How many interviews are too many? We reveal the ideal interview process

A streamlined hiring process is a must in a competitive employment market—especially when it comes to interviews. Employers and recruiters need to make this step as efficient as possible.

Conducting interviews can take significant resources, and there’s a risk that candidates will lose interest if interview rounds drag on for too long.  Simplifying the interview process can minimise these issues, and still provide the important insights you need to identify the best candidate for a role. Here’s how to get it right.

Is there a magic number?

Jodette Cleary, Chief People and Innovation Officer with HiPages, says three to four interviews is usually ideal, depending on the seniority of the role. Here’s how this process might look.

  1. An initial phone/video screen
    “This establishes expectations where you can share a high-level brief on the company, role and salary budget,” Cleary says. “It also allows the candidate to provide a high-level overview of their skills and experience.”

    If this step goes well, a face-to-face follow up is essential, expert recruiter Kara Atkinson says. “Phone screening is great as a first step to screen people out, but in this war for talent, you should be focused on scheduling an in-person interview ASAP,” she says.

  2. Deep-dive interview
    If both parties are still enthusiastic about the prospect of working together, the next step should be an hour-long deep-dive interview with the hiring manager, Cleary says. “Both parties can ask questions of each other and understand more deeply what the value proposition is on both sides,” she says.

    This is an important step for many candidates, as SEEK research discovered that 57% of people prefer a one-on-one interview to a panel or group interview.

  3. Meeting the team
    “The third interview would be with the hiring manager's manager and for the team to meet the person,” Cleary says.

    It’s important to be sensitive about how many people are present at this interview, as SEEK research found more than one in two (55% of) candidates believe “having too many people” in the interview negatively impacts their interview performance.

  4. The test drive
    A “test drive” or case study presentation can be the biggest predictor of a successful candidate, Atkinson says. “A test drive is a real-world simulation that mirrors the actual work the candidate will be expected to perform in your organisation,” she says. “It's an opportunity for the candidate to show off their best work, and for you to see how well they will perform their day-to-day duties and how well they will settle in with your company culture.”

When it all gets too much

According to Cleary, holding more than five interviews is a warning sign a company isn't well organised. “There’s nothing wrong in two or three people meeting the candidate so the individual does not need to keep coming back,” she says. “But too many interviews can show that the company can’t make a decision or worse still, shows disrespect to the two-way process and the candidate's time.”

Atkinson explains candidates will be ambassadors and sometimes even customers of your business. “It’s imperative to treat them in a way that will reflect positively on your brand regardless of whether or not they’re offered a position with the organisation,” she says.

Tips for streamlining your interview process

  • Conduct an initial screening conversation via phone or video.

  • Balance the need to get the right people in the room with candidates’ preference for fewer people in interviews.

  • Role plays, presentations on real-life projects and technical testing are great ways to see candidates in action.  

  • Be mindful not to drag out the process as great candidates will often have multiple employment opportunities.