by outsiders.

  21. KittyPride

    I just had an interview an hour ago – phone screen – where the recruiter called me a few minutes prior to say the company “overlooked” my interview and now they need to reschedule for tomorrow at 12:30. I have an in-person interview somewhere else tomorrow at 11:30. The recruiter seemed a bit to imply that it was then or nothing because reasons?

    Unhappy panda.

  22. small firm attorney

    I frequently conduct interviews like this. I have one block of time available, and that is the only time I will schedule interviews. Here’s why, from my business’s point of view:

    I am in charge of hiring administrative staff for a small law office. We like to replace the departing employee as soon as possible because with such a small staff we’d definitely feel the loss of just one employee, and it takes time to train someone new even after they start. We have at least 2 people conducting the interviews (my law partner and me, and sometimes our office manager), and the schedules can be difficult to coordinate. There may be only a single 4-hour block or less in any given week that my partner and I are both available to interview candidates. So that’s when we request that people come. Sometimes we have a long lead time and other times not; it just depends on when our departing employee gives notice and what our (the interviewers’) availability is that week and the next.

    When I contact candidates, I offer them a specific time. If they say they’re not available, I’ll tell them the window and ask if any time during that window works. If they’re still not available, I’ll tell them that we only have that block of time set aside for interviews right now, and let them know that if we open up additional interview times, I’ll contact them. Sometimes after saying this, the candidate suddenly become available during the window even though 30 seconds ago they weren’t.

    If we find someone during our first set of interviews, we make an offer. If we don’t find someone during the first set of interviews, we’ll interview again, contacting people who weren’t able to make it last time as well as any new applicants. If our ad has been posted for a while, and someone submits a strong application right before our blocked interview time, I will respond immediately and ask if they’re available to interview same day or next day, acknowledging that it’s short notice but also hoping they’ll be reasonable enough to understand that I listed the job and blocked off time for interviews 8 days ago, but only received their application 30 minutes ago, thus the rush; if they had submitted 8 days ago, I would have contacted them much further in advance of the offered interview time.

    I will occasionally set aside multiple blocks for interviews, try to schedule people for the 1st block, but put them in the 2nd or 3rd block only if they can’t come during the 1st block. If we find someone during the 1st block, we’ll cancel the other interviews. This is not my preferred way to schedule things, but it’s necessary when the blocks that we’re available to interview are spread out and we are having trouble getting the people we want slotted into our available interview times. Once we do find someone we like, we don’t want to potentially lose that person by waiting another 2 weeks to finish up our previously scheduled interviews.

    1. LBK

      I don’t love that apology. It makes it sound like it’s the candidate’s fault for not applying earlier, which could have been due to a number of reasonable factors, and there’s obviously no way for them to know about your strict interview scheduling process from the outside – most people are going to anticipate that it doesn’t really matter if they apply today or tomorrow because interviews don’t usually start happening for a couple weeks after the listing goes up. I’d do something like Ashley the Nonprofit Exec above and note in your job posting that applicants should submit applications ASAP as interview times are limited (but even then, if someone doesn’t start job hunting until 2 weeks after you put up the listing or just doesn’t see it until then or is on vacation for a week, it’s kind of unreasonable to put the onus on them to have applied earlier in your explanation for why you’re scheduling the request last-minute).

      If you’re making the apology for a last-minute request, just be more straightforward about it – we know this is last minute but we’d love to have you in if you’re available, if not we’ll be in touch the next time we have availability. Also I’d say you should be doing that for all of your interviews that are being scheduled less than a week out, not just top candidates.

      1. small firm attorney

        I don’t apologize. I acknowledge. “I received your application and would love to interview you for the position. I realize this is last minute, but tomorrow is the only time we have set aside for interviews. Are you available tomorrow?” That is all. I don’t blame them for applying more than a week after the ad was posted, when all the other candidates I’m interviewing applied within the first few days. It’s not the candidate’s fault for not applying earlier. The circumstances of the timing of the ad and the timing of their application led to the circumstances of my contacting them so close to the proposed interview date. That’s it. Circumstances. I don’t spell any of this out to the candidate. I hope they will understand, because mutual understanding and acceptance (of life circumstances, of business demands, of trying to balance the two) is a better starting point for an employer/employee relationship.

  23. Broken Arm

    Just this year I was still unemployed and got offered an interview from a small company out of town (in fact it was in another but neighboring state). Perhaps I shouldn’t have said that during the phone call but I asked if the interview could be delayed by at most two weeks. They have already asked where I was based during the first call so I assumed they remembered it because that was the main issue as to why I wanted it delayed. The caller got rude and I was forced to agree for a time within a week.

