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Also known as “interview fatigue,” death by interview happens when the interview process grows so long that the best candidates start bailing and the rest of them become demoralized.

High-quality candidates have options. They don’t have to put up with lengthy, drawn-out hiring processes — so they don’t. The best candidates are generally off the market after only 10 days. Given that the average time to hire for most companies is at least 21 days, many employees are missing out on the best candidates without even knowing it!

Even if a long hiring process didn’t drive away candidates, it would still be a bad idea. Studies show the predictive value of interviews peaks around interview three or four. After that point, interviews cost more in terms of time and resources than they yield in terms of information.

Furthermore, a lengthy hiring process demoralizes candidates. They feel the company is disrespecting their time, and they resent being made to jump through so many hoops. Candidates who feel they are poorly treated during the interview process will hold a grudge against the company — even if they get hired. In other words, death by interview is a form of self-sabotage.

What Causes Death by Interview?

Death by interview has many causes, but they all boil down to two big ones: the fear of making a bad decision and the involvement of too many decision-makers in the hiring process.

Every hiring manager has made a bad hiring decision before, and none of them are in a hurry to do that again. Fear of making a mistake can be paralyzing, preventing any decision from being made at all. No one wants to be responsible for a bad decision, so the hiring process gets stretched out — not because a longer hiring process is more effective, but because the decision-makers want to prove they did their due diligence.

The natural hesitation people feel before making a big decision is compounded when the number of involved decision-makers increases. When a whole committee is looking for reasons to disqualify candidates, every candidate starts looking like a risky choice. Plus, having a big decision-making group gives everyone on the committee — each of whom is trying to avoid making the wrong decision — no shortage of chances to pass the buck to somebody else.

To put it briefly: Death by interview happens because the incentive structures around hiring decisions encourage individuals to stretch out the hiring process instead of simply making a decision.

Strategies for Fixing the Problem

Fixing death by interview is a serious task, but it’s a necessary one. Here are a few ways to attack the problem:

1. Assemble Smaller Interviewing Teams

As discussed, big hiring teams give naturally indecisive people lots of opportunities to palm off their decisions onto somebody else. One of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce interview fatigue is to trim the fat on your hiring team.

Recommendations vary, but I tend to agree with OpenView Labs. The interview team should include only three people: the position’s direct manager, a team lead who will work with the new hire, and a senior-level leader.

The small team size makes it easier to come to a decision, and the inclusion of two employees who will directly work with the new hire ensures a better decision. Team members with more skin in the game will take more care to ensure the right person is chosen.

2. Clearly Define Hiring Goals

Nothing slows down a hiring process quite like uncertainty about the requirements for the position. Ideally, the hiring process should go like this:

- You have clear standards for the hard skills, soft skills, and culture fit you need for the position.
- You find a candidate who meets those standards.
- You hire the candidate.

If that’s not your hiring process, somebody’s waiting for the perfect candidate. The thing is, the perfect candidate doesn’t exist. The only way to get what you need quickly is to set explicit requirements for the position and hire as soon as you find a candidate who meets them.

3. Optimize Your Number of Interviews

Set a specific goal to hire by the third or fourth interview. As mentioned earlier, interviews beyond that point rarely yield a worthwhile ROI. If possible, consider a one-day interview initiative in which a candidate goes through all the necessary interviews in one day. To keep hiring managers aligned with this initiative, you may want to implement an incentive program that rewards those managers who stay within the limit.

4. Use Technology to Solve Scheduling Problems

Scheduling difficulties may seem like a minor nuisance, but they can actually be the culprits behind a much-too-long interview process. When arranging an in-person interview starts to seem like a hassle, it may be a sign to opt for telephone or video interviews instead. Most companies understandably prefer in-person interviews, but in some cases — such as when a candidate has to travel a long distance — it might pay off to use technology.

Death by interview is a serious problem. It harms the quality of hires, wastes company resources, and demoralizes the candidate pool. Luckily, it can be solved by actively taking steps to streamline the hiring process. Reduce the size of interview teams, clearly define your hiring goals, reward quick decisions, and use technology to be more flexible. Interview fatigue will become a thing of the past.

Jeffrey Audette is president of VMG Recruiting. Contact Jeff at jeff@vmgt.com.



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