If you're interviewing a candidate, and it becomes apparent during the interview that they will not end up getting the job, should you end the interview immediately and tell them on the spot that they aren't going to get the job, or is it better to let them know in a follow-up?

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    Is this a repeat of workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/60654/… – Ed Heal Jan 16 '16 at 15:31
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    @EdHeal Possibly inspired by it but it's asking a different question. Not sure about the downvotes here, I thought it might be a duplicate but it's a good core question. – Lilienthal Jan 16 '16 at 18:05
  • This is not really a duplicate. I see a key part here is "tell them on the spot" or "let them know in a follow up?". The other linked topic doesn't make this point very explicit. – Brandin Jan 18 '16 at 8:13

This has happened to me more than once. For example, if I'm looking for a senior developer & the candidate can't solve FizzBuzz, I finish the interview in a couple of minutes. I think it's disrespectful to continue asking (what are now) pointless questions after I've made up my mind.

I don't tell them on the spot that they've failed - I leave that for follow up. If I've already made up my mind, telling them on the spot just leaves an opening for a debate that they won't win.


You would need to be very sure, and aware of relevant company procedure and legislation. Assuming it's permissible, then it depends on the situation: if...

  • it becomes evident that the candidate has misled you (but consider drawing their attention to the apparent contradiction, as there may be a reasonable explanation).
  • the candidate consistently demonstrates a lack of knowledge which they claim to have (but if possible attempt to give them an opportunity to demonstrate to you what they do know).
  • it is clear that the person in front of you did not intend to apply for the job you're interviewing for (but check this with them).

...then stopping may be best for everyone, especially if the interview is an hour or longer. In each case, if you make it clear what the job requires and that they appear to be struggling, it will give them the opportunity to address the problem (possibly even by agreeing with you that the job is not for them!). It's a good idea to be prepared for this eventuality - make sure it's clear who, from the interviewers, will be responsible for making this call, and preferably structure your interview so there's a reasonable point to take a break in case you need to confer over a change in approach.

But if it might just be that...

  • the candidate begins the interview nervously, and is having mind-blanks,
  • the initial questions are acknowledged weaknesses and the candidate's strengths lie in other areas,
  • you think they won't get the job because you've already interviewed another candidate,

... then you should continue, and look for the best ways to help the candidate demonstrate what they have to offer. Other candidates might pull out, the person in front of you might astonish you later in the interview. If you were surprised by how badly they appear to be doing, there must be a reason. If nothing else, proceeding will allow you to be as sure as you can be that you gave the candidate the best chance... maybe you need to read applications/CVs more closely, for instance?

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