I was left waiting for two hours at an interview

A reader writes:

I’m a corporate recruiter. I was referred to the CEO of a small company by a former coworker who said they were hiring and that I might be the right fit for a recruiting opening they have. The CEO’s communication was via email and sporadic at best, but we scheduled time to meet at a specific time and specific date. Let’s say it was 1:00 on a Wednesday. I’m currently working, so I told my boss and receptionist that I was running out to do some errands in case anybody was looking for me.

I arrived to the interview on time and the receptionist seemed confused to see me. She said that the CEO mentioned I “might be coming in,” and I said that I had confirmed it with him the night before. She said that maybe he didn’t check his email and she called him and said, “Sally showed up.” Off-putting, but whatever. She said he had another meeting with 2 men who were standing 5 feet away from me (awkward), but she was going to put me in a conference room and have a director come talk to me. Director #1 comes in, had no idea he was to interview anybody, had never seen my resume and was really unprepared to do an interview. It was fine, we went with the flow. He said he was going to find out what was happening with the CEO.

Next, Director #2 comes in and he said that he just got an email that he needed to interview me five minutes ago. We hit it off wonderfully and had a great conversation – I was really excited about the company and how I could step in and really help them with their recruiting and retention. After we were done, the receptionist brought me an application, said the CEO was still in the meeting, and that my former coworker was coming down to say hello. Former coworker and I chatted for a little bit, I filled out the application, and then I just sat there. And sat there. And sat there. Thinking of how my time was being wasted and how rude it was that I was left alone for so long and that I had to get back to work.

I finally had enough, and at 3:00 I got up and left. I handed my application to the receptionist and told her I had been there for two hours and he still hadn’t come to see me and I needed to get back to work. She asked me to wait just five more minutes, but at that point, I was so mad that I knew I would not make a good impression and I had to get out of there. I got back to my office and sent both directors emails thanking them for their time, etc. Then I emailed my former coworker and told him what happened. He responded by apologizing on behalf of the CEO and saying that the meeting he was in was really good for the company and he couldn’t get out of it. He also said that the CEO met with him and one of the directors, and the director raved about me and that the CEO still wants to talk to me. I’m seeing red flags. However, I do need to make move from my current role and maybe I should give them another chance.

So my question is, what do I do now? I don’t want to sound like a child, but I feel like the CEO should reach out to me first and apologize for not meeting me. I wouldn’t invite you to my house and spend two hours in another room without saying hello to you, and I feel this is kind of the same thing. But was it unprofessional of me to leave without meeting him and do I need to be the one to reach out and apologize for cutting out? I’d just like to add that my passion is working for a company that makes the candidate’s experience a great one and I know I can make this happen for them – they need the help with that. But I’m not desperate either.

What? Hell no, it wasn’t unprofessional of you to leave after waiting two hours for a pre-scheduled appointment, and you certainly don’t need to apologize for leaving. It would have been perfectly reasonable to leave after a quarter of that time (if not less) and to ask the receptionist to have the CEO reach out to you about rescheduling.

I’m not sure that I buy your former coworker’s explanation that this just happened because the CEO was in an important meeting that he couldn’t have gotten out of. That kind of thing does happen, but in an organized company, someone would have attempted to reach out to you and let you know what was going on — and if nothing else, they would have explained it to you when you arrived. In this case, the receptionist didn’t seem prepared to see you; this wasn’t a situation where the CEO had told her, “Please let my 2:00 appointment know I’m running late, apologize profusely on my behalf, and see if he can wait X minutes or if he’d prefer to reschedule.” This was a situation where they just didn’t take your time particularly seriously; they were cavalier with you, and that kind of thing is rarely a one-time happening.

Whether or not you should agree to continue talking with them really depends on how much you care about this kind of thing. I have a pretty low tolerance for disorganization and lack of consideration, and I’d assume I’d be seeing more of it if I worked there so it would be a deal-breaker for me. But if you don’t feel your skin itching just contemplating that, it’s possible that it’s not a deal-breaker for you. The key is just to believe what they’re showing you about themselves, and not talk yourself into believing that it’s not typical of them. Assume this is how they operate, and decide if you’re up for that or not.

If you are, then it sounds like you’ll need to be the one to reach out to them … which no, you shouldn’t have to do, but apparently it’s the case here.

{ 89 comments… read them below }

  1. LBK*

    How directly you’d be working with the CEO would be a big factor here for me. It sounds like the meetings you actually did have went really well and you liked the people after getting past the initial awkwardness of an impromptu interview, so if the people you did like would be your direct managers and you wouldn’t have to deal with the CEO that often, I’d say you should be okay. A disorganized CEO isn’t necessarily one that’s going to run the company into the ground, so I wouldn’t be worried that that would indicate trouble for the organization as a whole.

