Why Do Long Interview Processes Fail? (win a professional resume edit, contest details at bottom)

by Rich DeMatteo on November 1, 2009 · 28 comments

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job search frustration Want to win an absolutely FREE Professional Resume Edit complete by Vertical Media Solutions (www.vmsolu.com)?  Read contest details at the bottom! All participants win!

Top talent moves fast, so why do companies insist on interview/hiring processes that take forever?  Most of us have been part of an incredibly awful interview process before, or at least know someone that has.  It’s never fun, and I can ensure you it’s not a walk in the park for the organization either.  Recently, I was researching company interview strategies and came across an example of a terribly long process that I’m sure results in frustrated candidates and lost talent for the organization.  Here are the painful 7 steps in their process:

  1. Resume submittal/Quick initial phone Screen if resume meets basic qualifications
  2. Candidate takes at least 1 skill assessment test
  3. Second phone screen lasting one hour with their recruiter (an hour, really?)
  4. Face-to-face interview with hiring manager lasting 2 hours (finally)
  5. Candidate takes personality assessment test (find something sharp, and stab me, please)
  6. Second face-to-face interview with hiring manager and team members (why not meet the team the first time around?)
  7. Offer presented.   Contingent on successful background and reference check (if the candidate is still around)

Why do long interview processes like this fail?

Processes like the one above drive candidates absolutely bonkers.   People (especially top talent) aren’t willing to wait forever and will jump on the first opportunity that comes their way.  A process like the one above would take at least 3-4 weeks to schedule.  Not only does the candidate need to make room for each terrible step, but the recruiter, hiring manager, and team members of the organization need to plan time.  The elongated process greatly increases the risk of losing talent to competitors and other companies.

What would I change?

There is much I would change about the above process to make it run smoother for the organization and candidate.  Here is the process that I would implement:

  1. Resume Submittal/Phone Screen with recruiter (just one phone screen needed)
  2. Skill and Personality Assessments Complete by Candidate (if these tests are critical, get them out of the way first)
  3. Face-to-face interview with hiring manager and team members (panel interview possibly)
  4. Offer presented.  Contingent on successful background and reference check (done!)

The process I outlined works, I’ve implemented a process like that and received excellent feed back from candidates.  People do not like having to go back to an interview site or plan for 3, 4, or 5 separate screening sessions .  Many people that are already working want to spend their vacation time on the beach, not in your office.  Those that are unemployed hope the process moves quick and makes good use of their time.  It’s simple, just treat candidates like customers and everyones happy.

Contest Details – Win a FREE Professional Resume Edit

Vertical Media Solutions, the official resume writing company of CornOnTheJob is giving away a FREE resume edit to one of my readers.  Along with this great prize, EVERY participant will receive an incredible discount to any of the services they offer.  To participate, just comment on this post and your name will be entered into a random drawing out of a hat!  Here are more details:

  • What should your comment say? – Ask a question about a step in the interview process, tell me about a terrible interview process you’ve been involved in, tell me about the longest you needed to wait to hear back from a company, or anything you’d like me to hear/know!  Simply, just respond with a comment and you’ll be entered into a random drawing!
  • How do you win? – When you comment, your name enters a random drawing out of a hat.  I will email you once I receive your comment
  • When does contest start/end? – Starts 12:00AM Monday, November 2nd and Ends 11:59PM Friday, November 6th

More about the prizes!

  • Winner – Receives a FREE Resume Edit ($150 value) complete by Vertical Media Solutions. Winner also receives a FREE 30 minute Interview Preparation session.  This session can be used within 180 days from the end of the contest.  This is a $200 value total completely FREE!
  • Participant Prize – Each participant receives a 20% discount on any services that Vertical Media Solutions offers.  Please take note that the purchase must come within 7 days of the contests completion.  With purchase of any service, the participant will also receive a FREE 30 minute Interview Preparation session, which can be used within 180 days from their purchase.

