How fast is too fast? Speed interviewing.

Speed interviewing

Would you move in with someone you’d only just met?

I was recently asked by a local journalist for a soundbite on speed interviewing. This is apparently one of the latest job hiring strategies to hit the job market and is seemingly being adopted by an increasing number of companies. The process, pretty much like speed dating, allows both the interviewee and hiring company to assess their potential match. It also exposes the applicant to a large number of hiring companies in a short space of time, as they rotate within a pre-arranged group of recruiters and hiring managers.

All of this supposedly maximizes the candidate’s chance of receiving an offer. Speed interviewing is also a great money saver for any employers who want to meet as many candidates as possible in the least amount of time.

Déjà vu
Because I’ve been around for a while, this type of interview process seems to me to be new speak for job fair, a system which was, and still is, commonly used to identify graduate potential at universities. I have attended many myself, on both sides of the counter. Typically, interviews last between 5 -15 minutes and allows large numbers of both candidates and employers to check each other out. At the higher end of the scale the hiring managers and employers are as much under scrutiny by the very top candidates, who usually have their pick of the best offers. As a student, I have vivid memories of the organisations getting the highest numbers, were the ones providing the best food. Apparently even today – pizza works.

I would say that the process has value to the extent that it gives a preliminary overview to both parties, based as it is, on first impression criteria only – such as physical presentation, body language, oral communication skills and so on. Any suggestion that this could be used as a substitute for an in-depth and thorough selection process – fills me with total horror. That was my sound bite! Do I think this is a valuable solution for busy people in today’s world? No I don’t. We spend about 2000 hours a year in the workplace. I think it’s a decision that should be made after careful consideration by both parties.

My sound bite: This process fills me with total horror.

The thought that this process might be drifting off campus into mainstream recruitment is worrying and I spoke only the other day to a professional person in their early 30s, who recounted an interview experience which was not far removed from what I have just outlined. He described the process as “dehumanising”.

The major weakness of this process, is that a little like it’s namesake ” speed dating“, it’s based on the chemistry between the individuals involved on the day, in that 15 minutes. So in a romantic context, it is highly unlikely that a couple would opt to move in together on the basis of a 15 minute conversation, no matter how well they hit it off. If the duo do get on, a second date would probably be the next step to progress the relationship. One would hope that corporations would exercise the same degree of caution. The risk of making a poor hiring decision leading to low retention rates and ineffective onboarding could be significantly increased. For any candidate, forced under pressure to make a hasty decision, the downsides can also be notable.

Nevertheless, if the system leads to a second interview, it should be taken seriously by all concerned. If it doesn’t, the organisation in my book has question mark on it.

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Candidate Preparation

  • Appearance First impressions do count, especially when it comes to speed interviews. Candidates should dress as if they were going to a full interview.
  • Research the companies you wish to target and ask meaningful questions. It could save time later and getting caught up in low value processes or missing a great opportunity.
  • Get the recruiters contact details so you can send your CV by email. Connect with them online afterwards on a professional platform such as LinkedIn.
  • Bring a supply of copies of your resume for anyone who might want one, more than the number of people you have signed up to see. You just never know. And always store an updated version on your phone – you can send it immediately.
  • Prepare and practise your Elevator Soundbites – you may need several different versions depending on the number of companies you are meeting.

If you are offered a job on the spot, treat this like you would a date. Be flattered, but extremely cautious. You simply don’t know each other well enough to make any committment.

Or putting it another way: would you move in with someone you’d only known for 15 minutes?  I didn’t think so!

5 thoughts on “How fast is too fast? Speed interviewing.

  1. Wendy Mason

    Hi Dorothy
    Oh how sad. OK I suppose as a way to identify possible candidates to take part in a fuller recruitment activity, but no further investigation on either side just means lots of risk on both sides. One imagines there will be a fairly high rate of attrition as there can be with young graduates picked up at hiring fairs. Only the best are kept around for a substantial period! I don’t think I would want to tie my professional future in with an organisation that recruited based on this alone.
    Best wishes

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Wendy I agree with you – any employer who is unwilling to invest in an effective recruitment process will probably be unlikely to invest in their employees to any serious degree. Smart to move on!

  2. Michele Mees

    Hi Dorothy, what a pity we can’t skip this tedious recruitment process alltogether as we have absolutely no time and so many positions to fill! (just kidding obviously)
    As you rightly point out (and I love the metaphor) you don’t decide to move in with each other after 15 mins at the bar. That’s the risk of deciding too quickly and ending up with a dead-end relationship.
    Another risk I see is letting go the interesting and valuable talents that do not come across as the recruiter might expect in the first few minutes.
    The risk I see in speed interviewing is looking for and getting ‘more of the same’. Under time pressure this seems to be the only way a brain could cope with that task.

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Hi Michele – thanks for your comment. I think you are quite right. No real long term appraisal can be made in 5- 15 minutes. A quick networking style assessment prior to an indepth recruitment process is all that can be achieved in tha time frame.

  3. KMA


    I am so relieved to have found your soundbite on the speed interview. At the age of 40 just encountered my first speed interview and I can tell you I agree with absolutely everything you stated. I have read all of the “research” I could get my hands on supporting this type of interview process but it is all written from the perspective of the interviewer not interviewee. Typically as I see it a “fit” means both parties need to gather a sense of how they will interact and collaborate. Am I wrong about this? How is it that you are able to access that in 15 minutes particularly when the interviewer tells you “You are one of 13 interviews today and I really don’t have time to get very in depth so don’t take this personally but if I put my hand up or interrupt you that means I have gotten enough out of you and we need to move on quickly you will have roughly 15 minutes and that is it.” Kinda sets the tone doesn’t it? They best way I can describe how I felt in my body was that they were in a separate room above me talking to me through a window. I felt completely objectified. If a client ever treated me that way I would get up and walk out. And in the 10 years I have been doing B2B sales I have never ever ever had a client meeting as impersonal as this interview. This is a high paying important job and there will be no second interview this was it and what they will base their decision on. Can not wait to get the feedback. I have already decided that if I encounter this again I am simply going to politely stand up thank them for their time and leave. That way they will know everything they need to know about me in not 15 minutes but 2.


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