employer invited me to interview but then canceled within 24 hours

A reader writes:

I’m in the middle of a job search, fresh out of college (I used your advice to write my first-ever cover letter, so thanks!) and I just had a strange experience. Last week, I applied to a receptionist role at a niche school in my neighborhood. I have a couple of years of experience in admin/reception-y stuff, so I figured I had at least a small shot. I was very excited when earlier this week, I got an email from them asking to set up a Zoom interview the following evening! The morning of the interview, however, I got another note that they had to cancel the Zoom interview due to something that had come up unexpectedly. Not a problem; I get it — school just started up again for them, and I can be flexible. I sent back another email saying, essentially, “No problem! I can reschedule, just let me know when works best for you.” Then — crickets! Absolute radio silence. This morning I got an email that they had moved on to the next step of the hiring process with other candidates.

Anyway, the whole thing was a first for me. I’d heard about ghosting but not … whatever you’d call this! Maybe they accidentally scheduled an interview with me instead of the candidate on the next line down on a spreadsheet? It smells a little dysfunctional to me, so I’m more or less glad I didn’t go farther along in the hiring process, but how does it read to you? Is this a normal thing I might expect to encounter more often in the job search process, or is this just some random fluke?

It’s a thing you might encounter and it’s not necessarily a red flag about them.

Things that could have happened:

* They realized they have several very strong candidates in their interview pool and are likely to hire one of them, so it doesn’t make sense to interview people who they know won’t be competitive with them. (That’s not a negative about you; it could be that there’s a clear difference in amount or type of experience, or simply that several people have already blown them away in the interview process.)

* Something changed internally between when they first contacted you to interview and their second contact. For example, they expected the job to be X, but due to some reshuffling on their team (someone resigned, someone got promoted, who knows what) they’ve realized they now need this position to include a bit of Y too … and so now you’re not as strongly matched with it as you were earlier.

* Someone who interviewed yesterday is about to be offered the job (or has already been offered it).

* Or all sorts of other things.

If they know they’re not going to hire you for reasons like the above, they’re right not to waste your time or theirs going through a sham process just because they’d already set up an interview. It’s actually more considerate of them to cancel and let you know they weren’t going to move forward with you after all. It feels a little weird when the interview had already been set up, but if there was no likelihood of it leading to a job offer, it’s better for them to be honest about it.

{ 90 comments… read them below }

  1. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I agree it’s better not to waste anyone’s time but I feel like they could have clarified when it was clear OP wanted to reschedule.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I read it as they canceled the interview, the OP emailed about rescheduling, and then when they replied to her a few days later they said they weren’t moving forward with her after all. If they ignored her email entirely and just sent a form rejection as the next contact, I agree they should have clarified at some point in there. Still doesn’t really change the larger points but makes their process feel … not very thoughtful. Still not necessarily a huge red flag (you get situations where someone other than the person who received that first email from the OP just rejects all remaining candidates once they’ve made a hire, for example, without realizing this person needed a personalized email) but definitely less good.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        Not very thoughtful is pretty much the default. It may be the lowest of bars to clear but the fact they responded at all after cancelling the interview puts them solidly above average.

        1. Autumnheart*

          Additionally, it makes them look kind of disorganized in a not-very-flattering way. It’s one thing to have a miscommunication or a mix-up, since people are only human, but to have the employer say, “Hey, we want you to come in for an interview! Wait, now we have to cancel it at the last minute. Oh, you want to know when to reschedule? Um actually we’re going with someone else now,” that’s pretty chaotic. Who is running the show over there, that they can’t get their ducks in a row about the candidate pool before they start trying to schedule interviews? Not cool. I wouldn’t think very highly of an employer that was so cavalier about candidates’ time like that. Take an hour to go over the list of people to interview and THEN send out the emails. Jeez.

          1. Allonge*

            Depends on how you interpret ‘cancel the interview’. It’s not good communication as I think OP’s reaction to reschedule was perfectly fine, but they may have meant cancel the interview and the whole idea of interviewing OP, and not just ‘can’t do it today’.

            Is it optimal? No. But this level of changes in direction happen in hiring.

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        Right. Also, information isn’t necessarily all available all at once. They were probably doing some step that looked pretty much like getting close to hiring (eg. an offer to another candidate), and in order not to waste anyone’s time, the hiring manager instructs their assistant to cancel the OP’s interview. At that stage they may still want to have the option to reschedule with the OP. Then the selected candidates do the next step, at which point the OP becomes basically a rejected candidate. The assistant who’s doing the emailing may be saying to the hiring manager “what about OP? they’re waiting for us to reschedule, so what now?”. The hiring manager then says, “right, that’s an i we need to dot – I’ll [or: please you do] send them a rejection”. That process can easily take a few days until all the necessary communications bits percolate to the person to send the rejection.

        It’s all pretty normal.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, the communication sounds like it was just unclear – they said cancel instead of reschedule, but “due to something that had come up unexpectedly” sounds like a scheduling conflict so I don’t blame LW for thinking they meant reschedule! And then it’s definitely rude to not bother saying “oh sorry for the miscommunication we’re canceling not rescheduling.”

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah, I definitely read that as a meeting that would be rescheduled. Usually when “something came up” as a reason for cancelling, it’s because they need to adjust their schedule, not that they decided not to take the meeting.

