77

A year ago I was working for a start-up (in tech) and was supposed to interview this guy (X) at 10 in the morning over Skype.

He did not come online that day and HR could not get in touch with him in the day so he was rejected without any further steps.

Now I am working for a large corporation and by sheer luck I am supposed to interview the same person next week.


Given that his past behaviour was unprofessional, what should I be doing in this case? Should I highlight to HR about his past behaviour and vote for rejection? Or should I recuse myself from the interview to prevent any bias?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Dec 21 '18 at 2:59

13 Answers 13

94

Given that his past behaviour was unprofessional, what should I be doing in this case?

Assume good intentions. Don't draw conclusions about a person from a single instance of past behaviour. Give the candidate the benefit of the doubt and another chance to impress you. Generally when you do this with people you'll be rewarded for it.

Should I highlight to HR about his past behaviour and vote for rejection?

No.

Should I recuse myself from the interview to prevent any bias?

If you're the right person to be doing this interview, then you should do it, and you should consciously fix your bias towards this candidate on this issue before you do.

Ironically, even though you may do it to try to stop your bias affecting the candidate's chances, your recusing yourself from the interview will actually be a really strong negative signal against the candidate for HR and the other interviewers, and therefore one of the ways you can most let your bias affect the candidate's chances. The best way to deal with the bias is to fix it consciously, not to work around it.

  • 1
    Hadn't though of my rejection affecting the opinion of other interviewers. But I would also argue that the other interviewer(s) will not be really be informed about my rejection per se. HR will just allot someone else for the interview. – wplace Dec 17 '18 at 15:34
  • 16
    Sometimes, as the Forest Gump movie says, shit happens. You deal with it, learn from it, and move on. One missed interview is hardly worth worrying about. I've probably missed three in the last five years for a variety of reasons and been late to half a dozen others (leave an hour early, still get there 20min late because the building is poorly marked, or no parking, or...). I've always tried to apologize, but often there's no way to know that the company hears about it. Heck a year ago I missed out on an offer because of another interview! (The recruiter never told the company my status) – Draco18s Dec 17 '18 at 16:04
  • 4
    I missed an interview once because the recruiter didn't bother to tell me he had arranged it. For an online interview - all kinds of connection issues might have prevented that occurring. Give him the interview, ask him about the old one and see what he says. – gbjbaanb Dec 19 '18 at 14:33
  • Bias based on an actual negative thing happening isn't a problem. Making decisions on such pros and cons is the entire point of the interview process. OP might be leaning towards the wrong decision, arguably, but it's not wrong to include this as a factor. – Matthew Read Dec 19 '18 at 23:17
238

After graduating I had about 15 interviews at different companies. I was prepared for all of them: I knew the way, I knew what message I wanted to convey.

I still ended up getting lost awfully while going to one interview. It was a short, easy way, so I've no idea how this could have happened. I called them to excuse the delay telling them I would be there in 10 min. but then I ended up arriving an hour late, all sweaty and stressed and my phone died in the process, so I couldn't answer their call.

Give him another chance. All of us sometimes behave unprofessionally, no matter how well prepared we are.

Also, keep in mind how often companies behave unprofessionally: disappear after interviews (I'm still waiting for the promised date coordination for a recruitment process that started 3 months ago), are disrespectful, cancel interviews on a very short notice. I'm not saying you behave like that, but many companies do. So also candidates should be cut some slack.

[EDIT] After thinking about it for a while I'm also wondering how you know that it's the same person. Is it such a small field that you remember individuals you had contact to or did you check it somehow? If the latter, you probably shouldn't have access to this data after leaving your previous employer. That's another reason why you shouldn't escalate it to your boss or HR.

