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Mar 7, 2023

Here’s a question: How long should it take to make a new hire with confidence?

I ask it for a very good reason.

Increasingly it seems like the number of days and interview stages HRDs deem to be acceptable seems to be almost entirely random when comparing what companies do side by side. And more than this, too many overly-long hiring horror stories now populate internet forums.

One HR consultant revealed on Reddit that they had to go through ten interviews over three months to land their current role, a number this person (quite rightly) considered to be “entirely excessive.”

Another employee applying for a different role at the company they already worked for was forced to do two Zoom calls, two hours of back-to-back interviews with four different managers and then two further half-hour interviews with directors. Apparently, they revealed this extensive process was now “becoming the norm”.

And it’s not just the sheer numbers of interviews candidates are being subjected to that are increasing.

There’s also an excessive amount of personality tests or situation-based assessments, testing things like leadership skills or emotional intelligence (EQ).

Oh, and let’s not also forget the fact that candidates may also face have to complete (unpaid) ‘take home’ assignments or projects which can take days or even weeks to complete.

Candidates have had enough

The trend for recruitment taking ever-longer has been growing for some time. A 2017 Glassdoor study found that companies in the US took on average 23.8 days to hire, while those in the U.K. took 27.5 days.

Yet jump forward to 2021, and a report from Jobvite shows that almost a third of employers are now taking more than 30 days to hire, with almost one in 10 (9%) taking more than 60 days.

With the rise in the stages involved, many jobseekers have, understandably, had enough.

In 2021, software developer Mike Conley went viral for making “a stand against never-ending interviews,” publishing a LinkedIn post outlining his decision to withdraw his application after being told he could expect to go through up to nine rounds of interviews for the role.

Conley wrote in the post: “Companies think they are building processes that ensure picking the right candidate. I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s due to fear of picking the wrong candidate. I think it’s fear they will not find the next unicorn. I think it’s fear of wasting time that ends up wasting more time.”

He added: “Increasingly making interviews more and more lengthy and difficult can lose you the talent you are making the process more difficult for.”

Research suggests he is right.

Half of UK professionals have declined a job offer because the hiring process was taking too long, according to a 2022 survey by Morgan McKinley.

Meanwhile 78% of recent job seekers said they would drop out of, or consider dropping out of, a recruitment process that was too long or complex in the future, according to a recent study by Sterling.

Why is hiring taking so long?

There are, of course, plenty of reasons for companies to be circumspect when it comes to bringing new employees onboard.

For starters, recruitment is not cheap: Data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) puts the average cost per hire at nearly $4,700.

So it stands to reason that employers will want to be picky.

Arguably, employers will be even more picky in such uncertain times. Amid widespread fears of an economic downturn, many companies are already streamlining their teams.

When jobs are in higher demand, employers may also feel the need to go to greater lengths to choose between evenly-matched applicants, and feel less pressure to reduce the burden on candidates.

But all of this comes despite a lack of evidence that lengthier interview processes actually result in better hiring.

When Google reviewed its job interview data, it found that four interviews was typically enough to make a reliable hiring decision.

Once notorious for its lengthy recruitment process, the company has now introduced the ‘Rule of Four’ for hiring decisions, reducing its average time-to-hire by around two weeks.

More hoops; less feedback

But not only have applicants been subjected to ever-longer delays in hiring, they’re also experiencing an unforgivable rise in ‘ghosting’ by their prospective employers – that is experiencing a complete cessation of communication – according to the chief economist at Glassdoor.

In October, he shared data which showed that, since February 2020, the share of Glassdoor reviews mentioning ghosting had almost doubled – soaring by 98%.

If the number of hoops keeps rising, then keeping candidates regularly informed and up-to-date about the progress of their application should be the bare minimum for firms keen to build a reputation as a good employer.

Not interviewing enough

There is, of course, a danger that companies could go too far the other way – and not interview rigorously enough. Some firms have done precisely this in response to desperate talent shortages. Take some major law firms hiring junior lawyers without interviewing them first, or the hotel chains employing candidates less than 24 hours after they applied for the role.

Yet there are many sensible solutions.

A good place to start is by following the example that Google is setting – by reviewing your current hiring process.

Ask yourself this: ‘Are there any stages that can be easily eliminated, such as by having two interviewers question a candidate at the same time, rather than hold two separate interviews?’

Something else to consider is whether your hiring history tells a story.

For example, is there a particular stage where candidates tend to drop out? Identifying and resolving any sticking points can help you to establish a hiring structure to use as a framework going forward.

The one thing the pandemic did was normalize virtual hiring. Could you hold initial interviews via video call, only progressing to an in-person discussion if they are successful? Even if you’re not recruiting for a remote role and interviewing someone based far away, technology can be used to save the candidate time and effort in attending repeated on-site interviews.

Background checks are a vital tool in hiring as it’s crucial to verify a candidate has the requisite skills and experience for the role. Yet all too often these are still done manually, which can take weeks and become a major obstacle to a smooth hire (consider that 22% of jobseekers who dropped out of a recruitment process expressed an issue with the screening process, a recent survey found).

More (really is) too much

The message I think is clear. More hoops, more processes, and more time, doesn’t make for happier prospective employees.

Asking job candidates to jump through numerous hoops ultimately ends up being self-defeating. Let’s advocate proportionate and more efficient hiring instead.


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