      2. mlem*

        Unless the something that came up … came up in a reference/background check or networking conversation and made them unwilling to proceed with LW. (I doubt that’s the explanation here, but that could be a rare case when they think cancel-means-cancel and don’t stop to realize the candidate won’t hear it that way.)

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      It’s possible they didn’t know they were going to reject the OP when they cancelled and the OP wanted to reschedule. Maybe they were leaning that way but didn’t know for sure, or maybe they were regrouping internally.

      Either way, I think it would have been kinder to just admit there were some internal delays instead of the radio silence.

      1. All Het Up About It*

        Yep. Or maybe the hiring manager was out sick for several days and the school was waiting for their return before rescheduling, but when they came back they decided the two candidates interviewed before they were sick were so strong it made sense not to reschedule.

        So many possible scenarios where the school isn’t a horrible place to work, or even reeking of horrible disorganization, just happenstance. But I also sympathize with the OP because that just has to feel awful.

  2. Kimmy Schmidt*

    The way I’m reading this, they didn’t really cancel, did they? At least not officially. The school just cancelled the Zoom interview but didn’t say it was cancelling the whole interview process or this person’s candidacy. This makes it sound like the Zoom was cancelled because of some last minute emergency, not anything related to the interview at all. It also sounds like they didn’t respond to the request for clarification to officially cancel at that point either until they sent the form letter rejection later.

    It’s also been a WEEK so maybe my brain is fried and totally misinterpreting.

    1. ZSD*

      I agree that that’s what it sounded like, but the fact that they haven’t written back to the LW makes it seem like they intended to cancel the interview entirely and just didn’t make that clear. They should have explained more clearly that they were canceling the interview, rather than using the vague excuse of “something coming up” and then not responding beyond that!

      1. voluptuousfire*

        I’ve used the “something came up” excuse when I had an interview scheduled with one of my colleagues and a really hot ticket candidate came along and their only availability was during the same time as that already scheduled slot. I’m not going to tell one candidate we’re bumping them for another, but I make sure to reschedule the first candidate ASAP if I can. Sometimes one candidate is just stronger than another and it makes sense to prioritize them vs. pushing them out and potentially losing them. It’s not an ideal situation but happens. I gather something like this happened with the school and they were not mindful of their wording when emailing the OP. Definitely no bueno with the radio silence! Just a quick “hey, we’re working on some things, we’ll be in touch” works wonders for candidate experience. I’ll leave that here since that’s a topic I can go on about for hours. LOL

      2. ZSD*

        Oh, I hadn’t read carefully, and I missed that they did eventually respond to say that they were moving forward with other candidates. I still think the email canceling the interview should have been clearer.

        1. KRM*

          True, but it could have been that something that came up is “our first choice just got back to us to accept and we’re making sure we have a signed letter from her before doing anything else”, which is not ideal, but things happen. And when they worked everything out, then they cancelled with any other candidate still on the hook. Or as Alison said, many things can change. Maybe they suddenly got approval to hire a new director, and now they need an admin with more experience of a different kind, and had to make sure that the position was rewritten before they rejected anyone. It may have been inelegant, but it’s not all that unusual. They did get back to her, it’s just unfortunate for her that it was to cancel.

    2. The Lion's Roar*

      Since all this took less than a week, I don’t really see an issue – it’s obviously not ideal, but without knowing what was going on behind the scenes it’s hard to say they left OP hanging any longer than they had to. They were interviewing during what sounds like a very busy week for them. It’s totally plausible that once something came up to make them cancel the interview, they weren’t going to be sure if they needed to carve out a new time until they saw how the other interviews that week shook out.

      It can’t feel good, but it sounds like OP only waited for a few days, and it’s not like an email saying “you’ll hear from us by the end of the week either to reschedule or to reject you” would have felt better.

    3. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      Something came up means they were making an offer/closing the pool but didn’t want to write her off until they had confirmed that.

    4. L.H. Puttgrass*

      There’s a subtle but important difference between canceling the Zoom call “because something came up” and canceling the interview. The former suggests that the applicant is still a candidate but something about the timing didn’t work. The latter sends a stronger signal that the company isn’t moving forward with the applicant’s candidacy.

      If the company knows they aren’t moving forward with the candidacy when they cancel the call, they should really say that when they send notice of the cancellation. Otherwise you’ll get confusion of the kind LW ended up with.

  3. BeenThatDoneThere*

    This is not unusual. They handled it impolitely, but this kind of thing happens. I had an opening I was hiring for and scheduled an interview with a candidate at (say) $80k. Then two days later, my budget changed, so I had to change the position to a $50k one, which I knew she wouldn’t be interested in. But I just called her and told her and didn’t leave her hanging.

    As I said, impolite but not unusual and not necessarily having anything to do with you or your skills.

  4. EngGirl*

    So on the hiring manager side I agree with what Alison has said.

    We currently have like 6 open jobs, and the way the job market is I can’t stop interviewing. Like at all. Some of the candidates we put offers out to are going to decline, so I need to keep trying to find additional people. This means that at some point I’m likely going to have to (very unfortunately) cancel an interview I have set up because we’ll have filled the positions.

