It all seems to start so well. A positive first job interview, followed by a positive second. Your feelings are now riding high. You are expecting to be called back to meet the head of business unit, the boss and maybe some prospective team members, perhaps be told that they’ve gone in another direction or perhaps be asked to do some basic intake aptitude tests. Then you are called back for a third ‘interview’, followed by a fourth. How should you feel about this?
Since making the best hiring decision is the goal for any recruiter, ensuring they lock in the ideal candidate for the role requires rigorous analysis, which can take more than an interview.
I don’t think that I can tell you how you should feel but I know how I would feel. Interviewing is a skill. It is something that is part intuitive and part technique. An interviewer should enter an interview with an objective, a position that they want to get to. Interviews are founded on a premise of a two way exchange where both the interviewee and the interviewer are able to discover enough information about one another to make a decision.
When an interviewing process goes beyond a third round, then in my view it is time to get assertive. It is time to elect whether or not you have a continuing interest in the job opportunity. My own view is that if a company cannot make a decision about hiring someone within three interviews then something is wrong.
In theory, if you are the strongest candidate for a role, it should only take a maximum of three rounds of interviews before you know you’ve got a job offer. That is, of course, providing you are adequately prepared and give the interviewers all the information they want to hear in your responses.
Any number of things could be wrong. The interviewer, your prospective boss may not really know what they are doing. They may be inexperienced or untrained in the interview process. Perhaps the job is not as well defined it could be? Maybe the interviewing company is on a fishing expedition, looking for free consultancy or more innocently there is just a spanner in the works and the fourth interview is merely a tactic designed to retain your interest while a situation gets resolved.
If you are in a sales job then the employer will be looking for you to exercise certain closing skills as part of your interview process. Yet those who are not in sales positions may well learn from the techniques that sales people use as part of the interview process when in this situation. This skill, closing is all about bringing matters to conclusion, to eliminate the wasting of time and to encourage positive forward momentum.
Towards the end of the second interview, I would certainly be asking the question, where next? I’d be seeking to know what the interviewers feelings were and where the point of closure lay. You may not get it there and then and the answer may come via your recruitment agent (these questions are high on the list of the agent). But it is important to let the employer know that closure is now on your agenda. By the end of the second interview you have likely input hours of your time, emotional energy and financial cost. You need to start to consider how much further you want to go. Remember that being employed benefits not only you but also the employer.
Your employer, should be able to answer this question pretty easily. If not then it is probably incumbent on you to dig a little deeper. Set out to discover if the employer has any specific concerns about you. Explore what hurdles may need to be overcome. Try to address these issues and to determine the plan. If a plan is not forthcoming, I think I would start to get a little concerned. Without a strong reason, I find it difficult to see why an interview process should go beyond a third stage. It points to disorganisation, a lack of planning and a lack of confidence. The situation is fast edging towards the ridiculous.
When I interviewed at U.S. Robotics I told my not-quite-yet-boss on my fourth interview that it was time for him to fish or cut bait. I saw in his demeanor that he had me in the job already in his mind, but he wanted me to meet everyone so they would feel like it was a group decision. I understand that. I would do the same thing in his shoes. Still, enough is enough. He said If you don’t hear from me this coming week, call me. I didn’t hear from him, so I called him, and he made the job offer over the phone. Three or four interviews is a good limit to set.
In this scenario, one that lacks visible closure, my query would be centred around an issue of whether or not an employer, unable to determine a hire within three interviews is similarly pre-disposed to making slow, untimely decisions in the course of their day to day work. Working for a leader who is indecisive is rarely a good thing.