Please Kill the Fourth Round of Interviews

By Kris Dunn

Jan. 25, 2016

If you’re like most companies that interview and hire professional-grade talent, you’ve lost control. Your interview process has morphed from the reasonable to the absurd.

Why? Because more and more companies are conducting interview processes that resemble a game of survival. Candidates are asked to return four and five times for subsequent stages of interviewing.

Is that fourth round of interviews necessary? Hell, no.

If you’ve had the feeling that your hiring process is slowerthan ever, some new research actually quantifies that your gut feeling was right. Data from CEB recently showed that the average time to fill positions in the U.S. is at 63 business days — 21 more days than it was five years ago.

Part of that number might be the improved economy, but I’ll guarantee you the majority of it is the inefficiency of the recruiting process.

We’ve tricked ourselves into believing that taking longer and involving more “stakeholder” or “hiring decision influencer” types is the path to better selection. We believe that, by having four or more interviews, we can better determine things like cultural fit.

If you don’t trust the hiring manager’s boss, you should insert yourself into that process, interviewing finalists as well.

Simply put, it’s not true. Using a longer process and more stages/interviews implies that some key selection competencies — namely interviewing skill and feedback assimilation across multiple interviewers — are healthy enough to contribute to better selection.

Unfortunately, fourth rounds of interviews aren’t used to flex incredible organizational skill at interviewing or breaking down the merits of candidates. They exist to give more people “veto” power.

Let’s say you’re like most companies and your hiring managers are mediocre at best when it comes to interviewing and selection. You don’t have the time, budget or organizational discipline to do an intervention and significantly improve interviewing skills, right?

If that’s the case, your best path is not to let a four-round interview process muddy up the already chum-infested waters; it’s to allow that hiring manager’s next-level boss to contribute to the process and grow the hiring manager over time. 

Inexperienced hiring managers interview multiple candidates. They bring back two or three candidates for final interviews with the boss, and that person breaks it down and decides whom to hire. It’s called mentoring.

If you don’t trust the hiring manager’s boss, you should insert yourself into that process, interviewing finalists as well. But you don’t need additional rounds of interviews with others in the organization that cost time.

Of course, many companies circulate those candidates for additional interviews outside the department in question to gauge “cultural fit.” The problem with that is most of the companies taking this course lose out on diversity of talent by allowing people to decline candidates who aren’t “like us.”

If cultural fit hasn’t been defined from a selection perspective, you’re just letting people veto candidates based on nontangible items. That’s going to kill you over time.

Finally, conducting three to five rounds of interviews to get to the offer stage on any candidate implies you unlock the selection horsepower of all those interviews by having a disciplined candidate breakdown process.

If you don’t demand that all interviewers spend at least 15 minutes together being led through a feedback process designed to compare and contrast views on candidate strengths and weaknesses, you’re wasting your time.

Conducting more than two rounds of interviews is killing your recruiting operation. You can make those two rounds as in-depth as you would like and get multiple people involved, but additional rounds are fool’s gold.

What’s that? You need stats? OK, nerds. CEB further outlines in its report on recruiting efficiency that for every week you shave off your time-to-fill by eliminating additional rounds of interviews, you save $2,000.

You think that fat recruiting process is free? Turns out, it’s not. The time spent in interviews combined with the opportunity cost of having a job open for longer than it needs to be has real costs for your organization.

You can unlock those savings by approaching your recruiting process with common sense.

If your company has a cumbersome process, take the offensive and tell them your time-to-fill problem isn’t about HR or recruiting; it’s about the number of interview rounds.

Stop the five-round interview madness. Do an initial round of interviews and involve as many people as you’d like. Bring back two candidates, have them work through final inbox exercises, interview with the skip-level manager, etc. … and MAKE A DECISION!

You’ll be glad you did.

Kris Dunn, the chief human resources officer at Kinetix, is a Workforce contributing editor.

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