    Because of the current job market I also feel the need to move quickly, so while I may need to interview 40 people to fill 6 jobs I don’t want to leave person 3 waiting until I talk to person 36 if they feel like a good fit. Could person 36 be even better? Absolutely! Am I willing to risk person 3? That depends on a lot of factors.

    You could be amazing! You just might also be person 36.

    1. oh boy*

      I cringe reading this being in government and still not being able to review candidates for a position that opened in July lol

      1. Hen in a Windstorm*

        Ha, yeah. My hubby applied for a fed job 6/2 and just got an “are you still interested” email 8/30.

        1. Gnome*

          Years ago I applied in spring, maybe March. I got an “are you still interested” call in November… I figured they had just hired someone else.

    2. My own boss*

      I’m hiring right now, and yeah, this is the reality. It’s a high priority position and I’ve already had one hire quit before their start date. I can’t risk the position being unfilled for much longer, so I’m still interviewing even though I made another offer. I don’t love that, but it’s a reality of the job market.

      1. EngGirl*

        I hate it and I feel super guilty! Like I have someone who I liked driving a good distance to me in about a week for a second interview, knowing that if the two offers I have out are accepted that it will be pointless. I try to give the people with offers deadlines before the next interview just so I can cancel if necessary.

    3. Cat Lover*

      Same. I want to keep a flow of people interviewing and shadowing since people will decline offers and more openings will come up.

    4. Snow Globe*

      It sounds like the flip-side of the advice usually given to job seekers not to stop searching until you actually have accepted a written offer and a start date.

  5. Zellie*

    You never know what will happen. I changed careers a little over 15 years ago. It was hard getting getting to the interview stage (oh so many rejections), but I diligently applied to many an entry level position. I finally got an interview at a University close to family and was relieved and excited to finally have an opportunity for a full-time job. A week later they withdrew the interview offer. They only had funds for two and I was the one that got dropped. Disappointed, but life goes on.

    I had a part-time job, in my new field, and just continued applying to jobs. I got two more interviews and then I got an email – an offer to interview at the University that had withdrawn their first interview request. They did acknowledge they were reaching back out after withdrawing the original request. I did go, even though many folks thought I shouldn’t, but I needed a job and wasn’t going to not cover all my bases. Well, I got that job. Found out later that the other two candidates bombed spectacularly. I’ve always admired the manager for reaching back out to me.

    That’s not to say this is the case for you, but years in the future, you may consider it a story to tell.

  6. CTA*

    Like Alison said, there isn’t a red flag here. The employer had to cancel the interview appointment and provided a reason. The reason was vague, but there was a reason provided. The LW asked for a time to reschedule, but the employer doesn’t necessarily have an answer to that and isn’t required to say yes/no at that moment (they may be busy or don’t have an answer). A week later, the employer did provide an update so the LW wasn’t left hanging. The employer decided not to continue the interview process and that happens. It’s not the worst or rudest thing that could happen.

    I’ve had employers leave me voicemails because they want to interview me. This was for entry level work. I’d call them back, but I never hear back. I understand they might have moved on and filled their interview schedule, but if you leave me a voicemail and I return your call and I leave you a voicemail, then be courteous and tell me (email or phone call) that you are no longer interested. I had even called an hour after the voicemail they left me and you’d think I would have heard back. I followed up 3x total over two weeks and left voicemails and had no response.

    I’ve reached final round interviews that take up 5 hours of a day (I work in tech now). When I would be scheduled for an interview, I would be informed that the employer reserves the right to cancel anytime during the interview if it looks like things aren’t looking good in the interview. So I could be 3 hours into a 5 hour interview day and they could tell me that they’ve seen/heard enough and will be canceling the rest of the day. I was interviewing over Zoom and luckily I was not cancelled on, but it was still nerve-wracking because I set aside so much of my time. At the same time, I realize it’s a courtesy to the candidate too because they don’t want to string you along even though you’ve spent so much time interviewing.

    1. Jasmine Clark*

      The behavior of all the employers you’ve described in your comment is awful, especially the last part about 5-hour interviews where they suddenly decide to stop the interview in the middle. Honestly I don’t see how it’s a courtesy; I don’t see the point of it and I understand why it’s nerve-wracking. I would probably not do well in that interview because I’d be so nervous (and I normally don’t get nervous in interviews). It seems to me like they are making snap judgments and not taking time to think things over, so I don’t see how that’s a good hiring process.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Flipping this around, the applicant could also decide 3 hours in that this isn’t a match and end the interview.

      2. Esmeralda*

        Trust me, you can often tell in hour one that this person is not right for the job. Even if you’ve already done screening interviews or shorter round one interviews.

        I wish I *could* tell such candidates that we won’t be advancing them. But I can’t — large R1 public state university. We have strict HR procedures. So we go through the charade of listening to a presentation, having them talk with the hiring officer, meeting the staff… It’s a waste of everyone’s time, and it’s often embarrassing. The candidate has no idea how poorly they’re doing, but everyone else does. And then everyone here remembers that person…who might be fine for a different job, but now they have the whiff of poor performance stuck to them. That’s very hard to overcome.

        Sure, being told in the middle of a finalist round that you will not even be finishing the round is devastating. But at least they told CTA it might happen. And then none of them have continued to waste time.

