How many interviews does it take to hire top talent?

At the Australasian Talent Conference last month, I
attended an interesting break out session on the future of interviewing
and whether assessment would make interviews redundant.


The panel made plenty of interesting points in
response to questions and comments. Unsurprisingly nobody was predicting
the end of interviews any time soon.


One of the excellent points made by one of the panel
in discussing the many ills of interviews, as they are currently being
conducted, was this: far too many interviews are conducted without
the purpose of any particular interview being clear  .


For people who don’t conduct interviews on a regular
basis (and even for the many that do) it is an important aspect of
interviewing to consider. 


It baffles me when I hear about the process for a
position being filled and it has five or more interviews that the
preferred candidate needs to attend. How can all these interviews be
really   necessary?


Before anyone asks a candidate to attend multiple
interviews I would suggest that the following six questions be asked


  1. What is the specific purpose of each
    interview?  (eg. to assess the
    candidate’s technical capability, to assess the candidate’s
    motivation and cultural fit, to ‘sell to’ the candidate, to validate
    aspects of the candidate’s background eg referees, qualifications,
    academic results, certifications, licences etc, or a combination of
    some or all of the above?)  
  2. Is an interview the most effective and
    efficient way to accomplish each of the purposes above  ,
    and if not, what could be used instead  ? (eg. could a candidate
    undertake an online test   to benchmark technical capability?)  
  3. What information must we gather, or use, to
    ensure that the purpose of each interview is fulfilled?  
    (eg. key selection criteria, employment check/verification criteria,
    position description, examples of the candidate’s work etc)  
  4. What criteria is being used to judge the
    outcome of each interview?  (ie. the
    scoreboard by which the candidate has either passed or failed the
    interview. Remember: an interview is a test of a person’s
    suitability for employment therefore you have to either pass or fail
    the candidate, otherwise what’s the point of having the interview?)  
  5. Is the person or persons conducting each
    interview sufficiently skilled to undertake this interview?  
    (ie. do they know what   to do and how   to do it?)  
  6. What is the likely impact of each interview on
    the job-interest level of our preferred candidate(s)?  
    A candidate is required to invest more of their own time for each
    interview than the interviewer(s) is/are investing of their time. At
    some point the candidate(s) experience diminishing marginal returns
    causing a candidate(s) to lose interest in the position.

I would suspect that a large majority of interviews
arranged are done so without barely a thought for any of the six
considerations, above.


The typical interview is conducted by an unskilled
interviewer who has no specified criteria to assess or scoring system to
use; the interviewer simply ‘rocks up’ to the interview and asks a lot
of questions to see whether they ‘like’ the candidate (forgetting that
they won’t ‘like’ the candidate for very long if the candidate is not
capable of doing the job or isn’t motivated to do the job).


The inevitable outcome is that a candidate succeeds
if the interviewer completes the interview with a ‘good feeling’ about
the candidate. The candidate fails if the interviewer completes the
interview without a ‘good feeling’ or has a ‘bad feeling’ about the
candidate. Multiple interviews are arranged to see if everyone relevant
(or everyone relevant with clout) ‘likes’ the candidate. At some point
the candidate scores enough ‘likes’ and they are offered the job.


The likelihood of a potential hiring disaster (ie
wrong person hired or right person turned off or not hired) is increased
with each additional interview for the simple reason that the
responsibility for the decision becomes diluted with each additional
interview  .


In other words if the candidate has passed through
four interviews prior to me interviewing him I’m likely to assume (in
the absence of any communication to the contrary) that everyone who
interviewed this candidate earlier has decided   that the candidate
should be   hired, therefore I am just ‘having a chat’ to them.


In all likelihood nobody   has actually decided
that this candidate should be hired as they assume someone else further
up the interview chain will make the final decision. By the time to
sixth or seventh person has ‘interviewed’ the candidate, it seems
ridiculous not to hire the candidate because nobody has strongly


Guess what? The default hiring decision becomes
‘yes’. The quite-good   candidate who appeals to the most people is
hired. The best   candidate who has other opportunities or maybe
isn’t quite so likeable has either self-selected out of the process
after the third or fourth interview, or has received a more compelling
offer from a company that has moved more efficiently through the
interview process.


How many interviews does it take to hire top talent?
I suspect it’s three, maybe four. I would confidently assert that it’s
not six or seven.


  1. Terence Verma on 18/06/2014 at 12:40 am

    Hi Ross,

    Interviewing should be left to the professionals. Without prompting they will garner information/impressions on two accounts…1.Technical skills and, 2. Personal traits.

    They have the ability to keep the candidate engaged through incisive questioning. The results will be shorter interviews and less intimidation of the candidates.

    It goes without mention that the interviews will be more objective and the interviewer will worry about his reputation.

  2. Ross Clennett on 22/06/2014 at 7:14 am

    Terence, your identification of 'incisive questioning' is the key factor. Excellent candidates can tell when the interview is not prepared and is asking random questions.

  3. Adam Ponting on 02/08/2014 at 9:39 pm

    Its true Terence, left it to the professionals and they give you short and efficient interviews.

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