Closing the Interview Door – In Your Own Face

In a recent HR magazine called “Network” that is distributed through Alberta there was a story posted about an interview appointment gone wrong. I had to read the story about three times over before I could believe what I read. My question is, have candidates really degraded to this level of foolishness?

Story Synopsis: Interview appointment has been set between candidate and HR personnel. As unfortunate as it may be recruiters and HR personnel have become aware that “no shows” are all to common these days with interview appointments. So when the candidate didn’t show up on time or even 20 minutes later (yes the HR personnel waited 20 minutes), she chalked it up to a “no show” and went back to the her office to move ahead with business.

Approximately 10 minutes later, so a total of 30 minutes after the scheduled interview appointment the HR personnel received a call from the front desk informing her that the candidate had arrived. The receptionist also let the HR personnel know that the candidate failed to bring any of the requested documentation or forms to the interview, and oh yes – they weren’t dressed quiet “appropriately”, aka they may as well have been hanging out at the mall. So what does the HR personnel do? She decides to go hold the interview and see what the deal is with this candidate.

Here is the best part, ready for this?

HR personnel comes to the front desk to bring the candidate into the meeting room. And SURPRISE – the candidate in on their cell phone in mid-conversation. They make eye contact, and the candidate mouthed “10 more minutes” to the HR personnel – had gesture and all. Yes, it’s ok – go ahead and read that part again...guess what it gets better! The HR personnel walks away in disbelief, returns 10 minutes later to find the candidate STILL ON THEIR CELL PHONE!

Finally the HR personnel forfeited any interest in interviewing this candidate and directed the receptionist to inform the candidate “once they were off their cell phone” that there would be no interview today nor in the future.

So what the heck was going on with that candidate you may ask. Well, as the candidate informed the receptionist – once they were off their cell phone – they were on a very important call, you see they had double booked themselves and the candidate was actually conducting a telephone interview.

Yes, it’s ok to gasp and bang your head on the table or wall – whatever is most convenient, because this is not the punch line it's the truth.

GIVE ME A BREAK candidates! Really, you double booked yourself? What a fantastic way to show your lack in time management skills! Wonder what positions they were applying to – hope it wasn’t anything along the lines of project management!

How would you have handled this situation?

Views: 301

Comment by Joshua Byron on October 13, 2010 at 1:22pm
Our receptionist calls everyone on their cell as soon as they are 15 minutes late to a scheduled interview. If for some reason a candidate shows up half an hour late dressed unprofessionally, I will send them home immediately - And even faster on occasions of extreme idiocy (as described above, or asking our receptionist to dinner, etc. Occasionally when dealing with a very young candidate who may not have any interviewing experience, I may explain that although my company is in a blue collar industry, we are very corporate in nature and expect the same - And offer to reschedule them with a clean slate if they come back dressed like they want a job. But if you wave me off while you talk on your cell, you're done, post haste.
Comment by Mary Anne Hebert on October 13, 2010 at 8:54pm
This is nothing new. 10 years in recruiting and I've seen my share of bad eggs. But why lump this bad behavior into "candidates" as opposed to this one isolated incident. I'd say that 98% of candidates try their hardest and try their best. Whatever that may be. However, there's always a few who will challenge our assumptions of normalcy. Its what makes our jobs interesting and humorous. Maybe the candidate got the job on the phone interview, who knows?
Comment by Lisa Switzer on October 13, 2010 at 11:16pm
@ Joshua - good points, for those new to the interviewing world this could be a quick learning curve for them. Good on you for taking the extra step to coach appropriateness and give them anothers chance : )

@ Mary - fair enough, it isn't fair to paint "all candidates" with the same brush. Nor is it fair to neglect all the awesome candidate we do get to work with and represent. Though a certain lack of professionalism when approaching interview sessions does seem to be on the rise - at least this is the feedback I am receiving across numerous independent recruiters and agencies alike.
Comment by Jeff Waldman on October 14, 2010 at 2:55pm
Lisa, I couldn't help myself in smiling when I read your article. I have been there quite a few times myself interviewing. It's not so much about the candidate being late or even being on their cell phone because you just never know what the situation might be. They could have gotten into a car accident, they may have been on the phone with a loved one regarding a serious situation, etc... you get my point.

BUT... always a but in my world... what really determines what my course of action will end up being is how they deal with the situation of a) being late and b) being on the phone gesturing. How they handle this situation would be a great example of how they deal with pressure and conflict, which would then enable you to link to the core values and culture of the organization. In this particular situation Lisa, I would have done exactly what the HR person did, believe it or not. HR's role is to find the best talent, without compromising ethical standards, values and beliefs. There is no need to get into a situation where you have to explain yourself to the candidate why... all you need to say after they have had the opportunity to manage the situation is, "I'm sorry we can't offer you the job... good luck in your search". Be as polite and cordial as possible, and move onto more important things that benefit the business.