    2. Allonge*

      I don’t see a lot wrong in your last example (other than too many interviews).

      Going through with a 5 hour meeting when you know 2 hours in it’s not going anywhere is seriously disrespecting the time of everyone involved – yours and theirs. Working for an org that makes you talk to people for 3 hours when you know it’s pointless is not fun!

  7. Jasmine Clark*

    It’s my first time commenting on this site! Long comment alert, but I just feel so strongly about this topic of canceling interviews, because it’s happened to me and it’s upsetting.

    If they know they’re not going to hire you for reasons like the above, they’re right not to waste your time or theirs going through a sham process just because they’d already set up an interview. It’s actually more considerate of them to cancel and let you know they weren’t going to move forward with you after all.

    I completely disagree. Cancelling an interview feels like a slap in the face to me. It’s very rude. LW has every right to be frustrated.

    If I have a job interview — or any other kind of meeting/call/appointment scheduled with someone — that’s a commitment we are both making to each other. I expect the other person to keep their word and do what they said they would do. Why is that too much to ask? Don’t tell me you’re going to do something and then not do it.

    I never cancel any kind of scheduled appointment with anyone unless I’m sick or something else happened that caused me to not be able to make it at that time. In other words, I would never cancel on someone just because I changed my mind or don’t feel like doing it anymore or don’t think it’s important anymore. I already told them I would meet with them and I’m going to do what I said I’d do. I expect the same from the other person. You schedule something with me, you keep your word.

    In the case of job interviews specifically… yes, I want my opportunity to interview with you. I want to have that chance because even a 1% chance of getting the job is better than 0. I don’t care if you’ve already fallen head over heels in love with another candidate, or ten other candidates. I still want my interview. You may fall in love with me too. (You may realize I’m still skilled enough to do the job even after the job description changed.) You don’t know what you’re going to think of me until you interview me, so give me a chance and keep the interview on your schedule.

    You scheduled the interview with me for a reason, because you saw something in me. So just do the thing you already said you were going to do. That’s all I ask. If you’re not sure about me, don’t schedule an interview in the first place. Telling me you would like to talk with me about potentially hiring me and then saying “Oh never mind, I suddenly have zero interest in you” is just not right.

    One more thing… even if I were to be interviewed and the person didn’t want to hire me for THAT job, after talking with me they may have another idea for a job in their company I may be a good fit for. So that’s another reason to have the interview.

    1. Ana*

      This is a very ridiculous take. Time passed in between and they found another candidate to move forward. It’s like you’re suggesting they waste everyone’s time to just not be rude

    2. goducks*

      How is interviewing someone that you know you’re not going to hire for whatever reason in anybody’s best interest? Most people would be upset to have their time wasted in an interview for a job that they have no chance of getting.
      And to your comment about not scheduling in the first place if you’re not interested, that’s probably not what happened here. They may have been interested in LW at the time they made the appointment, but then something changed, and what changed may have had zero to do the with LW.
      And to your point about only canceling if you’re sick, perhaps what happened is the interviewer WAS sick. Which was the “something” that came up. And since they were sick, they couldn’t immediately reschedule. And then a few days went by and something else changed, like possibly a stellar candidate said, “I’ve got another offer, are you interested or not?” and they decided that they needed to jump on that candidate. Who knows? This stuff happens all the time when hiring.
      This employer didn’t string this LW along for long periods, didn’t waste their time, and most importantly, looped back within a week to tell the LW that they didn’t get the job. No guess work, no ghosting.

    3. Be Gneiss*

      This is just an odd take to me. A company isn’t obligated to interview someone if they’ve already filled the position, just because maybe that person might hypothetically be a good fit for a hypothetical future job that may or may not exist.
      As was commented above, it’s very likely that between the cancellation email and the follow up, they filled the position. Bringing in the OP for an “interview” for a job that doesn’t exist could very much be seen as a waste of time for both the interviewer and the OP. If I made the effort to prepare for an interview, take the time from my schedule to attend, and to show up and be told “the position is already filled, but we thought it would be rude to cancel” I’d be…at the very least, pretty annoyed.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Heartily disagree. Why should the interviewer waste the LW’s time? If they’ve already decided against her (or for someone else) then why put her through needless motions?

      If you make an appointment at a dress shop and find the perfect dress before your appointment, don’t waste the shop’s time and expectations by keeping the appointment. See also: I can cancel a date beforehand if I want to. I don’t need a reason beyond not wanting to waste anyone’s time.

      I set someone up with a hiring manager last week. She had a great interview. They made a follow-up appointment. Then the position was frozen, so the hiring manager canceled. Is that an insult too? (No, it’s not.)

      I had an interview canceled 2 hours prior. That sucked. I was dressed and made up and ready. But their business was going through a really hard time (March 2020) and while I know they tried, they just didn’t want to waste my time and effort or theirs while things collapsed. That was decidedly not rude.

      Sometimes– shoot, most of the time– it’s not personal. It’s business.

    5. voluptuousfire*

      I’m a recruiting coordinator for a living and my teams have definitely canceled interviews when we’ve made offers to candidates and they accepted. Just because an appointment is scheduled doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to come hell or high water. I get where you’re coming from in that you want to potentially show them who you are and to make an impression to hopefully be considered for a role/company but it’s out of your control. It’s not rude to cancel a slot when there’s no real productive use aside from perceived courtesy to proceed with it.