    1. OriginalYup*

      For me, yes and no. Agreed that it might be less of an core concern if the position doesn’t work closely with the CEO. However. When the leader of a small company has such a cavalier attitude about basic things like respecting people’s time, necessary communication, and planning, that’s pretty likely to carry over into everyone’s work. In my experience, that kind of CEO will also be the type to “forget” to tell the department heads that everyone’s budgets are being cut by 40%, abruptly scuttle an 18-month project on a whim, reorganize the reporting structure for no perceivable reason, and do a whole host of other problematic things that will directly impact your personal quality of workplace life. YMMV but caveat emptor.

      And for what it’s worth, I used to work in a place where the senior people would *intentionally* kept visitors waiting for at least 15 minutes as a power play. Seriously. It was acknowledged out loud as thing they did intentionally to show who’s boss. They were unbearable *ssholes to work for.

      1. LBK*

        I think it depends heavily on the size of the company. I’ve never even met the CEO of my company where I’ve worked for almost 4 years, so I really doubt the way he works influences or reflects on me, my manager or even my manager’s manager. It does sound like this is a relatively small organization so the CEO’s day-to-day may have more of an impact on the OP’s job, though.

        1. JL*

          Even in large companies, that kind of attitude trickles down. If the big boss is seen as not really caring about punctuality or respect for the ‘foot soldiers’, senior management won’t feel the incentive to do so either. You might have a really good manager somewhere in the hierarchy that corrects this attitude, but it becomes rarer.
          However, when the CEO is seen to put a lot of importance in such matters in her/his own daily work, it will set a level of ethics for the rest of the company too.

    2. fposte*

      For me it’s a slightly different question when you’re considering a recruiting job and the organization demonstrates ineptitude at treating candidates reasonably–this is a serious warning that they may suck at your area. If it’s a situation where the OP wouldn’t involve the CEO in any future hiring and is coming in to fix things from the ground up, that’s one thing, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the situation.

      1. AVP*

        I was just thinking this – is the OP going to be setting up interviews for other people that will go similarly? I’m not a recruiter but for me that would be a deal-breaker because candidates might assume this is how OP operates and that would be damaging.

        1. KimmieSue*

          This! Yes! If they need a corporate recruiter, means they are likely hiring and others will go through a similar candidate experience. Ensuring that their candidates have a positive experience (even if not eventually offered a role) appears to be very low on the priority list.

          I’d encourage you to keep looking.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Presumably only C level candidates and directors would be meeting with the CEO though.
          It sounds like the other employees besides the CEO were accommodating and the two directors dropped what they were doing and came and interviewed her. The CEO is clearly disorganized and not the best communicator and didn’t seem he believed their interview was a firm appointment. Rude and annoying yes but I would give this a chance.

      2. LBK*

        Ah, I missed that this was for a recruiting position. Yes, I’d agree that if the OP will be the one setting up interviews in the future, she probably doesn’t want to end up serving as middle man between frustrated candidates and a disorganized CEO (for her own sanity if nothing else).

        I’m also giving the admin and the other managers the benefit of the doubt that the CEO failed to communicate with them about the OP coming in for an interview and that otherwise they would’ve been more prepared and provided a better experience. I’m reading it as the CEO being the one weak link, not a whole company of hot messes; that’s still obviously not ideal especially if he’ll have a direct impact on the OP’s job, but it’s better if you can at least trust 95% of your senior management with your candidates.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, usually I shy away from believing that a hiring encounter is emblematic of everything about the business, but it’s reasonable to think that a hiring encounter represents its hiring. Sorry, OP, but I find it kind of an interesting twist.

  2. Lanya (aka Camp Director Kim)*

    OP, Don’t give this company another thought. If they were this inconsiderate to your time at the interviewing stage, they will be even worse after you are hired.

    One time, I had a second interview with a company, and they called me 2 hours in advance to cancel it because the CEO “forgot” that she had a golf tournament that day. I was so upset that I had wasted a precious PTO day because of their bad planning. I said I was no longer interested in the position, and I’m still glad that I didn’t waste any further time on them. This was also after they had kept me waiting 30 minutes for my original interview, which should have been the first red flag.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I don’t know. I had an interview where I was kept waiting two hours and then the person ended up getting called to City Hall and had to leave. I was annoyed and almost withdrew my candidacy. I decided to go to the interview we rescheduled anyway (mainly because it was only a 10-minute walk). I hit it off with the boss, she offered me the job on the spot, I accepted on the spot (only time ever) and I’m still here 12 years later!
      But this situation does seem a bit flakier. But not flaky enough that I don’t think it’s worth another shot. OP can always just say no if it’s not the right fit.

