How to handle an interview no show

Nikoletta Bika | |

Out of all the minor nuisances in our personal lives, getting stood up is probably the most unpleasant. Unfortunately, this also happens in professional settings, such as when you’re ready to interview a candidate and they don’t show up. Your first reaction may be to ignore this candidate or even scold them for their lack of professionalism.

But these reactions, though justifiable, can have adverse results. First, you might lose potential star candidates who had very real reasons for not showing up. Second, you might unwittingly impact your company’s reputation by antagonizing the candidate. Lastly, it’s entirely possible your company is partially to blame for candidate no-shows. It’s often worth following up with no-show candidates to get feedback and apply fixes if needed.

Plus, by taking the high road and being polite to candidates who ghosted you, you show you’re flexible and considerate. That can only enhance your employer brand.

So, what can you do to handle this awkward situation (and maybe give it a positive spin)?

First, keep your cool

While the frustration you feel after an interview no show is understandable, avoid calling candidates to request an explanation or sending them a contentious email (a recruiter once told me they did both to rattle the candidate into realizing that ghosting people is wrong). But candidates, whether they’re interested in your company or not, might not take your censure well and go out of their way to badmouth your brand. Not only that, but you’ve also lost a potential candidate – never a good thing especially if they seem otherwise ideal for the advertised position.

Cut candidates some slack

We all make mistakes. This doesn’t necessarily make us mean people or bad at our jobs. Besides, a candidate might have had every intention of coming to your interview but was unable to at the last moment. Things happen; their bus was late, there was an accident on the highway, their mother called about a death in the family. Give them a day to get back to you – essentially, give them the benefit of the doubt – before disqualifying them. You might find that a candidate is still interested in your company but hadn’t had the chance to contact you in time. If they’re genuinely sorry and ask to be considered, you may decide to give them another chance.

Your relationship with the candidate matters

If a candidate doesn’t make their first screening call, it might be safe to assume they’re not interested. But if a candidate was already successful through multiple hiring stages, and had even met or spoken with your team, you’ve invested in them and they’ve invested in you. It’s worth reaching out to find out what happened.

Follow up

If it’s a candidate you were very interested in, consider sending them a short email message:

Hi Patricia,

We didn’t see you at our scheduled interview yesterday. Is everything ok? We’re moving on with our hiring process, but let me know if you’re still interested in the role.

Thanks,

With this email, you reassure people who were embarrassed to contact you despite having a good reason for missing their interview. Those people may think they’ve lost their chance, so, by staying in touch, you create a positive impression for your company.

If you get no reply to your email, or get an oblivious, inconsiderate reply, go ahead and disqualify. Your conscience is clear.

Send a polite rejection

Even if you’re no longer considering the candidate for the role, it’s always a good idea to send a rejection email. You can send automated bulk emails through your recruiting software, but in cases of interview no-shows, tweak your message:

Hi Mike,

We didn’t see you at our scheduled interview on Tuesday. I hope everything is ok. We were pressed for time, so we had to move on with our hiring process. If you agree, we’ll keep your resume on file for future opportunities.

Thanks,

Keep in mind that, for EU candidates, you need to follow the guidelines of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to store their personal data.

Prevention is better than no-show

Interview no-shows are not only a recruiting nuisance; they’re also an administrative burden. Hiring teams have blocked out time in their calendars that they could have used more productively. Also, the reputation of recruiters (especially agency recruiters) could be severely affected if the candidates they recommend to hiring teams don’t show up for interviews.

Most of the time, we throw the candidate under the bus. However, there are instances when your company is also partly responsible for interview no-shows. For example, if candidates feel you haven’t respected them enough during the hiring process, they simply might not show up at their next interview. Granted, it’s rude, but we can all react badly if we feel mistreated.

So, how do you prevent interview no-shows within your means? Here are some ideas to ensure a good candidate experience:

  • Be clear about the role and explore candidates’ motivations early on. Hiring teams may use initial screening calls to learn about candidates’ salary expectations or what attracted them in the job ad. Go one step further than that. Discuss the role in some detail. Ask them what they want in their job or company and see how enthusiastic they are when you describe your workplace. If you sense they’re not really interested, avoid scheduling an interview in the first place.
  • Consider better scheduling options. If candidates are currently working, their available time is limited. Be flexible when scheduling interviews; try to accommodate the candidate’s work schedule and, if possible, provide them with alternatives so that they can choose the time slot most convenient to them. You could even send a self-scheduling link so they can book the interview on their own.
  • Ensure your hiring team members maintain proper decorum. Often, hiring teams try to learn as much as possible about a candidate and end up being unduly invasive. For example, forcing a candidate to disclose how much they’re getting paid or whether they plan to have a family is indiscreet (and even illegal in some jurisdictions). Candidates could initially accept a subsequent interview invitation, and then back out because of unpleasant feelings. Ensure your hiring teams are trained to avoid illegal interview questions and provide them with sample questions beforehand.
  • Communicate well with candidates. Candidates may feel that if companies don’t communicate properly with them, they aren’t obliged to communicate properly either. Always keep candidates abreast of the progress of your hiring process. When a candidate applies, send them a confirmation email that you’re processing their application. When a candidate is disqualified, let them know as soon as possible. And if you’ve scheduled an interview a while ago, consider confirming it the day before (via text or email).
  • Ask candidates directly. It’s a good idea to send out candidate surveys, especially to candidates who didn’t show up for their interview. Not all of them will get back to you, but if just one does and tells you that they didn’t come to their interview because something bothered them about your hiring process, you’ll have extremely useful feedback on your hands. Include a friendly invitation to fill out a survey at the bottom of the email templates above.

Maintain your professionalism

If you notice a spike in the number of no-shows, there might be something you need to fix. But even if you’ve done everything you could to create a positive candidate experience, some people may still not show up for their interview. They’re not necessarily being callous or unprofessional, but you don’t have to let their actions impact your hiring process.

Explain to hiring teams that no-shows do happen occasionally, so they’ll be prepared to take it in stride. And remember, there are other qualified candidates out there who will show up to their interview. Make sure your evaluation processes are effective, and you’ll soon have a new star employee on board.

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Nikoletta Bika

Nikoletta Bika is a senior writer at Workable and holds an MSc in HR. She writes about all things HR and recruiting, with a particular interest in bias, data, technology and the future of work. She hates meaningless jargon and dreams about space travel. She tweets @Nikoletta_Bika.

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