Why Five Minute Jobbing is a Bad Idea

I recently discovered what appears to be the beginnings of a new trend in hiring practices. It is called “five minute jobbing”, and is essentially the marriage of so-called “speed dating” with job interviews. Suffice it to say, it piqued my curiosity, so I decided to look into it.

Lead image originally posted on Judy’s Book.

Five minute jobbing was apparently the brainchild of Andy Sack, CEO of Judy’s Book, which is a site aiming to combine the value of social networking and directory services, into a new form of Yellow Book. It really is a neat site – you should take a look if you haven’t seen it.

Sack wanted to come up with a creative way of recruiting IT talent in the Seattle area, and suggested that by using the same techniques as speed dating (something I had fortunately never heard of until now), hiring companies could quickly filter through a large number of candidates in a very short period of time. So he teamed up with a few other companies and came up with the concept of having these “5 minute jobbing” events.

I must confess that any time there is mention of a potential new efficiency, I am all ears. Especially when it comes to something like recruiting, which can be a time sink in certain instances. While I applaud their efforts to come up with a new twist on things, I think there are some fundamental problems with this hiring approach.

First and foremost, I simply don’t feel like you can truly get to know someone in five minutes. For some people, perhaps they feel that five minutes is enough time. As I opined in my discussion of the circle theory, I feel that each team member is a critical link to the integrity of the group as a whole. As such, I would spend quite a bit more time digging into a person’s skillset, background, and personality, among other things. Getting to know them better should be the first task at hand when hiring someone. There is only so much you can learn about a person in five minutes. Since when has it become advantageous to know less about a candidate prior to making a hiring decision?

If the idea behind the events were to spend five initial minutes with a candidate, and determine whether or not you wanted to bring them into the office for a second interview, then I would be all for it. However, I don’t see any mention of this on the 5minutejobbing.com web site. All I see is the tagline “Get a job in 5 minutes”, so I am left to assume that tendered job offers are the objective of the event.

I would be very interested to see some mid-to-long-term statistics on the track records of people hired through this “speed hiring” process. If you hire someone in this way, and after a few months, they don’t work, then what have you really gained? If anything, you’ve lost time and money. This is not to speak of the opportunity costs with lost project time, slipping dates, re-recruiting costs, and bringing a new person up to speed on the project environment (again).

Another problem is the fact that people tend to work in 3-5 year job cycles now. Granted, technology has made them more productive than employees in previous generations, but when you hire someone today, as a hiring manager, you automatically assume that they will not be there for the long haul. Given this, it is important that you hire people who will at least stay through the cycle, and hopefully beyond. Thus, another reason for getting to know them better.

Giving someone only five minutes (or even 15) in a job interview is quite frankly an insult to their intelligence. If I am going to commit a substantial portion of my life to working for a particular firm, I expect to be treated with some dignity and respect. I do not want to be made to feel as if I am walking into a cattle car or a fast food line. “Hi there, John. I know you are a very qualified candidate, but we are only going to give you five minutes.”

The 5minutejobbing.com web site describes the event as “fun and low stress.” Quite frankly, if I told a candidate that they had five minutes to convince me to hire them, there is simply no way that the candidate is going to “have fun” or feel “low stressed” about it. They are going to be nervous as hell, and most likely are going to flub something or another during the interview – this is human nature. Interviews are nerve-racking enough as it is for candidates – we don’t need to start putting egg timers over their heads.

I will say, however, think this approach could have merit in situations where you are hiring subcontractors. I am careful here not to use the word “consultants” – IT consultants and IT subcontractors are two entirely different animals, although for some reason, some people like to use them synonomously. If I am looking to do some staff augmentation, and I need a junior database analyst to come in for a few months, then I suppose this approach may have some merit, although I wouldn’t use it personally.

There is also still a glut of IT workers floating around in the larger marketplace. Irrespective of the size of the hiring company, finding able-bodied IT staffers is quite easy.

The companies that are listed as sponsors of the current “five minute jobbing” events in Seattle are all what I would call small or upstart companies (one is the up-and-coming real estate valuation play at zillow.com). I can’t see larger, more established companies using this sort of approach. The time savings is simply not worth the potential aforementioned opportunity cost.

Having worked in several startups, I would also argue that each new startup hire is exponentially more important to the lifespan of the organization. As such, I wouldn’t use this approach in a startup mode either. Truth be told, I’d probably spend even more time scrutinizing them. As I’ve said before, I’d rather spend $1,000 hiring the right person, then $10,000 fixing their mistakes.

For more info on this concept, here are some informative links:

Cheers.

3 Comments

  1. Scott,

    I meant to follow up with you on this when I read it, but other priorities popped up.

    I am fairly certain that, just like speed dating, there is no promise of commitment at the end of the 5 minutes. For all the same reasons you described above. I think you’re taking a much too literal interpretation of the “find a job in 5 minutes”, which a marketing tease, much like “find the love ofyour life in 5 minutes.”

    That is to say – it’s a slogan, not a contract. In one hour, you’ll interview 10 – 12 people. You may or may not want to follow up with some of the candidates. No promise of a job, no performance anxiety – just a chat beteween two people, one who happens to be looking for a job, and one who happens to be hiring.

    Have a great day!
    John

  2. Hi there, John, and thanks for surfing by.

    As I said in the original post, if the idea behind the events were to spend five initial minutes with a candidate, and determine whether or not you wanted to bring them into the office for a second interview, then I would be all for it.

    Unfortunately, this wasn’t really clear, so I was left to my own devices – which is good, otherwise, I would have nothing to blog about! :D

    Even so, I don’t prefer the format.  I would prefer to get the candidate one-on-one in an office, rather than in an environment where they they but one fish among many with the egg timer over their head.

    Cheers.

  3. Hey, I think 5 minute jobbing is great! It’s sure to keep consultants like me employed forever trying to fix all the problems it causes!

    Seriously, if they are making hiring decisions after 5 minutes, I completely agree with you. However, my take on it (after reading the site) is that it is similar to speed dating in that the only decision being made is whether to spend a little more time with this person.

    It sounds like a great idea – sort of a face to face pile of resumes. It generally takes longer than 5 minutes to read a resume and this will give the company a lot more info than a resume. And it may also be a generational thing – those in the 20-something and 30-something crowd seem quite comfortable with this micro interactions. So, if that’s the crowd you want to recruit from, they should indeed find this fun and low stress.

    And, I do hope they heed your thoughts and take time to really explore the fit before making an offer!

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