Cutting Down On Interview “No-Shows”

Going to an interview is a daunting task for most applicants. Even the most qualified can sweat at the possibility. Going on an interview is often compared to “going to the dentist,” so it’s not surprising that many firms experience high “no show” rates. Part of this problem can be attributed to the low unemployment rates. Low unemployment means applicants can easily find other jobs if they “blow” this opportunity. But there are other company-controlled reasons why some firms have almost zero “no sow” rates while others exceed 15%. I will show how to reduce the no-show rate later in this article. SOME POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF NO-SHOWS TO A FIRM:

  • Managers may get frustrated with the hiring process and begin to put hiring on the back burner.
  • Having to add additional names to the interview list slows up the hiring process. It may also result in a firm having to go further down the list of candidates into the “less qualified” group.
  • You may lose some great candidates when managers make assumptions that the “no-shows” are bad people, even though there is no proof that no-shows actually become unreliable employees.
  • No-shows may rely on public transportation and not hiring them because they are “no shows” could have diversity impacts (if public transportation carries a high portion of people in protected groups).

FACTORS THAT INCREASE INTERVIEW “NO-SHOWS”: Most recruitment systems were designed during times when applicants were “desperate” for jobs. As a result, many hiring systems are a bit arrogant in the way they treat applicants. Some of these poor customer service elements can contribute to the no-show problem.

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  • Most recruits are “strangers” to the firm when they are recruited from the paper or a large job site. They do not have any relationship with the firm so they have no loyalty. A clerk might have set up the interview. Because there is no personal relationship with any person they might work for, no shows can increase.
  • Candidates are not told what will happen during the interview process, so they have nothing exceptional to look forward to and this uncertainty may cause an increase in “no shows.”
  • They don’t know the probability of getting hired or “how qualified” they are, so their low expectations may increase the “no show” rate.
  • Applicants see no immediate consequences for being a “no-show.”
  • Most interviews are scheduled during work hours, so their inability to get off work might be a cause of their “not showing.”
  • In an “Internet world” some resumes are pulled off the net. As a result, after the “surprise” of the initial call, an applicant may have a change of heart. This is because they never specifically targeted your firm, and after some thought and additional research, they can decide not to follow through.
  • Many don’t have time to update their resume and they are afraid to show up with an old one.


  • Build a personal relationship with an individual so they look forward to meeting the “real person” on the other end of the phone.
  • Give them a schedule and a description of who they will see (with titles and roles) so they know who they will meet, their importance to the firm, and why they are meeting with them.
  • Tell them what they will be asked so they feel comfortable with the process and also so they know what to prepare for. Send them a job description, company information, or anything to increase their interest in the job.
  • Excite them by telling them about the projects they will work on. Tell them about the team and any recent team successes.
  • Put some “WOW’s” in the process (lunch, meet the CEO, a plant tour) so they are excited about the process and the job.
  • Educate them about their “prospects.” Let them know if they are on the short list and what you like about them.
  • Contact “no-shows” to find out why they didn’t come to the interview. Fix any weaknesses in the process or attempt to learn which factors predict who is most likely to become a no-show (college students from a certain major, low paying jobs, people from a far away commute distance etc.).
  • Tell them up front about how a “no show” impacts the firm so they know the consequences of their actions.
  • Make it easy for them to call and cancel (or reschedule) in advance of the interview time.
  • Tell them you will reimburse them for travel expenses when they arrive (for low paying jobs).
  • Remove as much uncertainty as possible in the interview process so they lose their fear of showing up (tell them about parking, traffic, how to dress, what to bring, etc). Send them a map.
  • Tell them they don’t need an updated resume in order to interview.
  • Stop formal interviewing. Invite them in to have an informal conversation about themselves and their ideas. Offer to answer all of their questions on the phone prior to the interview.
  • Schedule interviews after hours, during weekends, or off site (in the suburbs or close to their work).
  • Call or send e-mail reminders of the interview the day before and the day of the interview.
  • Call no shows and “forgive” people that are applying for hard to hire jobs or who are well qualified applicants etc.
  • Offer them lunch or other enticements.

CONCLUSION: In a world of employee shortages, HR needs to re-think their no show policies. By adding information and excitement to the pre-interview process you can decrease your “no shows” while at the same time your are increasing a candidate’s interest in your job and company!

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



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