Interview Timing


The act of the job interview, in terms of timing, is a little bit like baking a cake. Too much time, and the cake is overdone—burnt. Too little time, and the cake is raw—unfinished. In both cases, the final product is unsatisfactory and, potentially, inedible. The same rationale applies to the time required for candidate interviews. On the one hand, sufficient time must be allotted to ensure that the fundamental job requirements are thoroughly assessed. On the other hand, too much time has the potential to leave both the candidate and the interviewer with an unsuccessful and, potentially distasteful, result.

In this video clip from the Canadian HR Reporter, we are provided with the view that extending the job interview beyond a typical one-hour time frame should be a recommended practice. From an HR perspective, Shane Creamer, the associate vice-president of talent acquisition at TD Bank Group, advises that a lengthier interview provides more insight and a broader understanding of a candidate’s future potential and level of talent. In particular, he advocates for this lengthier approach when considering candidates for positions that are at the senior leadership level.

While Creamer speaks to the valid need to invest the time to ensure proper candidate selection in the form of an extended interview, the application of a two- to three-hour interview process comes with some significant risks. If candidate responses to behavioural questions are “canned,” as noted in the video clip, it is up to the interviewer to probe appropriately to seek further insight. When there is nothing provided by the candidate beyond the canned responses, then they may not have anything more to say. There is nothing more awkward than sitting in an interview with a candidate who is flailing about trying to fill the empty interview silence with irrelevant information. One would argue that this may not be the fault of the candidate’s preparedness; rather, it falls on the skilled interviewer to know when and how to guide the conversation.

There are additional risks that arise from a lengthier, freewheeling, or unstructured interview approach that comes from the ‘let the candidate talk’ school of thought. Extending lengthy interviews to allow for a possibly intrusive personal evaluation goes beyond the idea of a reasonable assessment for cultural or organizational fit. If not handled well unstructured approaches end up being almost excruciatingly painful for all of the parties involved. Many candidates will ramble on incessantly if there are no cues from the interviewer to make them stop talking. This results in the risk of unexpected bias if the interviewer becomes annoyed by or with the candidate, and it has nothing to do with the job at hand.

Do we really need to have a deep understanding of the candidate’s personal characteristics that may come from an extended and lengthy interview process? What if the result is that the candidate is perfectly suited for the job, but based on an extended (and annoying) interview, the interviewer just does not like them? The consequences of poor timing, which comes from poor planning, on the part of the interviewer, can be disastrous for all involved.

When it comes to the end result, a successful interview has to be based on the premise that a ‘just right’ timing is, indeed, everything.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Identify three possible HR benefits and risks of engaging in a lengthy unstructured interview with a candidate for a senior-level position.
  2. Do you agree or disagree that an interview focusing on organizational fit is the best determinant for candidate selection? Explain your rationale.
  3. How would you prepare yourself for a lengthy (more than one-hour) interview with a potential employer?

The Joy of Talent Management

Rafal Olechowski/Shutterstock

For an overview of the importance and impact that recruitment has on any organization, a recent interview with Patty McCord provides both inspiration and motivation.

Click here to read the interview.

Ms. McCord speaks to the very real perception that the recruitment aspect of the Human Resources function can be (and often is) relegated to a ‘workmanlike’ status.  It is, after all, a process-based series of steps that puts a candidate through multiple sets of assessments and events in order to determine whether or not the employer should hire them. If the Human Resources practitioner approaches recruitment from that perspective, it can be perceived as a tedious set of tasks for both the practitioner and the candidate.  The result may be the same, the candidate gets hired or not, but the value and the joy of the process is missed by everyone involved.

Recruitment is only the beginning of the talent management journey. It is, as Ms. McCord notes, the first step to ensuring employee retention is perceived as a mission linked to organizational success. If an organization is committed to being great, then they must hire and retain great people. That gives purpose and passion for every step and every process that the Human Resources practitioner is involved in.

It also makes the decision easier to not have people who are not so great. When a candidate joins an organization, they do so under a specific set of circumstances and understandings which start to change almost immediately. First, their role changes from candidate to employee. For both the employee and the employer, expectations become more clear, duties and responsibilities expand or contract, working relationships develop in both positive and potentially negative ways.

When there is a clear approach to employee development as part of a positive talent management strategy, the employee is able to accept and adapt to these changes in a constructive way. If there is no strategy in place, the employee’s experience is disjointed and, in many cases, unhappiness sets in.  The employer must decide whether or not the retention of unhappy employees is good for the organization. If it is not good, then the right decision is to relieve everyone of their unhappiness and end the employment relationship.

The ending of the employment relationship comes back to the beginning — recruiting with purpose and passion as the mission for organizational success.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Based on your reading of the article, identify three key effects that successful recruitment has on organizational success.
  2. How do organizational values shape or influence the hiring decision?
  3. If you were able to implement some of the suggested staffing strategies, which one would you pick? Explain your rationale.


Investing in the Employment Relationship

One of the most effective employee training programs, that HR Professionals can provide, is new employee Onboarding.

Bringing new employees into an organization represents a significant commitment.  Not just from a monetary cost perspective, but more importantly, from a long-term investment into the employment relationship.  HR recruitment and selection programs spend an immense amount of time and money ensuring that the right person is hired into our organizations.  That investment must continue to be nurtured by ensuring that the newly hired employee is integrated into the cultural fit of the organization for the long term.

Click here to read the article.

This particular program, outlined in the article above, requires a high investment of time and focused commitment within the first 90 days of employment.  Is that enough time to assess the success of employee integration?  Many provinces have employment legislation that has a similar probationary period.  It makes sense to make use of a 90 day framework in the most cost-effective way possible.

When we invest in any relationship, we want to be sure that there is an equivalent return.  The same applies for employer-employee relationships.  By checking in with our employees at the beginning of their employment journey we are checking in on our investment with the hope for a very high and long-term commitment in return.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the cost-benefit of having a new employee buddy program?
  2. Have you left a position or a workplace within the first year of your employment because you did not feel welcome? What influenced your decision to leave? What would have influenced you to stay?
  3. Identify three new employee engagement/training activities that an HR department can provide at little to no cost, within the first 90 days of employment.
  4. Identify cost-related losses that occur when an employee leaves an organization within the first year of employment.