*Please note that a resume edit is an edit to your current resume.  Vertical Media Solutions will look for ways to improve your existing resume, which is the first thing the hiring manager/recruiter sees from you.

Photo credit – http://www.metronews.ca/edmonton/Work/article/84384

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27 comments
GenerationXpert
GenerationXpert

You are so right. If you want the best talent, you can't treat them like dogs who need to jump through hoops to get your approval.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Mark, thanks for the comment! Depends on the test they use. Many tests are simple and graded right there. Smart companies realize solid recruiting/hiring costs money. Killing candidates time will leave the company with a poor image. Companies develop poor reputations quickly when their interview methods take forever. I've been a part of a process, where everyone that we interviewed had their background check complete before the interview. This made things quicker. Sure, we paid a heck of a lot more, but it moved candidates through quicker. We didn't need to worry about losing talent to competitors since our process was fast. Candidates thanked us, and even when they didn't get the job they still raved about our process to their friends. Larger companies should always consult with HR at some form of the process. While many managers are solid interviewers, they need to be trained on the legal aspects of interviewing. One slip up, and the company could be paying out mucho bucks. I trained my entire company on Behavioral Interviewing and I sat in on their interview prep sessions helping them form the skill sets that we would target, and which questions would be asked. To answer your question, I think it really depends on the process the company goes with. I will say that a company with no standard interview process across the board is in big trouble. The company must decide which method managers/recruiters will use, whether its situational, behavioral, directive, etc. One standard interview process helps bring a legally defensible system, and one that is easy for managers to train other managers on how to conduct an interview. HR should be used for guidance and training, but HR needs to eventually ensure managers are effective, and then let managers take over. I'm not a fan of HR doing pre-screens. HR should be used to locate talent, guide managers and candidates through the hiring process when needed, and help with the hiring decision if needed. My biggest concern is developing 1 solid universal hiring practice. Ideally one where every position in the company already has an interview written out. An example would be every Software Engineer position follows the same exact questions and process. This makes it easy for managers and HR to locate talent. Again, its also easy to train new managers since many people are familiar with the same process. Sorry for my rant, but you asked a great question.

Mark Jacobs
Mark Jacobs

Good article, Rich. I agree with the changes you recommend to the 7 step process. Although, I suspect, a company would still want to keep the skills and personality steps separate. Since there is probably a cost involved in administering the tests, they'd wait to get the results of the skills test before scheduling the personality assessment. Regardless, both tests should be completed, successfully, before interviews occur with the hiring manager and team members, as you note. What are your thoughts on HR supplying interviewers with questions to use, during the interview, to assess competencies of the interviewee?

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Francesca - that's terrible. If I was you, I would have just left, but I guess you were in a car with an employee and you couldn't just jump out of the car while moving. That situation is angering.

Francesca
Francesca

I think one of the worst interviews I ever went on was right out of college and it was called an “interview/ field day.” The application, website, building, job description, etc did not describe the job realistically at all. I showed up to the interview with my nice suit on and resume (that no one even looked at) then after what seemed as a 10 minute group introduction to both existing employees and those applying for the job, the hiring manager sent all those applying with an assigned employee to go out and “start the day.” It wasn’t until I left the building that I understood that they were putting us in a car with existing employees to go door to door and store to store to sell coupons and discount packages. It was awful! I felt tricked and humiliated.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hi Mercedes - thanks for the comment. I guess that interview was a gas! On to your questions. #1 - If they don't have a sense of humor basically go with their flow. They may be having a bad day, or maybe instructed to keep everything business in an interview. Just stay yourself, keep smiling, and get through the interview. #2 - Recruiters/managers are like doctors. They've seen (almost) everything. Move passed it, say excuse me, laugh it off, or do whatever is needed in that particular situation and than move on. They will most likely want to move on as well. #3 - Time tests do happen, however not for what you described. I've seen time tests for typing, as well as for basic knowledge tests like child level math, grammar, and spelling. As long as EVERY candidate goes through the test, and they can say it is job related, than it most likely is safe legally for the company. Thanks for the great questions.

