Don’t let your interview instincts prevent you from hiring the talent you need

Sean Talbot
Sean Talbot

37% of early careers interviewers are making their minds up about a candidate within the first ten minutes of a job interview, with 60% saying they reach a mental decision in less than half an hour.

This was revealed in GradTouch’s latest report into conducting graduate job interviews, in which 150 directors, talent managers and heads of departments were quizzed on their interviewing techniques – which you can download here.

Despite a large number of interviewers relying on first impressions and instinct, the majority of respondents also said they would ideally spend one hour with every candidate. So what does this tell us about the state of entry-level interviews, and can we really trust our instincts to make what can be such a difficult decision?

Hiring for culture fit is becoming increasingly important for employers of all sizes, and this is something Katie O’Reilly, a HR Associate at Alfa, spoke about in the report. “It’s all about the person,” she says while discussing how essential it is to assess a candidate’s capability to gel culturally within the existing team. It’s understandable that instinctive decisions will play a part when assessing subjective and personality-orientated criteria such as culture fit, and explains why 63% of interviewers think first impressions are “essential” or “very important”, however we shouldn’t forget to consider what’s going on inside the heads of young interviewees before jumping to any conclusions.

63% of interviewers think first impressions are “essential” or “very important”

Firstly, job interviews have until very recently always been very serious, formal and professional situations. Most young people have a clear image in their mind of how they think interviews play out, despite never having attended one before, and these preconceptions are dramatised and worsened by television shows such as The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den. The notion that employers are looking to find out about you as a person is potentially alien to young job-seekers. Is it unfair to assess a candidate’s ability to fit culturally if they haven’t come prepared to demonstrate that side of themselves? The narrative of interview advice is shifting along with the trends of interviews themselves, but graduates are still following the same rules as their parents; they’re prepping for high-pressure situations, remembering their figures and their research like they do in exams, all the while forgetting about the individual they are.

This preconception of all interviews being high-pressure situations also leads to nerves and anxiety, which can dramatically affect any candidate’s performance at interview – especially graduates. Even if you ease into the interview and open up, you’re still going to fall victim to nerve-driven hiccups in the early stages of meeting your interviewer, and if that interviewer is one of the 37% who is making their mind up about you in the first 10 minutes, you’re probably going to find yourself near the bottom of the pile.

Although interviewers revealed they are subject to their own instincts, they also acknowledge and sympathise with the issue of nervousness. 65% of all interviewers said nerves don’t affect a candidate’s chances of getting hired, but with so many making up their minds very early on it’s hard not to question whether or not that’s entirely true.

It’s the responsibility of all of us to prepare candidates effectively for the interview they’re about to undergo. If your environment is relaxed and you’re looking for personality over experience, make this clear in the preliminary stages leading up to the interview. Something as simple as telling someone they don’t need to wear a suit can prevent a candidate from showing up, feeling overdressed and stressing unnecessarily about something they wouldn’t ever have to worry about if they were hired.

By preparing graduates properly, and being transparent about how the interview process works, you prevent your instinct from being misplaced, and potentially missing out on the best talent.


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