Interview questions and structured interviewing
Username: Password:

Suspend Judgment Until the Interview is Over

Anne Sandberg

As human beings, we tend to make snap decisions about people and put them in “little boxes” early on when we meet someone new. We get a “feeling” about someone and tend to jump to a conclusion early on in a conversation. Research shows that in a typical interview, that the majority of interviewers make up their mind “yes” or “no” in the first 3-5 minutes. The problem is that most people are WRONG most all of the time. We are not as intuitive as we think we are, and individuals are much more complex than we give them credit for.

Often the conclusions we reach are based on very superficial criteria, too, such as the way someone looks, dresses or speaks. We tend to hire people with an appealing style and are often quickly disappointed. Jumping to conclusions like this is unfair to the individuals we interview and short-changes the organisation that we represent because we “turn off” on some people who would make very good employees because they don’t fit our “mold.” Once we mentally reject someone, the evaluation essentially stops and from then on, we are just “going through the motions” for the rest of the interview.

Think of a co-worker you know who is really good at their job but may be a bit quiet, introverted, or hard-to-know. Do you think this person would interview well? Probably not. Often some of the best employees are people who are uncomfortable in interviews because they don’t “blow their own horn” very well. Research shows that about 30-50% of candidates become very nervous in an interview and that nervousness – though it is a temporary condition – shows up in some unattractive ways:

  • constricted voice and dry mouth
  • increased perspiration, poor eye contact
  • shallow responses
  • forgetfulness, dull, slow-witted
  • lack of warmth, unfriendly

If you continue to provide a comfortable and job-focused interview environment, most candidates will relax almost completely in about 30 minutes, so you will begin to see the real person if you can suspend judgment and exercise emotional control.

The key to effective hiring is to move beyond an emotional reaction to a candidate and substitute the job as the dominant selection criteria.

If you can focus on the job and use your pre-planned process, behavioural questions, probes and follow-up questions, and focus on competencies, you are better able to maintain emotional control and let the candidate “sink or swim” on their own merits.


Finding Candidates

Interviewing Basics

Interviewing Best Practices

Laws & Documentation

Line Manager / Recruiting Partnership


Pre-Planning & Retention

Reading the Candidate

Recruiting Basics

Recruiting Best Practices

Useful Links