    6. I should really pick a name*

      If you’re not sure about me, don’t schedule an interview in the first place.

      Then you would never get an interview.
      If they were sure of you, they’d hire you instead of interviewing you.

    7. KRM*

      I understand that having things cancelled is frustrating, but it’s also part of job searching. If I’m hiring for three positions, I’m going to be setting up and having a lot of interviews. Maybe you’re #10 on the list. I set up an interview with you with team #2 because they need more interviews. But then they say “hey we really liked candidate 6, let’s make an offer”. I can’t cancel your interview yet, candidate 6 might say no! So I keep you on. But then the day before your interview candidate 6 says yes and signs the offer. So I cancel your interview because all my positions are filled, and you’re not going to be hired. Interviewing you is a waste of everyone’s time. There’s no job to give you at this point. The teams already have people. Just because we have that appointment doesn’t mean we have to go through with it. I feel like you’d be pretty upset if you found out that there was no actual job you were interviewing for!
      Also, you say “Telling me you would like to talk with me about potentially hiring me and then saying “Oh never mind, I suddenly have zero interest in you” is just not right.”, but THAT statement isn’t right! It’s not that they suddenly have zero interest in you. It’s that hiring is not an exact science. They did want to talk to you because they thought you might fit, but that’s true of all the other people they talk to, and only one person at a time is going to make the cut. And sometimes the cut gets made before you get in the door.

    8. Katie*

      If they decide you are not the one they are going with, its way more polite to cancel your interview than waste your time interviewing for something they know you are not going to get.
      Your time is valuable.

    9. Snow Globe*

      You say you would never cancel any type of scheduled interview, but, really?? If you are in various stages on interviewing with multiple companies, and you get a written offer that you are thrilled about and you accept—are you still going to go to any other previously scheduled interviews, when you know you wouldn’t accept an offer from them, just to be “polite”? Or would you contact those companies and tell them that you are withdrawing because you’ve already accepted another offer?

    10. Lilo*

      An interview isn’t a commitment. I’ve canceled interviews when I accepted another job why wouldn’t employers do the same?

    11. M*

      Sounds like you have a *thing* about not cancelling meetings or plans. Might be worth looking into that rather than insisting all plans be kept even if they’re not worth people’s time..

    12. FromasmalltowninCanada*

      You sound young and early in your career. I remember feeling similarly when I was young and early in my career but it really just doesn’t work that way. You really aren’t going to change anyone’s mind. I once travelled to down town Toronto from a community a few hours away for an interview – the owner took one look at me, looked at my resume (I was appropriately dressed, and there was no racism in play, it was a decent resume) and refused to interview me. Why – no idea except it was something to do with university – not sure if it was the one I went too or just that I was a recent grad. I begged her to just interview me – I really needed a job. But honestly, there was no point and it was a bullet dodged. Short of cancelling with the person in front of you, unless there is a serious emergency – I think people are doing you a favour.

      I hire, in a very formal environment where I have to ask all candidates all the same questions in the same order – I wish I could cut interviews short sometimes. I wish I had more flexibility on how many people I interview. I think it would be a kindness to them and to us. I’m not going to cancel an interview where I work and not reschedule, but I sometimes wish I could.

    13. just some guy*

      I disagree, but I think some of the replies to Jasmine’s post could afford to be much kinder.

      I can strongly relate to the disappointment of having something cancelled on you, especially when it was something like this where you might have a lot of hopes pinned on it. (FWIW, I’m autistic, and it seems to be a very common autistic tendency to have difficulty with that kind of thing.) I’m the kind of person who invites people to a party starting at 7:00 and then gets anxious when it’s 7:05 and they haven’t arrived yet.

      But this “never cancel a scheduled appointment unless sick” expectation isn’t realistic. It’s just not how most people operate, and there are reasons for that. I know that very often with social norms, the “reasons” boil down to “NT people make the norms according to their own comfort and the rest of you just have to deal with it” – I spend a lot of time pushing back against that kind of thing! – but in this case, the norm has value. A degree of flexibility goes a
      long way, especially when it goes both ways.

      For me – and I’m getting a similar vibe from your post – one of the things that makes this kind of thing hard to accept is a feeling of unfairness: if we demand this standard of ourselves, and make sacrifices to maintain it, it’s hard to see other people not living up to their side of the deal.

      My wife is also autistic, and she finds it even harder. I think part of this is that autistic girls/women get socialised differently, and for her being dependable is a big part of her strategy for making friends. She doesn’t always understand that she has so many other good points besides dependability, that her friends aren’t suddenly going to disown her if once in a while she breaks a commitment without a doctor’s note.

      What I’ve found helpful there is to ask myself (and encourage my wife to ask herself): *is* that really what the deal is? Are those people actually demanding the same standard of us that we’re imposing on ourselves? And mostly the answer is no. They take things like this as being written in pencil (for a job interview, maybe a fairly hard pencil, but still pencil) and mostly they’re not going to be mad if we do too.

