An interview should be as long as it takes to determine the nature of the person you are interviewing. It could be as short as twenty minutes if you feel no connection, but it could last well over an hour if there is a good give and take.
Hiring managers make a huge mistake by not allowing enough time to get to know the person they are seeing. When that happens, candidates, who are rarely in control of the interview, don't learn enough about the company and people they meet in order to make a proper career decision. And sometimes they actually get offered jobs despite the short interview.
Last week I had a senior candidate (General Manager) on an interview. I was a little surprised when the firm he was interviewing with scheduled six interviews at half hour interviews over three hours. Aside from being exhausting for the candidate, it is unfair to both parties. The individuals he met couldn’t possibly have found out enough about him to know if they liked him or not.
The purpose of an interview is for both people to get to know each other. The interviewer needs to learn about the qualities of a candidate that would make him or her right for the job. The interviewee needs to determine what the job is about and whether he or she likes the interviewer, the company and the job. Half an hour is enough time to tell if you don’t like someone, but it is generally not enough time to truly find out someone who you like is right for a specific job.
I have developed a very effective interview technique. I make a judgment about the candidate within a minute or so of meeting him or her and then to spend my interview time proving or disproving my initial judgment. My initial supposition is often based on dress, demeanor, handshake (yes, handshake), posture and presence. But I remain open to the idea of reversing my initial impression.
Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.
While I believe in first impressions, it is important to get to know whether someone is right for a job. In order to do that, interviews should be a chat. A good rule of thumb is that the interviewer should talk about one-third of the time. Establishing a dialog is critically important to the process since it enables the free flow of information. Peppering a candidate with questions merely elicits quick responses and rarely enables either the candidate or interviewer to delve into the reasoning behind an answer.
I don’t believe in speed dating. I certainly don’t believe in speed interviewing. If you are too busy to conduct a proper interview, the meeting should be cancelled or continued at another time. I have lots of clients who see a candidate two or more times in order to get all the information they need to make a final decision.
It is important to remember when you are interviewing someone that you may be the only executive a candidate ever meets from your company. The impression he or she leaves with will be the impression they form of you and your company. So even if you really feel no connection, at least give them twenty minutes.
Interviewing is at least part public relations.
Overly scheduled interviews, like the one my candidate had, actually work against both parties. The candidate goes through such a whirlwind process that they aren’t sure who they met or what was discussed. And the interviewers barely have time to delve into the candidate before they have to move him or her on to the next interview. The process becomes more important than the results.
(As an aside, it is now more than a week later and despite repeated calls and emails, I have no feedback whatsoever for my candidate. The candidate, however, lost interest because of the process.)
While determining skills may be an essential part of any interview – if you are a hiring manager, you need to be sure that a candidate is able to do a job based on training and skills – in the long run, determining cultural fit is far more important. That’s why a dialog is so important to any interview. This manifests itself particularly in creative hires. Art directors and writers are often hired based on their portfolios. And when they start work, agencies discover that their personality is all too wrong for the culture.
Short interviews only result in a perfunctory determination of personality. Poor hires are often the result. Candidates chose badly because they never got to know the person who they are reporting to and companies end up disappointed with their hire for the same reason.
I would love to hear your experiences with too short or too long interviews.
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