Alison McKee
Alison McKee

Articles From the Team

When is it OK to cancel or rearrange a legal interview?

The North West in-house legal market is small, so in the event you’ve committed to an interview but have to cancel or rearrange it, it’s really important to do so in a professional manner.

In almost 15 years in recruitment, I’ve listened to a real variety of reasons why someone can no longer attend their arranged interview – my favourite was a squirrel invasion at a nut factory!  Sometimes a rearrangement is unavoidable and I’m always open to doing so when it’s justified, as are the vast majority of interviewers. The important thing is to do it professionally and with as much notice as possible; on top of good reason.

So, what are the main reasons I encounter and how should you deal with them?

You have concerns about the role

If this is the case, talk to your recruiter when the interview is being arranged. It shouldn’t get to the interview stage without this discussion taking place and no recruiter/interviewer wants you to pretend to be interested – we won’t be offended if you’re honest!

A good recruiter will never try to force your hand, but equally, there needs to be an open conversation about the pros and cons of the role. There have been many instances in my career when someone was unsure about a role, but after attending the interview, decided it was ideal. On the flipside, there have been many cases where interview attendance rules the role out; this is also useful.

If there are enough positives, then there’s no substitute for a meeting – especially for an in-house legal role where personality and approach are key.

Family emergency

A colleague of mine once commented: there’s no time more dangerous for a person or their family than when they’re arranging or scheduled to interview. I think the job had made them cynical but there is some truth to it as this does seem to happen with more regularity than seems normal!

Honesty is always the best policy, but should something unfortunate happen then all you can do is take a few minutes to call your recruiter: explain the circumstances and most importantly, display a willingness to rearrange. Failing to do so will cast doubt on your reasons as well as your reputation; it could impact on whether you hear about opportunities in the future.

You might like to read: Is there a correct approach when pulling out of the interview process?

Work commitments

There are two aspects to this. The first is struggling to arrange the interview in the first place.  Interviews are an unavoidable step in finding a new role, and while I understand it isn’t always easy, being flexible with your time is important. An interview often involves more than one contact within a business, and as such, recruiters have to coordinate the diaries of senior people.

I worked with a fairly junior lawyer who found it incredibly difficult to attend interviews before 6:30 pm – while my clients usually try to accommodate this, the longer and more difficult it is to arrange, the more likely it is you’ll leave a negative impression.

I also suggest that if you work in a business where it’s so difficult to take time off, this may well be part of the reason you’re looking for a new job!

The second facet is when an unavoidable meeting or call is placed in your diary. In this instance, it’s fine to rearrange – just make sure you show enthusiasm for doing so and suggest alternative times.

Interviewing/offered a role elsewhere

I’ve dealt with lawyers who like to see-out one process at a time. Unfortunately, this means that if you’re unsuccessful you’re back to square one.

In this busy market, it’s highly likely there’ll be more than one role you’re interested in, so there’s a strong possibility you’ll be offered a position before others have reached a conclusion.

If you’re completely happy with an offer, accept it and make your apologies – these things happen and I’ve never experienced a client to take this badly. If you aren’t 100% sure, my advice is to keep your appointments. A decent legal recruiter will manage this in most cases.

Spare a thought…

Although cancelling or rearranging an interview can feel stressful, if it’s done properly, it can be a positive: showing your ability to deal with difficult situations in the correct way.

Find a recruiter you can trust and be open with and work in partnership to find a role. In a small market, don’t burn your bridges; you never know where people you deal with will end up! Also, spare a thought for us – it takes time and a good relationship to secure an interview for a lawyer I’m working with – all I ask is that I’m clear on your thoughts throughout the process. Nice people don’t like to say ‘no’ but no one wants to set aside time only to find the interview casually cancelled.

Related blogs

Working with legal recruitment agencies and the art of awkward conversation

How your level of honesty with a recruiter contributes to the success of your job search

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