      1. Lanya (aka Camp Director Kim)*

        I guess it really depends on your own temperament.

        I just feel that if I had flaked out or been late, I would not have been given a second chance, so I don’t feel I owe that back to a flaky company.

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, I see a big difference between something coming up at the last minute and cancelling at the last minute because you forgot you’d committed to a golf tournament.

  3. Dan*

    “I’d just like to add that my passion is working for a company that makes the candidate’s experience a great one and I know I can make this happen for them – they need the help with that. But I’m not desperate either.”

    As LBK notes, this all depends on how closely you will be working with the CEO. If the CEO is a key decision maker in your hires, you won’t be able to change him. Life will be rough.

    1. some1*

      This. It’s not going to be fun to have your good candidates drop out of the process if the CEO stands them up for interviews.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yep, there are some things that are beyond your control. You could be like director #2 to talk with and then when the candidates interview with the CEO the wheels fall off. All your awesomeness is forgotten because the CEO fumbles the ball so. many. times. You can make a great experience for candidates only up to a point.

      I would start with former coworker. Ask her if this is normal for the company. Also try to find out why the previous recruiter quit. If there wasn’t a previous recruiter that means that you are going to be doing trailblazing work also. Is that something that interests you? Do you see yourself a year from now sitting down with the CEO and explaining to him that you cannot get good candidates because they leave after waiting two hours for him?

  4. Workfromhome*

    Since you have a former coworker at this company I’d get the scoop from them first. It needs to be done over coffee face to face. “Hey Bob its just the two of us here I’m interested in the company but since you have worked there give me the scoop. Is this a one off or is it the wary things work at XYZ that its really disorganized”

    If you are OK after that conversation I’d tell your Co Worker to have the CEO reach out to schedule another meeting. In your reply let him know you are still interested but because you are currently employed that you need to stick stictly to the meeting times.

    Go. If you have to wait more than 5 minutes or so then you have your answer. Sometimes things happen. Even a CEO should learn from their mistakes. If they made a mistake and left you wait for 2 hours and don’t go out of the way to make sure you don’t wait next time you don’t want to work for them. People who don’t learn from mistakes suck to work for.

  5. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)*

    I appreciate Alison’s take on this – not tolerating that level of inconsideration.

    I work closely with our CEO – right now I report directly to her and we meet regularly. She NEVER starts meetings on time. She will keep me and my coworker waiting 15 minutes…30 minutes…90 minutes for a scheduled meeting because a phone call, lunch, etc ran long. It doesn’t make my day-to-day hellish, but it does illustrate an incredible lack of respect for our time and work – we have to structure our entire day around her when we know we have a significant meeting.

    It’s one of the reasons I know my current job isn’t going to be long-term. If I were interviewing somewhere else and this happened, it would be a HUGE red flag for me.

    1. Ad Astra*

      I’m more lax than a lot of people when it comes to punctuality, but nobody should wait two hours for a meeting without a good explanation and a profuse apology. I’m not at all quick to jump into the “Being late shows no respect for anyone else’s time” camp, but this is a whole different animal. Not telling the OP what’s going on escalates it from faux pas to ridiculously rude.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the CEO accidentally overbooked himself and didn’t tell the receptionist, but at some point she needs to go find that CEO and figure out what’s going on so she can tell the candidate something.

      1. AnonyMoose*

        See, and this is what I saw. The fact that the receptionist was either too lazy or too scared to confirm with the CEO the next plans, AND not letting the candidate know that she would then be interviewed by the two directors makes me think that the entire place is just a cluster. It’s top down, people.

        1. Harriet Vane Wimsey*

          Someone once told me “the fish rots from the top down.”. I have always kept that in the back of my mind. The CEO is the top of the fish.

      2. Zillah*

        I agree. I actually really dislike the way people often equate lateness with lack of respect – I don’t think it’s that simple. However, two hours? Totally different, and totally rude.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Oh, this. I spend 4-7 hours a day in meetings, frequently right back to back. If one runs over 10 minutes and I’m late to another call, it was just because the meeting was late. (Or because it was the third meeting in a row and I just needed a bathroom break.) I’m not trying to show disrespect … things just run long sometimes.

          1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)*

            I think that’s totally understandable. Or you get stuck in traffic, or your kid calls crying, or the line at starbucks was long. That’s life. It’s when you’re just…late that it starts to feel disrespectful. If you waltzed into a meeting 60 minutes late with a fresh latte and no explanation that would feel a lot different than being 10 minutes late because your calendar was scheduled back to back!

