Postponing a job interview is like calling out sick from work on the day your big project is due. Unless you want a permanent smudge on your professional record, you’d better have an excellent excuse. To maximize damage control, remember -- the earlier, the better. Unless a real emergency pops up, don’t wait until the day of the interview to reschedule. If possible, postpone at least 48 to 72 hours in advance.
You’ll need to talk to the right person to postpone your interview, so no one gets the impression you flaked out. Professionally speaking, your best bet is to contact the person who scheduled your original interview. Hopefully, you’ve established enough of a rapport so that postponing the appointment doesn’t ruin your chances of getting the job. Speaking with an office assistant or someone from HR is the easiest option, as they might be able to squeeze someone else in your spot so that the interviewer never notices you were missing. But if your interviewer is your contact person, you’ll need to speak directly to her. Don’t leave a voicemail or e-mail unless your scheduled time is near and you haven’t been able to get in contact any other way. Even then, keep calling until you speak directly to someone.
Make it Good
Your excuse for postponing your interview had better be good, otherwise you could ruin your chances of getting the job. Don’t use an excuse that could sound to your interviewer like a potentially recurring problem, like “My car wouldn’t start,” or, “I overslept,” or, “I totally forgot the appointment was today.” Give the impression that you’re a reliable person unavoidably caught in a once-in-a-lifetime delay. Say that you have to deal with a family emergency, or the bus you were riding broke down, or you’re in the hospital with an allergic reaction. Make sure whatever excuse you decide to use doesn’t reflect poorly on you, and isn’t something your interviewer might assume would happen frequently if you had the job. You should only postpone due to a true emergency, so just be truthful about what happened.
Same Day Service
If your schedule permits, ask the contact person if you can postpone your interview until later the same day. Fighting difficult circumstances to honor your appointment will reflect well on your work ethic and determination. If doing the interview the same day isn’t an option, take the closest appointment available. Say that you are still interested in the position, and want to reschedule as soon as possible. Be apologetic for the inconvenience. Make sure you’re available for the make-up interview, as you will severely damage your chances of being hired if you postpone again.
Whether your interview is rescheduled for the same day or for later in the week, send a follow-up email to confirm the new day and time, and to thank the interviewer for giving you a second chance. Reiterate how much you’re looking forward to the opportunity. This might seem like overkill, but you need to work hard to fix yourself in the interviewer’s mind as a possible asset, rather than a potential liability.
Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.