  • 112
    I agree with this. Without knowing the reason for the no-show, calling this behaviour "unprofessional" seems overly judgemental. – Snow Dec 17 '18 at 8:06
  • 20
    But doesn't the onus to explain the reason lie on the candidate in this case? His no-show alone was not unprofessional, but the fact that he did not follow-up later could be. – wplace Dec 17 '18 at 10:37
  • 31
    I wouldn't ask actually @Ripstein because you (read: the OP) are now an agent of a different organisation and should not be questioning the candidate over some off-the-record event at a past organisation. One might argue that it's not even ethical to reveal your knowledge of this event to your new organisation. Maybe. Just have the candidate in for an interview and judge them on the merits of that interview. "I used to work at X and you flaked on an interview there; what gives?" would be pretty unprofessional IMO. – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 17 '18 at 10:43
  • 7
    @Ripstein If you knew that the candidate was a professional fraudster then yes I'd be inclined to say something, but that's not what happened, and the risk surface is so low that you really have nothing to gain here for the cost of being rude to the candidate – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 17 '18 at 11:07
  • 17
    Absurd to say someone should just "forget" (as if possible) experiences from past employers. Experience is valuable, not something to be disregarded. – Tim Hallman Dec 17 '18 at 14:29
116

Frankly your accusation of being unprofessional is pure conjecture and you don’t have any idea what was going on. Life is life and things happen. Maybe the guy was in a hospital on the operating table when your HR tried to reach him. Worst case, he found out something about your company that you never found out and decided that no contact with that company would be better.

So I suggest that you behave professionally and invite him to the interview, without any prejudice.

  • 4
    No, worse case is he forgot about the interview and then decided to ignore the attempt at contact afterwards. But that would be unreliable at worse, not unprofessional. Unless this was the equivalent of ding dong ditch (ring doorbell and then run), it hardly rises to the level of unprofessional. I’ve seen people fail to work on the first day because they were hung over as well as come in (again on the first day of work) say they were reconsidering the offer amount and would be in touch and walk out. Ditching an interview without notice is more disrespectful than unprofessional. – jmoreno Dec 17 '18 at 11:41
  • 17
    Strongly disagree with this answer gnasher (except for the concluding sentence). Arranging an interview with someone and then not turning up without providing a reason is unprofessional. That is a fact, not conjecture. There could quite easily be reasons that excuse this unprofessional behavior, like the example you have gave of being in the hospital, but this doesn't change the fact that the underlying behavior is unprofessional. (No DV from me but would be interested on your thoughts on this, if any?) – RyanfaeScotland Dec 17 '18 at 12:01
  • 9
    @RyanfaeScotland considering the candidate has a new interview I sincerely doubt they died. If they did, I'd give the candidate merit for being motivated. But I think people have been talking realistic "worse case" scenarios here. And the "worse" can indeed have different meanings depending on how you view it - a person being on the operating table is certainly bad for that person but of not too much consequence to the company. The candidate finding unflattering information about the company is, conversely, not bad for the person even if both situations can be described as "bad". – vlaz Dec 17 '18 at 12:17
  • 1
    Given a choice between two possibilities: the applicant just blew off the interview for whatever reason (got another job, forgot, whatever) or that the applicant had something so dramatic and serious happen that he just had no way to send a short email, text or phone call saying he was unavailable, I'll take the more likely explanation. – DaveG Dec 17 '18 at 14:55
  • 3
    It's not unprofessional at all to take into account prior behavior and have that influence your decision as to whether or not someone is higher or lower risk for hiring. Given the choice between two equally qualified candidates where one has a giant question mark (and yes, not cancelling or calling to apologize and/ or reschedule an interview is unprofessional) and one does not, it's perfectly good sense to go with the candidate that has not demonstrated a potentially risky behavior. – Jeremy Holovacs Dec 17 '18 at 16:29
33

About a year ago Skype made some changes that meant that I was unable to log in again. So that this person was not online on Skype as promised could have been Skype's fault.

It's also possible that his internet connection was down that day, or he could have been in an accident preventing him from joining the call as promised.

In each of these cases the candidate should have tried to contact you to explain the situation, but it's possible the candidate was unable to do so in a timely fashion.