The last thing that you want to do is say or do something in response to this candidate that would make you look bad. You just never know what the candidate will do after they leave. Technology is a powerful thing and you don't want to add fuel to the fire so to speak.
Comment by Jessica Nicholas on October 14, 2010 at 4:21pm
Wow. This HR rep was incredibly patient or incredibly curious. In my days of corporate HR, I doubt I would've been either one and would've written off the candidate after the 20 minute mark and advised them (if they ever bothered to ask) that they could reapply to other roles in the future. They missed their chance this time, but I don't hold a grudge if they can learn from their mistakes.

It's true, though, that this is outrageous because it isn't common. Nearly all of the candidates I've ever worked with are incredibly professional and make a great impression.
Comment by Autumn Haber on October 14, 2010 at 4:42pm
Absolutely not appropriate. It continues to blow my mind when candidates walk in unprepared and unprofessional. In this situation I would have sent a "friendly" email letting the candidate know that if they hope to actually secure a new position, they need to improve on their time management and first impression immediately.
Comment by Kevin Cure on October 15, 2010 at 4:51pm
Wish I was the interviewer. I have let people go for a lot less faults in their time management. Interesting story non the less. Thanks Lisa.
Comment by Valentino Martinez on November 1, 2010 at 11:23am
Hi Lisa--liked your sharing on this subject.

Unprofessional behavior also applies to the employer/interviewer side of the equation...wherein they can also be late, insensitive and unprepared as well for an employment interview. Example, I recently heard about a video conference interview where the VP of HR was 15 minutes late to the interview; apologized and onscreen then asked an assistant for the candidates' resume, got it and briefly scanned it which seemed to indicate it was the first time she actually saw the resume; then during the interview kept making a scrunchy-face people make when they are annoyed about what they’re hearing (in this case) then finally admitted “I’m only getting every other word you’re saying” (due to an audio problem with her equipment); finally concludes the interview 15 minutes early in order to run to her next scheduled meeting that she’s running late for as well.

I give a lot of leeway to interviewees who are or seem new to the interview process. Some are so anxious, young and old (many these days haven’t interviewed for years and show it) that they seem on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Interviewers need to not be so judgemental in those cases.

Naturally, the genuine nutcases (I’ve interviewed inmates in lockup; hostile & drunk candidates; and the occasional arrogant candidate who wants to make sure you know they know company executives, etc.) who also need to be dealt with in a courteous manner—once they sober-up, relax and get into the back-and-forth of an interview--they can be quite impressive.
Comment by Lisa Switzer on November 1, 2010 at 1:07pm
Hi Valentino,

Great point it is a two way street, and both employers and interviewees need to get on board wit proper interviewing etiquette. Your example of an inappropriate VP of HR brought an personal example rushing to my memory. I was about 1 year into the HR field and interviewing for a Coordinator/Generalist position with a panel. This was a leading TECH company that had been recommended by a peer so I was excited, well at first I was...let's just say about mid-way into the interview a Manager on the panel decided to ask me for an example where I had to follow a rule I didn't like for fully agree with.

Well, if only I had known my response would set this manager climbing the walls I would have made up another answer. My response was an example when I was working in a school system and foolishly brought peanut butter cups with me for a snack...duh peanut butter ....which had been prohibited due to student/teacher allergies. Well, my supervisor walked into the class room and instantly went red, started wheezing and asked if someone had brought peanuts into the room - then it hit me! OH NO! So I apologized, she was fine once she got her epi-pen out. So my example was though I enjoyed peanut butter and was not allergic to it, I learned a clear example of how important it was to follow that rule/policy especially with the potential impact on others...and that's when the Sh*T hit the fan my friends....

The managers face went 3 shades of deep red and just as I swear his head was about to pop he let me have it...basically he was unimpressed with school systems "TELLING HIM" what he "CAN OR CAN NOT" give his child for lunch, and that if "HE WANTED TO MAKE HIS SON A PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH FOR LUNCH, HE WAS DAMN WELL EATING A PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH FOR LUNCH"...the reason I am using capitals is because the manager was literally yelling at me. The rest of the panel wouldn't even lift their eyes off the boardroom table, like deer in headlights...Me I was thinking is this a joke? Is he testing me? So I came back with, well living in a community, much like a work environment there are times when our personal desires and opinions are not in the best interest of the whole. I am sure you would agree if your son had a nut allergy. And this was the final straw for that manager - I was dead meat to him - you could see it in his eyes - I am pretty sure if he could have legally reached across the table and choked me - he would have. In a loud gruff "get my picture honey" tone he said, "I don't FUCK*N care, HE'S NOT ALLERGIC AND HE WILL HAVE PEANUT BUTTER WHEN EVER THE F**K HE WANTS."

And so I knew there and then that even if this was the last company on earth there was no way in hell I wanted to work with that manager/organization. It was also clear, that though they said they wanted someone who could enforce policies that weren't appeasing to everyone, it didn't include that manager.

As we say out here in the West, it was a serious GONG SHOW! :P


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