Think or Blink – Secrets of great interviewers

There are two methods, not necessarily mutually exclusive, that hiring managers can arrive at decisions.

Gut reactions from interviewers

The first is a gut level instant reaction as examined by Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Blink’. A receptionist at A&E instinctively knows by a mother’s face to press the emergency button for a child, an experienced mechanic hearing an engine and sensing a timing issue. This is not reasoned thought but instinct, built often on years of experience.

A slower, more considered approach

The second would be a slower thoughtful process, after consideration of the pertinent facts coming to a reasoned conclusion. How we imagine a judge may reach a decision or a scientist slowly but surely finds evidence for their theorem.

So how should we decide what method to use during the interview process?


The ‘blink’ is to rely on gut reaction built on years of observing people, making an instant judgement on likability and performance during the first few minutes. The human brain has stored a multitude of memories for our subconscious to use in its judgement.

However, to use it may be to pre-judge; to accept our prejudices. The tendency to use ‘blink’ will then be reinforced by the questions we ask at interview. These questions, if we have judged too early, will tend to be more difficult for candidates we do not like, and easier for those we prefer. This creates a self-fulfilling prophesy, all based upon first impressions.

The 20-minute rule

Our experience is that a period of reasoned thought is required, to make sure you have all the requisite information before pre-judging. Great interviewers deploy discipline, waiting 20 minutes before making an initial decision. Asking demanding questions to those that initially impress and giving the benefit of doubt to those that did not.

The 20-minute rule is paramount. However gut reaction should never be discarded. The brain and intuition are very effective at judging human performance. The power of intuition can though be magnified with better information and filters. So, by all means harness your instincts but force yourself to do so with an open mind after 20 minutes.

And, of course, talk to us about finding you the best candidates for your interviews!