Bad Business Etiquette Loses Interview

Lindsey Novak on

Q: A company called to schedule an interview with me and I accepted the time. Something came up last minute, so I called to change the time. I got the person's voice mail so I kind of left a long message explaining I wanted to change the interview time and I apologized several times. I got a call back that day that it could not be rescheduled because mine was on the last day for interviewing, so I had to take it or leave it. I could not take the interview date, but I did not think it would be good to give my reason since I was not ill or anything of that nature.

I wanted the job, but I really could not meet on the date offered. I'm 23 and not experienced in this, but I think if the company wanted to interview me, a day later would not have made a difference. Don't you think this is unreasonable?

A: In your situation, the interviewer is not unreasonable. You are in your early 20s and just starting on your career path. The hiring manager liked your background, but he or she also liked the backgrounds of all the other interviewees. After a couple of years working, your resume is likely equal to the others being considered. You originally accepted the interview time offered to you. Unless you have taken ill or discovered you have to attend a family funeral that day, most interviewers will not extend the interview deadline for you.

When conducting a discreet job search while working, most potential employers will understand your time restrictions and agree to interview after work hours. If you accept a new job, your current employer will appreciate knowing you did not lie to get time off during work hours to meet with a potential employer. For example, one young woman told her boss she needed only a few hours off to pick up her friend at the airport because she didn't want her friend who was visiting her to have to pay for the ride to her apartment. She apparently thought it sounded reasonable, but she could have remained at work and reimbursed her friend when she met up with her later that evening. Of course, that would mean spending her money and not her employer's for her hours not worked. There is a reason for the saying "time is money."

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Yes, there are exceptions for high-level employees. An executive or a highly sought professional would not have been told that was the only time available. But you are still in the learning stages and beginning your career. Until you gain several years of solid experience, you will have to prove yourself to employers. Business etiquette has become more lax than it was years ago, such as employees on most levels are on first-name basis. Business casual and casual dress is accepted at many companies, sometimes even expected. Time clocks are becoming a thing of the past, except when working in a union or for an exceptionally large or rigid work environment. Additionally, bosses in casual company cultures do not tightly control personal time once they know their employees.

But as an interviewee, you are a stranger. You have yet to prove your worth, or even the information on your resume. Most employees new to the workforce worry about advancing their knowledge, but learning soft skills and business etiquette will be critical for your success. Reading such books is an investment in time, but is a worthy investment. When choosing a business book, despite the numerous self-publishing efforts, some established business publishers have stricter standards is accepting material. "Excuse Me: The Survival Guide to Modern Business Etiquette" by Roseanne J. Thomas, founder and president of an international protocol training company, offers advice from the simple, common sense intelligence all should have but don't, to the technical and practical information learned through many years of working. Casual dress doesn't mean coming to work in a see-through cocktail dress just because you have dinner plans that night. Leaving effective voice messages means showing respect by speaking briefly and to the point. Thomas briefs workers on everything from displaying acceptable and expected behaviors, whether you're entertaining clients, leaving messages, using your Twitter and Facebook accounts, being respectful when working in a cubicle, to understanding the verbal and nonverbal manners you exhibit. Understanding business etiquette is a course you must not take lightly, because sometimes saying, "excuse me" will not be accepted.

Email life and career coach with your workplace questions and experiences. For more information, visit and for past columns, see



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