After carefully crafting a job application and nailing the subsequent two interviews, you’re feeling confident. You know it often takes more than one interview for a potential employer to decide whether to offer you a role – and assume you’ll be given an answer either way soon. But when you’re told you need to have a third meeting, you begin to think it’s overkill.
A third interview is often used to confirm whether a candidate is suitable for the role. It can also be an opportunity to introduce the new hire to other managers and colleagues, if a decision has already been made. However, there is a point when applicants are invited back in for meetings too many times.
Often, initial job applications are very detailed and can involve pages of information. While most candidates expect to be interviewed if they’re successful, multiple interviews can seem like a waste of time.
“I know a number of candidates who now view this as a red flag,” says Penelope Jones, career coach and founder of My So-Called Career. “It can be a sign that a company has trouble with decision making, is overly hierarchical, risk averse, or tries to solve everything by committee, with no one having the autonomy to make a call.”
Previously, multiple interviews were a “badge of honour” for companies who were aware of the risks of single-source recruitment, adds Jones. For example, only conducting one interview with a single manager rather than a varied panel can lead to diversity problems.
“An opposing view now seems to be emerging, with processes asking too much of candidates to be deemed reasonable,” says Jones. “In many cases this can verge on working for free and the provision of insights, ideas and materials which are retained by the organisation, regardless of whether the candidate is successful.”
Careers expert Soma Ghosh, The Career happiness mentor, says candidates may be put off a company if they feel their time and energy isn’t being appreciated. Multiple interviews can also be overwhelming for applicants.
“Another aspect of this could be that if someone hasn’t experienced multiple interviews before they could feel out of their depth,” she says. “They may even start the process but not finish it because they feel already that perhaps they won’t get the job.”
The pros and cons for employees
Interviews give candidates the chance to ask questions and find out more about the job and the company. “You also get to experience different types of interviews,” says Ghosh. “For example, the process could start off with a telephone interview, then a competency interview, a panel interview and a group interview. You may talk to the CEO and have a few one-to-one interviews with certain integral members of staff.”
Multiple interviews can give candidates a sense of whether the job or company is right for them too. “Remember, you are also choosing the job as much as they are choosing you for the role,” says Ghosh.
However, multiple interviews can take up a huge amount of time and energy and can make people feel like they’re being strung along. “Breadcrumbing isn’t good for our confidence and self-esteem,” says Jones. “A constant feeling of having to prove ourselves makes us feel as if the problem is us not being good enough, rather than the organisation failing to have its stuff together.”
The pros and cons for employers
For employers, multiple job interviews can ensure candidates are a good fit. “You may have a clear sense of their personality, aptitude, motivation and strengths,” says Jones. “If they have stuck it out through seven rounds of interviews, employers can be pretty confident that the candidate wants the job – or hasn’t been able to secure another one.
“That said, resilience to death by a thousand papercuts is hardly a key hiring attribute,” she adds. “Employers should think about how many great candidates they might lose because they weren’t willing to grin and bear it, or got snapped up in half the time by a competitor with a less arduous process.”
If candidates have interest from other companies with a more streamlined recruitment process, they may reach the offer stage more quickly elsewhere. A bad hiring process can lead to a bad reputation too, which can deter future applicants. “Employers may appear unable to make decisions or unsure of what they are hiring for – this is never a good look from a candidate perspective,” says Jones.
What to do if you are facing a multiple interview process
If a company does have a complex or multi-stage recruitment process, they should be upfront about it from the start. Candidates might want to ask potential employers for a timeframe for their decision too. Ultimately, people are more likely to agree to multiple interviews if they know where they are in the process.
“Candidates should know from the first interview onward what the stages are, how many interviews they can expect from start to end, whether there are any practical tests or exercises, and approximately how many people they will connect with,” says Jones.
It’s also important to ask for feedback during the process, especially if you are unsuccessful. “The only rationale for a drawn-out process is to ensure the best possible final outcome, so employers should give candidates the opportunity and environment to excel and let them know what you are looking for in them from the various stages,” adds Jones. “The candidate has invested hours, if not days, in you. The least you can do is treat them with respect and humanity and give them useful insight for future opportunities.”