how many interviews is too many for one job?

A reader writes:

I applied for a mid-level position over the summer and had my first interview in August. After not hearing from them for nearly a month, they asked that I come in to interview with another person, which I did last week, and afterward he asked for my references. I have just been asked to come back again to interview with two more people.

The first two interviews went pretty well and everyone I met there has been very nice, but they haven’t been able to meet me outside my 9-5 regular work schedule. It was difficult to arrange the first two interviews because I had to come to my current office late or leave early, and I don’t feel great about doing that three times. Is it rare to be asked for this many interviews and should I take any of this as a red flag?

Three interviews isn’t outrageous. When you think about how important the decision is on both sides, it’s actually pretty weird when companies hire after only spending an hour or two with someone. That said, by the time you’re on the third interview, you’d want to have a sense of what the rest of their hiring process looks like. It’s reasonable to ask whether this is the final step in the process or whether they anticipate additional interviews … or more generally, what the remainder of the hiring process looks like.

You also want to have some confidence that they’re doing three interviews because they’re truly being rigorous — and not just because they’re disorganized or inconsiderate of your time. So, have they used your time well? Did you understand why you met with each person you met with (and why you’re being asked to return to talk to these additional people)? Were the meetings valuable or were they not very substantive? Does this employer seem like they know what they want, or are they flighty and disorganized? That’s all information that tells you whether this is a process you can respect, or whether it’s not … and if it’s not, that’s valuable information about whether you want to work there.

As for their unwillingness to interview outside of regular work hours, it’s reasonable at this stage to say, “It would be difficult for me to take off additional time to interview. Would it be possible for me to come earlier in the morning or after 5? Or to talk by phone instead?” A reasonable employer should at least try to make that work after you’ve already come in twice on their schedule, and if they ultimately can’t, they should explain why (such as that the person you’re meeting with is constricted by her kid’s day care schedule, for instance). If they won’t budge and they won’t explain why, assume there’s at least some rigidity and inflexibility in their culture and/or that they don’t really get that hiring the right person is important enough that they should try to be accommodating.

{ 42 comments… read them below }

  1. Lily in NYC

    OP – we do even more interviews than that for many of our positions. We are not going to waste the top boss’ time meeting candidates who won’t make it out of the first interview round. So we bring back the good ones for a second round to meet our dept. head. Then we usually narrow it down to 2 people who meet with our division head. We would probably accomodate someone who wanted to meet after normal work hours, but that doesn’t seem like a huge red flag to me. There are so many candidates that it becomes difficult to make exceptions when they all want to interview at 7pm or 7:30 am.

    1. Thalian NYC

      On my 1st interview, which was about 2 weeks ago I actually had the opportunity to meet with the SVP of the department at a well known company and also met one of the VP’s. This all happened because one of my former colleagues currently works at this company and recommended me highly. Now I’m going to my 2nd interview to meet with two other VP’s of the department. I hope that this is the final round and not a waste of time! I also understand the fact that it is difficult to schedule these interviews while you are still currently working.

  2. JP

    Ugh, this is so frustrating, I know! I went in for a third round interview with a VP last week–seems like it should be final stage and whittled down, right? She keeps going on and on about how they’re “just starting the interview process” and “looking at tons of other candidates.” She had obviously not even looked at my resume before I went in to the meeting and was just doing it as a courtesy because I was an internal candidate. I wasted hours and hours of time preparing and agonizing through three interviews over a job that wasn’t even on the table for me.

    OP, I don’t think that this is what is happening to you–I just needed a bit of a rant. I hope that you get some direction soon as to when the process will be over!

    1. KarenT

      Wow! That’s impressively disorganized on their part. I imagine a hiring process like that would drive away many a good candidate.

      1. Sven Taylor

        Agreed with KarenT- keep in mind you may not be a seekers only option and asking them to repeatedly take time of work is a little disrespectful in my mind.

        A second interview is the most for higher level roles to meet other team members. If an interviewer cannot sum up a good candidate in one, than they are not likely doing a good job.

  3. Chocolate Teapot

    I can understand the 3 lots of interviews with 3 lots of different people, especially if you are going up the pecking order with the interviews.

    The other thing I thought of was that interviewing only within office hours might be a sign that this is a company which doesn’t require last minute, working late? (I am just thinking of the post from a few days ago about being made to take a day’s holiday even though the OP had just worked continuously over the weekend.)

