Interview no-shows and why they are becoming more common

By Mark Stephens

Interview no-shows and why they are becoming more common

I just read an interesting thread in a LinkedIn group and it reminded me that the issue around interview no shows has been around for a very long time and is not just a blight on modern recruiting, but the situation has been exasperated in recent years for several key reasons that I will aim to explore in this article.

Firstly, and most importantly, there are significantly more passive searches taking place online by individuals who are not really committed to moving jobs.

Google alone has seen a significant increase in job related searches of nearly double in the last 10 years, with more than 15 million unique job related searches taking place from UK IP addresses each month. That’s half of the working population doing at least one job search  every single month.

Add into the equation, the massive increase in demand for around 500 skills sets and the instant gratification, throw away attitudes of X, Y, Z generations and you have the foundations to the cause of this issue.

Research into human behaviours, especially those associated with the passive audience, provides very strong evidence to support our conclusions that a massive mindset shift has taken place in the last 10-15 years, where recruitment traditionally operated based on a set of ‘logical’ foundations, whereas the most effective campaigns being run today operate on the basis of an emotional sell.

(BTW – I define a candidate as passive if that individual is not committed to moving jobs, in the same way that if you go onto Right Move to look at houses when you are not actively looking to sell your current house, then you are a passive house viewer).


Going back to this transition in mindset though; In the past, when a company wanted to advertise a job, they gave it an appropriate job title, indicated the location and salary on offer, then listed the essential and desirable requirements. A brief explanation of the job role and an introduction to the company may or may not have been included. It was then a case of advertising it onto the most relevant local and industry specific publications.

Many of you may think that not much has changed, except that we are now online and have more advertising channel options; and you would be right, as more than 80% of jobs advertisers still follow this traditional formula and wonder why they don’t achieve great results.

Candidates would also traditionally search for jobs in a similar logical manner. In the past this would have been in the job section of the news press and in industry publications and more recently online, mostly within dedicated recruitment sites or job boards. They would search by job title or industry sector, salary, location and use their key skills to match up against any jobs that they find.

However, looking for a job when you already had a job was not something that many people did in the past and has only significantly grown in popularity in the last 15 years.

If you are looking for the most significant transformation in recruitment in recent times, then I could put a pretty strong argument forward to support this being it. At a time when we have the lowest levels of unemployment for over 10 years, it is a paradox that we have more people searching for jobs don’t you think?


Passive searching is on the increase and recruitment strategy needs to adapt to accommodate this.

This lack of ‘commitment’ by the prospective candidate is at the centre of the interview No-Show problem and until we acknowledge it, understand it and adapt to accommodate it, business will continue to suffer from undesirably high levels of interview no-shows.

So with this in mind, lets explore what we are doing that contributes towards this unwanted situation:

Your application process is probably too impersonal.

In an age of  digital communication and automation, recruitment has become very impersonal. When there is little or no human engagement involved, it becomes much easier for candidates to drop out of the process without any explanation and without feeling too bad about it either. Treat them like a disposable commodity and this is the result.

In the Linkedin article thread, Katie Keller stated… “I try and ‘humanise’ the process a bit, as I am more of a networker, not a recruiter. Grab a beer or a coffee with a candidate if they seem like a Rockstar, or if you really are interested in their skillset”.

I think that this is a great approach when considering the hardest to fill roles or where you have attracted that ‘exceptional’ individual into your prospect list.


We are often too slow to respond.

In a world of instant gratification, the speed of your response is critical to the recruitment process. A recruiting manager that I recently spoke to told me that he had invited 5 candidates to interview just 3 weeks after posting his job (and 1 week before his application deadline). However, he didn’t speak to any of them at all, he just sent an invitation to interview email and letter. He told me just one person turned up. The applications had all arrived within the first few days and it had taken more than 10 days before they were contacted about the role. By this time they had all either secured another job or changed their mind. Communication is key and that MUST include at least one telephone call with the applicant before the onsite interview takes place. If you don’t do this you are either very naïve or very lazy.

Kim Palomarez stated in the Linkedin thread “If you are talking about entry level positions, in a market like we have right now, then you have to move very quickly. This is the biggest challenge I hear the most about when talking to my clients. This is a job seekers market and they have many choices. If you call someone Monday to set up an interview for Wednesday, they are already working somewhere else by Tuesday”.

Adapt your Tone.

91% of searches online are performed by people that already have a job. It’s a candidate driven market and you need to remember that doesn’t change just because they have applied to your vacancy. Be grateful that these people are willing to consider your opportunity and treat them like a prospective customer that could be worth a lot of money to you. Quite often I get the impression that companies still think that the application and interview process is all about them. Well unless you have a brand like Virgin or Microsoft that people genuinely aspire to work for, I am afraid its most definitely more about the candidate and this needs to be happening in your pre interview discussions.

Don’t be tight.

When a candidate accepts an invitation to an interview with you, they are often giving up a days holiday to meet with you and are likely to have given up time in their evenings to prepare too. Statistically over 60% of us hate doing interviews, so the fact that it will cost us to travel to that interview too can be an issue. When you consider the time lost and the opportunity missed when someone doesn’t show up to an interview, then you should really consider offering to cover travel costs for anyone outside of the local area at least. Just by offering this you set a completely different tone that says, we are serious about you and your application.

Make the interview more appealing.

There is an inherent fear of the unknown that we all have and when people are unsure of what to expect, they often expect the worst. So outline the interview process structure. Who will be in attendance ? and explain your objectives. If it sounds unappealing, then it probably is and you might want to try and turn the interview into a positive experience that will encourage the applicant to say yes, if they are subsequently offered. Include a site tour, or offer to take time at the start of the interview to tell them about the company and its history etc.

Sally McKinney and Joseph Jackson, both suggested surveying your no-shows and this is something that I too endorse. We have discovered so many insights to candidate behaviours through surveys over the years.

I hope that this has been useful, but if this topic is of interest to you and you would like to discover more practical solutions to overcoming this issue, then please download our free Top Tips to minimising interview no shows, with practical advise and a step by step guide on things that any company can do to address this frustrating and annoying situation.

About the author

Mark Stephens has over 20 years of business management experience, across Sales, Marketing, Recruitment and Technology environments. In 2013 Mark won the Chambers of Commerce award for innovation in business. He is a serial entrepreneur and is the founder of several companies including F10,  Smart Recruit Online and The HR & Recruitment Resource Library.

Mark has established a reputation for his passion and enthusiasm over twenty years working in the recruitment industry, both client and agency side. For the last seven years he has been researching the recruitment landscape from both a technology and people perspective. His insights into market trends are often used and quoted across the industry’s leading publications.

Mark also delivers keynote talks and training to recruitment teams in both public and private sector organisations, on writing better advertising copy, targeting passive candidates and understanding candidate behaviours online.



Erroll -EL- Warner 16/5/2018 · #1

The system is broken. People are being interviewed for a position and then given another position. Candidates don't be paid the agreed salary. There are too many managers who usually feel intellectually challenged by their subordinates. There are too many arrogant, bombastic, and intimidating micro-managers in the workplace.

0