        2. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)*

          My point was that keeping us late 9 out of 10 times (and not 15 minutes late, but a good 45-60 minutes -late) and then expecting us to be ready to drop everything and walk into a meeting is quite demoralising in the long run and does make me feel disrespected. There’s no adjustment for other work, meetings, or projects I may have had, no real apology, just this continual shuffling of our schedules. And it’s not that urgent things came up – it could be that lunch with a friend ran late, etc – but there’s no text or email to let us know.

          I border on ranting. Phew. I do agree that late=/= disrespectful, but being on the receiving end, chronically late with no explanation or adjustment = feels like disrespect. Because I think at that point it’s a choice and a habit, rather than just an oversight/getting stuck in traffic, etc.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            It can go both ways for me. I have a person coming to do x work on my house. He has canceled three times so far. And that is just for this work. The previous batch of work he canceled numerous times also. I am tired of listening to his reasons/excuses*. All I want to know is what date he will commit to and show up.
            *His reasons range from no helper to helper brought home necessary equipment and he has to get the helper to give it back. These reasons put the work off by 4-7 days. To me these are behind the scenes reasons. Although, stuff like this goes on you don’t get other people bogged down in all this detail. It’s part of your job to cover this stuff.
            A person who is chronically late or MIA, needs to take a look at what they are doing. In OP’s story, we have no way to figure out if this is a one-off or a life habit for the CEO. I would have to find out which one, because I don’t do well with endless lists of reasons why something did not go as scheduled. If this is a normal thing at this company, it would kill the job for me.

            1. the gold digger*

              Yeah, if you are always or even occasionally late because of traffic, you need to allow more time to drive. If you are always late because the line at the coffee shop was long, then allow more time at the coffee shop. You should be able to plan for everyday things like coffee, traffic, getting kids to school, etc. Those things can be anticipated and planned for.

              Do not blame traffic when you pick me up with only 20 minutes to get to the airport – which is 15 minutes away – and we encounter an accident that causes us to

              1. Park in short-term parking at the terminal instead of the cheap parking
              2. Toss most of my clothes that were going to go in the checked bag and take only what can fit in my purse
              3. And run run run to the plane, boarding one minute before the door closed.

              I am talking to you, my beloved husband who always assumes perfect conditions for every situation and is shocked, shocked when there is traffic and who is almost never on time and seriously, if I were ever to divorce him, that would probably be the reason, because making me wait because you won’t plan infuriates me.

      3. Rye-Ann*

        Yeah, to be honest I think after 2 hours it’s beyond late and into the realm of rescheduling the meeting without telling anyone. :P

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am chuckling. My friend had a boss that was always ten minutes late. Each and every time. Since it was ten minutes and it happened all the time, the boss could probably find a way to break that problem down and reduce the number of times it happened. The boss does have some consistency about what he does, we know this because he is consistently ten minutes late, but NEVER more than ten minutes. It looked to me like the boss just needs to pad his time estimates by ten minutes or so. A 9:30 appointment would become a 9:45 appointment and he would be right on time for that.

      1. Wanna-Alp*

        Only if he thought it was a 9.30 appointment. If he thought it was 9.45, he’d be there at 9.55.

  6. neverjaunty*

    Run from this position, OP. Run like evil sentient red flags are chasing you.

    What you are getting is a picture of a very disorganized and selfish CEO, and a company where everyone else scrambles to apologize for and try and cover for him. As others have already said, their treatment will never get any better after you are hired. And, as you’d be a recruiter, you can assume that you will be trying to manage similar behavior towards candidates – imagine how that will affect your professional success and reputation.

    I don’t agree that you should meet for coffee with the former co-worker, and frankly I’m a little skeptical of his story. If the CEO wants to meet with you again, why are you hearing about it from the co-worker – not the CEO, not the CEO’s assistance, not the director – and then only AFTER you emailed him to tell him what happened?

    It may be that ex-coworker has good intentions, but people who work in dysfunctional companies may lose sight of exactly how bad things are objectively, and bluntly, sometimes they want to bring good people into that environment because they think you’ll save them or just because they want competent company in their misery.

    1. JMegan*

      It may be that ex-coworker has good intentions, but people who work in dysfunctional companies may lose sight of exactly how bad things are…

      Yes, this. You would know better than we would if your coworker is normally a trustworthy person, but I would definitely consider his behaviour in light of what you have just learned about the CEO. Several grains of salt might be necessary.

      1. Nobody Here By That Name*

        Speaking as someone currently in a company headed up by people with these kinds of time management issues, I’d say you could be the most trustworthy person in the world but have lost sight of what’s considered normal.