  4. Michele

    It is very much the norm in my industry (fashion). IMO I think it is also to your benefit to meet various members of the team you will be working with to make sure it is a good fit. In my current role I met with 5 people!

  5. B

    Ugh…been there and done that. I one went on one that had 6 rounds of interviews, took a couple of months. Take this with a grain of salt but after all of that (and AAM) it really helped me look at a companies culture. Especially, since when they called to say thank you but no thank you (seriously folks…EMAIL) the woman let it slip that they never really intended to bring me on board but had to go through the motions.

    1. Steve

      I would be livid. I would have to really work hard to control myself and act like an adult after hearing something like that – even once I realized I had dodged a bullet.

      1. JP

        Wow, and I thought three “courtesy interviews” were bad (see above)…this is definitely an egregious waste of your time! I’m so sorry that you had to go through all that.

      2. B

        Oh I was and really had to control the breathing. Said thank you, hung up and screamed. To me they are a horrible company, one which I will never apply to again. In addition, many of my friends have seen jobs posted, know what I went through, and decided not to apply. It really does come back to bit companies when they treat prospective employees badly.

    2. Ruffingit

      Wow, how did she slip that into the conversation?? That is incredibly rude, can’t imagine saying something like that. So sorry you had to go through all that nonsense and then had salt poured in the wound.

  6. Ashley

    My husband went through 4 rounds of interviews for a job 2.5 hours away from where we were living. He had to miss a once a week class twice to go. He and another candidate were the two “finalists”, but then they reposted and went with a much less experienced candidate. My husband was actually glad he didn’t get it because the employer didn’t seem to know what they wanted and were unprofessional in his opinion.

  7. Lanya

    In my dad’s industry (microelectronics) it’s not uncommon to go through four or five interviews and be asked to give a presentation.

    Nowadays I would be wary of a place that hires after only one interview…two is normal…but 3 seems to be getting excessive unless they are making it very clear you are a top choice.

  8. OP

    Thank you very much for your reply, AAM, and for the comments!

    I agree that it’s very reasonable to want to meet with a job candidate more than once. To answer some of the questions posed — now that I think about it, the interviews I had there so far were not that substantive. Being a bit nervous I appreciated that they made a lot of small talk, and assumed they must like me as each interview took about an hour. In addition, all of these interviews have been with different partners at a firm, so not exactly different departments or degrees of hierarchy.

    Since submitting this question, we are still figuring out a time to meet with two additional people. To work around everyone’s schedule, they asked if it would be “better for me” to come in twice more to meet with them separately (?). I’m just surprised because in my past experience it’s only been an initial phone interview followed by an in-person interview — but maybe I just haven’t gotten far along enough in the process before.

    1. Yup

      Depending on the job and company structure, it’s not all that unusual. You might need to do Round 1 phone screen, Round 2 in-person meetings with a HR and bosses , and then Round 3 as a finalist meeting with senior leadership. If it’s a partnership type place, Round 1 is meeting the boss and HR, Round 2 is meeting the partners, and Round 3 is coming back to the partners who were away/traveling when you came in for Round 2. Very senior positions can have even more rounds if finalists need to be interviewed by a Board of Directors or Trustees.

      The important thing, as Alison noted, is to make sure that it’s not a disjointed effort just because they don’t have their act together. Each interview should either be a progressive step in the process, or clearly explained as a extra step because a key interviewer couldn’t be there for a prior piece or an extra person needs to meet you for XYZ discussion.

    2. tango

      I think it’s well within your rights to say “I’m sorry but I can’t make two more interviews during business hours. We will need to schedule at least one of those interveiws before or after work hours or on the weekend.” Now it’s very possible they will say no thanks or even OK and you’ll never hear from them again. I think a manager, if truly interested in you, would really try to make the time before or after work hours or even on the weekend in order to hire the best candidate because that makes their life easier longterm. I’d rather spend an hour interviewing you on a Saturday than numerous hours regretting my decision to hire Fred insted just because he was able to make all the during work hour interviews but wasn’t necessarily the strongest candidate. And if noone is willing to try to meet your needs after you’ve already had 3 interviews, then maybe this is not the company you want to be working for.

