Amid a well-publicized worker shortage and near record-low unemployment, Mike Conley, an Indiana-based software engineer seeking a new job faced a seemingly incredulous situation.
Conley, who has 25 years of experience, withdrew from consideration for “a role I wanted, the pay I wanted, all the benefits I wanted” at a company with “a great mission I could support.”
Why? After three rounds of interviews, he was told the organization was looking to schedule interviews four through nine with him. And even nine might not seal the deal.
“For the jobs I’ve been looking for, the number of interviews has been getting higher and higher,” Conley wrote in a LinkedIn blog post that’s been viewed 2.6 million times to date. “It should not take nine interviews for any role,” he said.
Bad Behavior Pervades Interview Process
Although younger, a Seattle-based health benefits professional has had similar experiences. After four rounds of interviews, the tech organization interviewing him, scheduled a virtual appointment where he was to make a PowerPoint presentation. Three minutes before the scheduled meeting, the candidate received an e-mail that the company was “going in a different direction” and cancelled the presentation.
And still another young professional with six years of experience with a medical device maker took a stand similar to Conley’s after facing interview indignities from a renowned competitor. After three rounds of interviews, and two “no shows” for a group presentation (followed by 30-minute, one-on-one interviews), she withdrew from consideration for the position. “Storied company or not, this is indicative of the culture,” she concluded.
Even the chief HR officer at a national real estate development company who is expected to conduct 10-minute interviews with every potential hire asked me, “Why am I doing this?”
Complicated, Protracted Interviews Cost Organizations Time – and Money
Hiring processes that feel endless have been a “long standing issue, even pre-pandemic,” Theresa Adams, senior knowledge advisor at the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), told the BBC late last year.
The average cost per hire in the United States is $ 4,425, and upwards of 40 percent of the base salary for a professional employee with benefits, according to data compiled by San Francisco-headquartered training and development company Zippia. The average executive hire costs an organization $14,936. Multiply that across dozens, hundreds, even thousands of hires annually within an organization and the financial impact is substantial. And those figures only take into consideration the employees who are actually hired, not the money spent on conducting multiple interviews with other candidates who aren’t selected.
In addition, it takes 36 to 42 days to fill an average position in the United States according to Zippia data and can take up to six months before a company can recoup the money it spent on identifying, recruiting, evaluating and onboarding a new hire.
Google’s hiring process was so arduous and protracted that it was legend in Silicon Valley. It took the internet behemoth almost two decades to determine its process was indeed overkill, and could make good hiring decisions with no more than four interviews. The subsequent changes “reduced the average time-to-hire by two weeks, saved employees hundreds of thousands of hours in interviewing time, and helped reduce the already stressful process for candidates,” Shannon Shaper’s Google’s global head of reporting and insights, People Operations wrote on the company’s blog.
Fear of the Right “Fit” or Fear of Accountability?
Reasons companies give for such a bruising process often center on a candidate’s fit within the organization, which Conley of the viral LinkedIn blog, roundly rejects. “I think it’s fear they won’t find the next unicorn,” he wrote. “It’s fear of wasting time that ultimately ends up wasting more time.”
To put it more bluntly, it’s fear of making a decision and being held accountable for that choice as well.
From candidates’ perspective, such behavior shows disrespect and a lack of courtesy, which can raise red flags for applicants, particularly sought-after ones. And there’s growing evidence that companies’ inability to be decisive turns off prospects, leading them to look elsewhere. Global staffing firm Robert Half found in a February 2021 survey that nearly two-thirds of professionals lose interest in the position if they don’t hear back within 10 days. That number balloons to 77 percent if the candidate is left hanging after 15 days. In addition, those who felt breadcrumbed” or strung along by a company said they would:
- Ghost the employer and drop out of the process: 49%
- Blacklist the company and refuse to consider it for future positions: 41%
- Vent about the experience on social media: 27%
Fixes can be simple and straightforward
Beyond Google’s approach of reducing the number of interviews, companies can save time, money and their reputations by implementing one or more of the following clear-cut fixes:
- Establish an across-the-board probationary period. This can take for form of contract to hire positions. This would allow the employer and the employee to “test drive” the relationship before a permanent offer is extended. Doing so can enable the organization to more easily dismiss the less-than-stellar recruits if things aren’t working out.
- Hire more experienced HR and talent professionals. A 2019 survey by HR software company Namely found that the average age of a recruiting coordinator is 27, which I would argue is often too inexperienced to make wise assessments regarding candidates. My experience and that of my colleagues is that they are frequently even younger. At the very least, re-assess the skills of your recruiting and hiring team to ensure they are experienced enough to identify talent (read: have sufficient life experience) to represent the company and treat candidates professionally and with courtesy.
- Streamline the interview process. It’s wasting time and money, particularly given that these scenarios often involve good candidates, most of whom would be good fits. Importantly, the “fit” idea is changing and being defined differently in an era of increasingly hybrid and remote work. In short, if it takes more than four interviews to decide on a good hire, perhaps your team needs fixing.
“By stretching out the hiring process, companies waste critical time and resources and may lose out on the best talent,” Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half said about the firm’s survey, “How to Lose a Candidate in 10 Business Days.” “Employers who are transparent with the process and move efficiently through the process … will gain a recruiting edge.”
Written by Stephanie Nora White.
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