Hire Faster – By Reducing “Quickly-Ended” Initial Interviews (A small fixable problem with significant negative impacts)

A quickly-ended interview is when after 1-2 unsatisfactory candidate answers, you just want to end it. And afterward, frustrated hiring managers will openly wonder why this clearly flawed candidate was ever scheduled for an interview. These problematic interviews are labeled as “quickly-ended” because, during the first few minutes, they were abruptly ended (at least mentally) by the interviewer. After the candidate couldn’t provide enough information to support the areas in their resume that we had labeled as “of concern.”

Yes, All Experienced Interviewers Have Suffered Through A “Quickly-Ended” Interview

You might not know the appropriate name to call these quickly terminated interviews. But if you are an experienced hiring manager or recruiter, inevitably, you have had to sit through a good number of them. Regrettably, they occur quite frequently. In fact, I estimate that, on average, 20% of all initial interviews meet the definition of being a quickly-ended one. And in one case involving hourly hires (that I participated in), these quickly-ended interviews approached 50% of all scheduled interviews. 

If you are participating in one, you will soon know it. Because almost immediately after the candidate provided two extremely weak answers covering your areas of concern. It will become obvious that these preidentified areas of concern were not just resume omissions. But in fact, they instead represent real “job knockout factors.” Which, in effect, instantly disqualified the candidate. To the point where the interviewer will now want to end the interview immediately.

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The Tremendous Costs Of A “Quickly-Ended Interview”

Traditionally, rmost in recruiting don’t pay any attention to the cost of these unnecessary interviews. However, once they become aware of the real and significant costs associated with each of the options for choosing candidates for the initial interview. Most in recruiting quickly realize that this problem deserves a closer look. So I have listed each of the major cost areas associated with weak resume sorting schemes and quickly-ended interviews in the following section.

  • When you reject all resumes with flaws or omissions, that sorting process will cost you the loss of multiple good candidates – The most common resume sorting process has at its foundation the assumption that you should simply reject those resumes with incomplete information. This frequently occurs under this sorting approach because many resume sorters focus on “screening out” all candidates with significant flaws or omissions. Even a highly qualified candidate will never get an initial interview if their resume contains a single significant flaw or omission (that incidentally could have easily been cleared up with a candidate query). That’s an expensive loss of talent that incidentally occurs quite frequently with candidates that use one-page resumes. 
  • If you wait until the initial interview to gather information on your concerns, you will experience many unnecessary “quickly-ended” interviews – The second commonly used but ugly sorting option follows the misguided notion that any omissions or concerns should be cleared up later during their initial interview. So, unfortunately, a candidate’s initial interview can easily become a quickly-ended one. In the cases where the candidate doesn’t have any additional supporting information. Or when their nervousness during the interview might inhibit them from remembering the needed details. 
  • The least costly sorting option is to gather additional information on your concerns – Whenever you have a candidate’s resume that would be qualified, except for a few omissions or areas of concern in their resume. The preferred sorting option for this candidate is to proactively ask them to provide the information that would clear up any concerns or omissions. And as a result, this simple query to the candidate can add information that would make them fully qualified. And therefore, you will save a candidate that would likely have been lost without gathering this follow-up information.
  • These quickly-ended interviews unnecessarily waste a hiring manager’s time – Most hiring managers don’t really enjoy interviewing in the first place. However, they will be even more reluctant to interview if they face the real fear that their next interview will be a painful quickly-ended one. Of course, you also have to calculate the costs of each recruiter’s wasted time.
  • These interviews will hurt your hiring by extending the time it takes to complete all interviews – The additional time to schedule and hold each quickly-ended interview may add as much as three days to your total hiring time. And pushing your decision date back even further will cause you to lose some top candidates that get faster offers from other companies.
  • These painful interviews may damage your employer brand and, thus, future hiring – Because interviews are a part of the candidate experience. Most candidates that have gone through one of these quickly-ended interviews will not write about them positively online. As a result, the ratings of your company and its interview process on sites like Glassdoor.com will likely fall significantly. And that will definitely harm your future recruiting.
  • You will unnecessarily miss out on some qualified candidates because quickly-ended interviews take up an available interview slot – For each interview slot occupied by a quickly-ended interview, there’s one less opportunity for a candidate with resolved concerns. This can reduce the size of your second-level interview pool by as much as 20%. 
  • Unnecessary interviews will increase interviewer fatigue – Every hiring manager participating in each of these quickly-ended interviews will, of course, increase their interview fatigue. And fatigued interviewers simply won’t perform as well during all other interviews.

