Interview Fatigue: When to draw the line

9 minute read
A dark-haired, bearded businessman wearing a white button-up shirt sits in front of a laptop computer illuminated by a black metal desk lamp. Experiencing interview fatigue, he rests his forehead in his hand. Also on his desk are a candle, a smartphone, and some books. Behind him is a houseplant. Accordian-shaped wall décor is mounted above his desk.

To say the current talent market is competitive might be an understatement. Concerns about the skills gap have intensified as the number of open jobs in the United States has grown considerably in the past year and a half. Job openings hovered around 7 million before the COVID-19 pandemic, rose to 9 million by April 2021, and then climbed to 10.9 million by the end of July 2021.1–3 Meanwhile, the unemployment rate has also risen, and many workers have been unable to find new work due to skill misalignment with the available openings, concern for their health, issues with childcare, distance from opportunities, closed border and more.2,4,5 In other words, jobs are opening, the size of the talent pool is shrinking, and the skills that were in-demand pre-pandemic are even more so now.

For many employers, finding the right people to hire right now may seem near impossible. There are numerous ways organisations can improve their talent management strategies to not only hire but also retain top talent. One in particular entered the spotlight this summer when a LinkedIn post went viral: cutting back on interviews to reduce time to hire and gain candidates’ loyalty. Interview fatigue is a critical flaw in the candidate experience at many organisations — and thus an insidious threat to your talent acquisition strategy.

 

Interview Fatigue: The Case of Mike Conley

Mike Conley was interviewing for a job at an organisation that seemed like the perfect fit. He was interested in the role, the company’s mission was one he could get behind, and the pay and benefits were generous. The only problem? They expected him to participate in nine interviews.

Anguished by interview fatigue, Mr. Conley withdrew his name from the candidate pool and hopped on LinkedIn to vent his frustration about how the number of interviews for senior-level executive jobs have continued to increase in length.6 He surmised that employers’ fear of picking the wrong candidate wastes more time than is necessary; he suggested contract-to-hire or other forms of trial periods could be an antidote to hesitation during the hiring decision.6 Warning employers that the number of interviews can make competitive candidates look elsewhere, he ended his post with a declaration:

 

With this withdrawal, I make a stand. A stand against never-ending interviews. A stand for job hunters.6

 

Far from a shout into the abyss, Mr. Conley’s post turned out to be something of a Martin Luther moment, a Ninety-five Theses for interview fatigue. Covered by news outlets such as Forbes and the BBC, his plea for shorter interviews went viral with more than 1.9 million views.6

Other professionals, from entry level to executive, chimed in with support and commiseration about interview fatigue. One commenter cheekily suggested that, after the fifth interview, employers should start paying candidates for their time.6 Another commenter suggested the conversation would be more productive if companies guilty of lengthy interviews were tagged directly in the thread.6 Yet another commenter, who once went through an 11-step interview process only to hear that the position was postponed, suggested that never-ending interviews were a sign that employers were unclear on what they needed or weren’t empowered to make decisions.6 The top commenter, who shared that they had a four-month series of interviews only to lose the position to an internal candidate, stated, “Mike, I share your frustration and applaud your decision.”6

Mr. Conley’s complaint exposed interview fatigue to be a common flaw in the overall candidate experience. Fortunately, his story has a happy ending. An employer saw his LinkedIn post and liked his enthusiasm for efficiency. After a number of job interviews he considered appropriate, Mr. Conley is now happily employed as a VP of software engineering.6

 

How Many Interviews Are Too Many Interviews?

Like most things in business, there is no magic number of interviews — it depends on the organisation. Nonetheless, four appears to be an important threshold for both employers and candidates to avoid interview fatigue.

Google, where candidates were formerly subjected to more than a dozen interviews, has become a trailblazer in interview efficiency.7 Google’s research found that after the fourth interview, interviewers had 86% confidence in the candidate.7 Afterward, confidence rose by less than 1% with each additional interview.7 Furthermore, 94% of the time, the hiring decision remained the same whether the candidates were interviewed four times or 12 times.7

This research suggests that exceeding four interviews is likely to lead to interview fatigue. Google learned from these findings and now follows the “rule of four” for interviews, only passing this benchmark on rare occasions.7

 

But What If We Make a Bad Hire?

