How to Avoid the Five-Minute Interview Decision

Executive Interview Process - How to avoid the five minute interview decision

Have you ever made a hiring decision within the first five minutes of an interview? I feel confident that most of us have probably been guilty of this at one point or another, and more than likely ended up with a bad hire. So, what do we do to avoid making the five-minute interview decision?

For me, I am a believer that one should take emotion out of every decision-making process possible, allowing rational thought, logic, and consistency to be the guiding principles to a sound decision.

One could argue that emotion, likeability, and appearance all make for immediate impact, either positively or negatively, in an interview setting, and subsequently alter or steer the conversation to a predetermined outcome, literally within minutes. Additionally, and from experience, most interviewers are ill-prepared even as they enter the room, and more often than not, lack consistency in their questioning. That said, some of the best advice I can give Hiring Managers is to prepare for the meeting as you would any other, set expectations early on, be a good listener, and remember that interviews are unequivocally more effective when they are conversational and interactive.

With that in mind let’s break down
the anatomy of the interview:

Phase I:

An interviewer should be professional in their approach, yet relaxed and somewhat informal. For example, sitting at a conference table alongside the candidate versus across the desk from them helps make the candidate feel more at ease and sets the tone for an open conversation. Next, and as simple as it sounds, offer them something to drink as a start to building rapport. A relaxed candidate tends to concentrate more so than one that is tense, thereby giving more in-depth/telling answers to your questions.

Phase II:

Next comes the introduction stage or getting through the basics. Here is where I talk about the company, our culture, and the position, all the while still working toward a relaxed conversation. I then follow with the same five fundamental questions I have used throughout my career. There could be slight deviations, but remember, my intent is to be able to evaluate candidates consistently and without emotion.

  1. What were you hired to do for your current or previous employer?
    *Was the position explained adequately, were there any surprises, if so, how did you handle?
  2. What are you most proud of? (Answer does not have to be work related)
  3. What did not go well?
  4. What would your co-workers, direct reports and supervisors say about you?
  5. Why are you considering leaving or why did you leave?

When you begin asking questions, take your time and word each question carefully. You should ask questions that make the candidate think, such as, “What was the worst day ever on either your current or a past job?” Once they answer, ask, “What was your best day on either your current or a past job?”

Asking questions such as these will elicit better responses and will give you better insight into both his or her character, personality, behavior and skill set. Also, you should listen carefully and make notes of key points to review later during your final decision process.

Phase III

Once you have some of the fundamental questions completed, you will need to delve deeper to see what the individual is like and if he or she is serious about joining your team. You can word the questions the way you feel is best and geared towards needs/nature of the job they are applying for – remember to formulate questions carefully to get the most information. Follow-up questions should be related to the following areas: tolerance, decisiveness, coping, attitude, initiative, goal setting, problem-solving and oral/written communications. Also, be sure to cover topics related to interaction with others, working as part of a team, commitment, over-time, and time management skills.

I am sure this goes without saying, but you should never ask questions of a personal nature, including sexual orientation, religion, age, marital status, how many children they have, or if they plan to have additional children.

Phase IV

As I mentioned earlier, to be fair and effective, interviews should be “two-way streets”, meaning conversational and interactive. Before ending the interview, you should always give an interviewee the opportunity to ask questions. Be sure and listen intently as this is an excellent opportunity to gain crucial insight into the potential cultural fit. Knowledge & insight you learn at this stage can prove to be valuable to onboarding, coaching, employee development, and retention tools should the person be hired.

Phase V

The close of the interview is just as important as the beginning. You should end as warmly as you began; being cautious not to set false expectations. Be forthcoming in either explaining or reiterating next steps in the process and remember that if you do not hire this person, they know ten people who know ten people, so protect your company’s brand as well as your own, by leaving them with a positive feeling about their interview experience.

In closing, using this type of interview format helps me to be fair, consistent and most importantly, protects me from the dreaded five-minute hiring decision trap. I hope it will help you too.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

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Jim Hickey - Perpetual Talent Solutions

Before helming Perpetual Talent Solutions as President, Jim Hickey held several senior leadership roles in both sales and operations for two of the world’s largest Commercial Staffing organizations. Jim is a dedicated professional who has been formally recognized as a Staffing Industry Subject Matter Expert.

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