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Obeying the Interview Speed Limit

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If you’re looking for work, there’s a well-defined process you expect to follow. Apply, get screened, interview, receive an offer or a pass, and make a decision. But how long should this take?

In Liz Ryan’s HR column for Forbes, a candidate says she’s worried because her interview process is moving fast. This is what she writes:

I had my first interview with the company recruiter less than two weeks ago. Since then I’ve had a second interview with Beth, a third interview with the VP of Operations and two other managers, and a telephone interview with ABC Inc.’s Director of HR.

Now Beth says they are preparing a job offer for me. Everything has happened in under ten days. Should I be wary? That is a very fast hiring process.

The response from the columnist is fairly standard. She advises the jobseeker to ask questions to determine if the company is stable and has good leadership, or if they are disorganized and might change their minds after a month.

Unfortunately, the candidate may not be able to ask those questions. And the deeper issues still remain: should I be wary? and is this a very fast hiring process?

Speed Limit Sign

© Flickr user David Lofink

You Should Always Be Prudent

The jobseeker asks if they “should be wary.” That word implies suspicion of problems ahead. Step one in evaluating any business opportunity is the same as step one in approaching any situation in life: try to identify and suspend your biases.

Instead of “wary,” be “prudent.” Instead of “suspicious,” be “conscientious.” Instead “concerning”, say “atypical.”

That leads us to the second question.

Fast and Slow Are Relative Terms

One of the curiosities of life is that the process by which we make decisions is often artificially inflated by our need to please others. We usually know if we want a second date five minutes into the first date, but we’ll stick around for the entirety of dinner “just to be polite.” We will test drive a car that’s out of our price range because that seems like the right thing to do. And we’ll interview for jobs that don’t really interest us “to get practice” interviewing.

The amount of time it takes to move from meeting a new candidate to offering them a job should be measured using two important yardsticks: duration and timeframe.

The duration is the total amount of time that is spent in the process. Perhaps that’s an hour posting the job, two hours sorting through applicants, an hour setting up interviews, four hours face-to-face with candidates, and an hour to decide to offer you a job. In that example, we’re talking about nine hours.

The timeframe is the difference between the start and end times of the process. The job might have been posted on the first of the month at noon and the offer made on the 21st of the month. That’s a total timeframe of about three weeks.

The reason the timeframe and the duration are different is mostly because people have other things to do besides filling the position. The question you should ask yourself is not “is 10 days really fast” but “how long is the duration within that 10 day timeframe?”

Hiring Is Done Poorly Anyway

Liz Ryan does make one excellent suggestion in her response:

If you are still feeling nervous after you’ve talked with Beth, you can suggest that you start the job as a consultant instead of an employee.

In a consulting role you’ll have a written contract that governs your relationship with ABC Industries. As a consultant you can check out the company and they can check you out, too.

This idea is exceptionally wise. We have to wonder why it’s not done for every new hire engagement.

Perhaps in the future everyone will start out as a contractor. Or perhaps, everyone will work that way, always. We will see!

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


Troublemaker and productivity/workflow expert. Slightly more complex than 140 characters will permit.
@lorraineball First probably depends on the business. But second is likely training, especially with regard to sales. - 3 weeks ago
Robby Slaughter
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