        Not that I personally would ever find it acceptable to leave someone waiting for 2 hours, but I could EASILY see any one of our VPs or above doing this to someone without batting an eye. It’s at the point where reading through OP’s letter I was just like – sudden important meeting that they ignore everything else for? Yep, that’ll happen. Totally normal. I needed Alison’s response to remind me that this is nowhere near appropriate no matter what your title is.

        Which just goes to show how much I need to get myself out of this toxic environment. But my point being that the former co-worker may be so used to this by now they can’t be an unbiased source about it anymore, regardless of how trustworthy they are in other areas.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      Agreed 100%. If this is the way the company is run, then that is why there is such a high turnover rate. A new recruiter can’t change the culture of the entire organization. The OP would be destined to fail if they worked for them.

    3. T3k*

      Heh, that last sentence, I have no problem seeing where I am in it’s true light. It’s disorganized, the owner is highly forgetful, the pay sucks, one of the coworkers is a grump pot, etc. If a potential employee asked me personally how I felt about the place, I’d tell them the truth and to run, and if you’re a great worker, run faster.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Right – but sometimes people in those environments may think ‘my company sucks’ but still don’t understand how far outside the norm they are.

        And then there’s that apologizing dynamic. I’m sure we’ve all had a friend who dated a complete jerk and was constantly apologizing for and rationalizing the jerk’s behavior. That dynamic exists in the workplace too.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It’s giving me flashbacks. I interviewed at one place a long time ago, when I was really not savvy at all. I was passed from person to person on the interview- I must have talked to 8 or 9 people while waiting for my interviewer. The process took over 3 hours.
      There were red flags left and right, I was in a field of red flags. And I forged ahead. I got the job. Be careful what you wish for, it was ten times more chaotic once I started working there.I could go and on with stories.

      I agree that your former coworker is looking for someone who will save the company. I understand that you will do an excellent job. Always remember this: You cannot help people who do not want to be helped. A chaotic place can negate your best efforts in a jaw-dropping variety of ways. Okay, they are down right creative when it comes to undermining other people’s work. If it didn’t hurt so much, I would actually find their creativity admirable.

  7. Jane, the world's worst employee*

    Something similar happened to me years ago. I had an appointment for a job interview with someone very high up in a company. I was left waiting in the reception area for nearly two hours. As I got to up leave, the person I was scheduled to interview with came to retrieve me. The interview was a disaster – people kept barging into this person’s office, asking questions, needing things, etc. I even said to the interviewer, “This seems like a hectic time for you – would it be better for us to reschedule?” The interviewer insisted that we continue the interview.

    That interview told me all I needed to know about that company – how disorganized and disrespectful they were of people in general. I’ve never applied for another opening there, and don’t plan to ever again. I’ve had many professional contacts and even friends who have gone on to work for this company, and they were treated very poorly during their time at the company and none of them have lasted more than six months.

  8. Joie*

    That’s a big red flag. I’d say skip it; unless they really show that they want you and really apologize for this…

  9. jhhj*

    Let it go. If the CEO reaches out to you, it might be worth it — he could explain what happened and have it all make sense, possibly. If not, you’re just saving yourself the headache of another job search as soon as working there gets too horrible.

  10. Snarkus Aurelius*

    What a refreshing letter!  

    Far too often, we don’t think about the interviewing process as being a two way street.  There are zillions of articles on how candidates should conduct themselves yet very few on how employers should act towards candidates.  Just because employers have had leverage in the last seven years, doesn’t mean courtesy and professionalism only flow one way.  (I once worked for a woman who would think nothing of keeping job candidates waiting because of the power differential, but nothing like what you went through.)

    As for you, OP, I don’t think you should work for this company.  Yes, the status quo isn’t what you’d prefer, and you need to move on.  But this company isn’t the only employer out there.  You know that story about how to get a frog to stay in a pot of boiling water?  In this case, going to see the CEO again is the equivalent of you being in the pot of water and someone else turned on the stove.

    1. Sunshine*

      “There are zillions of articles on how candidates should conduct themselves yet very few on how employers should act towards candidates.”

      This is so true. Just last week I was trying to research some interview tips for myself as a hiring manager. Tons of stuff out there for the applicants – not so much for the interviewer.

  11. Spooky*

    It’s worth pointing out that OP is a recruiter, and that’s where they need help here: organizing recruitment. It seems (just barely) possible that the previous recruiter scheduled all of the CEO’s interviews for him and now he’s completely unable to do it himself. So if you liked the people you spoke with, I guess it’s not crazy to think the position might be worth pursuing.

    That said, I’d be running for the hills.

    1. neverjaunty*

      But the OP would have to be working with the CEO and the others (like the receptionist who also ignored her) in trying to get candidates hired.

