If you’ve ever applied to a job you really want, the answer when asked how many is too many interviews is “more than 1.” No one wants to wait around and that doesn’t change whether you’re in the middle of a hiring boom or not. Plus, interviews aren’t exactly like a vacation. It’s a lot of pressure. Spreading it over multiple hours, days, and weeks seems cruel.
This uneven candidate-driven hiring market is no exception. Even when everyone is feeling the pressures from hiring, the lengthy interview process is still in place. For example, last week I spoke with a friend who was referred to two companies. So far, she has attended 4 interviews that were multiple hours long for each company. Emphasis: they were referred.
A referral, y’all. They’re statistically more likely than any other candidate to succeed and they’re going through 4+ hours of interviews? What’s even better is that recruiters have a tendency to go online and whine about it. How many times have you seen a recruiter tweet about candidates not showing up to interviews anymore? They don’t mention it’s interview 12. No wonder we lose folks mid-process.
But what is the answer? How many is too many? I asked Twitter and as usual, you all had some pretty specific opinions:
“I say if you need more than 3 you’re doing it wrong.” – Karleen @TheResumeSmith
“I would suggest 4 for a high level role. Four for a lower or mid-level role seems like a lot – especially in today’s market.” – Tom Daniels @tomrdaniels419
“If you are not Director level or above (in a mid/large company) 3 meetings is too much.” – Tammy Colson @TLColson
“I aim to keep it to three but sometimes need a forth for more senior roles. More than that and the company just isn’t organized of thoughtful enough about their process imo.” – Caro Griffin @carolinesyrup
“It depends on the position, but 4 is a bit excessive. If by the 3rd interview you can’t decided if they are a good fit then maybe you don’t have the right candidate. Give them feedback and move on.” – Ricky Baez @RickyBaezHR
At the end of the day, I don’t think there is one right answer. There are too many variables and scenarios to try to make a science around how many or how much gets you there. I can tell you 12 is too many, according to this study and common sense.
A Stupid Secret: Why You Need To Overexplain The Interview Process
Here’s what I do know even without a bunch of data or research studies: if you are transparent and communicate the process to candidates ahead of time, you’re probably doing better than 99% of people. Anne said it best:
“I honestly think it’s less about the number and more about how transparent the process is. At the first phone call with the recruiter there should be a clear plan of who all you’ll meet with and roughly when, and when they expect to be making an offer.” – Anne Tomkinson @annetomk
For a field that relies so heavily on communication, recruiters sure don’t communicate next steps very often. Next steps are vital information for candidates, and yet they aren’t mentioned during the interview process despite the fact they should be included as interviews are wrapped up. Key questions for a person with hope like, when will the next interview be? Will there even be another interview? When are you planning on making a decision?
Instead, candidates are sent on their way and left in the dark. Communications are mass produced and even auto-generated, and candidates are expected to know what’s next on their own. My personal favorite? The cold rejection. “We’re sorry to inform you…” as if this was some scratch off lottery ticket and you saw a sad face, not a job that could influence your life every single day.
Too Many Interviews: The Not-So-Secret Formula for Transparency
You need to over-communicate each and every step. Your interview process is a stupid secret to keep, especially when you need candidates and most people are getting recruited to other companies the second you hesitate to follow up. There are a lot of places that are hiring, but candidates don’t want to work for companies that aren’t giving them what they need – especially if it starts at the moment they begin an interview process.
Include guidelines for the interview process and timeline of the hiring process in your job post. It’s simple, something like this: We’re going to have 4 rounds of interviews where you meet with Title, Title, Title, and Title. In the first two you will… In the last two you will… You can expect this process to be complete by X date.
Here’s an email template you can use, too.
Dear CANDIDATE’S NAME,
Looking forward to meeting with you about the JOB TITLE role. You’ll be meeting with COLLEAGUE’S NAME, TITLE and I for your interview (date and time baked into the Zoom invite). The agenda is simple.
1. Introductions from COLLEAGUE’S NAME and I
2. NAME will explain the role and how it fits into the organization
3. Questions for you
4. Questions from you
Attached is a copy of the job post for the role and our 6-month goals. Please take a look and bring any questions.
This will be the # of # total interviews in this process to determine if you are the right person for this role. This will happen over DATES and we plan to complete the hiring process by DATE. Please let me know if you require any specialized accommodations. Talk to you soon.
It’s like writing a love note to candidates and will surely make you stand out for all the right reasons because it’s chock full of transparency about the interview process. They’ll love you for it.
Bonus: Being transparent about the interview process will increase candidate retention and engagement. When the road towards an offer is dark and winding, it can scare candidates off – no one wants to wander into the unknown without any sight of the end goal. But if they know they’re getting closer and closer to a potential offer? Going through two, three, four interviews, or more won’t seem so bad.
Keep your qualified candidates by explaining the next step in the interview process often. Too many interviews won’t feel like too much if you communicate upfront.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.