4 Rounds of Interviews? It Shows How Screwed Up Your Hiring Process Is

I had a client recently that was undecided about a candidate after the fourth (4th) round interview.

They were thinking that maybe a fifth round would make the difference. I told them that it wouldn’t. In fact, it was a mistake to allow them to get to four.

Do you know what the fourth round interview says about your hiring process?

It says that your process is broken.

No one needs four rounds of interviews to decide if a candidate is the right candidate for your organization. A fifth round, or any number higher, is just adding insult to injury.

Too many rounds, too much second tier talent

Here’s what anything beyond the third round interview says to your candidate:

  • Hey, come work for us so we can totally frustrate you with our indecision culture.
  • We need more interviews because we don’t have our shit together, but please don’t notice that.”
  • “You are so mediocre that we just can’t decide if we should pass on you or hire you.”
  • I bet you can’t wait to come aboard and be a part of this process in the future!”
  • We like to wear down candidates to see who ‘really’ wants our job!”

Organizations that can’t figure this out are always interviewing second tier talent.

How the interview process should go

Organizations that are talent attractors have determined that less is more.

They have a concise process. They move quickly. They get it right more than they get it wrong. If we get they do get it wrong, they don’t take long to make the correction.

The reality is that 99 percent of your interviews should never need to go beyond three interviews. It looks like this:

  • First round – This is your pre-employment screening/assessments and phone interview. Perfect placement for video screening tool (HireVue, WePow, etc.).
  • Second round – Face-to-face with hiring manager and any other key stakeholders (i.e., people this person might be asked to support from other functions).
  • Third round (if needed) — Face-to-face or video phone (Skype-type) interview. Executive sign off. Really only needed if your line executive doesn’t have faith in the hiring manager.

Less info the longer you go

More interviews after this point yield negligible additional information, and, actually might be a detriment to your hiring decision.

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Why? Here’s what happens after you talk about someone for so long — they turn into a piece of crap!

This is normal human and organizational behavior, by the way. We start out talking about all the good qualities and experiences the person has and how they can help us.

Then we start searching for hickeys and no matter what, we will find them! Then we start talking about what’s wrong with the person, and before you know it, that great candidate, they become a piece of garbage and not good enough for your organization.

When you let it go on too long

But they’re not really garbage. They’re still the really good person you initially interviewed. You just let it go too long and discovered they have opportunities and we don’t want to hire anyone with “opportunities” — we want perfect.

This is what happens after round three of interviews in almost every organization I’ve ever witnessed (and some went to four, five, six, or more rounds). It might be the biggest misconception of candidates, who feel the longer they go in the interview process, the better the chance for an offer.

It’s untrue! If you don’t get an offer after the third round, your percentages of getting an offer falls exponentially for every round after that!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


27 Comments on “4 Rounds of Interviews? It Shows How Screwed Up Your Hiring Process Is

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more and I know you won’t believe me, however, I know
    of one case where a candidate had to return14 times for interviews for a job. And worse, she had worked for the company previously; had performed wonderfully
    plus everyone loved her. She finally got the job – – is still there–
    –and, yes, is performing “wonderfully.”

    1. If she had performed wonderfully n worked for the company previously why the waste of time and resources? Plus,what was it the company was looking for that they didn’t see until the 14th time? I honestly am interrested.

  2. OMGoodnes, this is so on the money! I once interviewed for a company where I learned at ROUND 4 that they still had 5 other candidates. I almost walked out right then and there. Total waste of everyone’s time.

    As a hiring manager, the process that I favor is exactly the one you’ve outlined in your bulleted list. The only time I add an extra step is when I test people (because I think testing and interviewing on the same day is just too tiring for candidates).

    What’s happening out there is totally nuts. And is it really yielding better employees?

  3. During this past summer, I had 10 interviews with a very well-respected creative agency – from CEO to COO to Creative Director, Director of Accounts, Head of Strategy, their 2 EVPs, etc. I’m not new to the industry (15-20 years) nor to the interview process. In the end, following a month of almost complete radio silence from them, I learned through a consultant at their firm, that they gave the post to someone else after expanding the search following the hiring of a new head of HR during my process. (I never met the new HR exec.) Along the way, I received nothing but positive, glowing reviews and feedback from each exec I spent time with. Need I say anything about the impact, etc., of that process plus time and $$ I lost?

    1. Oh my… I can not conceive how these successful companies think they can get away with treating ppl of their own industry with such disrespect. I’m so sorry to hear that and being in a similar situation (8 interviews to be told job is put on hold) I feel really angry to see that this is a practice wide spread.

  4. Just an honest question, as a small company where I as the president am also the HR department: how do I attract and identify top tier talent? I have never had more than 3 interviews, but those that I had were completely in the interest of uncovering if the candidate is a loser. As a small business, you hire a lot of them (i.e. (I don’t work much) from home, I am addicted to anti-depressants, I made up my entire resume, I can act normal for one hour, but after that forget it….)

    I have learned that “going with your gut” and one interview leaves you with the candidates that companies that have better due diligence pass over.

    With that said, my last job before starting my own company required four rounds of interviews IN FOUR STATES. Yes, I made it through that 6 month process, and then actually accepted the job. Not totally a mistake, but obviously I am not still working for them.

    1. I see this is an old post, but the question remains relevant: how to identify top talent. For a small company, my suggestion is to stick with the one interview, just expand it to include a presentation from the candidate on a topic related to the work that he/she will be doing. This will identify who knows his/her stuff and who can communicate well. Research the person on the internet to see if any good, bad, or ugly social media postings are found and/or other bits of information relative to the way the person will perform as an employee. Search for the candidate’s email address; this often yields lots of valuable intel.