  12. DeskBird*

    Oh my gosh – this sounds exactly like my work! If I wasn’t 97% sure we were not hiring a Corporate Recruiter I would think you were the poor soul who was sitting abandoned in the conference room yesterday! How long was the application? If it was stupidly long and made you fairly uncomfortable then we must be hiring one after all. I think our record for time it took to fill out the application stands somewhere around three hours.
    If that place is anything like my work (or actually my work) I advise you to RUN FOR THE HILLS. We are horribly organized and have ZERO internal communication. People not keeping track of their schedule and trying to punt off their interviews on other people is super common behavior here. Usually people don’t even remember they have an interview until the receptionist calls them – and no one remembers having a meeting until I get up and corral them into the meeting room – despite everyone having outlook calendars. Also about 90% of inter-office information is spread mostly though gossip.
    If a coworker were trying to convince someone they knew to work here I would guess that they are just trying to delude themselves into thinking they work someplace that isn’t super toxic. Or that their misery would love come company.

  13. Ad Astra*

    Is it normal to meet with the CEO for a recruiting job? I would be worried that this is a sign of micro-managing at the highest levels, which can be especially frustrating because people that high up tend to be in meetings all the dang time. Is this perhaps just because it’s a small company?

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I think it’s fairly normal for small companies. I’ve met with the CEO/President of every company I’ve worked for (all small places).

  14. Margali*

    >Run from this position, OP. Run like evil sentient red flags are chasing you.

    Hee! Funniest (and perhaps truest) thing I’ve read today.

  15. Rahera*

    ‘The key is just to believe what they’re showing you about themselves, and not talk yourself into believing that it’s not typical of them.’

    Among the best advice I’ve read in a long while.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Oh my, yes, this is the best advice. Take off the rose colored glass and see what is actually there, not what you wish to be there.

  16. some1*

    One of the reasons I accepted a position at a former company was the fact at my interview where I was scheduled to meet 3 people back to back, was the fact that the HR Coordinator stepped in to the room where I was by myself after the first interviewer left to let me know the 2nd and 3rd person had would be delayed about 10 minutes, and she apologized for it. (And the interviewers apologized when they showed up.)

    People get delayed, but they treated me like my time was important.

    1. the gold digger*

      they treated me like my time was important.

      That’s the key. Delays can happen to anyone – is the person horrified that they have kept you waiting? or does she think it’s no big deal?

      (Talking about this on my blog today – Sly’s attitude toward needing help with some very – umm – personal requirements – that Primo should not be bothered that Sly expected him to do it because after all, Sly did change Primo’s diapers, vs some commenters who noted that when they cared for elderly parents and grandparents, the grand/parents were so grateful and humble and were embarrassed that the helper was being asked to do the chore. It’s all in the attitude.)

  17. Laurie*

    Completely agree with what you did, OP. I’d have done the same.

    And incidentally, something similar did happen recently and I was hoping for some wisdom from the other readers here.

    I was contacted by the “head of talent” of a 40-person startup for a manager position. I responded enthusiastically and we set up a call for 2-3 days later. The appointment time comes and goes, and 10 mins later he still hasn’t called. So I sent the recruiter a quick email asking if he had my number or if I should call, and a minute later, he calls and semi-apologizes, thanking me for waiting and saying I’d totally understand if I knew how crazy things were over there.

    I let that go and we have a good conversation about their company and my interests. Keep in mind, till now, I haven’t actually read a job description, I just have the title of the position. I’m already suspecting that this position is an after-thought but I try to ask the recruiter questions to understand the position and come away with some basic understanding.

    The recruiter asks to schedule a Google Hangout interview the next day at 3 pm and says he’ll see who else is available for the interview. He doesn’t send the invite until 12:30 am that night, so I accept the meeting invite the next morning around 10 am.

    I had some apartment repair work happening at the time, so I figure out an alternative solution, skip lunch and set up for the interview.

    And wait for a half an hour, staring at my computer.

    I did finally send another email, but nobody came to the interview, and 4 days later, I’m yet to receive even an acknowledgement that the interview was missed.

    Now, I would not want to work with these guys even if they called and begged (not that they will), but I’m angry enough that I’m entertaining fantasies of writing a bad review on Glassdoor or reaching out to the CEO or something.

    What do you guys think?

    1. kkcf*

      That’s a very reasonable thing to do. Glassdoor reviews are the most effective when you stick to the facts and lay it out simply, like you did here. In fact, I would just go ahead and copy/paste this response, tweak it and send it right to our friends at Glassdoor.

      1. K.*

        I might post a simple, matter-of-fact review to Glassdoor. I know I read Glassdoor reviews (and have written them), and I would appreciate this sort of information. I wouldn’t post a vengeful review though.