mercedes
mercedes

okay this is a great article and it got me thinking about the 2 worst interviews of my life: 1. a woman, dead-pan Martha Stewart look a like was burping the ENTIRE interview. 2. for a part-time secretary (2 days a week in college) there were 2 people who had me filing papers alphabetically while they TIMED ME with a stop watch. Rich, what do you do if the interviewer doesn't have a sense of humor? What do you do if soemthing awkward/embarassing happens in an interview?! And have you ever heard of stop watch drills during an interview?

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Meg - thanks for the comment. That's quite an intense process. Things like this are commong for Director level and above, but the organization should give the candidate an outline of what would happen during each step of their hiring process. What they did shows poor communication in their process and most likely is a predictor of poor communication within the organization. Where I've been I've seen dozens of high level positions require presentations and multiple lengthy interviews, but the candidate was also well aware. That's a shame for your friend, but she probably did the right thing by walking out! Thanks for the comment!

Meg
Meg

I think most of my interviews have been rather typical. However, I had a friend who was laid off several times in the span of maybe 2 years. This last time was rough b/c it was right before her wedding! Anyway, she is in the Marketing/Advertising and Sales area. She found an incredible company with a Marketing Director opening. She applied, and she went in for two face to face interviews, and had one phone interview prior to this. After all three of those interviews, they asked her to come in for what she thought was going to be her official offer - however it was the exact opposite. They gave her a binder of mock information, with a fake client file, etc. They gave her a situation and told her in half an hour she had to put together a presentation, and then gave her blank story boards to post her information on. They set her up in an empty (soon to be full with the CEO and Marketing Dept of the company) conference room with laptop and printer. Told her to "have at it"... literally. She was their top candidate for this job - she thought about it for a second and as soon as the interviewer left the room... she got up and WALKED OUT. Didn't say a word to anyone. She was livid with what was happening. They didn't even warn her that this was what she was going to do. Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if her three prior interviews weren't at least 2 hours long a piece. She thought she had the job in the bag, then this.

sheila aka benefits betty
sheila aka benefits betty

my weirdest interview was when the interviewer forgot i was coming and had to find a chair for me to sit in. the chair was totally broken and forced me to sit like mr. burns all hunched over for the whole interview. somehow, i got the job!

Jonathan Hyland
Jonathan Hyland

I knew there was a reason I left my Selection class in grad school going, "No way am I being part of this beast." I think convoluted interview processes are a combination of that dreadful "tradition" word, complex compliance requirements, and our overly litigious American society. To the first point, it's an issue of change. If the interview process has been long since the start, then it's probably long at present just because that's the way it's been. HR staff likely agree the process is a bear, but it gets them employees and keeps them busy. To the second, I have yet to find a government resource that explains compliance law in plain English that doesn't require an advanced JD to decipher. I was talking to a client about OFCCP requirements, and I could practically hear the anxiety in her voice as I tried to reassure her we are compliant. And to the third, I think America has more incidents of truly insane people taking legal action against companies. Good in some aspects, pretty disastrous in others. That said, some probably feel a long interview process, just by its nature, will discourage these candidates from moving forward. I'd like to say I find it completely backwards that background checks and drug screens are done *after* the offer is sent. You could've saved yourself a whole lot of aggravation by doing that first. Yes, there are expenses and so on, which I can understand. But I think the cost in lost productivity associated with the assessments, interviews, etc. is probably greater.

André F. B. Ferraz
André F. B. Ferraz

To get in my currently job, the hole process takes about 3 mounths. It has all these steps. I agree with you in the point of the process should be shorter. But, like in my case, a trainee program selection in Brazil used to have more then 5000 candidates to 10 positions. An Personality Assessment or an interview with the team have money and time spending. So you should make some steps ultil get a lower numbers of canditates that makes the prosses financial accessible. But, in shorter process, i think the way you suggest is a good one.