      Teaching myself to think about it from that angle reduces the annoyance I feel when other people cancel things, and it’s also opened the door to being kinder to myself. On days when I’ve slept badly or I’ve got a lot on my mind and can’t focus, sometimes it’s okay to cancel appointments instead of dragging myself along in a state of mind where I’m not going to be much good to anybody there. And even though my instincts tell me that I’m being selfish and letting the team down… often it’s just not a big deal to them.

      All this depends a bit on individual circumstances, and workplace norms. Some of the things that are okay where I work might not be okay at another place. But I think it’s worth at least asking whether you’re imposing a burden on yourself that you don’t actually need to be carrying.

    14. Gnome*

      There may be cases where this makes sense. I had a really strong resume cross my desk right after we made an offer. I set up an interview the next day. Ten minutes before the interview, the offer was accepted. I didn’t cancel for three reasons: the candidate was really really strong, it was ten minutes, so the person was probably already dialing in, and I knew there would likely be more openings. The candidate knocked it out of the park, so I put my positive comments in with our recruiting team and reached out to others who were likely looking for a similar position.

      However, without those conditions it’s a major waste of time. It doesn’t help me or my company, and it doesn’t help the candidate. If the person has no openings, they can’t ask questions about the position well. They can’t really be invested in the process. Moreover, Since lots of people use their vacation time to conduct interviews, it is usually very disrespectful to NOT cancel them.

    15. RagingADHD*

      So, if your cable went out and you scheduled a service appointment, but then it started working again, you would…keep the appointment?

      If you booked a haircut & color but decided not to change it after all, you’d just go sit in the chair for two hours?

      Booked a wedding cake tasting but broke up with your fiance, you’d refuse to cancel because they might convince you to buy a wedding cake anyway?

      None of those people would thank you for your “commitment.” Surely you can hear how bizarre this sounds.

    16. just some guy*

      (Tried to respond before and it seems to have been lost, but apologies for double-post if the earlier one comes through)

      I disagree with this, but I think some of the replies here could afford to be a lot kinder.

      I can very much relate to the frustration of having something like this cancelled, especially if it’s something that you had a lot of hopes for. But “never cancel unless sick/etc.” just isn’t how the rest of the world works. Something like this is generally understood more as a statement of intent and interest rather than a contract.

      In particular, I suspect you may be imposing a tougher standard on yourself than the people you’re dealing with would actually expect of you. That can be a huge source of frustration, because it feels unfair to live by one standard and see others not following it. But if those other people aren’t asking more of you than they ask of themselves – if the only person demanding that stricter standard of you is you – then the unfairness isn’t their fault. In that case, the solution is to stop holding yourself to a standard that others don’t appreciate and haven’t asked for.

      (It might still be *annoying* to have stuff cancelled on you – it is for me – but it won’t feel *unfair*, and now and then you might benefit from allowing yourself the same flexibility that others are allowed.)

      From the interviewer’s side of things, I’ve had a candidate cancel one minute before the interview, because they decided at the last minute that they weren’t going to fit in. I was sorry to lose them as a candidate, I’d have preferred to at least discuss their reasons in case there’d been some misunderstanding or something we could address. But it never occurred to me to feel like they’d broken a promise to us.

      On your last point: this is something that could happen in some workplaces, but is impossible in others for various process reasons. If I’m interviewing candidates for a Senior Teapot Polisher position, and I look at your application and think that you might be better suited to a Super-Senior Llama Wrangler role, even if we happen to be recruiting SSLWs at the time, I don’t have the authority to offer you that job or even to formally assess you for it. Somebody else will be running that process. The most I could do there is say “by the way, are you aware that we’re also recruiting for SSLWs?” and that doesn’t need an interview.

    17. LilPinkSock*

      As a person who’s been on both sides of the recruiting table within the past year, this is…not a great take. It’s definitely irritating and frustrating when a company or candidate cancels the interview and you were looking forward to the opportunity! And yes, sometimes it IS straight-up unprofessional.

      But if I’ve got an offer out to Candidate G that hasn’t been accepted yet, I’m still going to schedule for Candidates F and Y. Anything can happen, and I can’t put the hiring manager in the position of having zero possibilities because I was hinging everything on G. If the pieces fell into place with G, then I have to email F and Y, tell them it was a sincere pleasure and best of luck with their search. Them’s the breaks.

      On the other hand, as a candidate, I’m well within my rights to schedule as many interviews as I can. Last year I was a final-round candidate for two positions. Company B extended a great offer three days before my scheduled interview with Company A, one that I knew A wouldn’t be able to match. I accepted B and had a quick and candid phone call with B.

      In no circumstances do I get to demand that a previously-scheduled interview take place.

    18. Lindy's Homemade*

      I have been in a situation where the hiring manager DIDN’T cancel the interview even though they’d already decided they weren’t going to proceed with me. Instead they just didn’t show up on the Zoom call, leaving me to try to reach out to them and then the recruiter who was like “oh they actually decided to not move forward with you after all.” Wasting my time. Yes I’m still a little annoyed by that. So your take is so far off the mark, it’s making me think that you enjoy deliberating wasting people’s time.

  8. Michelle Smith*

    Want an example of when this is a red flag?

