Interview No-Shows, Reschedules, and Last-Minute Cancellations

Posted by Brian Rudolph on 5/21/19 10:56 AM
Brian Rudolph
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What Every Recruiter Can Do to Reduce Candidate Flake-Outs

How many times have you gotten word from your client that a top candidate you presented and endorsed has failed to show up for their interview?

Once is bad enough.  Multiple times can be lethal to your reputation.  Unfortunately, in today’s candidate market, the risks of no-shows, multiple reschedules or ridiculously short-notice cancellations are greater than ever.

But if you’re tempted to shrug these incidents off as something you can’t control, don’t.  Candidate no-shows are more damaging to you than they are to the candidate.  After all, they’re clearly not that into working for your client – or they wouldn’t be dodging the interview.  You, on the other hand are very invested in working with this client.

Today’s top tier job seekers are busy, employed individuals with precious little time available to interview.  They’re also likely to be courted by multiple employers.  They’re in demand, they can afford to be choosy, and they’re going to choose to spend their time with hiring managers who impress them, make them feel important, and have an enticing career opportunity to offer.  Anything less and they’ll walk away the minute a more compelling interview opportunity comes along.  If they felt disrespected by you or your client at any step along the way?  They’re more likely to bag out, leaving you holding the bag.

So, contrary to what you may have been telling yourself (or the hiring manager), no-shows are your problem – and there’s plenty you can do to prevent them.  Follow these best practices and regain control of your reputation with your hiring manager.

Sell the job, the hiring manager and the employer brand

When I say “sell,” I do not mean that you should read from the same list of features when speaking with every candidate.  I mean match benefits to needs by first making sure you fully understand what the candidate wants, needs and values.  Then, promote the aspects of the position that will resonate with each candidate’s experience, skills and career goals.  Highlight the strengths of the hiring manager that meet the candidate’s needs, and, above all, enthusiastically emphasize what the organization, as a whole, has to offer each individual.  Once you’ve customized your sales message for each candidate, revisit, re-emphasize and revise as appropriate, throughout the entire process.

Assess the candidate’s true interest in the position

Sometimes, when you just know you’ve found the perfect candidate, it’s easy to assume that the candidate feels the same way about your client and the job.  Bad assumption.  Never take a candidate’s interest level for granted.  Gauge it up front, do everything in your power to build it up early, and then stay in close communication to sustain it.  When a candidate’s interest begins to wane, you should be the first person to know.  Start out by asking if they’re interviewing anywhere else, how they’d rank their interest in your position and what it would take to be first in their consideration set.  This is important for many reasons.  No matter how “perfect” you think this candidate might be for your client, they may end up finding another employer who seems more perfect for them.  With solid rapport, you can show them how your client compares more favorably.  Without that rapport, you’ll never have that chance.

Provide multiple, flexible interviewing options

Busy, successful people appreciate it when their tight schedules are acknowledged and accommodated.  I’ve found that one way to impress a candidate is to offer a range of interview times, including “off hours.”  The best candidates are often flooded with interview requests – while trying to maintain an intensely busy schedule in their current job.  When attempting to schedule interviews, offer a minimum of five time slots, being sure to include at least one evening and one weekend appointment.  What else can you and the hiring manager to do to make it easier?  Is Skyping an option?  A phone interview?  While I’m a big believer in the power of in-person interviewing when you want to seriously sell the job, the team, and the entire organization, sometimes it’s more important to demonstrate flexibility and understanding when you’re trying to woo a great candidate.  Finally, set clear expectations for the importance of advance cancellations or reschedule requests by providing multiple contacts and multiple, user-friendly means of communicating to them.

Maintain maximum momentum

Delays in the hiring process are your enemy.  When you let days go by without communicating or when there are sudden “hiccups” in the client’s process, candidates lose faith in you.  Work closely with your client to identify and articulate key milestones in the process and the reasonable date ranges for each.  This includes getting interviews scheduled as quickly as possible.  But it also means telling candidates how many steps are included in the process, how many layers of management will be interviewing or weighing in on the final decision, how approvals generally work, and how much time each step is likely to take.  Whenever you’re nearing a missed deadline, proactively reach out to the candidate and let them know.

Educate hiring managers on the risks of rescheduling with candidates

Rescheduling interviews is a sure-fire way of telegraphing to a candidate that their time is not valued.  Treat them like a commodity and they’ll interview where they feel treated like an important individual.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Have I mentioned the importance of communicating?  In an age of countless apps, programs and processes for staying in contact with people, you have no excuse for not remaining in tight communication with every candidate.  Find out their preferred channels and then use those channels consistently.  Schedule emails, texts or calls like a campaign, ensuring that all candidates hear from you – with specific, relevant, useful information every time.  No “just checking in to see how it’s going…” messages allowed.  You’ll only get yourself labeled as a spammer and your communications jettisoned as junk.  Be sure to confirm all interviews and reference or work sample deadlines via email or text.

Next time you get a no-show, ask, listen, learn and adjust

So, let’s say you think you’ve followed steps 1-6 flawlessly – but you’re still getting no-shows or drop-outs.  You can’t fix the problem if you can’t see what’s broken.  Reach out and find out or you’ll just keep chipping away at your credibility as a recruiter.  Try sending an email that clearly spells out your intentions:  to learn and improve, not to inconvenience or accuse.  Then ask three simple questions. 

  1. What caused them to drop out of the interview?  (For example, did they find another job with a different employer?  Did they decide to end their job search and stay where they are?  Were there other reasons?) 
  2. What could you, the recruiter, have done differently, to make their experience with your more positive and productive? 
  3. What could the hiring manager or the organization have done differently to make them more interested in pursuing a career with them? Then thank them for their feedback, sort through it all with an open mind and make improvements as necessary.


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