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Action Steps For Minimizing The Number Of Quickly-Ended Interviews

Fortunately, the solutions to holding quickly-ended interviews are inexpensive and easy to implement. Note that the action steps for reducing these painful and time-consuming quickly-ended interviews are separated into two categories. Actions prior to the interview and actions during an actual quickly-ended interview. 

Actions to consider before scheduling the initial interviews:

  • Make a list of your concerns for otherwise qualified candidates – A qualified candidate cannot provide the correct additional information unless they are told upfront what relevant information is needed in each of the preidentified areas of concern. So I recommend that the recruiter and hiring manager work together to develop a list of both the job qualification factors and any “knockout factors” that may apply so that a precise list of what information is needed can be sent to the candidate. 
  • Ask qualified candidates with areas of concern to supply additional information – For otherwise qualified candidates with resume omissions or flaws that might cause screeners to reject them. The preferred option is to contact the candidate directly in order to see if they have additional information that would eliminate your concerns. Start by reviewing their resume and making a list of your prioritized areas of concern. And when you contact them, list those top concerns. And specify what particular details you need (i.e., skills used, business impacts, collaboration involved). Make it clear to them that completing this step may help them to be more rapidly scheduled for an initial interview. Also, make it easy for them to respond with the requested information by giving them choices, including text messaging, a recorded voicemail, or via email. 
  • Consider adding a preliminary telephone interview – After the initial resume sorting is complete. Consider adding a telephone interview with these candidates to gather the additional information needed to address each of your areas of concern.
  • Consider videotaping interviews that are likely to be quickly-ended – Because you are likely to get more complaints from candidates that participated in interviews that they perceive to have ended early. It makes sense to make and keep a video of any interviews with a high probability of being terminated early. You can also avoid many legal issues if you ensure that every “knockout factor” that is to be used is clearly job-related and nondiscriminatory.
  • Educate your interviewers – Make it easy for every interviewer to learn about your expectations related to quickly-ended interviews and soliciting additional information. And then periodically gather feedback from them, covering what parts of your process are working and which parts still need to be improved.
  • Make it a recruiter rule that the initial interview is not the place to clear up major concerns – Given the damage that these quickly-ended interviews can create. Make it part of the formal hiring process to automatically solicit additional information from candidates that otherwise would be completely qualified if they did not have areas of concern.”. And make it clear that individual recruiters will be held accountable whenever one of their candidates is the interviewee in a quickly-ended interview.
  • Include a feedback loop for continuous improvement – Immediately after each quickly-ended interview occurs. You will increase your chances for continuous improvement by developing metrics to identify each failure’s causes. Periodically run the numbers to ensure that your quickly-ended interview process solutions don’t adversely impact diversity.

Actions during a quickly-ended interview:

  • First, ask the questions that are directly related to each area of concern – Because interview questions that focus on the areas of concern are likely to be the most impactful questions on whether the candidate should move forward. Urge all interviewers to ask questions related to the identified concerns early on during the interview.
  • Make the early ending of an interview as smooth as possible – When you suspect that an interview may end early. Don’t start out by telling the candidate how long the interview is scheduled for. And when the decision is made to end it early. Try to have some empathy for the candidate so that they won’t walk away angry.
  • Provide a “no more questions” signal for group interviews – In all group interviews that are likely to end early the instant that the candidate is deemed to be unqualified. Make it easier to end the interview early by having the lead provide each interviewer with your “bailout code phrase” (i.e., that was a dynamite question). That verbally alerts each interviewer to immediately stop asking questions when they hear it.
If you only do one thing – Identify any potential areas of concern for the candidates for one of your open jobs. Then text each of them requesting additional information on your top two areas of concern. Then show the supplied additional information to your hiring manager. And ask them to determine if that information would be enough to likely prevent one or more possible quickly-ended interviews.

Final Thoughts

The overall interview process has so many weaknesses and flaws that, unfortunately, the size of the task by itself is enough to scare many who might try to improve it away. However, rather than doing nothing, I recommend picking a few small areas of interviewing that can be inexpensively and quickly improved. And in my book, limiting the number of “quickly-ended interviews” fits into that category.

Author’s Note 

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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