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Etiquette at work

Response to delayed meeting can be telling

By Peter Post
Globe Correspondent / July 10, 2011

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Q. I went for a job interview this morning set up by a contract agency; I even showed up 10 minutes early. They were interviewing another candidate. I waited until 25 minutes after my scheduled time. I e-mailed the contract agency to advise them of the situation and then left. They called me when I got home to find out what was going on, but they really did not seem to understand or be interested in the principle behind my actions.

I feel that the interviewer could have at least come out to offer a time frame . . . or an opportunity to reschedule. I felt the employer had no regard for my time, and this was only an interview. What if I was hired by the company?

Is there a better way to handle such a situation? I feel that if I tolerate any degree of disrespect in an interview, either from a contract agency or an employer, then it will be an open door for it to continue.

R.K.H., Richmond

A. How frustrating. Interviewers have a responsibility to manage their schedules and be on time. Despite the interviewer’s breach of etiquette, and assuming you didn’t have another appointment that would be affected, by choosing to wait you would have learned a lot about this company from the way the error was handled. In the meantime, you could have asked the receptionist or administrative assistant who greeted you:

■If you had the right time for your appointment.

■If the interviewer was aware of your arrival.

■If you were expected to wait or reschedule.

If you absolutely had to leave, you could have communicated that, politely, to the receptionist. Despite the poor first impression this company’s staff made, you had a chance to be a successful candidate while you were still in the interview process. By up and leaving, it became all about your perceived lack of professionalism rather than their lack of respect.

Unfortunately, that’s how the contract agency sees the situation, and it may affect your success in landing future interviews. The better move may have been to have stayed and completed the interview, and then you could have passed along your dissatisfaction to the contract agency.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com.