Study: You have between 5 and 15 minutes to impress an employer

We hear a great deal about the importance of first impressions and how you can make or break your chances of getting hired at a job interview by the time the handshake is over. But is it true?

While there probably are examples of people tanking their initial impression (and odds of landing the job) within seconds, recent employer research indicates that you more likely have at least a few minutes to sell your candidacy.

So just how long do you have? At what point during the job interview have most employers decided whether or not they’re going to offer you the job? A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology tackled those questions.

For this research, the authors surveyed 166 employers before and after they interviewed a pool of nearly 700 candidates. One of the key questions they put to participants was how long it took during the interview for them to make a decision about potentially hiring the candidate.

Some of the participants did admit to making snap decisions about their interviewees. Approximately 5 per cent of hiring decisions were made within the first sixty seconds of the interview. Just under 30 per cent were made within five minutes. This doesn’t leave candidates much time to impress potential employers.

Fortunately, most of the participants in the survey said that they took at least five minutes before passing judgment on a candidate. Some couldn’t decide on the spot at all. Almost a quarter of them, 22.5 per cent, said that they had not made up their mind by the end of the interview and had to decide later.

The majority of interviewers, 52 per cent, said that they made their decision whether or not to hire a candidate somewhere in between five and fifteen minutes of meeting them.

Longer job interviews are better

It can be a bad sign for your chances of getting hired if your job interview lasts less than 25 or thirty minutes. If the employer has already made the decision not to hire you early in the interview, then they don’t have much incentive to spend a further half hour discussing your skills and work history.

(See: Six subtle clues that your job interview really didn’t go very well)

On the other hand, if within that initial 5-15-minute window when most employers make a decision, the employer is leaning in your favour, then they will be motivated to spend more time asking you the more in-depth questions to confirm their choice.

Interestingly, the more experienced the participants were at hiring, the less time they took to make a decision. Those participants who were newer to interviewing took the most time to make up their mind about a candidate.

How can you improve your chances?

Build a rapport with your interviewer. Those candidates who were able to carry on a friendly conversation with the interviewer that was unrelated to formal questions about the job were ranked higher than the ones who were not.

Study authors write: “When preparing for interviews, applicants should practice responses to common ‘conversation starters’ that often emerge during rapport building.”

Which is why we recommend candidates arrive at a job interview armed with ice-breaking anecdotes or friendly conversational questions to ask. (See: Prepare the first thing you say)


Source: How quickly do interviewers reach decisions? An examination of interviewers’ decision-making time across applicants.

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