Skip to content Skip to navigation

Cut unproductive interviews short

August 1, 2010
by Bernie Reifkind
| Reprints

How do you cut an interview short when you know the candidate is not a fit? It's probably the most uncomfortable moment during an interview. It's the exact moment when an employer knows that the candidate is not the right fit, for whatever reason. For most employers that moment can be within the first five minutes of an interview.

Here are five ways to end an unproductive interview:

  1. The Stop Now-This is probably the most honest but brutal approach to ending an interview at the moment an employer knows the interview is over. Quite simply the employer moves back in his/her chair, stands up, shakes the person's hand and tells the applicant the honest truth-(again this is brutal)-“I regret to say that although you have an interesting background, you are not what I am looking for and I will not be hiring you. Thank you for your time.”

  2. The Stop in 30-This is very similar to the “Stop Now” but it's a bit easier on the nervous system for both parties. Basically, the employer knows in advance that the applicant will have 30 minutes minimum before informing the candidate that he/she is not going to be hired. After 30 minutes the employer glances at the clock, thanks the applicant for the interview, and wraps it up.

  3. The Preplanned Interruption-Ten or 15 minutes during an interview, all of a sudden the employer's phone rings, and of course, he/she takes the call, in essence interrupting the interview. This is a very common technique. In advance of an interview, an employer asks an associate to call at a predetermined time giving the employer an opportunity to decide whether to excuse the interruption and terminate the interview early. Conversely, many times if the interview is going well, the employer can decide not to take the call.

  4. The Double Down-This is where an employer and another team member are a part of the interview. It's the old “good cop/bad cop” situation: When the employer knows that the interview is over, the colleague interrupts and promptly thanks the applicant for the interview and escorts him or her out of the employer's office. Perhaps there is “paperwork” that needs to be filled out and bit of “Thank you for interviewing but we have many interviews lined up this afternoon.”

  5. The Double Reverse-This happens when an employer knows the interview is over and reverses the interview to fact-find about what the applicant's company is up to-how they operate. It may be a time to learn how one's competitors are operating. It's a complete reversal because the interview is about the company in which the candidate is employed-not the candidate. Albeit, this is a bit sneaky but at least the interview was not a complete waste of time.

An employer's attention is a scarce resource and should not be wasted in a long-winded interview in which he or she is convinced that the applicant is not a fit. It's perfectly OK to end an interview early.

Bernie Reifkind is CEO and founder of Premier Search (

www.psihealth.com), a healthcare executive search firm in Los Angeles. He can be reached by e-mail at

bernie@psihealth.com or (800) 801-1400. Long-Term Living 2010 August;59(8):17

Topics