Lindsey
Lindsey

Hi there! I'm an American beginning her career in Paris. One of the things I'm concerned about is whether I will be at a disadvantage when/if I decide to move back to the States at some point since all of my experience will be abroad. Would employers look at this as unique and indicative of adaptability? I am fluent in French so I would imagine French companies based in the US might be interested in an American able to speak the language, but I feel that it is rare for Americans to begin their careers abroad and would simply like to know if my experience would be perceived as a positive or a negative in an interview process. Thank you for your commment!

AJ Helms
AJ Helms

I have to say one of my favorite ways to evaluate candidates is to put them in a group interview setting. One important thing you can guage from this type of interview is how well they pay attention. Ask them the question, "If you are the best person for this job, who in the room is the next best and why?" This forces them to make a judgment on the spot (decision-making skills) and also to call names and explain why (attention to surroundings and detail). No reason to draw out the process. It can actually be very simple!

Penny
Penny

Although it has been a while since I was on an external interview, it was an extremely long process. I interviewed in October and did not start until January. Since then I've been on quite a few internal interviews and promotions with in the company and some of those interview turn arounds have been not as long, but still lengthy at a month, and some have been a short turn around, if no external candidates applied. I agree with your observations that many desirable candidates can be lost due to this lengthy process. I get the feeling that many companies feel that the process has been shorted with resume reading software, and it is for those that do not qualify. However, for those that do qualify the process is still as lengthy as you so nicely put.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hi Len, thanks for the comment/question. Employers employe a whole bunch of skill and personality tests. Along with skill and personality, there are tests for honestly/integrity. I once took a test that asked me questions like, "It is OK to lie about being sick and take a sick day when you are not given enough days to use". Than I had to rate that from 1-10. It had some pretty wild questions on that particular test, and would re-state questions in different ways to try to catch candidates. In terms of what kinds of skill and personality tests that are out there. There are a ton. For skill testing you'll see basic computer tests, paper tests (mainly for math), simulations to see how one would perform in that job, and others. In terms of personality you'll see the classic Myers-Briggs Type Indicator often and some others. Many companies stay away from using tests like these as it can create a discriminatory practice. Usually its smaller employers that use them, unless a larger organization feels its critical.

Len
Len

Nice post Rich. I have been through some pretty terrible interview processes myself, including one experience with a telephone-stress interview. That was brutal. What kids of skill/personality assessment tests do these employers administer?

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Thanks for the comment! I think you need to treat candidates like customers. They need to feel a part of something already in order to actually want to work there. Even if they aren't the best candidate, they should be treated with respect. Think of it this way. Companies reject hundreds, maybe thousands of candidates a year. The number of rejections is surely higher than hires. If a process is clean, quick, easy, and candidates are treated with respect than at least when they are rejected they will talk highly of the company bringing a positive image to that company. If the process is horrible and they feel they were literally treated like garbage, than they will make sure to tell all of their friends about the poor process and that leads to a very negative reputation for that company.

