Years ago, noted HR blogger and recruiter Tim Sackett wrote a blog post that I continue to think about today.
He made a point that should resonate with every recruiter, hiring manager, and talent management professional: If you are calling in a candidate for a fourth round interview, it says that your hiring process is broken
OK, I know what you're thinking -- what is this guy talking about? Maybe you'll understand better if you know exactly what Tim Sackett said:
I had a client recently that was undecided about a candidate after the 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 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."
How much time should be spent hiring people?
The reason I remember this blog post so well is that in the nearly three years since Tim wrote it, I've encountered all sorts of people -- both looking to make a hire, or, looking to get hired -- who told me that they were involved in a fourth or fifth round interview. And when i heard that, it thought to myself, "Sackett is right; that person isn't going to get hired."
In nearly all of those situations, that was exactly the case.
Yes, if you can't figure out that a person is right (or wrong) for your company in three rounds of interviews you probably never will. I just told that to my son as he readied himself to go back for a Round 3 interview in a company he had applied for.
Guess what? He got the job after that interview, proving to me that the company that hired him knows it doesn't take a never-ending series of interviews to figure out if you want to hire someone or not.
I bring this up because I just saw this old video from way back in May 2002 where Google co-founder Larry Page and then-CEO Eric Schmidt are talking about hiring. The part of the interview that caught my eye was when Schmidt got into the question of "How much time is spent recruiting people" at Google?"
Schmidt talks about a time before he had joined the company when one of the Google founders called him to do a reference check on someone Schmidt had previously worked with at Sun.
Normally when you get a reference check it's like,"Yeah, they worked for you -- what were they like?" and so forth. Well, Sergei (Bren) talked to me for 45 minutes about Wayne and I discovered that they had been talking to Wayne for four months and they were scheduling to make a decision in a month's time because they had more references to check.
It shows you that the quickest way to determine whether you're serious about recruiting is how much time you spend on it."
Endless interviews are pretty abusive
My take: Believe me, I know all too well that Google has developed an incredibly rigorous hiring process that has served them well. I also know that they get many thousands of resumes in any given week, and that they have great talent literally beating down their door to get hired. In other words, it's really difficult to be critical of how Google hires.
But, let me at least engage you in the notion that it doesn't take many months, and I don't know how many rounds of interviews, to determine if someone is right for your organization. It doesn't take that long for the White House to determine who to nominate for Cabinet secretaries and Supreme Court justices.
Frankly, it's abusive to the candidate to put them through months and months of interviewing and reference checks.
In addition, I can't imagine anyone -- except maybe a good friend who owes you a big favor, or Google's Eric Schmidt -- to give you 45 minutes or more on the phone for a reference check (Full disclosure: Checkster has a Reference Checkup tool that can get you a half-dozen or more references, plus insightful data, in a fraction of the time it takes on the phone).
In other words, Google's interview and hiring practices, as successful as they are, might be viewed to be downright abusive.