  9. Ali

    Last year, I applied for a job out of state that I ultimately ended up not getting…I believe I talked to 3-4 different people. Of course, all the interviews were over the phone, and I really loved talking to all the people at the company. My “interviews” felt more like conversations than interrogations, but I got rejected, maybe part because I wasn’t local to that area? However, I did find out I was one of the top two or three candidates and the hiring manager said he had to make a difficult choice.

    I looked at it as a good thing that I got that far in the process (but I am trying to break into a competitive industry, so it’s different maybe) and not a red flag at all. Of course, mileage may vary.

  10. Lora

    Dear employers with multiple interviews required to make a hire:

    -First, do a phone screen.
    -Second, Skype if you are not ready to do an in-depth substantial interview.
    -Then, make a day of it. Have the candidate meet with everyone on the same day. Schedule the big-time deciderer for the very last interview, as more of a tentative thing than a for-sure thing. If all previous interviews have gone well, tell the big-time deciderer that now s/he gets to ask his/her questions because so far it’s going swimmingly. Either you politely ask the candidate if they have time to meet with one more person (and be prepared for them to say No) or you say, “ah, big-time deciderer is unavailable, sadly, but we will let you know.”
    -You may also ask for work samples/publications if you need more help deciding.
    -Get feedback from all the interviewers within a week. You can use forms, email, hallway conversations, whatever.
    -Then you make a decision. Because chances are, your candidate has other irons in the fire and this is not the only personal day they’ve needed to take for an interview.

    This shows respect for the candidate’s time and the possibility that taking more time off from their current job/school or traveling again may not be feasible. Imagine if you were interviewing someone who had to fly in from overseas–you wouldn’t do a one-hour interview and then ask them to come back again while you dilly-dally, you’d make the trip worth everybody’s time and effort. Afford the same protocol to all your candidates, and everyone will be much happier, hiring will go right quickly and people will be able to make decisions that much sooner, while the interview is still clear in everyone’s mind.

    love and kisses,
    your job candidates

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m totally onboard with being as considerate of the candidate’s time as possible, but I actually think there’s value in spreading it out in-person interviews over at least two different days:

      * It gives the employer the chance to see other candidates and decide if the person is still in the running in their final (smaller) group of candidates, rather than wasting their and the candidate’s time if they’re not.

      * It gives the interviewers time to process and think about what questions and concerns they still want to explore.

      * It gives the candidate time to process and think about what questions and concerns they still want to explore.

      * Few people do as well in all-day extravaganzas!

      1. Jen in RO

        I think Alison’s first point is the best reason for having interviews on different days. I used to be involved in hiring for my team (as a peer) and with some candidates it was obvious they were not a good fit, so it would have been a very bad idea to waste my boss’s time with a person that did not have the required skills. (Why couldn’t we see that in the resume? For one, we wanted people with excellent English skills – all candidates said they were “advanced” in English, but some of them simply weren’t good enough and that was only apparent in the interview. I’m not in an English-speaking country.)

        Also, maybe this is minor, but I liked having several interviews because I could get “another shot” in case I wasn’t at my best during the first one (flu, not enough sleep, indigestion, whatever).

      2. Lora

        I suppose it depends on your candidate pool. In STEM, our candidate pool typically is international, with most people flying in, if not from overseas, at least quite far away, and a second in-person interview just isn’t going to happen. But then, our interviews are a mix of one-on-one interviews, a presentation/talk at which several people will ask pointy questions, a luncheon with several of the peers, a facility tour, etc. If there are ever any follow-up interviews, they really have to be conducted by Skype, though there rarely are. That’s a typical process for entry-level employees in large organizations, by the way.

        If all your candidates are local, sure, but even when we’re hiring locally, there are just lots of people who can’t get that much time off work, so the result would be to pass up perfectly good (and highly dedicated) people because they can’t take so much time off work. And in STEM there may very well only be 100 such experts in methylethyldeath synthesis or bizarrostructure engineering in the whole world–further limiting the candidate pool would be a bad move.

        1. Lora

          That, and I find that wherever I’ve worked that people did as many interviews as they felt like having when they couldn’t make a decision, often NEVER made a decision, to the point that HR and senior management eliminated the job requisition and permanently reduced the department headcount–because obviously hiring this person wasn’t that important, or they’d have made a decision already. Hiring got dragged out and people who were picking up the slack of an open position were getting burned out, people who had originally been brought in as temps were demanding to be made permanent after being there so long–then after sometimes years of working as a temp, were let go in favor of someone who had finally made a decision about a candidate. It was just crazy frustrating. When the process was more like, here is your chance to have an opinion about a candidate, do or die time, then things moved along much faster.