So, why did you not hear back? Maybe the candidate contacted the recruiter but the recruiter didn't see a need to let you know.

Maybe the rejection was sent to the candidate before candidate was able to reach out and explain what had happened. In that case it would be quite understandable if the candidate wouldn't bother to respond.

Given that you don't know any of this you shouldn't be as judgmental about the candidate. It sure makes sense for you to let HR know about the past experience. And if you don't think you'd give the candidate a fair evaluation, it's better to have somebody else conduct the interview.

However I think the professional approach would be for you to assume the candidate had a good reason to not show up and conduct the interview in good faith. And then let the people making the final decision know both how the candidate did in the interview and that you had this past experience with the candidate which you don't know the reason for.

  • 31
    I had this exact situation happen to me several years ago. Someone was to meet me for an interview but didn't show, didn't call, didn't respond to calls or texts, nothing. About 4 weeks later, he contacted me. He was driving to meet me and got hit. He'd been in the hospital for about 3 weeks. We arranged for another meeting and he showed me pictures of what was left of his car and some pics of him in the hospital with family. Until you know for sure, you don't know what the circumstances are. – FreeMan Dec 17 '18 at 16:06
  • 3
    @FreeMan but you did contact afterwards, right? That's the professional thing to do. Frankly I don't understand why everyone is so insistent on giving potentially risky interviewees every possible break. There are other positions, there are other candidates. Unless it's an extremely niche market, there shouldn't be any sweat about tossing a resume in the trash can, there's usually dozens of others that are comparable. – Jeremy Holovacs Dec 17 '18 at 16:36
  • 16
    @JeremyHolovacs Yes he did contact me once he was out of the hospital. As suggested in this answer, maybe the candidate had already received a rejection letter. Everyone is insistent on giving the guy a 2nd chance because life happens. Sometimes it happens really awkwardly and with exceptionally bad timing, but that doesn't mean that the person that it happened to is a bad person. In the case I mentioned, things didn't work out for the position, but we were both very happy that we had a chance to talk. I hope that when life happens to you others are more understanding. – FreeMan Dec 17 '18 at 16:41
  • 4
    @JeremyHolovacs Remember the previous company rejected the candidate without much effort to find out why the candidate did not show up and without allowing the candidate time to reach out. Maybe that company was under time pressure and decided to hire a different candidate for the opening they had at the time, and it's acceptable for the company to do that. But that should not be reason to automatically reject the candidate for all future positions. – kasperd Dec 17 '18 at 16:42
  • 2
    @JeremyHolovacs If you have knowledge of past behavior it's hard not to take it into consideration. But the OP doesn't have any such knowledge. All he can do is come up with guesses, and taking those guesses into account in the hiring process is not appropriate. – kasperd Dec 17 '18 at 17:19
12

I think you should inform this as it is to your manager or whoever has put you in the interview panel and let them decide. Something like

Hey, I am scheduled to interview X next week. Incidentally, I recall his name from my last job where I was suppose to interview him and he was a no-show. He may have his own reasons but I was surprised that he did not inform us about this change then or anytime later. Just wanted to inform you before we interview him again. I am happy to interview him ignoring the previous incident but if you think I should not be in the panel now, I am okay with that too.

Mention the incident, mention your concern by giving the candidate enough benefit of doubt, and mention couple of possible alternatives to handle this. Let the manager decide rest.

  • 3
    "he did not inform us about this change then or anytime later" - We don't know about this. It's not mentioned in the question. Maybe the interviewee contacted the startup's HR later? And OP left without ever learning about it? I'd be cautious giving such advice without actual knowledge of the situation. Also, as mentioned in several answers, information on recruiting internals might well be confidential and OP would be well advised to keep silent about it. – Inarion Dec 20 '18 at 10:50
  • @lnarion good point. – PagMax Dec 20 '18 at 15:01
  • 1
    I think this will prejudice them towards the candidate despite all the disclaimers ("may have had his reasons..."). Plus, the incident may be confidential. – Shawn V. Wilson Dec 21 '18 at 17:32
11

I'm disturbed by all these answers. Everyone seems to be supporting the candidate, arguing for giving the guy a chance. Why should an employer do that?

