New research reveals how employers make decisions about candidates, and what you can learn from the length of length of your job interview.

In an article last month, I mentioned how a short or easy job interview can actually be a red flag that you’re not going to get the job. If the employer doesn’t take the time to ask you challenging questions and really get to know you, they may not be seriously considering you for the role. [See: Eight signs that your job interview isn’t going very well – and how you can turn it around]

So how long does it take? What can you determine from the length of your job interview? A new study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology attempts to answer those questions.

For this study, researches questioned 166 interviewers before and after they interviewed 691 students at a career fair. Among their queries was how long it took the interviewer to come to a conclusion about hiring the candidates.

More experienced interviewers made their decisions in less time than it took people who were newer to hiring.

Some of the interviewers did make snap decisions about candidates. Roughly 5% of decisions were made within the first minute of the interview, and nearly 30% within five minutes. However, most of the interviewers reported making their hiring decision after five minutes or longer. In fact nearly a quarter, 22.5%, said that they had not made up their mind about a candidate at the end of the interview, and had to decide later.

The largest block, 52% of interviewers make their decision about a candidate in between five and fifteen minutes of the interview.

Want to improve your chances? Build rapport. Candidates who engaged the interviewer in conversation unrelated to the structured interview were given greater consideration than those who did not.

The report states: “Thus, when preparing for interviews, applicants should practice responses to common ‘conversation starters’ that often emerge during rapport building.”

Also, try to interview early, if you can. Applicants who interview later on are given less consideration than those who interview first. The researchers found that interviewers have to both process information about the applicant in front of them while simultaneously comparing and contrasting them to earlier interviewees.

After the fourth candidate, the amount of information they are trying to sort becomes overwhelming and interviewers revert to making snap decisions based on gut feelings.

“Applicants interviewing later in the schedule might not get as much opportunity to perform as those earlier in the schedule,” the researchers caution.

What you can tell from the length of your job interview

Since the majority of hiring decisions are made in the first five to fifteen minutes of a job interview, if yours lasts for fewer than 30 minutes, it probably wasn’t that successful. If the employer has made the snap decision not to hire you, then they really don’t need to spend that much time getting to know you afterwards. However, if in that five-fifteen minute window their decision is in your favour, then it is well worth their time to ask you more probing questions and confirm their choice.

You can read the full report and methodology of the study online here: How quickly do interviewers reach decisions? An examination of interviewers’ decision-making time across applicants.

Peter Harris

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