          Are there times when I thought, “gee, I wish we could have done more interviews?” Oh, sure. But when you have one manager wanting a purple squirrel and another who is so desperate for a warm body and a pair of hands that he’ll take anyone with a pulse, and never the twain shall meet, forcing everything to happen in a one-shot-deal really helps push things through.

    2. Anonymous

      Ugh, I flew in two times in one week for my current job (1st and 2nd rounds on Tuesday and Friday) and flew back in a third time for the final round. My credit card was crying.

        1. voluptuousfire

          That would be a situation where doing all the interviews in a day or two would work. Flying 3 times in one week? Jeez, how long were those flights?!

    3. lilgtogirl

      I agree that one day can be spent seeing everyone. First of all, there seems to be a plague-like mentality regarding people who are not currently working. This means you are asking people to leave their job to come and see you for yours. Secondly, there may be some travel involved. I recently interviewed with a large car company. It was going great. Then they wanted to me fly in for a one hour meeting, even though they guaranteed me a second meeting after that. I asked to do both meetings in the same visit, and they acted like I asked them for sex. I had to tell them no, and they missed out on someone who has successfully done the same projects they were just starting. You have to have flexibility, and the multiple meeting idea is foolish no matter what AAM wants to believe. I have things to do, and I hate people who waste time. Who wants a company that has so much free time on their hands?

  11. Rich

    I think the interviews could be condensed instead of meeting 1-2 people each time, but I came from a place where for some roles the candidate would speak to 7 or 8 people. Definitely ask about flexibility outside of business hours, especially since you’ve had to come in late or leave work early three times.

  12. KC

    I work in an Engineering group and our VP really believes in a phone interview, then a single in-person interview in most cases. If we’re not hiring for a manager, candidates usually have a single 3-4 hour interview. During that time, they meet with multiple members of a hiring panel (from different job functions/levels within engineering) for 30 minutes at a time and they meet with the VP himself.

    The interviews are conversational, but also demonstrative. Candidates need to be able to whiteboard out a problem to demonstrate the expertise they claim to have. The theory is that if the hiring panel agrees that their skills are sound and they’re a good personality fit, then we hire them. If not, no thanks. Candidates know pretty quickly if they’re out of the running.

    We’ve done a lot of hiring in the last 9 months for non-management positions in engineering; so far, I think the majority of decisions made were solid ones. I’m not sure if we’d get a better “success” ratio with a more protracted hiring process.

  13. Mena

    For my current position, I visited the office four different times over 8 weeks, meeting with 12 people. In my situation this is a senior-level, cross-functional role and I needed to meet most of the people I’d be working with. My time was well spent, as was there as we both decided if we were a fit. I didn’t feel that they strung it out or mis-used my time. AND, it was summer-time so scheduling was a little challenging.

    If you feel that the meetings have been meaninful and you remain interested in the position, I’d see it through to the end.

    Good Luck!

  14. Bluejay

    I recently accepted a job after 11 interviews with 10 different people. The tenure of the folks at the company is very long and I am sure that they want to be sure to hire the right long-term employee. They have been very flexible around my schedule and I actually enjoyed the process–they got to know who I truly am and I got much better insight into the company.

  15. nyxalinth

    I can understand the purpose of multiple interviews. In call centers, the most I’ve had was 2-3, including a phone screening, for large companies. Smaller companies make you jump though more hoops, but I’ve never had more than 3-4.

    I read a story earlier this year about a man who’d interviewed EIGHT TIMES for the same low level, low paying position. I can’t find the article now–my Google Fu is failing me today, but that is beyond a joke. some positions it makes sense, as does the situation Bluejay describes, but the article made me think that they subjected people to that kind of dog and pony show just because they could, an the poor guy didn’t see any other options for himself.

  16. joey

    I went through 5 rounds of interviews for my current job.
    For the last job it was one 1-hr phone call (half of which was talking about the position), and then offer.
    So… *shrug* :)

  17. MissDisplaced

    Two is pretty typical, and the higher up you go it’s understood that more would be the norm. For mid-level position I would expect 2 to 3. More than that’s a bit of stretch to me, but I’m sure some companies and industries would do more.