As an interviewer, your responsibility is not to be a nice guy and give a guy a break; it's to protect and promote your employer's interests. If you can do so in good conscience and give a guy a break, that's great, but first and foremost is to maximize your employer's assets and reduce your employer's risks... and hiring an employee is one of the highest-risk activities a company will regularly do.

Between two equally qualified candidates, one whom you have knowledge of previously (potentially) demonstrating thoughtless, disrespectful, and/ or unprofessional behavior, and one who you have no such knowledge of, a responsible interviewer will favor the employee with no historical "demerits". This isn't a trial by jury either; you're not responsible for determining "guilt"... just risk.

Whether or not you interview him is, of course, your choice... but if you feel that it represented a behavior that you would not want to deal with at your current place of work, of course that should be taken into consideration, and if you feel that disqualifies them... then they should be disqualified, because your employer respects your opinion, and has not only hired you, but wants your input on this candidate.

There are lots of candidates out there, and there are lots of positions out there. There are lots of reasons why not everyone gets hired for a job they apply for. Maybe he was having a bad day, maybe a calendar invite got lost in the mail. Maybe it totally wasn't his fault. It's not your responsibility to figure that out. You go with the information you have, and if it hurts his prospects for this position at this company, there's certainly lots of other employers that do not have that information, and may hire him (and likely will be happy with him). You don't need to feel guilty about it, and you don't need to justify it.

  • 5
    Well written answer, I just disagree. A year is a long time and doing this could rob your employer of an ideal candidate. This new job could also be good enough for the candidate to take seriously this time around. At the end of the day, you really don't gain anything by cutting this person out of the interview process. At most, you gain an hour. You also have no guarantees that this person will behave less professionally than the other candidates if this one gets the job. Like I said though, your answer is well written. – Steve Dec 17 '18 at 17:12
  • 8
    I understand and respect your disagreement, but I have to challenge the the "ideal candidate" concept... in my experience, there's never been a case of a genuine "ideal" candidate, just "well-qualified" candidates in different fashions. If he was head and shoulders above all other applicants, then the risk evaluation swings the other way, i.e., "if we don't hire this guy, we will lose out on (fill in the blank)." – Jeremy Holovacs Dec 17 '18 at 17:16
  • 5
    When you apply for a job, are granted an interview, and don't show up, its on the applicant to justify why. The employer is not responsible here. Solid answer. Even in the case of an emergency nothing prohibits an email like "My appendix ruptured, so I was unable to reach out..." – Mister Positive Dec 17 '18 at 17:24
  • 4
    "There are lots of candidates out there", we really don't know that, we don't know OP's location or area of tech. Given that, the OP is interviewing the same candidate again, indicates that the pool of candidates in OP's area is probably not very big. – Akavall Dec 18 '18 at 4:47
  • 2
    It concerns me that one no-show interview should translate to never getting a chance again. By that logic, anyone who's ever been fired or even had a single verbal warning should never be employed again; anyone who's ever been unfaithful or even gotten into an argument with their significant other should never be in a relationship again; anyone who's ever been caught speeding should be banned from driving, for life; no-one should ever be allowed a second chance or given the benefit of the doubt. That's... a pretty extreme position to take. – BittermanAndy Dec 19 '18 at 10:51
7

Professionalism isn't determined by one incident.

I always try to be highly professional, and both employers and customers have positively remarked on that multiple times, so I'm succeeding. However, over the years, I've once managed to make a complete mess out of airplane travel and once completely missed an appointment at the customer site. Both of these should never happen, and both of these had explanations why they happened anyway and both of these, viewed in isolation, would have given you a completely different view of me than that which many, many other people share.

