How Many Interviews EXACTLY?!?!...

By Martin Ellis

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I was floored by something I read earlier: - "Up to a few years ago, Google would have employees go through a 12 – 14 meeting process. This would result in dreadfully long staffing cycles, loss of top talent to competing internet companies and overall inefficiency when attempting to recruit employees in the masses.

In 2011, Google switched its recruiting approach to limit each applicant to 5 interviews. If Google can hire an engineer in 5 interviews, there is no reason why your firm should not be able to hire your sales and marketing personnel in 3 or 4".

FOURTEEN? Are you sure? Even four is too many.

Trouble is everybody wants to be helpful. HR gets involved. The line manager gets involved. The MD wants to help. And they want to get their staff involved so they

(Did you know that some organisations involve the new managers subordinates in the interview process - that was never a good idea! - Who, EXACTLY, is in charge around here?)

Trouble is the new recruit has a very different perspective. They see an organisation that's indecisive. They see an organisation where the authority is shared around (that's fine if you're in the People's Republic of China, although let's face it, even that's probably not how it works these days). And as so many people are involved, the decision-making process is long...long...long.....

The candidate gets bored.

The candidate buggers off!

So what works?

Generally, and for almost all jobs it's a three stage process:

STAGE ONE: Telephone or Skype screening interview

This one can be run by HR and/or somebody who will speak the candidate's language.

Make some early assessments, but don't get caught up in detail. Have they got a pulse? Are they who they say they are? Cover some general package stuff. Are there any real impediments to stop this candidate? Can they string a sentence together? 15 minutes should sort this one out. Don't get too anal - there's still plenty of time for that. Tell them the timescale, and manage their expectation about the process - but also keep things positive. They need to become motivated in the process.

Assuming they pass this hurdle, invite them to:

STAGE TWO: First Face-to-Face Interview

This should be run by their boss-to-be. The two need to get to know each other. Ask all the good questions you like. Probe on answers you don't understand. You could also throw in some role play to test their skills (but don't ask somebody to sell you a pen. You can do better than that). See if the candidate has made any effort to do some research beforehand. Take notes - you'll need these again at the next interview if they make it that far. You want to make sure you make the best appointment you can, so take care.

If everything's going swimmingly, get them to do an online psychometric. Read it after they've gone and assess if the person you've just interviewed is anything like the person described in the psychometric. DON'T take the psychometric as an absolute, just make sure it helps you remain objective. If you have any doubts, you can check them again if you decide to invite them back to:

STAGE THREE: Second Face-to-Face Interview

The candidate's boss-to-be should be there. Anybody else involved in the decision-making process should lead the interview. The b-t-b should ask some of the same questions they asked last time round. This helps reveal any chancers who winged it really well first time round (sales people tend to be rather prone to this), but can't remember what they said before - this is why you took notes previously. If you've asked them to make a presentation, this is best done now. If you have a ready sense of humour, use it. If you don't, DON'T! - or you'll look like an arse. Make sure that whatever you tell them about the job and the organisation won't fall in a heap on their first day. Deal with things as they are, not how you'd like them to be.

At the end, thank the candidate and tell them what happens next. DO NOT make the offer now - sleep on it. For one night only. Chat with your boss. Agree a plan and a start date and set up an induction programme. Make the offer (you'd  prepared this a lot earlier didn't you?).

Don't dither. Make sure the candidate feels they're joining an outfit where things happen. Even if it's true that you normally all take far too long to make a decision, make sure this is one moment when you break the habit. Engage the candidate in a positive process. They're much more likely to say "Yes" when you make the offer if you do.

To learn the trouble with dithering, research proves it causes stress. Never a good place to go - it can be avoided!

14 interviews is daft on so many levels. Even 4 leaves the wrong impression. 2 and a screening will enable you to make some great decisions, and more candidates will be excited by the prospect of joining you than if you spent too long sucking your thumb.

And at the end, tell those who won't get an offer that they won't. You never know, you may need them in some way in the future, even as a customer. It's the right thing to do. Get on with it.

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