Should you cut an interview short?

How to get the wrong candidate out the office

Sometimes you may feel like the person you are interviewing really isn’t right for the job, so what do you do? Do you cut short the interview or continue it out of courtesy? The actual answer may be even simpler than that, don’t let it get to that stage.

Not every candidate that gets to the interview stages of a selection process is going to be 100% suitable for the job, and sometimes this is going to be much more apparent than others. This means there can be times when recruiters will know within seconds they have no intention of hiring the candidate in front of them.


Should you cut an interview short?

While cutting the interview short may save you time, it’s also very likely to leave a bad impression on the candidate. Yes, you may be lucky and find the candidate had realised the same thing and was looking for a way to cut the interview short too, but equally you could end up really offending the candidate and have them storm out, a far from ideal scenario.

Laurie West, Xchangeteam’s talent acquisition manager, adds: “You really shouldn’t ever need to cut short an interview. Good interviewers know that whatever the temptation, you can’t leap to conclusions about your candidate before the end of the interview.

“Regardless of what happens within the first two to three minutes you don’t really know the candidate until you take time to find out, this means you have to get beyond first impressions. On top of this, a good recruiter will always be looking at other jobs the candidate might be relevant for in the future.

“If it’s about saving time this is not the stage you need to be looking at: by the time a candidate comes to interview, a recruiter should already have invested considerable time in the recruitment lifecycle. If the wrong people are getting through to the final stage then there’s a problem at the beginning of the recruitment process.”


How to avoid a short interview

Dave Millner, director of assessments at Kenexa offers three key areas to focus on to ensure you don’t have to cut short your interview.

“Have a clear success profile that’s based upon research and insights into what top performers do rather than just focusing on requirements of the job,” he says. “Define a clear process that ensures core capabilities are assessed at an early stage. On top of this, don’t focus on volume of candidates, focus on quality.”

Focusing too heavily on quantity is a potential recipe for disaster, if you’re obsessed with simply getting the numbers through the door then you’re more than likely going to have to cut corners at some point. Focusing on quality candidates instead means you can invest more time into making sure you get the right person. Ultimately this will save you time in the long run.

Millner also adds: “Don’t be afraid to give ‘tough love’ earlier on in the process either, if there is any doubt in a candidate’s capabilities then don’t push them forward to the next stage. Uncertainty means there are some doubts, so don’t exacerbate the issue by spending more time with them.”

Having said all this, if you still find yourself in this position, what should you do? The reality is there isn’t an easy way to do it and you’ll find much debate among recruiters around the ethics of cutting short an interview. Essentially, you are faced with two options:


Be tactful but keep interview to a minimum

If you really do feel the candidate is wrong for the job for whatever reason, then continuing the interview out of courtesy is the most popular route, while reducing the length. While 20 minutes is probably too short, 30-40 minutes is a fair length as this at least gives you a chance to get to know the candidate a little more. Who knows, you may even change your mind before the interview is over.


Be honest and upfront

Sometimes, you may feel that stopping the interview is the best approach, in which case, be honest. Time is money and as a recruiter you must make it clear you only expect the best. So try to share feedback with the interviewee, it may be harsh at the time, but ultimately you may be helping them in the long run. For example, if they weren’t prepared, let them know. That way they can change their behaviour before the next interview.


So while there is an argument for cutting short an interview if you really feel the candidate is wrong, the best route is to make sure you don’t get to that stage in the first place. And that means investing time in the pre-interview process to make sure you only see the best possible people.


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