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How many job interview rounds are too many?

·3-min read
Woman waiting for job interview
There are some strong arguments for streamlining the hiring process. (Source: Getty)

Applying for jobs can feel like a full-time job itself, with multiple rounds of interviews and tests now commonplace - even in lower-level roles.

One 30-year-old woman looking to get into health consultancy recently sunk hours into labour-intensive hiring processes during her latest job search.

At one large consultancy firm, she did two 50-minute interviews in the first round, followed by three 50-minute interviews in the second round for a junior consultant role.

She was also advised to do 15-20 practice cases in preparation, which amounted to months of work.

“They don’t care about your life - I kept having to call in sick for full days of interviews,” she said.

It was a bitter pill to swallow when she didn’t get the job.

While it’s clearly important to thoroughly vet candidates to ensure a suitable person is found for the role, are several hours of interviews always necessary? At what point are they a waste of both the candidate’s and the company’s time?

Dr Jim Bright, professor of Career Education at Australian Catholic University and director of research and impact at Become Education, said there wasn’t really an optimal number of interviews when hiring staff.

He said it varied from role to role, with leadership roles likely requiring more intensive recruitment processes than an entry-level position.

Bright said supply and demand of workers tended to dictate the design of hiring processes.

“I am sure if I proposed to repeatedly interview Elton John before hiring him for a private concert, I wouldn’t get very far,” he said.

“For aspiring musicians who need the exposure or the money, they may be more willing to put themselves through an audition or two.”

There is also the simple matter of “good manners”.

“Enlightened employers will respect candidates and the disruption that attending an interview creates,” Bright said.

He said forward-thinking employers were designing respectful processes that did not waste people’s time by ensuring they captured job-critical information in the “most efficient, fair and reliable manner”.

He said a respectful interview process might include a general screening interview, followed by a targeted panel interview with immediate managers, and finally a confirmatory interview with the senior manager to confirm or disconfirm the panel’s recommendations.

No-nonsense hiring a ‘must’

SEEK’s career expert, Kirsty Anne Ferguson, said a streamlined hiring process was a “must” in the current competitive employment market.

She said conducting interviews required significant resources from the employer and a significant time investment from the candidate.

“There’s also a risk that candidates will lose interest or form a negative first impression if interview rounds drag on for too long,” Ferguson said.

“Most will be engaging with multiple opportunities and can be poached by another employer who moved to ‘offer’ a little faster.”

Ferguson recommended around four interview rounds, depending on the seniority of the role: an initial phone or video screening chat, followed by a deep-dive interview, then a meeting with the team, and finally a test that mirrored a real-world task they would perform in the role.

She recommended ensuring each interview served a specific purpose and would help the candidate to get a better understanding of the role and the culture, and would allow the employer to understand their suitability for the vacant position.

Ferguson also said communication throughout the hiring process was key.

“If there are more interviews required, ensure the candidate understands why and what each interview sets out to achieve,” she said.

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