      1. This is a horrible violation of a candidate’s privacy.

        Employees often use their accounts to post about current and events and political matters. Unless, they are neo-Nazis who were carrying torches in Charlottsville, VA, their lives and views are really none of your business.

  5. I have interviewed with many many top companies (amazon, apple…so like), never had more than three round of interviews, in total 5-6 interviews (first screening, 4-5 onsite with different people), that is fine. and recently I am interviewing with another company (cant name right now) , they did a phone interview (hiring manager), then they scheduled onsite visit (6 interviews with 6 different people, but 1 guy was travelling, so 5 interviews), then the manger told me that if they decide to hire me then I may need to talk with another team that I will be working with (in another location), and the HR told me that I will know the decision in a few days. I followed up after 4 days and they set up a phone “interview” (not discussions as told earlier) with the manage in different location and told me it is the next ‘step’ in the process, I was kind of alrmed but though it is the last stage. Now, after a 1 hour long phone interview I asked what are the next steps, was told, I will need to fly to need location to interview with the team !! I was so fucking pissed off, I wanted to ask, do you guys know what you really want or what are you doing exactly? I am really pissed off.

    1. Something similar just happened to me. I’m being interviewed by a tech company and after the 6th interview which I was told it was the last, they tell me that they needed two more people to see me. Then after the 8th interview (all in different times/days) they send me an email saying that the hiring is on hold since they need to finish hiring a related position. I mean, where’s the respect for my time and my efforts here? Firstly to drag more than 1 person to that extent, you’d hope if you reached 8 you’d have already beaten any competition … Second to expect that candidates should just accept disrespect because they are a famous and successful company.

  6. and I have seen losers/fake profilers being hired after 6 interviews and great people being hired in 1 interview. the whole interview process in corporate america (behavioral interviews) is useless.

  7. Personally best clarified up front re process and when Company says 3 interviews, psychometrics followed by another panel interview etc . etc. I say you have my LinkedIn profile I am only available for first and final interview if it doesn’t meet with clients expectations not to worry wont be pursuing opportunity further or don’t mind disengaging from process now.

  8. Great discussion and I’d agree that you really do have a significantly diminishing level output after the second interview let alone third.

    Perhaps this is a sign of a lack of faith in the staff doing the interviews – a god complex from senior management perhaps.. someone who won’t delegate responsibility? Whatever the reason, it makes the organisation look a little bureaucratic (in the normative sense).

    Kind regards from http://recruitmentselectionprocess.com

  9. I have had interview processes that have lasted 6 months and most do last a minimum 3 months with at least 6 interviews with six different people. Each person has the power of veto. Quite often I am also sent to do IQ tests and business ‘role plays’…! Welcome to the financial services

  10. Remember to leave reviews about companies on sites like glassdoor.com so that others will know ahead of time what they are facing.

  11. So as a candidate, what are some recomended ways to to tell a company that enough is enough, without losing your candidacy.
    In my situation i am interviewing at a med size tech company.
    1. Had a phone screen with the hiring manager
    2. Then he wanted me to come in and meet for a face to face with just him.
    3. Next they brought me in to meet with the rest of the managment team (4 people) I would be working with.
    *** they told me after this that there would be one more round with the execs.
    4. Now they are telling me that all the execs are not available on a single day and they want to split the time where I meet 2 execs on one day and two on another day.
    I am currently working, so each time i have to take a day off. I think its ridiculous that I have to work around their schedule and meet them this many times. I am planning on asking for a skype interview with 2 execs to save me the trip but obviosuly a Nay from an exec would most liekly disqualify me from the job and they could take the request for a video int as a slight.
    Any suggestions?

  12. Great post, Tim! If you allow me I can add one more message to candidates beyond third round…‘You are way too smart for our requirement and we are still figuring out how to manage you once you are in!’ The increasing number of interview rounds always reminds me of the famous love at first sight cliché – ‘Do you believe in Love at first sight or should I walk by again…?’

  13. What a lot of companies don’t understand is that despite their egos, they’re not a potential employee’s last hope. While they’re wasting time on third and fourth interviews, that employee is talking to other companies and if they aren’t careful, they will lose talent to their competitors.

    I know from experience that, especially in the technical world, potential employees aren’t great at selling themselves. We can do the work, we just don’t know how to convince you of it.

  14. I had four interviews with a company of the period of four weeks. The first three went great and the “final” interview was with the company president; it lasted nearly 90 minutes. He mentioned that he was speaking with three other candidates. They interviewed four people a total of 16 times and apparently couldn’t find a suitable candidate. Several days later they reposted the position and responded to my follow-up note by saying that they were still interviewing additional candidates.

    I was somewhat annoyed. On one hand, I clearly didn’t impress them enough in my four prior meetings to stand out from the pack. So apparently I was supposed to wait around while they interviewed other people who MIGHT be better suited for the position instead of me. But I was also not feeling very “pretty” because if they didn’t find someone in the second round candidates I would basically be a “second choice” hire if they decided to make an offer.

    At that point I elected to withdraw from the interview process. I figured that if I didn’t get the job after four interviews than I wasn’t ever getting it. If they felt the need to repost the position than I wasn’t under serious consideration anyway.

  15. Well written article. I just had an eighth (yes – eighth!) round “final” interview with a senior executive figure only to receive a non-personalized “we will not be proceeding with your application” email from a junior HR employee the next day. The whole process lasted 3 months. You could not imagine my disbelief…

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