    She didn’t say ‘bye’ or ‘thanks’ and just abruptly ended the call after explaining the procedure. I’m not the politest person on earth but I would never end a call just like that without at the very least acknowledging my opponent.

    I decided not to come and wrote them an email apologizing for that, wished them luck in finding the perfect person for the job sort of thing. Two months later, I already have a job in my own town and they are still putting ads for the position.

  24. Stranger than fiction

    Back in the day, when I was a food server, it was understood you walk in and apply between 2:00 pm and 4:00pm ( when its slow between lunch and dinner) and if you’re lucky and they need someone right away they’d interview you right then. Now my daughters are doing this type work while in school and they told me all the restaurants post on craigslist now and they’ll give you two options, say Monday or Wednesday between 2 and 4, so they show up and there’s a huge line out the door and they don’t have time to interview everyone and you may wait two hours for nothing! If it’s the second day, you’re screwed!

  25. stellanor

    I had a recruiter pressure me to cancel an international trip because he claimed the company would offer me 1-2 interview slots and if I wasn’t available for them they wouldn’t consider me. This turned out to be a complete lie — the hiring manager was totally flexible. It was bizarre. I wasn’t about to cancel an expensive trip I’d already paid for just in case someone MIGHT want me to interview in the brief period I was unavailable.

    My trip actually ended up pushing back my start date and the hiring manager didn’t care about that either.

  26. Justine

    Once an employer called me for an interview in ONE HOUR. This was for a low level retail job. Really? I didn’t go.

  27. Jill

    I work in government and for first-round interviews, candidates are interviewed by a panel. Because we’re government, we have to be super anal about treating everyone the SAME. Which means all panelists must interview each candidate and it must be done on the same day. Ridiculously rigid but something to keep in mind if you’re interviewing for government jobs.

  28. Peony

    Saying that companies that won’t change interview days “don’t care” about finding the best candidate is a little harsh- often interview panels are the devil to organise and the reason no leeway can be given is that finding a second time the whole panel can do is all but impossible.

    We do three-person interview panels for all roles in my department and finding a time all three can do, for a long enough period of time, is the work of days. We advertise the interview date in the job posting and we’ll offer skype interviews if needed, but the refusal to move days is a simple matter of logistics.

  29. Vera

    I’m in a job that is about 60-70% travel and am interviewing for a similar position with about the same travel requirements. Now that we are trying to schedule an in person interview, the recruiter and the company are being very strict on specific interview dates – I would have to make a 3hr flight from where I currently live for an interview.

    I’ve let them know what dates I’m totally free, which is very few, but I’ve also tried to work with/around my current travel to try to make a stopover in their HQ city. They seem really put off by my lack of availability. I gave them several dates in June that could work but they really wanted a date in May and I’m all booked up with biz travel in May. I’m not sure how else to handle the situation. It’s not quite so easy to take a “sick day” or even a PTO day when your company is paying for you to be in a city. Am I really supposed to rearrange all my flights (costing my current company money) to interview, and if so, when??

  30. Today

    I had an interview last Monday for teaching at a school I already know well from working there part-time off and on for the last year. I also teach at a local college part-time, which I really like.

    The interview was last minute and in general the HR is very sloppy and lets things hang for weeks and then suddenly, they want an answer NOW!! I figured I didn’t want to work there full-time after seeing all this, plus the fact that the previous chemistry teacher left mid-year. A few days later, they offered me the job but insisted I give them a response within 24 hours. Uh, ok.

    So, I don’t want to take this job and work in this kind of environment. Plus! I have a doctoral degree (professional) which they are not willing to consider a “true” doctoral degree such as a PhD or an Ed (whatever that degree is in education!). They are willing to graciously give me MA + 45, altho I have an MA + over 200 credits. When I asked why they didn’t give me the MA + 60 level they said they had to think that over and get back to me. At what point do you want me to stop, because I can keep listing the reasons not to take this job. : ) A place with high turnover and lack of respect is not a good place to invest in your future full-time.

  31. Today

    One thing I will say, is that I have often had a tendency in the past to try and fit myself to jobs and make myself ‘get along’ in ways that seem ridiculous to me now. What was the result of that theory of thought? instead of patiently waiting for a good fit where I could stay and grow in a reasonably healthy place and had a decent change of being successful – I have I admit had to leave some really crappy situations.

    So, now I might interview with some dubious outfits but I decline the job. It feels new and very good! to say, thank you but I am going to pursue some other opportunities. Thank you for inviting me to work with your company. : )

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