News: How Long is a Piece of String? 8 Interviews Apparently!

“Unless you have vast disposable wealth and a Roman Abramovich-like fascination for superyachts, a house is probably the largest investment you’ll ever make. And yet most of us pledge a sum several times our annual salary on a new property with less due dilligence than we employ on a new phone. A couple of carefully orchestrated tours and some lazy small talk about the quality of local schools is normally enough. Years of regret are too often the result (here’s a tip: before you buy, pack a blanket, park up outside one night and sit tight for a few hours – you could end up with a restraining order, but you also might find out about the bloke next door with a fondness for Megadeth and power tools).

Traditionally, we’re not much more exhaustive when it comes to recruiting. So news that the average time to fill a vacancy in the US stands at 23 days, up from just 15 in 2009, ought to be indicative of a more robust global economy and a more mature approach to hiring.

What’s actually happening, says The New York Times, is that recruiters are employing some frankly lunatic tactics: eight or nine rounds of interviews, multiple presentations, time-consuming challenges and quizzes. “After they call you back after the sixth interview, there’s a part of you that wants to say ‘That’s it, I’m not going back’, the paper quotes Paul Sullivan, a Washington-based jobseeker, as saying. “But then you think, hey, maybe seven is my lucky number.” I know nothing of Mr Sullivan’s abilities, but you might think he deserves a job for sheer optimism. Because even making it to the eighth interview is no guarantee of a pay cheque – it turns out many employers are prevaricating so much they end up not filling the role at all.

Pressure from above is blamed – chief execs are so cautious with the purse strings they demand absolute certainty before they grow head count. External recruiters may also have a vested interest in stretching out the process to ridiculous lengths. It almost goes without saying the process is counter-productive: the candidate who sat through two days’ worth of intensive interviewing is likely to be as annoyed as they are relieved to finally get the job. And the person you actually should have hired probably lost patience with your flim-flammery and stayed put.

It’s unclear whether the phenomenon is being repeated here, but most employment trends cross the Atlantic eventually – and this one may strike just as our economy takes something of an upturn, when businesses have a little free cash to spend but not enough to splurge on a whim. KPMG says it expects average time to hire to rise significantly during 2013 as just such conditions take hold; conversely, a Randstad survey earlier this year found we cynical Brits often think there’s “something wrong” with a vacancy still unfilled as the weeks go by. We may have a point.

The Yogi Bear Show
The Yogi Bear Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And we have actually got better at hiring. Most line managers now understand they have made a snap judgement within the first 30 seconds of an interview, and should put it aside and establish more objective criteria. We’re asking people about their achievements in detail, and setting them measurable tasks, rather than letting them trot out stock answers. True, the trend for crazy questions has got out of control (the author William Poundstone cites a company that asked “Which cartoon character would you be?” and only hired those who answered “Yogi Bear”) – driven, as with so many things, by a desire to be like Google without what it is Google actually does. There’s a difference between being thorough and being plain indecisive: it probably doesn’t need eight interviews to work out which one’s which.”

Source: Jeffery, R. (2013) Eight Interviews is Probably Too Many. Available from World Wide Web: <> [Accessed: 03 April, 2013].


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