    2. AnonyMoose*

      Woooow. That’s beyond disorganized. I would let it go (I mean, seriously, are you going to grovel for people that treat you like that?), but probably share that store with my friends to ensure they don’t decide to apply there in the future. Friends don’t let friends get sucked into crappy work situations.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Don’t write the CEO.

      If you are in a small industry or the industry is small in your area, do not post on Glassdoor.

      This maybe one of those things where you tell the universe “thanks for showing me the real story here” and you move on. Sometimes we don’t get revenge and we don’t get to prevent the same thing from happening to other people. All we get is our own personal “heads up” and we go about our lives.

      1. Laurie*

        You’re totally right. Writing the CEO felt too much like scolding a parent for their child’s behavior, and I hesitated to post on Glassdoor because there’s only one review of this startup (and it’s 5-stars), which is why I had no heads up that I was about to have a sour interview experience.

        If I were the CEO of this startup, I’d want to know if one of the main funnels into my company is turning off candidates with their lack of professionalism… but who knows.. maybe the CEO had a say in giving me “the fade”.

        Yeah, lesson learned.

        Thanks for your comments, everyone.

  18. jmkenrick*

    Curious – if OP decides to go in for a 2nd interview, would it be worthwhile to address these issues with the CEO and other directors?

    Perhaps the company is aware of the problem and is trying to work on it? If OP did decide to proceed with the interview process, what would be a good way to broach these topics and see if it was something they were trying to improve upon in earnest?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      1. Pay close, close attention to everything else you see about how they operate as the process plays out. You can pick up a lot if you’re watching for it.

      2. At the offer stage, I’d say something like this: “I know in small companies with a lot going on, things can sometimes be chaotic — I think I might have seen some of that the first day I came to interview. Can you tell me more about how that tends to play out here?” (The idea here is that you’re trying to make it safe for them to acknowledge by making it sound like you don’t think it’s terrible.)

  19. Kenzie*

    Not only did the CEO not communicate what was going on to the OP, but also to the directors who were quickly pulled for interviews, and the receptionist who had no idea what was going on.

    Had this been some mistaken situation of he told everyone about the change of plans, but nobody called/emailed the OP about it, I could maybe understand that. But in that case OP still would not have been waiting two hours.

    This was an oversight/overbooking/general lack of judgment/whatever , so now I’m making it everyone else’s problem as well.

    If I were the OP I would politely and briefly state that I was no longer interested.

  20. Paloma Pigeon*

    “I have a pretty low tolerance for disorganization and lack of consideration” – OMG quote of the YEAR.

  21. Paige Turner*

    Maybe I misread the original letter, but it sounds like the OP arrived at 1pm and left at 3pm, and in between, met with two directors and the former coworker. So while the OP did get stood up by the CEO, she wasn’t waiting alone, doing nothing, for two hours straight, right?
    I agree that the CEO’s attitude is a red flag and that the company does sound disorganized, but when I saw “I was left waiting for two hours” in the headline, I thought the situation was worse that what apparently happened.

    1. neverjaunty*

      It sounded like OP got there and talked to both of the directors pretty early on, and then sat around doing nothing for the remainder of the two hours (which from the description I’m guessing was at least an hour of thumb-twiddling).

    2. BuildMeUp*

      Well, the OP wasn’t scheduled to interview with the two directors. She was scheduled to interview with the CEO, who did keep her waiting for 2 hours, while other people scrambled to think of ways to fill the time. It’s still a major red flag, to me.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        And she lost time from work in order to do this. Even if she had waited an hour then got to talk with the CEO, my answer might be different. But she did all this and never saw the CEO.

  22. Shell*

    Wow, I thought my record of being stood up for 45 minutes was bad. 2 hours?? (At least OP had a two directors and a former coworker to talk to a bit; I was sitting in an empty conference room and the president wasn’t even in the building by the time I left.)

    I think the company would have to do some serious wooing to be worthy of even the slightest bit of consideration from OP. But given how disorganized this place sounds, I doubt they’d be organized enough to put in the effort.

    OP, I’d ditch this place and not look back.

  23. Ultraviolet*

    Two points:

    1) Because your job is in recruiting, you might find it damages your reputation to be professionally associated with the hiring practices of this company–unless you either are really confident that you’re the only candidate here who’s had such an alienating experience, or this job would give you so much power over the hiring process here that you think you can prevent any other applicant from getting such treatment.

    2) If their hiring process is lousy, your coworkers won’t have been chosen well. But maybe your contact who used to work there can allay those concerns?