    Organizations spends 3 months interviewing you 3 times. Then they disappear for 3 months without saying anything to you at all. Then you’re finally told you’ll be scheduled for a final interview in about 2 weeks. Then, instead, you get an automated email rejection after a week and when you reach out to the team to express (professionally, politely, and without asking them to reconsider or throwing a tantrum or anything) that you’re sorry it didn’t work out, they don’t even respond or acknowledge the contact……even though at this point you’ve met them multiple times.

    Sh*tty stuff is going to happen to you in your job search. Chin up, keep applying, and that right offer is going to come your way at some point. Hopefully with a place that has their stuff together!

  9. Person from the Resume*

    This sucks for the LW. You get your hopes up and then they’re crushed before you get the chance to shine. The employer could have possibly been handled a little better … maybe … we don’t know what happened on the employer’s end for them schedule an interview and then change their mind.

    OTOH this is generally polite and very fast. Things could have been much worse and the LW could have been ghosted at several points and wasn’t. They cancelled the interview instead of standing her up. They got back to her telling her they were not moving forward with her application. They could have wasted her time by interviewing her after they decided she wasn’t moving forward, and then even worse been really obvious about it so the interviewee is left feeling bad. And this all happen within a week! The LW may have felt that their was “radio silence” and “crickets,” but that’s not a long time in hiring time which usually takes months.

  10. Unapologetic*

    I’m surprised that Alison was so deferential and sympathetic to the employer here. While I can imagine a scenario in which canceling an interview is fine, I don’t see how that’s the case here. The employer’s state reason (which they voluntarily gave!) makes an expectation of rescheduling highly reasonable, and if that was wrong they should have said so immediately rather than ghosting the candidate (even for just a few days). Yes, many employers are deeply inconsiderate during the application/interview process (and after…) but that does not make it okay.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Ghosting is by definition disappearing. Ghosting is not “they took a few days to get back to me.” During the interview process there are very few occasions when an immediate email response within a few hours is required.

    2. KRM*

      If they cancelled because a candidate gave a verbal “yes” but then wanted to negotiate, they left the door open for the interview to still take place if they couldn’t come to terms. If the candidate said “I want a company llama and $7K a month to take care of the llama” then LW may have gotten a “thanks for your patience, we’d like to reschedule for next week, are these times good for you” email. Nothing inconsiderate really happened here. The candidate had an interview scheduled. Something unexpected happened and they had to cancel. They may have wanted to reschedule but weren’t sure when (previous candidate was in negotiation for offer, sick interviewer, grant fell through, department head suddenly decided to retire and position had to be restructured, etc). Then either a previous candidate accepted in writing, or the position had to be cancelled, or whatever happens. They told her as they figured it out. They didn’t ghost her. It’s hard on the candidate side because you’re not going to know about what happens behind their scenes, but it’s a part of life.

    3. Allonge*

      This is not deeply inconsiderate, this is life for people who are hiring. Even if someone’s job is hiring full time (fairly rare), they have other things to do, and random events that make it necessary to put some things on hold for a week.

      OP can be frustrated! When we want a job, it’s frustrating not to get it. But the process itself is somewhere between fully reasonable and somewhat wonky communications-wise, which is not a red flag unless you have a wide choice of employers trying to hire you.

  11. Get real*

    Removed because sock puppetry (you can’t use multiple user names on one post to make it look like your position has additional support!). – Alison

  12. goducks*

    LW, if you’re reading, I’d encourage you to reframe a week long gap between correspondence as radio silence/crickets. While your job search is likely one of the most important things in your life right now, filling any position is just another work task to the people in the org.
    So, in your mind, OF COURSE you’re going to get back to people immediately, not leave anybody hanging for any amount of time, you need a job! But for them, they’re having to balance communicating with you with all the other work tasks on their plate. A week feels like a very long time to you, but to them it’s no time at all. Bearing that in mind and adjusting expectations might help the whole process of job hunting be less frustrating. Good luck!

    1. Project Team*

      If you canceled a meeting with a coworker, and then didn’t reply to them for a week, would that be acceptable? It would not in my workplace.

      1. Allonge*

        There are no emergencies in your workplace? Nothing that would make it inadvisable to reschedule a meeting before another issue is resolved? People don’t forget things or get sick?

        Seriously though: if you think this is a huge issue, then OP is much better off not getting hired by this den of monsters who sometimes don’t respond to emails for an entire week.

      2. Observer*

        If you canceled a meeting with a coworker, and then didn’t reply to them for a week, would that be acceptable?

        The time lines in getting back to a coworker are going to be different than responding to someone external that you don’t have a relationship with.

        1. All Het Up About It*

          Also – this would absolutely be acceptable in many places where I have worked. Heck, I can think of some places where not only acceptable, but par for the course. There is always going to be a hierarchy stakeholders and crazy emergencies and there are only so many hours in a day if I (and my colleagues) want to stay sane.

      3. Yorick*

        It might. If I cancel a non-urgent meeting and they say, “sure, let me know when you want to reschedule” and a week later I respond with a meeting request or a question about when they’re available, that’s probably fine.

    2. Public Sector Manager*

      I agree wholeheartedly! I remember one year we were in the middle of interviews and our boss came down with a cold (pre-COVID with in-person interviews). That pushed everyone back a week. And then some people had to move their interviews back a week from that because of their schedule. After we got through the interviews, we were deciding who to hire but we didn’t have time before someone had a 4-day conference in Chicago. They get back, exhausted, but then it was another 8 days before all of us had time in our calendars to meet. What should have been a 3-4 week process took about 8 1/2 weeks. These things happen all the time and it’s never a reflection on the candidate or the employer.

