Interviews, we have a problem: Recruiters say long hiring processes can be bad for business.

There’s no perfect number of interviews or people with candidates to meet with, but maintaining certain priorities will help refine the process.
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· 5 min read

For some applicants, certain job interviews might evoke images of Tom Hanks in the 2000 film Cast Away. After weeks, or even months, of interviews with multiple managers and recruiters, a candidate may feel as if they’re marooned on a deserted island, clinging to a fading hope that a recruiter, one Mr. Wilson, will tell him, “You’ve got mail” about a job offer.

Candidates who accept third-, fourth-, and even fifth-round interviews (and beyond), may often be subject to the whims of hiring managers who can’t make up their minds, according to two talent acquisition specialists who recently spoke with HR Brew. Interviews can stretch into seemingly interminable slogs “because the hiring manager is not comfortable making a decision, meaning they’re not that self-assured,” Keirsten Greggs, a talent acquisition specialist in the financial services industry, explained. “They’re not that confident. They don’t know enough about selecting and nurturing and developing staff to pick the right person.”

Of course, not all job interviews are the same, and require different levels of vetting based on the seniority of open roles. The number of employees a candidate meets with and the number of interviews total “should be proportional to the level of the position,” Greggs advised. But marathon interviews can have consequences for a company’s business, Kristina Minyard, a talent acquisition professional specializing in technical engineering and government contractors, told HR Brew.

Jobs that stay open for months “can have a negative impact on [a company’s] ability to continue their revenue growth, and it can have a negative impact on the morale of the employees who are still being hurt” by shouldering the extra work of a vacant position, Minyard said.

When interviews go overboard (much like Hanks in Captain Phillips). Vetting an applicant does take time, and research indicates that offers are made on different timelines across industries. A 2021 LinkedIn analysis of 400,000 confirmed hires made on the platform, “involving candidates who applied for jobs from June 2020 to March 2021,” showed a broad gulf between the lowest median wait for job hunters (33 days for administrative roles) and the highest (49 days for engineering roles).

Even if deliberations are going to take a while, it helps to let candidates know that they’re not waiting in vain, Minyard said. “I will update my candidates and say, ‘Hey, we’re moving along in the process. I should know something for you in five days,’” she explained. “That’s part of the solution: opening that line of communication and telling people where they are in the process.”

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Certainly, interview processes that last for months have been decried by job seekers on Reddit and LinkedIn, and can sow reputational damage far beyond social media. For candidates, a bad experience is “something that they’re going to carry with them forever,” Minyard explained. “Whether you hire [someone] or not, you might want to hire their brother, or their neighbor, or their best friend. And when you create bad experiences for these candidates, you are limiting your candidate pool.”

A rule of thumb? In recruiting circles, an idea exists that after a certain number of interviews, the clouds will part and a unicorn candidate will appear like Joe flying out of the volcano. But thinking there’s a “magic number of people that you have to speak with before you make a hiring decision” can drag the process out, Greggs cautioned.

This can happen if managers don’t have “a plan up front about what the interview process is going to be,” Greggs said.

Any questions? There are an abundance of questions related to company finance and revenue that could compel managers to make hiring decisions on a quicker timeline, according to Minyard: “How much is it costing you to have this position open? Are you losing out on a revenue stream? Are you losing out on billable hours?...How does this position being open impact you? And not only how does it impact your bottom line, but then what about morale?”

Plus, dragging out the process puts any employer in a negative position against competitors, she argued. “If a candidate is interviewing with one company, they’re interviewing with multiple companies. So we really are in a position where it’s a race against the clock.”

With Minyard’s questions in mind, companies can avoid digging a money pit, and perhaps candidates won’t feel like they’re playing a big game of catch me if you can with a recruiter, screaming at their faithful volleyball companions, lost on a road to perdition without a job offer, in a league of their own.—SB

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @SammBlum on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Sam for his number on Signal.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.