  24. Julia*

    If the role is a direct report to the CEO, I’d seriously reconsider. Like Alison, I have a low tolerance for disorganisation, and in my last role, my manager was a complete disaster in this regard. I took that as a challenge to manage up and help, and while it worked well, it was exhausting. I never took into consideration how a disorganised boss would impact me. I spent the majority of my time trying to keep my manager on schedule, on track, on budget, on time for the entire department (since the team’s work impacted mine) and it ran me down. But all the signs were there and I chose to challenge it instead of seeing the reality.

  25. K.*

    I’d write them off. As others have said, if you’re going to be recruiting for this company and this sort of lateness is SOP, you’re going to lose candidates over it. I’m job-hunting right now and I’d never consider sitting around waiting for two hours for a scheduled interview. I almost left my second interview at my previous employer – the interviewer was about 20 minutes late, and at the 15-minute mark I asked the receptionist if there was a problem. The receptionist was like “Eh, I don’t know” and called her, and she finally showed up and apologized. It was a little too laissez-faire for my liking. But two hours? And they didn’t seem to care? It would be one thing if they were profusely apologetic and a true emergency had come up – but even then, a well-organized company would tell you that as soon as it became apparent, apologize, and offer to reschedule so no more of your time was wasted.

  26. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    So – let me get this straight – you are interviewing with a company that needs someone to do recruiting for them, but they had you wait for 2 hours?

    Back in my “unemployed” time – very brief – I had to put up with things like this, but remember this – if they made that bad of an impression on you — do you want to work in a place where it’s OK for you to do that to candidates?

    Some time back I told the tale of a large computing company (now mercifully gone) that had a three-ring circus interview process, clowns included, that left a very bad taste in people’s mouths. And when that company went on sales calls, no doubt the “circus” aroma followed anyone from that place – justifiably or not.

    And when that company began circling the bowl – best expression I can use – those jumping off the sinking ship, trying to find new positions, also carried the scent.

    I have always thought that during a recruitment/interview process, a company MUST put its best foot forward. Candidates – successful or rejected – will remember how they were treated during the cycle. AND – it can come back to haunt the company – or anyone that was associated with them.

    What would it be like if you were a game-playing hiring manager, enjoying messing with people, playing with their heads, acting like a god – and then – you find yourself in the street.

    And then you go into a site for an interview and one or more of your past victims are there in that office?

    3rd and 40. Punt.

  27. Liz*

    Run away, OP. If it’s not high level disorganisation, it’s a deliberate power trip — my boss does this sort of thing, especially to lawyers trying to conduct a sneaky interview on their lunch break. (Anyone who leaves after an hour lacks dedication, to her mind. Then she complains that the people she ends up hiring aren’t assertive enough.)

  28. Not So NewReader*

    OP, if they offer you a second appointment remember that spectacular and horrific train derailments can be mesmerizing, we want to jump in and help, but you are not going to clean up a train derailment by yourself. Bring a logical, detached mindset to the interview. You do not need the job, you have a job. You can pretend you are “shopping for a friend” and what will your recommendation to your friend be?

  29. Jillyan*

    Yikes! Between the thread on what to say to get out of a bad interview and this thread, This is just bad interviewer week on AAM.

  30. OP*

    Wow – thank you all for your comments! I knew the company was ‘unusual’ because my friend who works there as well as both of the Directors mentioned that, but you’ve completely validated my feelings. I can tolerate dysfunction, I’m swimming in it in my current position, but the point many of you made – that I can’t change their culture – is a very good one. I do my best to be the face of the company, the candidate’s first impression, and making sure every candidate walks away feeling like they want to work here. I’ll fall on my face if I’m working in a place where the CEO doesn’t even bother to show up for his own interviews. I should mention that the CEO did email me 2 days after the meeting to say the team raved about me and he was going to follow up with the Director who was covering recruiting currently (obviously, it’s not his real job, it’s something he’s been assigned to) and he would get back to me with the next steps. That was 2 and a half weeks ago and I’ve heard nothing. The silence is making me crazy, but I don’t think I could survive in a culture such as theirs. Thanks again!

    1. neverjaunty*

      Two days AFTER the meeting? WTF, dude.

      Also, I strongly suspect that your friend and the director saying the company was ‘unusual’ was code for ‘this place and the CEO are crazypants and we want you to rescue us’.

  31. Lightly Salted*

    There is something about this scenario that just screams mediocrity. I’d be extremely skeptical of a company that easily thought nothing of a candidate’s time.

  32. Alicia R.*

    Honestly, I wouldn’t have waited two hours for an interview. Everything you did on your part was correct and appropriate in my opinion. The job seemed to be very rewarding once you actually get it. But they need to get their stuff together before they hire more people. You should of lift after and half hour and definitely after 45 minutes. The CEO will regret how he went about handling his business, karma is a B.

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