How Many Interviews Is Enough? 1? 3? 5?

We’ve all heard about firms who proudly flog candidates through an intense, convoluted, and long interview process. Their intentions are to be understandable rigorous. These firms have often experienced the pain of a bad hire and have swung far to the other extreme and now conduct numerous interviews, often over five.

But this extreme interviewing rigorousness introduces its own set of problems. Candidate fatigue, quicker competition, and analysis paralysis. Yet, there is still turnover and lost candidates. Simply adding interviews to the process does not ensure wise hiring.

Conversely, making a hiring decision after one hour of meeting leaves little room for relationship building, introducing other interviewers to give the candidate more perspective, setting expectations, or even to allow the candidate to make a considered acceptance which is key to commitment.

Extremes of any form contain pitfalls.

Where is the right balance of speed and due diligence for interviewing?

A few things must be established in an interview at any level. These do not need to be intensely formal but it is essential they are known by all parties.

  • The candidate’s role and compensation expectations, work ethos, and career ambition. What drives them?

  • The company’s corresponding expectations for the role, business ethos, and future plans. Is there natural alignment with the candidate?

  • The performance criteria the employee will be evaluated with.

  • The candidate’s potential manager and key stake-holding teammates should be introduced.

  • References should be run.

For companies who prefer a carefully considered process

  • Combine interviews; maximize your interviews with longer interviews instead of more

  • Don’t introduce the candidate to people they will not regularly interact with

  • Be prepared to schedule the follow up interview promptly at the conclusion of a successful interview. Do not wait for days to get feedback to the candidate. If they are good, schedule now. More with alacrity on attractive candidates.

  • Consider interview stages; relationship building, expectation setting, and technical interview

  • Be thoughtfully brisk in analysis. Don’t let decisions get stuck in committee. Make one person ultimately responsible and let them make the call. Be kind to mistakes. Hiring is a difficult science and art.

  • Long interview processes increase the risk of counter-offers.

For companies who prefer a decisive process

  • Give yourself time to understand what makes the candidate tick

  • Communicate clearly what your standard of success in the role is

  • Ask for significant detail in how they manage their responsibilities

  • Introduce them to important teammates and their direct supervisor

  • Meet in multiple contexts to gain more perspective on their personality. Coffee shop, office, jobsite, etc. Seeing people in multiple environments will make it harder for them to maintain deception.

The ultimate interview process (long or short) is one which tailors to the candidate, company culture, and sets a strong foundation for future mutual accountability. Don’t go for a long process without built in agility and don’t go too short out of laziness.

About the author

TJ Kastning is the principal of Ambassador Search Group, a boutique recruiting agency passionate about finding excellent professionals for amazing construction companies.

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