  13. Elizabeth West*

    There could be a billion reasons for this, OP. A ball dropped, someone’s niece was given the job, or like Alison said, they already had their eye on someone before they got to you. You showed flexibility and grace in handling it.

    At least they let you know. I had someone schedule a Google Meet interview with me for a different job than the one I applied to and then didn’t show up. Like, at ALL. I emailed her but never heard a word back. AFAIK she’s alive, but who knows what happened.

  14. Mimmy*

    I think I’m in the minority on this one.

    If I had an interview and I saw an email saying it had to be canceled because something came up unexpectedly, I’d assume that it’d be rescheduled. Sure, if they’d wanted to reschedule, they would’ve indicated this in the email, but it still would not have been immediately clear to me that the interview is most likely canceled outright.

    Also, I know that not responding to a follow-up email for a few days isn’t terrible, I would’ve appreciated a quicker reply that at least says, “let me get back to you”. Probably not a realistic expectation though.

  15. LiR*

    I think anyone would find this kind of treatment a red flag. They didn’t inform her that they’d decided to move forward with other candidates until after she’d been waiting for days.

    Also, uh, lying? “The morning of the interview, however, I got another note that they had to cancel the Zoom interview due to something that had come up unexpectedly.”

    So they lied to her instead of saying they weren’t going to move forward with her from the outset, let her dangle for days, and then rejected her. Not a red flag? Okay., if you say so…but definitely crappy and not somewhere I’d want to work.

    1. Esmeralda*

      We actually don’t know that they lied.

      It’s entirely possible that something else came up AND that they then decided not to move forward with her.

  16. Really?*

    Some unsolicited advice for the OP – I also worked as a receptionist right out of college. I thought I could “work my way up”. Be careful with this expectation – because some people will always see you as “the receptionist“ and not see you in a higher role. This could limit your earning potential down the road. I am female and I know that this hindered me for years.

    Of course you might need a job to pay the bills – as I did – and so it’s something of a moot point. But if you can find a better entre into your field, please do. Good luck!

  17. Esmeralda*

    Other possibilities:

    The person who invited you did not follow HR or office procedures before inviting you.

    The hiring officer has someone in mind.

    The requirements of the job changed and you don’t fit those new requirements.

    Could be more than one thing happening.

    But they still should have let you know that they would not be moving you forward.

  18. Not So Super-visor*

    I just had this happen as well. Prospective employer hit me up out of the blue on LinkedIn and was super pushy about setting up interview #1. Both my current position and this prospective position are coverage based, frontline supervision positions, so it took a bit of wrangling with my own schedule and workload for me to get interview #1 in. Then they immediately wanted to set up interview #2. Again, I had to scramble to find a time that worked. An hour before the interview, they called to cancel because “you know, it’s Friday afternoon and people leave early.” (no, I don’t know because when I set an appointment, I keep it, but I didn’t say that.) I was annoyed that they cancelled last minute b/c I’d already left work to make this appointment. Then they were super pushy about trying to reschedule on Monday-Wednesday of the following week. I told them that I couldn’t make that work as my counterpart who covers for me would be out. I did let them know that I had Thursday & Friday off so they could have any time on either day. They said that the hiring manager would call to set up a time. By Wednesday afternoon, I hadn’t heard anything, so I called again. The HR person sounded surprised to hear from me and said that she’d check with the hiring manager. Wednesday night at 8PM, I got an email that they were declining to reschedule the interview as they were moving forward with an internal candidate. I thanked them politely for the follow-up, but internally, I was really annoyed at the way that they handled this. I don’t really want to work for a company that doesn’t value my time, so I guess it all worked out.

  19. TootsNYC*

    the daughter of a friend came down by bus to interview for a job here in NYC; her friend was leaving that job and had recommended her, and she was excited. She wanted to move to the city and thought this would be a good opportunity.

    But when she got there, the woman said, “I already hired someone else anyway.” And then proceeded to pseudo interview her for the job she wasn’t going to get. So there’s this candidate, trying to sell herself on specific skills and knowledge for a job she’s already been rejected for, and trying to represent herself well in a situation in which she’s frankly reeling. And having to think on her feet.

    Meanwhile, the lady knew she was buying a bus ticket and taking days off work; she could have canceled so the candidate didn’t waste the time and the money.

    Or, which is what I might have done in that situation:
    Tell her you’ve hired someone else, but offer to interview her as an informational interview so I could recommend her to other people in my field.

    Or, just not tell her, and interview her as a backup–or even better, interview her as a backup AND as an informational interview, telling her, “Because I can only hire one person, and there are other candidates, I’m going to ask you some other questions also, so that if someone beats you out, I can be in a position to pass your name along to someone else.”
    And then I would send their info to people I know in the field, even if they didn’t have openings. Out of a sense of obligation.

  20. Dwight*

    If the candidate took scheduled time off work for this, maybe there’s a chance they can still cancel that time off. Or at the very least enjoy that time off instead of stressing about an interview.

Comments are closed.