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Interview No Shows: why are they happening and what can we do about it?

We all have the same problem when arranging interviews these days: no shows!

They are a huge problem and cost for recruiters, hiring managers and companies. It has always been an issue, but the problem is definitely getting worse, with the numbers noticeably increasing. As if companies haven’t been struggling enough with the talent shortage, when we do find good people to interview, we just cross our fingers and hope they will actually turn up.


How have we got to the stage where the best we can hope for is that the candidate actually shows up when they said they would? And that’s before we even get to the second interview and hiring/starting stages, when we hope once again.


We rarely get to the end of the week without having at least one candidate not show up to an interview they’ve previously confirmed. And it seems it’s a problem not just limited to hospitality. It is happening in all industries, sectors and settings – even doctors & dentist appointments, driving tests etc are experiencing an increase in no shows.


So, what is driving the no show trend? And what, if anything, can we do about it?


These are the questions I asked the best person I could think of: Maria Kempinska MBE, founder and CEO of Jongleurs - Queen of Comedy and a Doctor of Psychoanalysis.

During our conversation, it became clear that the reasons for this run far deeper and are much more complex than I had perceived. We only scratched the surface.


One of the more obvious reasons is simply that there are lots of jobs being advertised at the moment, so if they don’t show up for you today there will be several others to apply for tomorrow. The pandemic also changed a lot of people’s attitudes towards work – some clients mention resentment at going back, American’s call it the ‘great resignation’, and then there is the cost of living crisis.


Some people just aren’t great at managing emails and correspondence so miss interview confirmation letters. I hear you shouting, “yes but I spoke to them, and they said they were going”. How often have we had this happen and why do they still not show up? Then


when we call to find out why they didn’t go we are ghosted and if we do manage to get hold of them the reason is often (not always) a dramatic one – there was a sudden death in the family / I had a car crash / or someone has been taken ill. Why? Because we can’t respond to this, we have no power and they know it, which is why they say it.


So, what are the less obvious and more societal reasons?


I asked Maria: “is it that people just don’t care, or they just don’t think”? The reasons she gave are fascinating, and I’ve summarised them here:

  • We are all constantly being lied to…by the media, social media, on-line ads, politicians, scammers, celebrities etc. and subconsciously we mirror this behaviour. They lie, so it doesn’t matter if I lie and don’t show up. There is no need to be honest and there are no consequences for my actions.

  • We are tired of automated systems, hanging on the phone for hours trying to get through to sort out a gas bill – we switch off and become detached. We are constantly bombarded with automated messages and emails asking for our opinion on what we have just bought and the company’s customer service etc, etc. Again, we switch off, press delete and detach ourselves making it easy to delete and ignore more important messages.

  • We are constantly let down by others – the last interview I had I never got any feedback from / I left a message for a builder and he never came back to me / Bob from the dentist surgery was supposed to call me back, etc, etc, etc. So again, subconsciously we do the same because it doesn’t matter and that’s what others have done to us. It becomes accepted behaviour.

  • Detachment and lack of consequence to actions came up again and again. We are more detached and are less held to account. There is no consequence to not showing up for an interview or a doctor’s appointment. We are more detached from people. Much of what we do is automated, from on-line banking & shopping, paying bills and ordering Deliveroo so we are becoming less used to speaking to and communicating with actual people. Then there’s working from home making us more detached than ever from people.

  • We constantly see bad behaviour - bad driving on the roads, impatient customers at the checkout losing their tempers and hear about people being let off for offences committed. So again, subconsciously if I do the same it’s OK because everyone else is doing it and they are getting away with it.

So, to answer the question - the reality points towards people caring less because of the general changes and behaviours throughout society. Therefore, what we can do about this is somewhat limited, apart from perhaps lowering our expectations and accepting that it is just “how it is”. Unless or until there is a massive shift in attitude and morality.


But wait! There are some things we CAN and SHOULD do…


If we want to try and limit the time and money wasted and increase the likelihood of someone showing up, there are some simple things we can all do:

  • We can arrange all first interviews by Zoom/Teams so that less time is wasted in going somewhere to meet someone, and so it’s easier for candidates to show up. That way, candidates don’t need to spend money travelling to an interview only to find out it’s not right for them / they are not right for the company. Make the first step easy for them, and you.

  • We can pay people for trial shifts. Let’s show them that their time is valued, appreciated, that the cost-of-living crisis is understood and that you are a good employer.

  • Send detailed interview confirmation emails confirming who they are meeting, where they are going and travel links etc.

  • Offer to pay interview travel costs if they are successful and go on to be hired.

  • Always reconfirm interview dates/times 24/48 hours in advance by calling, email (and ideally text if possible).

  • Acknowledge that manners and courtesy cuts both ways – recruiters and clients must always give timely and constructive feedback to candidates after interviews and acknowledge all applications (even if it’s a standardised response). Being courteous and treating people how you would want to be treated is all part of it. We must lead by example to play our part in effecting change in this no-show culture.

If you need help with your hospitality recruitment, finding a job or would simply like some advice on the current market, please get in touch.

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