HR Management, Recruiting and Staffing

4 Rounds of Interviews? It Shows How Screwed Up Your Hiring Process Is


I had a client recently that was undecided about a candidate after the fourth (4th) round interview.

They were thinking that maybe a fifth round would make the difference. I told them that it wouldn’t. In fact, it was a mistake to allow them to get to four.

Do you know what the fourth round interview says about your hiring process?

It says that your process is broken.

No one needs four rounds of interviews to decide if a candidate is the right candidate for your organization. A fifth round, or any number higher, is just adding insult to injury.

Too many rounds, too much second tier talent

Here’s what anything beyond the third round interview says to your candidate:

  • Hey, come work for us so we can totally frustrate you with our indecision culture.
  • We need more interviews because we don’t have our shit together, but please don’t notice that.”
  • “You are so mediocre that we just can’t decide if we should pass on you or hire you.”
  • I bet you can’t wait to come aboard and be a part of this process in the future!”
  • We like to wear down candidates to see who ‘really’ wants our job!”

Organizations that can’t figure this out are always interviewing second tier talent.

How the interview process should go

Organizations that are talent attractors have determined that less is more.

They have a concise process. They move quickly. They get it right more than they get it wrong. If we get they do get it wrong, they don’t take long to make the correction.

The reality is that 99 percent of your interviews should never need to go beyond three interviews. It looks like this:

  • First round – This is your pre-employment screening/assessments and phone interview. Perfect placement for video screening tool (HireVue, WePow, etc.).
  • Second round – Face-to-face with hiring manager and any other key stakeholders (i.e., people this person might be asked to support from other functions).
  • Third round (if needed) — Face-to-face or video phone (Skype-type) interview. Executive sign off. Really only needed if your line executive doesn’t have faith in the hiring manager.

Less info the longer you go

More interviews after this point yield negligible additional information, and, actually might be a detriment to your hiring decision.

Why? Here’s what happens after you talk about someone for so long — they turn into a piece of crap!

This is normal human and organizational behavior, by the way. We start out talking about all the good qualities and experiences the person has and how they can help us.

Then we start searching for hickeys and no matter what, we will find them! Then we start talking about what’s wrong with the person, and before you know it, that great candidate, they become a piece of garbage and not good enough for your organization.

When you let it go on too long

But they’re not really garbage. They’re still the really good person you initially interviewed. You just let it go too long and discovered they have opportunities and we don’t want to hire anyone with “opportunities” — we want perfect.

This is what happens after round three of interviews in almost every organization I’ve ever witnessed (and some went to four, five, six, or more rounds). It might be the biggest misconception of candidates, who feel the longer they go in the interview process, the better the chance for an offer.

It’s untrue! If you don’t get an offer after the third round, your percentages of getting an offer falls exponentially for every round after that!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is Executive Vice President of HRU Technical Resources , a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community – so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him at .
  • Mike

    I couldn’t agree with you more and I know you won’t believe me, however, I know
    of one case where a candidate had to return14 times for interviews for a job. And worse, she had worked for the company previously; had performed wonderfully
    plus everyone loved her. She finally got the job – – is still there–
    –and, yes, is performing “wonderfully.”

    • Name Peters

      If she had performed wonderfully n worked for the company previously why the waste of time and resources? Plus,what was it the company was looking for that they didn’t see until the 14th time? I honestly am interrested.

    • Tim Sackett

      I can’t imagine this ever happening! Or least happening at a company where I’m running HR! ;)

  • Crystal Spraggins

    OMGoodnes, this is so on the money! I once interviewed for a company where I learned at ROUND 4 that they still had 5 other candidates. I almost walked out right then and there. Total waste of everyone’s time.

    As a hiring manager, the process that I favor is exactly the one you’ve outlined in your bulleted list. The only time I add an extra step is when I test people (because I think testing and interviewing on the same day is just too tiring for candidates).

    What’s happening out there is totally nuts. And is it really yielding better employees?

    • Tim Sackett

      No, it’s not! Thanks for the comments Crystal!

  • MickD

    During this past summer, I had 10 interviews with a very well-respected creative agency – from CEO to COO to Creative Director, Director of Accounts, Head of Strategy, their 2 EVPs, etc. I’m not new to the industry (15-20 years) nor to the interview process. In the end, following a month of almost complete radio silence from them, I learned through a consultant at their firm, that they gave the post to someone else after expanding the search following the hiring of a new head of HR during my process. (I never met the new HR exec.) Along the way, I received nothing but positive, glowing reviews and feedback from each exec I spent time with. Need I say anything about the impact, etc., of that process plus time and $$ I lost?

  • Smallbusiness

    Just an honest question, as a small company where I as the president am also the HR department: how do I attract and identify top tier talent? I have never had more than 3 interviews, but those that I had were completely in the interest of uncovering if the candidate is a loser. As a small business, you hire a lot of them (i.e. (I don’t work much) from home, I am addicted to anti-depressants, I made up my entire resume, I can act normal for one hour, but after that forget it….)

    I have learned that “going with your gut” and one interview leaves you with the candidates that companies that have better due diligence pass over.

    With that said, my last job before starting my own company required four rounds of interviews IN FOUR STATES. Yes, I made it through that 6 month process, and then actually accepted the job. Not totally a mistake, but obviously I am not still working for them.