Be thankful more recruiters are saying this: Requiring 4-5 interviews is simply abusive

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LEAVE IT TO THE GREAT Adam Karpiak to have a very inventive take on the state of the recruiting and hiring today.

Don’t know Adam Karpiak? He’s a recruiter with more than a half million followers on LinkedIn, where he’s well known for his humor and common-sense advice. He says this about his work — “I help people rediscover their value.

His motto is pretty simple: “Looking for a job sucks. I make it suck less.”

He has a witty and insightful take on the process that only can come from someone who has seen every stupid and shortsighted recruiting misstep that clueless organizations can make.

In other words, if you want real insights into smart recruiting, and a lifetime of examples about every possible way it can be badly done, Adam Karpiak is your man.

A tongue-in-cheek poll worth taking

Super recruiter Adam Karpiak

YOU SEE A LOT OF HIM on LinkedIn, and just this week he posted a tongue-in-cheek poll that asked —

Would you rather: 

  • 5-step interview process
  • Lick an entire hotel TV remote

He led into this mini-poll with a brief admonition — “Choose carefully.”

When I voted, it was running 79% for “Lick an entire hotel TV remote” to 21% for “5-step interview process.” I was surprised that the 5-step interview process was so popular.

And I voted for “Lick an entire hotel TV remote,” and it’s not because I have some strange fetish for TV remotes.

One reader comment on the post cut to the heart of what Adam Karpiak was getting at: “I trust the cleaning crew at the hotel way more than a hiring manager who thinks 5 interviews is appropriate.”

When I last looked, almost 5,000 people had voted in this poll.  It will be open for a few more days, so you might want to jump in and take part.

Adam Karpiak’s short and sweet poll cut to the heart of what is so very wrong with the recruiting and hiring process today.

How many interviews does it take?

My friend Tim Sackett, who is a pretty good recruiter himself, hit the nail on the head about job seekers who get put through interview hell way back in 2013. Yes, this has been a big problem for at least 10 years, and Tim explained it like this:

“I had a client recently that was undecided about a candidate after the 4th round interview. They were thinking that maybe a fifth round would make the difference. I told them that it wouldn’t. In fact, it was a mistake to allow them to get to four.

Do you know what the fourth round interview says about your process?

It says that your process is broken. No one needs four rounds of interviews to decide if a candidate is the right candidate for your organization.

A fifth round, or any number higher, is just adding insult to injury.”

THIS LEADS TO A QUESTION: why do candidates get put through four or five rounds of interviews and STILL get passed over for the job?

Two reasons seem to stand out:

  1. The most common reason is that the company ended up promoting someone who already works there. As hard as that is to hear, it usually reflects positively on a company, and even candidates who have been put through 4-5 interviews usually understand that
  2. The other and more maddening reason is that is that the hiring manager just didn’t really know what he or she wanted in a new hire prior to the interview stage. Sho Dewan, who talks about this a lot on  TikTok, told the Daily Dot that “while they’re going through interviews, (hiring managers) realize, ‘Oh, you know what? We’re actually looking for this kind of candidate instead.

One view on how many is too many

That second reason is more frustrating to job candidates because it makes them wonder, “How could they even recruit and interview candidates if they really didn’t know what they wanted?”

IT’S A GOOD QUESTION, and sometimes it reflect the incompetence in an organization’s hiring process. Yes, they should have figured out what they wanted before they started. I’ve worked in more than one place where that happened, and it drove me a little crazy because it was counterproductive for everyone involved.

But, I have also been in situations where hiring managers were looking for one kind of person only to have their eyes opened as they went through a few rounds of interviews. Sometimes it takes listening to a number of people talk about the job to figure out that you really want different things out of the position than you were getting from the outgoing employee.

There’s one more wrinkle: the more senior the position, the more interviews you may need to have. As a story on BBC Worklife pointed out, “Interviews for managers and executives are a different story … For these high-level employees … expect to have multiple interviews — everything from first and second interviews to panel interviews — and then significant pre-employment screening.”

So how many is too many when it comes to job interviews? A career guide on answered the question How many interviews are too many? pretty simply:

“While there’s no objective answer to how many interviews are too many, typically any more than four interviews is too much.”

Yep, just as I thought — Tim Sackett is right.

Giving the job candidate false hope

HERE’S MY TAKE: It’s hard to disagree with Indeed on this. For most positions, three interviews should be plenty. Any more than that is just abusive and usually gives the candidate false hope.

My experience is that organizations don’t learn much more about a job candidate after that third interview. Stringing them out with a fourth or, Lord help us, a fifth interview rarely helps and serves no useful purpose.

I wrote about this here at The Skeptical Guy back in 2017 in a blog post titled The Bad Things That Happen When Companies Take Too Long to HireI quoted Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, the staffing ands recruitment company. He put it like this:

“The hiring process provides a window into the overall corporate culture. If people feel their career potential will be stifled by a slow-moving organization, they will take themselves out of the running.”

THAT’S A GOOD THING to remember. No matter how much a long hiring process drives candidates crazy — especially when they’re forced through to sit through too many interviews — it sends a larger message about the organization to every person that job candidate tells their story to.

It’s also why a tongue-in-cheek LinkedIn poll that suggests that job candidates would rather “Lick an entire hotel TV remote” than go through a “5-step interview process” gets 5,000 responses and nearly 300 comments as of this writing.

It doesn’t take a great recruiter like Adam Karpiak or my friend Tim Sackett to point that out, but thank God that they do. Maybe if they do it often enough for long enough, the idiots who treat job candidates like cattle might finally get the message.

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