Many recruiters can decide whether or not they would like to move forward with a particular candidate within the first five minutes of an interview. Why then, if that same recruiter realizes so quickly that the candidate is not a fit, would he/she waste the time of both parties by plowing through the remainder of the interview? Perhaps they lack the backbone to end it. Maybe it is an attempt to try and avoid hurting the candidate’s feelings. The reputation of the organization could possibly be at stake, so politely completing the interview could “save face” on the part of the company. Whatever the rationale, there are times when ending an interview early is appropriate and identifying those occasions is a task relative to the circumstances. Once the situation inevitably does arise, how exactly does one go about cutting the interview short?
It isn’t often that an interview is so awful that you are compelled to end it within the first 10 minutes. Politely tell the candidate you have no further questions that need answered at this time and ask if they have any questions of their own. If one of them is asking why the interview was so short or whether or not you feel they are a good candidate, be honest and concise with your feedback. Be short and to the point, but not rude. Though they aren’t the right fit, possibly they are even being disrespectful, they did sacrifice their time to come to the interview. You should always be the bigger person and show respect to the candidate.
Still, if a candidate feels that ending an interview after 10 minutes (or even 20) is rudely abrupt, potentially taking offense, I think most interviewers would agree if the tables were flipped that they would rather not be led on by the interviewer/company or have more time wasted than necessary. This is assuming nothing can be said or done to change the interviewers mind. Some may feel that they would rather not know they were decided upon after 5 minutes and prefer the “courtesy interview” approach, this way feelings are not hurt and a rejection letter or phone call is received at a later time. This method, however, actually does a disservice to both the interviewer and the candidate. The interviewer must expend more time than necessary on an interview with no potential and the candidate will not be aware that the interview went badly until much later. It is to the candidate’s benefit that they understand the interview did not go well, while it is fresh in their mind, so that they can evaluate what mistakes can be avoided in the future, and further, ask the interviewer for feedback. Waiting to get a rejection letter leaves a candidate with the generic “not a fit” response, meanwhile they might continue to be a repeat offender with bad interviews and no job offers.
Personally, if I am conducting many interviews, especially over the phone, I don’t want to explain to every candidate that is cut short the ins and outs of why they weren’t selected. To counter this, I will have my assistant, or someone else in HR, schedule the interview for me. They let the candidate know when they set up the interview to block out an hour on their schedule. When I get them on the phone, I tell them that the interview will be very quick, less than 20 minutes, and that we will simply be chatting about their background/skill set and what they’re looking for, at the end explaining a little about the company. If the interview is not going well, it won’t seem odd that we are through in only 15 minutes. If it goes well and I need the hour, I will know they have that time already blocked out for me and I apologize part way through that it’s taking longer than I anticipated. Most of the time, they are flattered that we’ve gone over on time, a sign that the interview is going well.
Whether or not to cut an interview short ultimately depends on many factors: size of the city or town you live in (reputation), how badly the interview goes, how comfortable you are with explaining why the candidate isn’t a fit. If the right thing to do is end the interview early, then that is how it should be handled, making sure that the interviewee gets specific feedback as to why it didn’t go well and what, if anything, they might be considered for in the future.
If you need a more interesting way to end the interview, here are a few suggestions from website Evil Skippy at Work:
Top Ten Ways To End A Bad Interview
- Pretend to fall asleep. Do not “wake up” no matter what the candidate does.
- “Let’s race to the parking lot. On your mark . . .”
- Stand up. Rip off your shirt or blouse to reveal your super-hero costume and declare that you’re needed elsewhere immediately. Note: This requires advance planning. Do not rip unless you are prepared.
- “Pick a number between one and ten.” Wait for answer. “Nope. Better luck next time.”
- “I hear your mother calling you.”
- “Some interviews dazzle me. This is not one of them.”
- “What is the best way for me to contact you in the future to let you know that you won’t be getting an offer?”
- “You had me going there for a moment – I thought you were a real applicant. Who put you up to this? My brother maybe? Those were crazy answers!”
- “Evanesco!” (If you have a magic wand handy, wave it.)
- Scream. Repeatedly.