    I always try to schedule interviews at 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning to minimize my time away from work. It’s a bit easier to explain if you come in a bit late (doctor, dentist, plumbing emergency etc., etc.).

    It sound like this company is serious about you, so good luck!

  18. cheesecake

    I remember being interviewed for a position where I had temped earlier in the year. I went through two interviews, was told I’d get a third one with the CEO of the organization, waited weeks to hear back and when I finally followed up with them, they said they went with someone else. *ouch* But the great thing was that while googling “how to act in a 3rd interview” I found this blog!

  19. Karp Karp

    I applied for a job that required me to go through 6 interviews, with 3 of them requiring 3 hour+ travel. It was brutal. Still didn’t get the job either!

  20. Harold Nicoll

    I’ve been through a pair of phone interviews, in person interviews with 14 people in a single afternoon, another phone interview with the president of the company, an in person meeting with the president of the company, interviews with two more people after that, another phone interview with another person. This has gone on for four months. What’s funny is that after each round of interviews the recruiter will tell me they want to make a decision in a hurry. Last I heard from them, they were bringing in someone else for interviews in two weeks hence. I wonder if there is another multi-month wait for that guy?

  21. Maryl

    Wow I think this multiple interview ordeal, and waits of a month or more for a response, having to call them to “touch base”, is just so unbelievable that this is what’s happening these days. I have 32 years experience, the top 3 people in my former employer’s recommendation, multiple former co-worker’s endorsements as well. After experiencing this multiple interview, 4 month ordeal, I went on a totally new interview 2 weeks ago. Awesome news- I start April 21st! *1* interview after a short phone conversation, my references all came through perfectly fine— DONE! The call to the other 2 companies to turn them down was an absolute joy!

  22. Maryl

    To be more clear, I think what people are put thru’ these days is asinine and insulting! And getting hired had to do with the ability of the hiring manager to read through my resume, meet me in a genuine fashion, and move on! It was not that I had more to offer necessarily, but that the simple question, does she know the job?, had an answer. Yes. No cattle calls, no crapola about “other candidates”, etc. It’s just gotten so nutty out there. I really feel for people in need of a job being put thru’ that! Actually googled the subject.

    1. I_Agree

      I agree that these multiple interviews are getting ridiculous.
      Maybe if the prospective employers had to pay candidates something like $100 for each additional interview after the initial in-person interview it might discourage this nonsense.

  23. Carrie

    I just had to pull myself out of the running for a job that I actually wanted very much. It was a direct hire paralegal position with a very small estate planning firm. The first time, I spent 30 minutes with the recruiter on the phone going over my entire resume. Then I met with the recruiter in person at their office, but it was really pointless because she asked all of the same questions over again that I had already answered on the phone two days prior. Then a week later, she called to say the head attorney wanted to meet with me at her office. I went in, spent two hours interviewing (seemed a little excessive considering my husband had to take this time off of work to watch two of our three children). I was told that I would have a decision by this evening or tomorrow morning because he has been without a paralegal for over a month. Well, lo and behold, I get another call this morning from the recruiter letting me know that the attorney wants yet another interview at her office. This would be a third time going to a location 30 minutes from my home, a third time spending the gas to get there, a third time having to either pay someone or waste my sister in law’s one day off or having my husband come all the way home for a very long lunch and then having to work hours later than usual. I had clearly explained to this attorney during the first two hours we spent together that I am a mother of three and stay at home mom so I would need to figure out daycare if I came to work for him and that I would need a little time to do so if an offer of employment was made. Unfortunately, this was not even going to be the last interview. The guy then wanted me to come to his office next Friday, unpaid to see if I could learn his three main computer programs quickly…but that was still only an interview. I just had to say that enough is enough. I am more than available to Skype or have a phone conference, but a third interview the day before the decision was to be made and then finding out that he has pushed that deadline and wants even more of my time just ticked me off. With no second income coming in, I have to budget my time wisely as well as where I drive for interviews to make sure I am not driving around to meet with someone who is not really serious about hiring me. You would think that employers would value what some of us go through to meet with them on their terms, but so far I have been disappointed. Back to the drawing board I go.

  24. L from Massachusetts

    Five interviews over the course of six+ hours and then radio silence. I followed up and still no response. This was for an administrative support role…

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