Is it Ever Right to cut an Interview Short?
As employers and recruiters, you will undoubtedly find yourself in the situation where quite early in the interview you realize the candidate is not right for the role – which means that the next 45 minutes of the interview are likely to be a waste of your time, the candidate’s time and any other interviewer’s time.
So, what should you do? Cut the interview short, there and then, and thank the person for coming, or do the full interview?
Watch out for interviewer bias
Studies show that there are huge amounts of interviewer bias operating that may be impairing our judgment of a particular candidate, and if we close an interview too early we may be succumbing to our internal biases and not truly seeing the candidate’s true strengths. This could mean you overlook a good employee, doing him/her, yourself and your organization a disservice.
There is one type of interviewer bias that could be impairing your judgment in the early stages of interview and this is called, ‘Affective Heuristic’. In this situation, interviewer decisions are affected by quick and superficial evaluations of a candidate, such as level of attractiveness, gender, social background, style of communication, appearance, dress etc. Yet, none of these are relevant to the candidate’s ability to do the job. Or the candidate may have strengths in other areas that offset these perceived weaknesses, which you would discover on further analysis after doing the full interview.
So, on a technical basis, it does not make sense to cut an interview short, because in truth you are likely to need the full hour to properly assess the candidate anyway.
But, what if in the early stages of the interview you come across something negative that you genuinely believe to be more than a premature and shallow first impression—a deal breaker. Maybe the interviewee was a poorly presented candidate with weak face-to-face communication skills for a role squarely focused on face-to-face sales and relationship building. Or maybe you find out that some mission critical skills don’t match up to what was stated in the resume.
If it is a deal breaker that you don’t believe can be offset by anything else you might uncover during the interview, it could be worth raising the concern and facing it head on with the candidate – and giving him/her the opportunity to respond and explain him or herself. The person might provide some new information that neutralizes the deal breaker, meaning you can move past the hurdle. Or, it may simply reinforce it, in which case, if this candidate really is a lost cause, there may be justification in cutting it short.
Clearly, cutting the interview short could harm relations with the candidate and damage your brand; so, you might go for a soft landing and conduct more of an abridged ‘courtesy interview’ to acknowledge the time and effort the candidate put it. For example, you would still ask questions, but limit it to one from each competency area, and don’t probe into their responses. This should naturally cut the interview time down, quite dramatically. Also, minimize small talk at the beginning. And if the candidate does have any questions, try and give polite but concise responses without expanding.
By adopting these techniques, you can cut an interview with an unsuitable candidate short, (after checking that interviewer bias is not impairing your judgment) in a respectful, natural and subtle way. This should save both yours and the candidate’s time and will hopefully minimize the damage to your employer brand.