Access Denied: The Trouble With Coordinating Interviews

Years ago, I worked with a kick-ass HR manager named Megan. She was passionate about her job and held an MBA from an esteemed university. Meg loved everything about the world of human resources. If she could dream it, she could do it.

Unfortunately, Megan was a “team of one” who covered two locations and was responsible for all of the recruiting in her region. She sourced, screened and coordinated interviews for hundreds of candidates on a yearly basis. Meg seemed to love the dynamic aspects of recruiting; however, working with the local executive assistants to schedule interviews was the same as navigating the eighth circle of hell.

Even when Megan found the ultimate passive candidate—the fabled purple squirrel—she was often told by the local executive assistants that there was no time on the calendar.

“The interview will have to wait.”

You might wonder how the executive assistants had so much power. Well, it was given to them. The VPs had a cultural practice of blocking out their online calendars. The admins had full control.

(This is something I have seen at many companies, by the way. This is a common practice among executives who are insecure. They want to seem busy and important.)

Honestly, I felt sorry for Megan. Online calendar management has been around since the early days of Lotus Notes, but it doesn’t work if everyone doesn’t play along. So I advised her to have a frank and candid discussion with her clients. Our company paid a Microsoft Outlook licensing fee for a reason. And I suggested that she discipline the executive assistants for not doing their jobs.

“I’m not trying to start a war, Laurie.”

Hmm. That’s true. Megan was trying to model good behaviors and establish relationships with influential people in her client group.

So, she did what countless other HR professionals have done in the past. She created an “administrative toolkit” that explained what she needed from the executive assistants and how she wanted it done.

“They just need training,” she said.

“This is going nowhere,” I responded.

“Maybe, but I need to try.”

And, of course, it failed.

Megan’s story reminds me that far too many HR professionals around the world are still fighting the “calendar management” war.  And sometimes we forget that the biggest obstacle to scheduling an interview isn’t finding time on a calendar. It’s getting open and transparent access to a calendar in the first place.

So if you work in human resources, I have some advice for you: stop feeding the soft bigotry of low expectations in your office. There is no code to crack in this mystery beyond accountability. And if an executive assistant throws up roadblocks or tells you it’s not in his job description to schedule an interview, which is often the underlying case behind many of these passive-aggressive calendar management issues, you should go fix that job description.

You have that power.

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Laurie Ruettimann
Laurie Ruettimann is a former HR leader and an influential speaker, writer and marketing advisor. Her work has appeared in many mainstream print publications and major news media outlets. You can find her on twitter at @Lruettimann.


  1. Spark Hire says:

    Interesting article, Laurie. Many of our customers are able to avoid the headaches brought on by scheduling conflicts when wanting to meet with candidates because they are now utilizing our video interviewing platform. Our one-way interviews are the most popular because employers are able to send their questions to candidates who then record their answers via webcam or mobile device at their own convenience. Employers can review these video interviews when they’re able to and even share them with colleagues.

    You mention passive candidates in your article — video interviews, especially the one-way, are great for connecting with these type of job seekers. Video interviews allow skilled passive candidates to easily fit an interview into their busy schedule. Instead of taking time off from their current job to meet with you, a candidate can connect on their own time.

  2. Debbie F. Cheshire says:

    This is the main issue with the unemployment system in our Country today. Large companies and staffing agencies should be required to hold a monthly job fair so that the unemployed can get a face to face interview with a real live person and not have to submit a piece of paper that on one page details their entire career.
    I have 25 years experience in the Mortgage Business and can not get a personal interview with any of the large builders coming into the Atlanta area! Shame on them. I recently requested a one on one interview with Snelling & Snelling and got a reply back to please send my resume to see if there was a fit there, I declined.
    Go to the unemployment office and ask for a referral to a job that they have posted, they don’t refer, just leave and take the weekly check! What is wrong with that picture?

  3. Ben Martinez says:

    Yes, there is video to avoid scheduling a time with candidates, but you can take it a step further. Ya hear that HireVue just bought Reschedge? Reschedge’s product helps set up live interviews, in-person interviews, and onboarding meetings. It allows for transparency to calendars, so control hungry admins will have to find something else to do…

    It even integrates with programs like Outlook and Google’s calendar tool by searching people’s calendars to try to connect people at times they’re available. Can also be easily integrated into an ATS.

    Just another way HR/Talent pros can use technology if they look around more often…

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