Job candidates' purgatory: multiple interviews per job

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By Eve Tahmincioglu

Job seekers expect to have two or three interviews with an employer before they land a position. But 10 interviews?

Ebonee Younger’s interview odyssey began in September when she embarked on her quest to land an HR manager’s position at a rental truck company.

Ten interviews and a lot of sweat equity later, Younger, who lives in Birmingham, Ala., ended up not getting the gig.

“The whole experience cost me two new suits, a new pair of shoes, $40 in stationery and postage -- I wrote handwritten notes to almost everyone I spoke with -- two paid time-off days, and $200 plus in taxi fare,” she explained.

“I'm not so much irritated that I didn't get the job, I was just disappointed in the candidate experience,” she noted. “I really believe they could have, and should have, made a decision earlier in the process.”

Unfortunately, Younger’s interview purgatory is not unusual. Employers are increasingly putting applicants through a seemingly endless cycle of interviews these days, a byproduct of the tight labor market. Some hiring managers feel they have the upper hand because unemployment, at over 8 percent, is still relatively high so they can put candidates through a hiring rigmarole. Others are just too inept to trust their own judgment, or are fearful a wrong hire will get them in hot water.

“We have found employers take a lot longer to select someone these days,” said Charley Polachi, co-founder of executive recruiting firm Polachi Inc.

“During the boom, hiring decisions were made in a snap,” he explained. But now, “there’s this perception of a big supply of people so they keep interviewing.”

Besides, he added, most managers today aren’t good or effective interviewers because budget cuts have done away with any real training on how to hire.

And it’s not just employers looking to fill permanent jobs who are putting candidates through the interview wringer. Adecco, one of the nation’s top temporary staffing firms, has seen an uptick in the number of interviews required for temps as well.

“The interview process for those applying to these jobs are more frequently being conducted as if they are being looked at for permanent positions,” said Bob Kovalsky, senior vice president for Adecco Staffing. 

Some believe the lengthy process for all gigs today is all about money.

“Companies shouldn’t just settle for a seat filler because they need someone right away,” maintained Josh Tolan, CEO of Spark Hire, an online video job board. “A bad hire is more than just a mistake, it could be detrimental to the success of your team and your company.”

Tolan estimated that “nearly 46 percent of new hires fail within 18 months, and a bad hiring decision can cost a company upwards of 200 percent of a year’s salary.”

Despite such numbers, job seekers put through weeks of interviewing are beginning to feel like contestants in a never-ending beauty pageant.

Ginger Mathews, who lives in Phoenix, started her quest to land a trainer job with an insurance firm in January and eight interviews later she’s still in limbo.

This is how it all went down, she says:

  • One phone interview that lasted 40 minutes.
  • A few days later, that was followed by a one hour 15 minute Skype interview.
  •  A week later, that was followed by a 45-minute in-person interview at a corporate office about 20 minutes away.
  • That was immediately followed by another 45-minute in-person interview at the corporate office, which was followed by another 45-minute in-person interview.
  • About a week to ten days later, a one-hour in-person interview at the corporate office about 20 minutes away, which was immediately followed by another one-hour in-person interview at the corporate office, which was followed by another one-hour in-person interview at the same corporate office, on the same day. 

She went through a similar endless chain of interviews for a sales coaching job with another employer, but ended up with no job.

Tons of interviews may seem like a good problem to have for many job seekers who have been unable to get past the online application to  talk to a human being, but endless interviews and no job can be just as frustrating.

“These jobs do not come with six-figure incomes and it is not as though I am applying for jobs where I am responsible for great sums of money, or working as an aide to President Obama,” Matthews explained.

“I have to ask, is this the new norm?” pondered Matthews, who is scheduled for her ninth interview with the insurance company on Monday.