Firms missing out on the best job applicants because of too many interviews, research finds

Worker shortages and lengthy and ineffective processes mean companies’ ideal candidates are looking elsewhere

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Research by recruitment firm Eden Scott, which polled 1,035 UK workers, found that 52 per cent candidates are reluctant to attend more than two interviews to receive a job offer.

A quarter (27 per cent) said they were willing to attend up to three interviews, while only 12 per cent were open to participating in four or more.

On average, applicants indicated they would lose interest in a job opportunity if required to wait more than nine days for a post-interview response, with workers aged 45 and over “losing patience” after eight days.

Michelle Lownie, CEO of Eden Scott, warned that lengthy and ineffective communication throughout the interview process may mean firms are missing out on top talent and their ideal candidates. She told People Management: “During worker shortages, companies must be mindful that theirs is unlikely to be the only offer on the table. Their competitors also need to make hires and, very often, they’ll be trying to attract the same candidates.

“When candidates are presented with a lengthy interview process or a more concise one, it shouldn’t be a surprise when they opt to work with the most efficient and proactive company.

“While making suitable hires is still essential, right now, companies don’t have the luxury of time. To keep candidates interested in an opportunity, their hiring practices must be as streamlined as possible.” 

Lownie added that if firms wanted to improve interviewing experience for potential candidates, “it’s all in the preparation”. 

“Too often, we see HR teams being directed to begin a recruitment drive as soon as a skills gap arises,” she said. “Bottlenecks arise when awaiting sign off from the board or when the hiring strategy is changed at the last minute. This just creates frustration for everyone involved, including the candidate. Companies mustn't put the cart ahead of the horse.”

Nick Allwood, regional director at Macmillan Davies, said lengthy interview processes can “disengage” applicants. “We have seen long, drawn out recruitment processes leading to preferred and most suitable candidates becoming disengaged or finding a role elsewhere, often leaving the hiring company having to go back to square one,” he explained.  

“Candidates are ever more discerning and are weighing up the risks of moving from one employer to another in a more detailed fashion.

“If the initial introduction to a company isn’t met with the satisfaction of the potential employee and they are kept waiting for decisions without regular communication, then we have evidenced candidates moving to the next opportunity or deciding to stay where they are.”

Allwood said where there is often a breakdown post interview is in communication.  While people understand that diaries do not “always align perfectly”, this “shouldn’t affect the decision-making process”, he said, and HR should ensure that the next stages of the interview process are signposted. 

“If a decision has been made then feedback needs to be provided and everybody can move on,” Allwood continued.

“If the next interview stage won’t happen for a while, let the candidates know what’s clogging up the process and that will create buy-in and tolerance. It’s that simple. Open lines of communication and timely feedback.” 

The research also found that two thirds (64 per cent) were turned off by overly personal questions, while a quarter (24 per cent) said they would be uncomfortable if it was obvious their interviewer had not read their CV. A further 68 per cent said a confrontational interviewer style would put them off a job opportunity, pointing to ineffective interview styles.   

David Morel, CEO and founder of Tiger Recruitment, said “consistency in evaluation criteria and interview approaches” was key to help maintain a “fair and effective process that ensures that the most suitable and motivated candidates progress to the final interview stage”.  

Shifting the emphasis from standard interview questions to situational tasks can allow for a “more in-depth understanding of a candidate's abilities, decision-making skills and suitability for the role, early on”, he added.

And firms should remember that the interview process is just as important an opportunity for them as the candidate, said Morel: “Interviews should be used as an opportunity to sell the company to potential hires. First impressions matter on both sides: highlighting benefits, perks and the positive aspects of the workplace can help direct the candidate to choose your offer over another company.”