How many rounds of interviews is too many? Elaine Varelas explores the interview process

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Q: How many rounds of interviews is too many? My company is trying to fill a full-, mid-level role. We’ve narrowed it down to a handful of candidates, but we can’t make up our minds. How much should we spend on this search and how many times do we need to bring people back? What are some factors that should help us decide?

A: Many candidates ask themselves the same question. When there are too many rounds of interviews and too many people involved in the process, the candidate can become confused and overwhelmed – and so, too, can the interviewers taking part in the process.

Before you try to decide how much you should spend on the search, you need to review what your process looks like. Ask these questions: Who is involved in the interview process and why? Clearly the direct manager is going to be the most important person involved, but how many other people need to be included? Are others considered internal customer and do they all need to be involved or can a representative be part of the process? Who else might have some kind of direct interaction with the person in this position? Who are other key players at the organization that have teams that will be supported by this person?

By clearly answering these questions, you will have an easier discovering where in the interview process you want to have others involved. Each of these potential participants needs to be assigned a role. What is it that they’re supposed to find out about? Does one person find out about the functional expertise the candidate has? Does another find out more about the general business acumen, problem solving, and decision making capabilities? Perhaps the HR person finds out about whether this person will be a valuable addition to the culture or potentially throws up red flags for their style and ways they have been successful or not historically.

Each of the participants should develop written questions that they’ll use to discover the answers to the areas they’re supposed to probe. These should be shared with the larger group to prevent overlap of every question asked and to ensure what needs to be asked is covered. Is there a written job description that outlines the deliverables, experiences, hard skills, and soft skills that are musts? In addition to that, is there an assessment tool and rating tool that all of the participants will use to collect data following the interview? Is there a cumulative total of points achieved in this rating tool? Have the key attributes been prioritized? Depending on what the role is, are there things that are seen as must haves, some things that would be nice to have, and some things that are less important? Once the potential interview group agrees on those, it will be much easier to decide how many people will be involved in the interview process to screen, to recommend or to decide, and how many rounds of interviews it will take to achieve the hire.

If the group can’t make a decision, there needs to be someone who has responsibility to make the final call. There should be enough data based on using this kind of process to help you make up your minds and choose a candidate. If not, ultimately the manager coupled with HR will typically be held responsible for making that final decision.

There is no one clear answer about how many rounds of interviews you may need. Adding one person to a small company, you may need to spend all the that it takes versus adding one person to a Fortune 100 Company. Regardless of what other companies are doing, develop and follow through with your process. Only use people who are committed to the interview process and are committed to being skilled interviewers and you should be able to make that decision.

Keep in mind that if your process feels drawn out or difficult, this most likely isn’t the fault of the candidates. This is the responsibility of your process and the initial agreement of what is needed from the role.