A common reason employers conduct excessive interviews is to avoid making a bad hire. And understandably so — even many of the professionals who agreed with Mr. Conley’s lament conceded that avoiding bad hires is important for company survival. Employees who are onboarded and are unsuccessful in their roles can spread disengagement like contagion, and turnover costs an average of one-half to two times an employee’s salary (and this is a conservative estimate).8 Still, as LinkedIn’s zeitgeist and Google’s research reveals, over reliance on interviews will not shield employers from the danger of making a bad hire and will instead contribute to interview fatigue and inefficiency.   

The good news is that interviews can be supplemented with another powerful tool for talent acquisition: personality tests. While it is well documented that interviews have low predictive validity, a well-validated personality test can predict how a candidate is likely to perform in a given role, uncovering truths about a candidate that interviews can’t. In this way, using personality tests in interviews can help employers avoid making bad hires by ensuring that the ultimate hiring decision is backed up by data. These insights are useful because, no matter the number of interviews, candidates will likely be self-conscious and intentional about only highlighting their strengths to potential employers. Let’s be honest — how many candidates do you think speak candidly about their weaknesses? Personality data can give hiring managers objective insight into a candidate’s values, strengths, and weaknesses and biases to help them make a sound hiring decision.

 

A Faster Way to Make a Good Hire

Employers who wish to take an even more tailored approach to finding the right person for a particular job can go a step further by establishing a custom personality profile. Using a custom personality profile in candidate selection allows hiring managers to identify the candidates who most align with their needs and avoid spending valuable interview time with people who are less aligned with the job requirements or organisational culture.

Not to mention, personality data is proven to reduce the number of necessary interviews, cutting the interview-to-hire ratio by as much as 50%.9 Gathering personality data before meeting a candidate lets hiring managers prepare to ask insightful questions, resulting in more informative and efficient interviews. Aside from helping produce a more educated hiring decision, this refinement of the interview process also allows organisations to reduce their time to hire, resulting in a better candidate experience and reduced likelihood of interview fatigue. In a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous talent market like the one we currently find ourselves in, employers who consider the quality of the candidate experience they create will come out on top.

Unfortunately, the talent shortage is expected to worsen even more in the coming years, and a staggering 70% of organisations are not prepared to meet their future talent needs.10 Beyond talent acquisition and retention, understanding the role of candidate experience in talent attraction is critical in the competition for top talent, especially when it comes to finding effective workers with the most in-demand skills, such as analytics, communication, and adaptability.10 Key to thriving in the current talent market, personality tests provide organisations with a clear picture of how candidates will perform in a given role without causing interview fatigue (or potentially drawing the ire of LinkedIn users).

 

References

  1. Rugaber, C. (2021, April 6). U.S. Job Openings in February Reached Highest Rate on Record. AP News. https://apnews.com/article/health-coronavirus-pandemic-794433b39420f41763ddb0803e1f7ca9
  2. Sanandaji, T., Monte, F., Ham, A., & Tarki, A. (2021, June 14). Attracting Talent During a Worker Shortage. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2021/06/attracting-talent-during-a-worker-shortage
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics; U.S. Department of Labor. (2021, August). Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary [Press release]. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.nr0.htm
  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics; U.S. Department of Labor. (2021, April 22). Unemployment Rates Up in 40 States and D.C. from March 2020 to March 2021. The Economics Daily. https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2021/unemployment-rates-up-in-40-states-and-d-c-from-march-2020-to-march-2021.htm
  5. Morath, E. (2021, May 6). Millions Are Unemployed. Why Can’t Companies Find Workers? The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/millions-are-unemployed-why-cant-companies-find-workers-11620302440
  6. Conley, M. (2021, June). Today I Pulled My Name for Consideration for a Company I Was Interviewing with. LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/posts/mike-t-conley_jobhunt2021-leadership-servantleadership-activity-6812003946253705217-VF5t/
  7. Shaper, S. (2017, April 4). How Many Interviews Does It Take to Hire a Googler? re:Work. https://rework.withgoogle.com/blog/google-rule-of-four/
  8. McFeely, S., & Wigert, B. (2019, March 13). The Fixable Problem Costs U.S. Businesses $1 Trillion. Gallup. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/247391/fixable-problem-costs-businesses-trillion.aspx
  9. Hardy, J. H. III, Gibson, C., Sloan, M., & Carr, A. (2017). Are Applicants More Likely to Quit Longer Assessments? Examining the Effect of Assessment Length on Applicant Attrition Behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(7), 1148-1158. https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fapl0000213
  10. Kavanaugh, J., & Lakshmi, P. M. (2019). Talent Radar: How the Best Companies Get the Skills They Need to Thrive in the Digital Era. Infosys Knowledge Institute. https://www.infosys.com/navigate-your-next/research/talent-radar.html