Outrageous excuses

Recruitment experts can easily identify plausible – and less plausible – reasons given by candidates for missing job interviews

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In the 1986 comedy film Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Matthew Broderick’s character Ferris Bueller goes to extreme lengths to take a day off.

But while most trainees don’t find it necessary to go to such lengths as Bueller, many trainees have nonetheless been known to call in sick with a variety of reasons – with some much more plausible than others.

In the US, up to a quarter of workers are estimated to call in sick every year even, though they were perfectly healthy, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.

The reasons for calling in sick varied found the survey – 30% of respondents said they just didn’t feel like going to work, 29% wanted a day to relax and 19% simply wanted to catch up on sleep.

But, what was perhaps most telling were the kind of excuses some employees had used for calling in sick.

One employee told the survey they 'woke up in a good mood and didn’t want to ruin it, while another said he 'had a lucky night and didn’t know where he was'.

Of course, general illness and unexpected accidents are to be expected but trainees who miss interviews – or employees who call in sick with outrageous explanations – can be a sure sign of an unmotivated individual.

At times, these outrageous excuses can be true, but leaving that seed of doubt in your (potential) employer’s mind is not a smart move. 

Professional pride

Employers want to ensure they have trainees who have professional pride, a strong work ethic and a reliable nature. They understand that occasionally employees fall ill, especially during the winter months, but employees who exploit this will not be placing themselves favourably in the eyes of their employer.

As a result, trainees should think carefully about making that call if they do not have a reasonable excuse, with as many as one in three managers scouring social media after receiving a sick call, to see whether the staff member is well enough to post updates.

'There could be serious consequences for this kind of behaviour, especially if an employer catches you out,' says Phil Sheridan, managing director at Robert Half UK.

'For example, if you called in sick, but at a later date it comes to light that you posted photos on Instagram enjoying a day at the beach, you may have some explaining to do.'

Claire Tyler, senior business manager at Page Personnel, adds: 'One of our favourite excuses was a candidate who called in sick because they were suffering from vertigo after having stood on a viewing platform – she was working a placement in The Shard in London [Western Europe's tallest building] two weeks later.

'Another interesting excuse was that the trainee was relocating to Israel. We later found out she was temping through another company elsewhere in London.'

It’s a dog’s life

Joss Collins, a financial services specialist at Venn Group, has experience of other colourful excuses, such as one trainee who said their dog looked depressed and they didn’t feel like they could leave it on its own.

Collins adds: 'One trainee said they couldn’t choose what tie to wear so saw that as a sign that they shouldn’t attend the interview, another trainee said they had fallen down a manhole on the way to the interview.

'Another trainee called up to inform us that their granddad had died. When we called back a few days later to rearrange the interview, guess who answered the phone?'

"One of our favourite excuses was a candidate who called in sick because they were suffering from vertigo after having stood on a viewing platform – she was working a placement in The Shard in London [Western Europe's tallest building] two weeks later"

Claire Tyler - Page Personnel