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The Law of Diminishing Returns: How Many Interviews Are Enough?

Posted on in Recruiting Strategy

When consulting with clients to build effective and scalable interview processes, one of the most common questions we hear is “How many interviews are enough?” Well. That depends.

Dr. John Sullivan, a well-respected HR thought leader, coined the phrase “death by interview” several years ago to describe the pain that is caused when companies put candidates through too many interviews. It would be funny if it weren’t so true.

So what’s the magic number?

First, it goes without saying, that your main objective is to focus on quality of interviews, not quantity. Each step in your process must be intentionally designed so your interview teams understand their roles, the goals of each step, and are trained on how to uncover the critical data necessary to make an informed decision.

From our experience working with companies across multiple industries and of various sizes, three interviews, which may each include conversations with several people, has proven to be most effective. While the way in which you configure the three interviews – over the phone or in person, one-on-one or with a panel, etc. – will vary based on the responsibilities of the role you’re interviewing for and the cultural nuances of your organization, we believe that three interviews can be your magic number. Any more than that and you will find yourself facing additional challenges you don’t need.

Consider the following:

    1. Time kills all deals. Every industry is experiencing the challenges of trying to recruit in a candidate’s market. The “A” players generally have multiple opportunities and won’t wait for you.
    2. You gain negligible information as you go. The law of diminishing returns applies to interviews too. If at the conclusion of a 3 step process where you have candidates have met with 3 to 5 people, your team can’t make a decision, it’s a no.
    3. You are raising red flags in the mind of the candidate. Candidates could view any more than 3 steps as indecisiveness, bureaucracy, and disorganization…and they are probably right.
    4. You are corrupting your employer brand and creating a bad candidate experience when the process lingers. There are some staggering statistics of how a bad candidate experience impacts your bottom line and future recruiting efforts.

Want to learn more about applying our 3 step framework to create an effective and scalable interview process that gets results? Watch our webinar “Nailing the Hiring Trifecta: Assessing A Candidate’s Skill, Attitude, and Cultural Fit.” Sign up to watch the recording.

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