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The rise of never-ending job interviews

Some companies are asking candidates to attend multiple interviews. But too many rounds could be a red flag – and even drive candidates away

Source | | Mark Johanson

Every jobseeker welcomes an invitation to a second interview, because it signals a company’s interest. A third interview might feel even more positive, or even be the precursor to an offer. But what happens when the process drags on to a fourth, fifth or sixth round – and it’s not even clear how close you are to the ‘final’ interview? 

That’s a question Mike Conley, 49, grappled with earlier this year. The software engineering manager, based in Indiana, US, had been seeking a new role after losing his job during the pandemic. Five companies told him they had to delay hiring because of Covid-19 – but only after he’d done the final round of interviews. Another three invited him for several rounds of interviews until it was time to make an offer, at which point they decided to promote internally. Then, he made it through three rounds of interviews for a director-level position at a company he really liked, only to receive an email to co-ordinate six more rounds. 

“When I responded to the internal HR, I even asked, ‘Are these the final rounds?’,” he says. “The answer I got back was: ‘We don’t know yet’.” 

That’s when Conley made the tough decision to pull out. He shared his experience in a LinkedIn post that’s touched a nerve with fellow job-seekers, who’ve viewed it 2.6 million times as of this writing. Conley says he’s received about 4,000 public comments of support, and “four times that in private comments” from those who feared being tracked by current or prospective employers. 

“So many people told me that, when they found out it was going to be six or seven interviews, they pulled out, so it was a bigger thing than I ever thought it was,” he says. Of course, Conley never expected his post would go viral, “but I thought that for people who had been on similar paths, it was good to put it out there and let them know that they’re not alone”. 

In fact, the internet is awash with similar stories jobseekers who’ve become frustrated with companies – particularly in the tech, finance and energy sectors – turning the interview process into a marathon. That poses the question: how many rounds of interviews should it take for an employer to reasonably assess a candidate before the process veers into excess? And how long should candidates stick it out if there’s no clear information on exactly how many hoops they’ll have to jump through to stay in the running for a role? 

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