There is always a possibility for error, accident or bad luck that no amount of professional behaviour can prevent. I've seen a computing center with extremely redundant power supply (UPS, diesel generators, multiple outside power connections, the works) go dark because of a freak accident. Professional simply means doing your best, seriously, by established best practices, following all rules and regulations, applying expert knowledge. It doesn't mean "flawless".

As you - judged by the information given - never followed up on the incident or ever learnt the truth about what happened, judging that persons character due to one data point is statistically and ethically questionable. So don't do it. Do the interview, try your best to ignore what happened before, judge based on his performance during the interview. If you absolutely have to bring the point up, do it at the end of the interview, after the candidate had a chance to present himself without prejudice.

1

Do the interview and ask about the no-show in a non-hostile way. Try to give it a light-hearted or humorous spin: "I think I recognize your name and resume from recruitment at (startup), did you ever have an interview there?"

Phrase it in a way that gives them a heads-up that you know who they are, but that you do not recall enough detail to hold a grudge. If they are clever they will grab the chance to explain themselves.

Rejecting them entirely on that incident is a bit harsh. The courteous thing to do is to not ruin their chances with your company; e.g. they may not be a perfect fit for this position, but they might be suitable for another department than yours - if you flag them with HR as untrustworthy they will never get that second chance.

1

Since the incident was one year ago, it's not unlikely that the person doesn't remember all that clearly what happened back then. Therefore I would apply a sort of statute of limitations to that past situation and not bring it up.

I remember being late for a meeting one year ago. Frankly, if I was asked to explain myself today, I wouldn't have much to say in my defence, nor would I find that it's fair to bring the issue up one year down the road.

  • The interviewee does not even know that they are to be interviewed by the very same person they were supposed to be interviewed a year ago. – Crowley Dec 19 '18 at 15:08
1

How old, or more precisely, how long is the interviewee out of the safe haven of childhood/education?

For newbies a year is a heck a long time. If they were unprofessional a year ago there is no proof they will be unprofessional tomorrow. Except you tried it once more.

I would also reccomend not to mention this Skype case in the interview. If you (plural) were to decide and you (singular) spotted unproffesionalism in them, you can play that card and display all your concerns about them.

1

Companies usually have policies in place that make the information in hiring processes confidential. If you share information about that candidate, you are likely violating your NDA with the company for which you were working a year ago which would be an unprofessional action on your part.

  • I have never heard of a company policy where this situation would be covered under an NDA. In every case I've seen, NDAs are for intellectual property, which would almost certainly not include hiring processes, and especially not include a case of a no-show. I'd like an example where an NDA would apply. – Jeremy Holovacs Dec 20 '18 at 12:29
0

Assuming that you once believed they would be a good fit for the role (or still do) and that they would be worth having, it really depends on two things.

1) Why were they unable to attend interview? If they had good reason and informed you in advance of the interview, then we must consider:

2) Do you believe they are genuine? If they informed you in advance with good reason, and delivered the news with honesty, then it might be worth giving them a chance to interview.

After all, we all have to deal with unforseen circumstances occasionally - it would be a shame to miss out on talent if you believe they would be an asset, simply because of unfortunate circumstances.

Hope this helps and all the best with the selection process for the job!

0

...by sheer luck... what should I be doing?

Go make lemonade.

Continuing to search for jobs after a missed interview takes guts. Perhaps the candidate is the perfect one pursue to a lost customer to represent your company. Redemption, restoration, and reconciliation are greatly needed. Pay it forward, welcome the candidate of "R" virtues, and recognize fate at work in your "luck", not just unmeaningful randomness.

To err is human, to forgive is divine. - Alexander Pope

  • 2
    He did not return to a missed interview though, it's a different interview at a different company. – wplace Dec 20 '18 at 11:02
  • Okay, but all the more then. Fate has a purpose; reconcile, restore, redeem. – Jesse Steele Dec 20 '18 at 11:48

protected by mcknz Dec 20 '18 at 20:00

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.