Irked by interview no-shows? Screening candidates by phone and flipping the hiring script should help.

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Q: When filling positions for my small business, I routinely encounter an issue that leaves me totally irked and mystified. After posting openings online, we schedule onsite interviews for everyone who sends an acceptable resume. Before talking with me, candidates are asked to complete a detailed questionnaire and watch a video about job requirements.

To help applicants plan ahead, we describe this process and explain that it will take about two hours. However, half the people never even show up. They don’t call, they don’t email. They simply disappear. I find this pattern completely baffling. What do you think is going on?

A: First, you need to understand that not everyone who submits a resume is seriously interested in joining your business. Some job seekers take a shotgun approach and apply for numerous positions just to see what happens.

When faced with a two-hour interview commitment, casual applicants may decide to bail. And even though ditching job search appointments seems blatantly self-destructive, some people are just that clueless. But while vanishing applicants are undoubtedly annoying, you actually have greater problems.

By investing two hours in everyone with a passable resume, you are wasting valuable business time. To solve this problem, implement a 15-minute phone interview to eliminate unqualified candidates. Next, to improve your onsite interviews, reverse the order of events and put the video and questionnaire last.

By putting the video and questionnaire upfront, you’re giving applicants too many clues about how they should answer your questions. Among hiring professionals, this mistake is known as telegraphing. Switching the order will also save time, since only those who truly may be hired need to hear about job requirements.

Finally, once a position is filled, be sure to notify anyone who didn’t make it. Knowing how it feels to be ignored, you don’t want to treat your applicants as rudely as some of them have treated you.

Submit questions to Marie G. McIntyre at