Sabera
Sabera

Francesca, about 3 months ago, I received a similar interview call just hours after I applied for an "exciting marketing & sales position with a growing company" (quote from the job ad). Just like you, I got down to doing my research on the company and didn't find any more info on the role + company. I dug in deeper and came across a testimonial exactly like yours above, clearly naming the company he went for an interview for. I'm glad I read it! It saved me my hopes and effort. Btw - the company still posts similar job openings, each time with a different designation. It's amazing how people think they have the liberty to play with people's career aspirations in these tough times.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Thanks for the comment. Talk about an uncomfortable interview!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Jonathan - great insight here! Where do I even begin? Most people hate change. In their life outside of work, and life in work. When a process has been set for years, it's hard to change peoples minds and make them see its a failing process. Even when its a process they know is failing, they are still comfortable with it. Changing an interview process company wide is a big commitment for HR. I've seen this first hand. Not only did I fly to Boston for Behavioral Interview training to become an expert, I also learned how to train managers to accept the process. It took many months to gain buy in from all areas, but once we did the process ran smoother. OFCCP requirements can make my eyes bleed. Even the most advanced HR professionals need to catch up on the latest requirements on compliance. It's always changing, and explaining requirements to management and executives can be a battle. What is compliant, is not always practical to the organization. It is quite the bear. I agree with you on background checks. With my previous company, we ran background checks on ANYONE that was scheduled for an interview. Candidates would receive an application and background form with their interview schedule. It was their duty to fax us in the information within a day or two, and than we would run the background check. A candidate receiving an offer was to complete a drug test within 48 hours of receiving an offer. The process ran smooth, but was costly. While cost was high, we lost candidates only in rare cases. It was wonderful! Thanks for the comment!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hi Andre - Great to hear from you. Of course when there is 5,000 candidates and only 10 positions it will take much longer to narrow it down. Your situation is quite the rarity, and it would surely be a long time before the company can successfully pick the 10 candidates. When there are 5,000 candidates, resume screening is very important. Resume screening needs to be quick, and the company must only communicate with those that are definitely qualified for the position. From that point on, phone screens need to be effective to cut out even more candidates. How long was it from the time you applied, till the time you started the job?

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hi Lindsey - glad to have your comment here. What industry do you work in and what position are you in? How are you liking it so far? What challenges have you come across? When do you expect to come back to the US? Personally, I do not see your situation as a disadvantage. Maybe some cultural aspects would change when you move back to the US, but if you stay in the same industry/skill set when you return, than I see you as an asset to your future employer. Being fluent in another language can also have its advantages, and finding a French company based in the US would be ideal for you. I wouldn't worry much! Just continue to build your skills and learn as much as you can about how business is run internationally. When you come home your international business skills will surely come in handy!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hi AJ - thanks for the comment! When you mean group interview, do you mean grouping the candidates together to interview at the same time, or a panel interview. I believe you mean the former, but I just want to be sure. You have an interesting take to it, and it's something I've never heard, but I do find it pretty interesting. How do candidates usually respond? Do you feel the pressure of interviewing with other candidates affects their performance? Thanks, and looking forward to your response.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hi Penny - thanks for the comment. October to January is a long to sit around and wait. Organizations can sometimes be pretty cocky and almost expect that candidates will wait for them. Maybe that's the case with Google, and other companies with great reputation, but it's not that way for most places of work. Internal interviews are usually faster, but sometimes a situation may come up that does push it longer. The company may decide that it needs to go outside for the position after talking to internal candidates, or there may be manpower issues with a valuable person from one function of the company moving to another. Thanks for your comment and I look forward to hearing more from you here on COTJ!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hi Sabera, thanks for the comment. Organizations can be pretty sneaky. I'd bet that the moral at a company like that is very low. The way organizations work with external clients like candidates is one predictor of how they treat their own employees.

André F. B. Ferraz
André F. B. Ferraz

Being specifically in my current job. I applied in the middle of june/08 and start working in november of the same year. I remember that was about 7 steps: -Resume Submittal -English and Logical tests (on line) -Group Dynamic Interview (16 candidates each) (With a consult company and HR professionals of the company) Here they look for leadership skills -Phone interview -Another Group Dynamic Interview, now with the managers of the position. Here they look for business skills (more technical) -Personal Interview with HR and after with the managers of the position -Personality Assessement and an Interview with a psychologist After all, the result. I remember that was 6000 candidates to 5 positions. But each position was different for the other. These kind of procedure makes you tired, I realy don`t agree to this way. But, thinking in the financial conditions, you really have to do a "big trial" before start the "assessements process". Regards

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