First impressions count. We all know this.
What happens when you show up for a job interview?
Within the first few minutes—maybe even the first few moments—the interviewer has probably already made up their mind about you.
Sounds true enough…but is it really that simple?
Researchers recently tested this question by looking at the decision speed of more than 150 interviewers as they conducted about 700 job interviews.
Consistent with common wisdom, interviewers usually reached a decision within the first 15 minutes.
It was quite rare for an interviewer to report making a decision within the first 5 minutes (only about 5% of the time).
Perhaps most surprisingly, about 20% of the time, the interviewers still hadn’t reached a decision by the end of the interview.
It’s never a good idea to ignore the evidence right in front of you.
And it’s just as bad if you don’t manage to collect enough information to make a decision.
Fortunately, this research also shows how we can do it better.
1. Don’t overload the interviewer
It’s relatively easy to conduct one or two interviews.
After that, interviewers generally tend to be a bit overloaded with information, and maybe even fatigued. This starts to reduce the quality of subsequent interviews.
But an even bigger problem happens after about 4 interviews in a row. This is when interviewers get less sluggish, and instead start making very quick snap judgments, considering less and less information as the number of interviews drags on.
Try to avoid scheduling a large number of back-to-back interviews. More than 4 interviews seems to be when things get especially bad.
2. Cut the small talk
The candidate experience is important.
Almost no one wants to work for someone that doesn’t care about them as a person. So interviewers sometimes start off by getting to know the candidate on a personal level. Small talk.
The problem with small talk is that it also leads to faster judgments. Less of the relevant interview content is actually considered before a decision is made.
If small talk really is an important part of the process, save it for the end of the interview. That way it won’t create an earlier rush to judgment.
3. Beware of expert confidence
Experienced interviewers know what they are looking for, and they are more confident in their decisions.
But it’s difficult to know the difference between confidence and overconfidence.
Experienced interviewers also tend to make decisions very quickly. Often too quickly.
Again, it’s never a good idea to ignore the evidence right in front of you. Even if you are an expert.
Regular practice and training on effective interviewing techniques benefits everyone—even experts who simply need a reminder that comprehensive evaluation of candidates is important.
4. Structure the interview
The most important feature of a structured interview is that it is designed to ask the same questions of all candidates.
Consistently obtaining information from each candidate allows you to more directly compare them. It also increases the chances of obtaining enough information to actually make a decision.
But on top of these already-known benefits, structured interviews also lead interviewers to consider more of the available evidence before they make a decision.
Simply having a predetermined list of questions can prevent the impulse to jump to conclusions.
Keep these tips in mind, and your interviews will be more effective than ever.