Today I've interviewed a person, who refused to try to solve a simple (and quite common) practical problem. I mean, literally refused to try to solve it. He said something like: "Well, I just don't want to think about something complex now". I've tried to encourage him, but failed. "I don't want to bother about anything non-trivial right now", he responded.

The question is: Is it OK to cancel such interviews immediately? Because, honestly, I've understood that we will not go further just as soon as he refused second time.

Are there any other cases when it is appropriate to stop interview and to inform the applicant that he had failed?

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    Sounds like interviewing Napoleon Dynamite! I honestly can't see how anyone could work with such a person. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon_Dynamite
    – wonea
    Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 8:28
  • Wow. What is wrong with people? Did you have to physically move him from his perch to the interview site? Are you sure he was sure he was in an interview?
    – kolossus
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 3:36
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    @bytebuster I disagree, this is entirely a different question as the factors the interviewer would be using to evaluate are completely different
    – enderland
    Commented Oct 20, 2012 at 4:03
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    @enderland Out of 5 answers, none have mentioned anything specific to an interviewer (which does not apply to an interviewee). Instead, some explicitly noticed that this is a two-way thing. I agree with them: two people have started negotiating, and one of them decided not to continue. An absolutely symmetric question. To prove I'm wrong, it's sufficient to point at a single "completely different" factor which is valid for an interviewer and invalid for interviewee. :) Commented Oct 20, 2012 at 8:14
  • I know that some (at least one!) company tells the interviewee that the interview lasts for 1 hours but to allow 3. Then the interview is split between 3 (groups of) interviewers each with an hour to conduct their interview. If the interviewee passes the first interview (passes as in is allowed to progress, rather than will definitely land an offer) they move onto the second, etc.
    – bountiful
    Commented Nov 16, 2012 at 15:26

6 Answers 6


When it is appropriate to stop an interview early?

As soon as the candidate decides not to participate.

Even if you said something he "did not like" -> doesn't matter.

He was obviously ending the interview himself - but didn't have the balls to say it out right, I mean come on, he turned you down twice!

I highly doubt he was that oblivious or self absorbed that he just didn't feel like answering the question and if that is the case I would have ended on the first rejection of the question.

You don't have to end it dramatically or with a bitter taste but more like, thank you for the interview (I got to get to the other people who are happy to answer this question, sorry you are not one of them). Well, don't say the last part out loud.

  • I disagree the candidate turned you down twice (who knows if they were actually qualified to begin with...) but otherwise I think this is a good answer.
    – enderland
    Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 3:52

In general I would say an interviewer stopping an interview like that should be very rare. However yours does sound like a case where it might be applicable.

What you should do is probe why the candidate won't answer. "Are you prepared to answer other questions?" "Are you sick?" "Would you like to reschedule the interview?" "Do you understand that in the course of doing this job you will be required to take on tasks of this complexity on a regular basis" and finally "Are you really interested in interviewing for this job?" The answers to those should pretty clearly tell you whether it is worth continuing.

If it turns out that they were really just messing with you and not interested in interviewing, make sure to tell your HR department to mark their file so as never to offer them another interview in the future.

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    "Are you prepared to answer other questions" - not to be blunt, but why should the interviewer care. This was the question that was asked. The candidate should explain if there is something about that specific question and he/she would prefer another one. And that reason would determine whether the interview should proceed Commented Nov 16, 2012 at 3:09

When recruiting and holding interviews, it's always a two-way sell. The candidate is selling why he or she would be a perfect candidate for you, and you are selling why your company would be their dream employer. If you think one step ahead, a candidate's perception of you and your company when he or she leaves the interview can (and will) have a far-reaching impact on your business and recruitment in the future.

If a candidate walks away thinking what a great company you are and what a dream it would be to work for you even when he didn't get the job, then you've done your job as an interviewer. If, on the other hand, he leaves the interview thinking that you were a jerk, that he didn't get a fair chance to prove himself or just plain insulted that you ended the interview prematurely, then that's a poisoned pool for you now. He or she will tell everyone they know that you're a bad company and any potential interactions you have in the future will be biased against you.

There is no room for personal pride when recruiting, it is never appropriate to give anything but your best and most compelling performance when interviewing and recruitment is about much, much more than just the interview. We drill this into all people at our company that are involved in interviewing new recruits and it pays off. We have numerous instances of people who failed to qualify but who left the interview feeling so good about our company that they still recommended us to their friends, leading to some really great hires down the line for us.

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    I had to end an interview early for the first time ever recently (as a candidate), and I think it took the interviewer off guard, but honestly I think your answer sums up why I did it, because she wasnt selling the job to me. Maybe she felt like she didnt need to, but she seemed completely uninterested in my responses to her questions about my experience, and then made sure to ask me several irrelevant questions about what sites I have accounts at. However, I really don't remember what company that was because I just moved on to the next several interviews (later that day).
    – tjb1982
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 0:21
  • I wanted to disagree at first but yeah, this is the best answer. If you had the time slotted anyway you might as well make the best of it. Commented Feb 24, 2013 at 7:01

I think that, in addition to Greg's answer, it is also fair to end the interview when you know that you're not going to hire the person for whatever reason. There's no sense in wasting either participant's time going through a charade of an interview until you hit some magic time threshold. It's definitely a little harsh and, as an interviewer, I hate to do it. But I make sure the recruiters I work with convey to the candidates that there is a possibility of the interview lasting as little as 10 minutes.

And yes, I have interviewed candidates that lasted as little as 10 minutes. At which point I say "Look, I'm sorry, this just isn't going to happen. Best of luck."

  • +1 no reason to waste everyone's time, thank them for their time and move on.
    – stoj
    Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 12:42
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    The only potential issue here would be a future claim of discrimination. I think that winding it up as @DJClayworth suggested is a better approach. Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 17:16
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    @JoshuaDrake Definitely a valid point and one that every interviewer should be cognizant of in all interviews.
    – Jacob G
    Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 17:57

I would never cancel an interview that early, but I wouldn't let it go more than half an hour before giving them a chance to terminate it: "So, have you got any questions for me/us?" If they've bothered to come and talk to me then I at least owe them the respect to let them ask questions, even if I have enough information to make a decision on the spot.

I've honestly never come across a situation like that though. I'd expect to have discounted anyone like that at the phone screen.

And that would, in all honesty, start me wondering if there was something about the way I asked that caused them to react that way. Maybe they wanted to terminate it quickly because of something else you said.

I've certainly been in THAT situation before. I've turned up for an interview and something the interviewer said in the first ten minutes put me right off. So I fluffed their technical test and left quite quickly.

  • you got the point, I'm actually thinking is it my fault and what I could done to improve the interview process. It's just that this question is answered by 99% of applicants, ant the rest 1% always tries to invent something.
    – shabunc
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 21:59
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    In that case, maybe it was something else. Maybe it was just something they picked up walking through the office. You'll probably never know and there's not much point fretting. If they picked up an issue that quickly then you don't want them any more than they want you. Only if it happens repeatedly is it cause for concern, or PERHAPS if your successful hires turn out to be poor on a regular basis.
    – pdr
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 22:02

Assuming you are the hiring Manager, it's appropriate to end an interview as soon as you determine that the candidate is not a good fit.

If the candidate decides not to answer a question that you think is relevant and important, just say "Well, I think I've learned what I needed to. Thank you for your time."

The same goes for the candidate.

I've been on both sides of this. I've been interviewing candidates and told them I didn't want to waste any more of their time as soon as they demonstrated that they were not a good fit. And I've been interviewed, and (very politely) told the interviewer that I didn't want to waste any more of her time as soon as I concluded that I wouldn't want to work there.

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